In the year of Katrina, my reflections about this year's Oscars make me think about Bill Murray's old Saturday Night Live routine where he revealed an unembarrassed predilection for prejudice and plenty of ignorance to support it. I didn't see a single movie for nine weeks. As a result, plenty of this year's nominees are unfamiliar to me. So take what follows with a grain of salt. My predictions about the Oscars are probably no better than yours, but I have usually seen all the movies and know what I liked and what I didn't. Consider this year's commentary a movie critic's version of pin the tail on the donkey. Blindfold, please.
Let's start with the so-called minor (believe me, no Oscar nomination is minor for someone who gets one) categories and grope our way toward best picture. The nominees for best supporting actress include Amy Adams for Junebug, Catherine Keener for Capote, and Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener, none of which I saw. I think Keener is an excellent actress, however, so I am picking her. I did see Frances McDormand in North Country and Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain. Williams is fine, but I wouldn't give her an Oscar. I love McDormand, and I would give her lots of Oscars, but not for this role.
The nominees for best supporting actor include George Clooney in Syriana, Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, all of which I saw. I am very fond of all these actors' work and wish they could all win. William Hurt was also nominated for A History of Violence, a movie I know nothing about. And Matt Dillon was nominated for Crash, a movie I have heard ecstatic things about and plan to rent soon. Academy voters always stage at least one surprise and like this category, so I am picking Dillon.
The nominees for best actor include Heath Ledger, who wasn't any more the lead in Brokeback Mountain than Jake Gyllenhaal -- who I didn't pick to win best supporting actor, so to be consistent I won't pick Ledger in this category. Neither will I pick David Strathairn for Good Night, and Good Luck, even though he was absolutely brilliant and clearly ought to win. I didn't see Terrance Howard in Hustle & Flow or Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, so I won't pick either of them, although that's never stopped me before. In fact, it won't stop me now from picking Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance in Capote, even though I haven't seen it. Hoffman is a great actor and deserves to win. Of course, Strathairn is also a great actor and also deserves to win. So I hope they tie. But I am not picking that.
I am especially strong in the Best Actress category, where I have seen only one of the five nominated performances, Charlize Theron in North Country, whom I wouldn't vote for this time out despite her being so breathtakingly beautiful, unless, of course, she'd like to have dinner, my treat. The other nominees include Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents, Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice and Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line, all gifted performers who are a pleasure to watch even if I haven't (yet). The race is said to be between Huffman and Witherspoon, and I will gladly vote for the first one of them who would like to have dinner. Until then, I am picking Judi Dench even though no one else is.
I am batting my fairly consistent .600 in the Best Director category. I have seen Brokeback Mountain, directed by Ang Lee, Good Night, and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney, whom I have already slighted in the Best Supporting Actor category (trust me, he can take it), and Munich, by the ever greater Steven Spielberg, who ought to win but won't. I haven't seen Crash, directed by Paul Haggis, who some people say ought to win, but most people say he won't either. Nor have I seen Capote, directed by Bennett Miller, whom I have never heard of, though I am sure he must be very talented if he's nominated for an Academy Award. In the end, I am picking Ang Lee, who is a great director and very much deserves to win this award, only not for this film -- because Spielberg deserves to win this year even though he won't and Ang Lee will.
The nominees for Best Picture are the same as the nominees for Best Director, and everything I said about the Best Director nominees applies to the Best Picture nominees. So, though, something as important as a Best Picture Oscar can probably stand a little repetition, I will use my remaining space to wonder if anyone out there would like to have dinner. I have been waiting and waiting, but neither Judi nor Felicity nor Keira nor Charlize nor Reese have yet called.
- Munich, and its director, Steven Spielberg, both deserve to take home the Oscar, though the chances of either happening are slim.