Oscars 2007: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly


1-30-07, 10:21 am

This year, in a rare moment for the Academy Awards, Black, Latin American, and Asian actors and filmmakers will be strongly represented. Dreamgirls alone has two potential winners in Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson (Best Supporting Actor/Actress). The film itself, however, fails to support these three superior performances. Will Smith is also a possible Best Actor pick for Pursuit of Happyness as are Forest Whitaker, dynamite as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, while Djimon Honsou could take Best Supporting Actor in Blood Diamond. Penelope Cruz is up for Best Actress in Volver while Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza are both nominees for Supporting Actress in Babel. One thing is clear, Hollywood 'deciders' seem to be coming around, in regarding adult theme movies as something that might bring story-hungry audiences back into theatres after a 20-year dose of denial ushered in by the Reagan years and the likes of Lucas and Spielberg. Catch a Fire written by Shawn Slovo, daughter of Joe Slovo, leading member of the South African Communist Party, presents a compelling portrayal of how an ordinary man can be driven to 'terrorist' acts when he and his family are brutalized by the White Supremacist Botha government in South Africa. Clint Eastwood’s bookended Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima reflect on the ironies of heroism and the ultimate waste of war. Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men presents a doomsday scenario which holds out a light of hope. Scorsese’s The Departed is momentarily enjoyable and watchable with expert performances, but Scorsese’s last great film remains Raging Bull, now 26 years old. Late releases on the West Coast are: The Good German which looked at the underside of postwar Berlin in an homage to Film Noir, Notes on A Scandal featuring a knockout performance by Judi Dench; Bobby by Emilio Estevez, which chronicles the last day of Robert Kennedy’s life; Todd Fields’ Little Children; Venus with Peter O’Toole; Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón with Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine and Claire Hope-Ashitey.

Here are the suspects (usual and unusual).

Best Actor: Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) Peter O’Toole (Venus) Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed and Blood Diamond) Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) Projected Winner: Forest Whitaker My pick: Forest Whitaker (any actor who can convincingly portray both Charlie Parker and Idi Amin deserves every Award in the book). I’d have liked the option of choosing Clive Owen, brilliant but not nominated for Children of Men.

Best Actress: Helen Mirren (The Queen) Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal) Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada) Penelope Cruz (Volver) Kate Winslet (Little Children) Projected Winner: Helen Mirren My Pick: Helen Mirren: She lent vulnerability and humanity to her Queen Elizabeth that, despite my feelings about Royalty, made me understand and respect her. Certainly Judi Dench’s insidious teacher in Notes on a Scandal should be a close second.

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) Jack Earle Haly (Little Children) Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls) Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) Mark Wahlberg (The Departed) Projected Winner: Alan Arkin My Pick: Alan Arkin. A fine actor and sentimental favorite. I’d have liked to see. My personal favorite: (un-nominated) Michael Caine as a pot-growing ex-revolutionary with a final heroic ace up his tattered sleeve in Children of Men.

Best Supporting Actress: Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal) Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) Adriana Barraza (Babel) Projected Winner: Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) My Pick: Cate Blanchett (always outstanding and long overdue).

Best Screenplay Original: The Queen Babel Little Miss Sunshine Pan’s Labyrinth Letters From Iwo Jima Projected Winner: The Queen My Pick: The Queen (literate, complex, funny and seamless).

Best Screenplay Adapted: The Departed Borat Children of Men Notes on a Scandal Little Children Projected Winner: The Departed My Pick: Children of Men

Best Director: The Departed, Martin Scorsese The Queen, Stephen Frears Babel, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu Letters from Iwo Jima,Clint Eastwood United Flight 93, Paul Greengrass Projected Winner: Martin Scorsese My Pick: Stephen Frears

Best Picture: Babel The Queen The Departed Letters From Iwo Jima Little Miss Sunshine Projected Winner: The Queen My Pick: The Queen (Adult, complex, funny and intelligent) tied with Letters from Iwo Jima.