For the first time, as far as I can recall, I've seen all five movies that were nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. As such, I feel strangely compelled to weigh in on which films deserve to win and which films I think will win. Here goes...
[presented in the order I saw them]
Sideways - This is a great movie, so much so that I wrote about back when I saw it. My feelings haven't changed over the intervening months, although there is definitely a little Sideways backlash among my social circle. It seems like a lot of people heard such glowing things about this movie, that when they actually saw it, they were less than satisfied. The typical gripe is that the characters are too unlikable, their actions too unredeemable. I guess I find it telling that the characters are so real that they get criticized like real people. This is the one movie of the bunch that really rings true, despite being the only comedy. Three of the other films are based on real people, yet they have all the machine-stamped story arcs that we've come to know and take comfort in. In a perfect world, this film takes Best Picture.
Ray - Jamie Foxx is great. Otherwise, I could take this film or leave it. As far as biopics are concerned, this movie gets high marks. If there were a category for celebrity hagiographies, I'd give Ray the Oscar. The actress who played Ray Charles' mother was great, also. She should've been nominated.
Finding Neverland - A tearjerker par execellence. I spent the entire second hour trying not to sob, which actually made the experience of this film sort of uncomfortable. So, while I enjoy getting weepy as much as the next guy, I'm not actually sure this is a film that will stick with me. And, again, like the biopics, this film only works in the context of real-world events. It's not exactly a bio-pic, but without Peter Pan, this movie wouldn't really resonate the same way. Johnny Depp is great. He's usually great.
Million Dollar Baby - This one feels like an Oscar winner. Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, the buddy combination of Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood, as in Unforgiven. In fact, this movie reminds me a lot of Unforgiven. And I think it may remind a lot of Oscar voters of Unforgiven. Will that make them vote for it, or pass it up in favor of giving the award to the six-time nominee Martin Scorcese? I'm not sure.
The Aviator - I like to describe this film as "a steaming pile of dog doo," yet I have a deep fear that it will sweep the Oscars. Scorcese has made great films in the past. This isn't one of them, but the Academy Awards are known for "lifetime achievement" thinking. The actual look of the film is great. Cate Blanchett is great. The script is crap. There is absolutely no humanity in the dialogue. It's all pompous baloney. That said, I will be suprised (and happy) if it doesn't win Best Picture.
Here are some other picks:
Best Director - Martin Scorcese (Clint gets it -
Actor - Jamie Foxx
Supporting Actor - Morgan Freeman
Actress - Hilary Swank
Supporting Actress - Cate Blanchett
Animated Features - The Incredibles
Art Direction - A Very Long Engagement (The
Aviator won) Cinematography - House of Flying Daggers (The Aviator
Costumes - The Aviator
Editing - The Aviator
Screenplay Adapatation - Sideways
Original Screenplay - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
[Update: The academy comes through. The Aviator gets just what it deserves, as does Million Dollar Baby.]