Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oscars 2007

So I woke up the next morning and I realised - I'd bought the bloody pub!The Oscars have always been one of An Spailpín Fánach’s great vices. When he was nine years old, An Spailpín learned for the first time just how unfair life is when – for reasons that still baffle – the greatest motion picture in the history of human civilisation, Raiders of the Lost Ark, did not win the Oscar for Best Picture and some damn film about two Tans running won it instead. Get the *%@# out of here, as one of this year’s nominees was to catchphrase some years later in Beverly Hills Cop.

The Oscars are a fraud, of course, and many films have won Oscars that are now unwatchable. American Beauty springs to mind, as does the last Lord of the Rings picture, and that’s just from the last ten years. But still, people that love cinema love drama, and we’ll get it in spades from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – just think back to the expressions on Burt Reynolds and Lauren Bacall’s faces when Robin Williams and Juliette Binoche went up to collect their Oscars and you’ll realise just how worth it the Oscars can be. So without further ado and making room in our hearts for schadenfreude, the most delicious of all emotions, let’s take a peek at the categories.

Little Miss Sunshine was one of those movies that people couldn’t really find fault with, no matter how hard they tried. Not that that will save veteran Alan Arkin in this. Eddie Murphy is a lock for this, he can’t be beaten – the man has made the industry millions and millions of dollars over twenty years, and don’t think the industry isn’t grateful.

Someone once said that 42nd Street or A Star is Born is the quintessential Hollywood movie – “you’re going out a nobody but you’re coming back a STAR!” As such, Jennifer Hudson is the nominee here for the intelligent punter. From what diligent research can tell your faithful narrator, Ms Hudson suffered a bad beat as a contestant on American Idol and if there’s one thing America loves it’s the plucky underdog coming out on top.

This has been Helen Mirren’s to lose since The Queen was released. Yanks love the British royal family – probably from having got shot of the freeloading wretches so early – and that gives Ms Mirren added zip in the running. Judi Dench – I found her very moving as M in the new Bond, didn’t you? – and Curvy Katie Winslet keep the British end up but it might be a mistake to rule out La Streep’s challenge. Jane Fonda and Helen Hunt both won against all-British fields for Klute and As Good as it Gets in 1971 and 1997 respectively, so Meryl can take comfort from historical precedent. To confess a personal bias, An Spailpín hopes Meryl does it – she and Dustin Hoffman co-starred in one of the most miserable movies of all time, Kramer versus Kramer, twenty-five years ago but both she and Hoffman have mellowed out considerably since then, and have both relaxed and realised that hey, it’s only show business. Meryl has got very good indeed at the scenery-munching lately and she seems like fun to be with. La Streep, then, to dust off the Dames and win it for the US of A - and Penelope Cruz to look just fantastic in her Oscar frock, of course.

An Spailpín has yet to see The Last High King of Scotland but even in the trailers Forest Whittaker looks impressive. It’s the sort of casting-against-type career defining performance that’s traditionally been richly rewarded by the Academy, and that’s why Whittaker is the ante-post favourite. Peter O’Toole is the sentimental favourite, but the movie he’s in could be a bit too slight to push him over the line. He should be good crack on the talk-show circuit trying to get it though. Leonardo DiCaprio’s nomination leaves your faithful popcorn-muncher baffled, quite frankly.

Scorsese. Next!

Now here’s an interesting one. Traditionally the Best Film is the one that’s been directed by the Best Director, but this doesn’t always apply, as when Chicago won Best Film but Polanski won Best Director, chiefly because the Academy felt very, very sorry for Polanski, what with the California PD on his case for thirty years. So, if Marty does win it this year it’s nothing to do with The Departed, it’s more a thanks for the memories sort of vote (which he wouldn’t get from An Spailpín, by the way – your eagle-eyed attendant at the Astoria finds Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and the King of Comedy all unwatchable, frankly, and I’m not too gone on Mean Streets either. An Spailpín is nothing if not brave enough to stand alone).

So if The Departed doesn’t get it – and let’s face it, what’s all that remarkable about the picture anyway? Exactly – we must search further afield. We’re looking for a picture that’s uplifting, ideally, and that makes the movie industry, which is going to make so much money this summer from Fantastic Four 2 and Spider-Man 3 and that sort of stuff it’s unbelievable – feel a lot better about itself. Some rich dame in London, England isn’t going to do it. No picture in gosh-darned Japanese will win it – unless Mel directed it, of course – and Babel is so last year. So step forward, the last man – or woman – standing and take a bow Little Miss Sunshine. Tonight you’re a star at last.

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