Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscars 2006: Picture

So here we are. It's february 25th, and tonight is the biggest night of the year. Certainly since as long as I've been watching the Oscars I can't remember a Best Picture race as tight as this. Here's my take on the matter...

Best Picture

The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Who should win? I haven't seen Letters From Iwo Jima yet. I managed to download a copy of it illegally(ssh -- oh don't judge me, I pour enough into the film industry the amount of films I go to see). Not the biggest Eastwood fan though, so I'm not expecting to be wowed there. Let's go through the remaining four..

I was hardly enthralled by The Queen. It's definitely good filmmaking but the characters aren't particularly deep, some being embarassingly cartoonish (Cherie Blair, Prince Philip, Alistair Campbell). Babel is my least favourite here. Again, it's well-made, but doesn't represent a great deal to me. Its 'message' about communication is a little too generic for my taste. The other two pictures, The Departed and Little Miss Sunshine, are both great in their own right. How can you not commit your heart and soul to Sunshine's near-perfect ensemble? But Scorsese's film is an exhilarating exercise in factional warfare and without doubt the finest movie here. The Departed gets my vote.

Who will win? Now, this is the question. There's a case for any of these five walking away with this statuette, and even though they may not represent the finest in cinematic talent, I can't say that I actively dislike any of them.

Little Miss Sunshine is the film that gained the most from the guilds (PGA, SAG and WGA wins) which would suggest it's in the lead, but things aren't always determined by precursors (Crash's victory last year serves as an example). This is a comedy, and few BP winners in the past couple of decades fit into that bracket. Comedy is looked down on. Having said that, it has very serious elements to it, and most of the people I've spoken to only have warm feelings about the film. Plus there's detractors for all of its rivals.

It's difficult to say how popular Eastwood's upset nominee Letters From Iwo Jima is, based on the fact that a) it's a foreign language film, b) it has very poor box-office figures, and c) after winning the NBR and LAFCA seemed to lose a lot of buzz, resulting in being snubbed by the guilds. History suggests that NBR winners = Oscars bridesmaids, and that's why I think it's the least likely to win. A lot of people seem to be downplaying The Queen's chances -- small, British, heavily dependent on its leading performance -- but it's been a continual presence in this awards season, and it could very well appeal to the aging Academy demographic. Plus America always seems to be fascinated by the royal family.

Martin Scorsese is still missing a Best Director Oscar, and indeed a Best Picture winner from his glorious career. The former looks an almost certainty, but he could take home the pair. Along with The Queen, The Departed has consistently been in the awards mix, included in almost every BP lineup, and taking home many critics prizes. But it lost the Globe, it lost the SAG, and it lost the BAFTA so it's hardly a formidable frontunner by any means. People were saying it was too action-orientated. Maybe they were right. Still, this is by far the best film, and made over $280m at the box-office. Commercial and critical champion often = Oscar winner.

I've been pondering my prediction in this category a lot. It's just so tough to call. Something at the back of my head is feverishly demanding I go for Babel though. Despite being critically much less liked than all of its rivals here, and admittedly very disliked in some circles, it seems like the most logical pick. The way I see it. Everybody votes for Best Picture. AMPAS may be a private organisation, but it has an internal community all of its own. Babel is the film that most tries to appeal to everyone, and its overtly self-important multi-narrative may propel it above its likely nearest competitors -- an 'action' movie, and an indie comedy. I'm choosing Babel.

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