Jonathan Parker’s Eighth Annual Oscar Preview
Five categories sum-up the Academy Awards for me. If only the Academy would listen.
Oscar show gripe of the year: Career achievement nods
I’m sick of people getting nominations because they’ve never won before or they’re old and we like them. After all, don’t they already give real lifetime achievement awards? Of course they do, bringing the show to a crashing halt every year. Thus there’s no need to omit more deserving actors, directors, cinematographers or editors so we can honor characters we should’ve appreciated more when they were at their peak. But here we go again this year: O’Toole, Arkin, Scorsese, Eastwood, Dench, Streep (is it possible for a year to go by without those last two being nominated?). Okay, maybe this year many on that list are deserving. Regardless, I’ve had enough.
Most overlooked potential nominee: Lead actors and actresses from the Best Picture nominees
After my complaint last year that everything was so predictable (I was wrong, as Crash surprised everyone for Best Picture), this year is one of the most wide open Oscar nights ever. Underscoring this dynamic is the fact that of the 10 best leading actor and actress nominees, only The Queen’s Helen Mirren acted in one of the five nominees for Best Picture. Most of the missing lead actors and actresses seem to be the victims of ensemble acting or the Japanese language. Though surely there was a deserving lead actor from The Departed (see below). Perhaps most overlooked was Michael Sheen as the respectfully frustrated Prime Minster Tony Blair in The Queen.
Most ridiculous nomination: Best actor in a supporting role, Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
Let me get this straight: In an intense drama with a star-studded ensemble class, the guy with all the flip remarks who almost seemed like he was just added as a humorous cameo gets the only nomination? Leonardo DiCaprio would have been a good choice from The Departed (though I guess he got it for Blood Diamond instead). Matt Damon might have been even better than DiCaprio as the reserved yet sinister mobbed-up state trooper. Wahlberg wasn’t even the funniest smart aleck in the movie. That honor goes to Alec Baldwin, as an honest but wiseass police captain. Meanwhile, Wahlberg, while getting plenty of funny lines, is not in the top handful of performances in this movie; plus, we’ve seen him do much better in many other films.
Nominee I’ll be rooting for hardest: Best original screenplay, Pan’s Labyrinth
If it weren’t in Spanish, Pan’s Labyrinth would be nominated for Best Picture. Regardless, writer/director Guillermo del Toro has created an original cinematic fairy tale with giant toads, no-eyed ogres and spooky fauns. To top it all off, there’s an interchanging allegorical plot going on here with fascist Spain. Though we give del Toro his artistic right, ultimately it was a shame this movie was rated R so more young people couldn’t see this remarkable and brilliantly told tale.
Actual best picture of 2006: The Queen
This is one of those rare years, where I actually liked all five Oscar nominees for Best Picture. Indeed, I really liked The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen. Add to the mix Pan’s Labyrinth and The Prestige, and we had some darn good movies this year. There was something about The Queen that hooked me in and never let go. It was like one of those trashy TV bio-pics that you accidentally turn to and you just can’t stop watching but one with brilliant writing, wonderful cinematography and some of the best performances of the year. Bravo! In this wide-open year, it might just win.
About the Author: Parker is Bay Weekly’s movie reviewer.