Hey Kids, Filmbabble’s Funtime Oscar Picks 2007!

This is the first time Film Babble Blog has made Academy Award predictions so I’m a bit nervous about it. I mean I haven’t seen all of the nominated movies and I’m going in with a certain percentage of guts, wild guessing, and a bit of internet research (but not too much ’cause that takes the fun out of it, doncha think?) so we’ll see how it plays out. It ought to be fun though so here goes –

1. BEST PICTURE : BABEL – My personal choice would be THE DEPARTED but the buzz seems to be going for this ‘everybody suffers’ epic. Does seem pretty likely to win after last year’s 1 word suffer epic CRASH won.

2. BEST DIRECTOR : Martin Scorsese (THE DEPARTED) – It does seem like it’s Marty’s year but then I’ve thought that before. Many times before. Anyway this is very much a personal and maybe not realistic choice but I’m still going to go with him because it would be such sweet justice if it occured. If it doesn’t I hope whoever wins will look his way and give Scorcese a ‘sorry nod’ before going on with their speech.

3. BEST ACTOR : Forest Whitaker (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) – I haven’t seen it but have liked the trailers and most critics are pulling for him. My guess is the Academy members will too. Again this is very much a personal choice – I’ve liked Whitaker since seeing him in bit parts in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and PLATOON. His work as Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood’s BIRD is criminally underrated and solid performances in PANIC ROOM, GHOST DOG, SMOKE, and THE CRYING GAME all deserve more notice than they originally got. For surviving BATTLESHIP EARTH alone he should get some kind of special award – just sayin’.

4. BEST ACTRESS : Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN) – This seems like a shoe-in. Mirren was excellent in the royal role so I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t bag this one.

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR : Alan Arkin (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) – This is a gut choice. Many are predicting Eddie Murphy will take this for DREAMGIRLS but something makes me think otherwise. I mean every Awards has a few such surprises and this would definitely qualify as one. This may be my most unrealistic pick – while writing this I’m thinking Murphy’s still gonna get it.

6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS : Jennifer Hudson (DREAMGIRLS) – Another I regettably haven’t seen but the word on the internet streets seems to be that she’s going home with the gold.

And the rest :

7. ART DIRECTION – THE PRESTIGE
8. CINEMATOGRAPHY – CHILDREN OF MEN
9. COSTUME DESIGN – DREAMGIRLS
10. DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
11. DOCUMENTARY SHORT – REHEARSING A DREAM
12. FILM EDITING – BABEL
13. MAKEUP – PAN’S LABYRINTH
14. VISUAL EFFECTS – SUPERMAN RETURNS
15. ORIGINAL SCORE – BABEL
16. ORIGINAL SONG – “Listen” (DREAMGIRLS)
17. ANIMATED SHORT – THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL
18. LIVE ACTION SHORT – WEST BANK STORY
19. SOUND EDITING – LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
20. SOUND MIXING – DREAMGIRLS
21. ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
22. ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – THE DEPARTED
23. ANIMATED FEATURE FILM – CARS
24. FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – PAN’S LABYRINTH

Whew! Okay, enough with Oscar for now. I’ll post after the show Sunday and we’ll see how many I got wrong.

Now here’s some New Release DVD reviews:

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (Dir. David Frankel, 2006)

“Perhaps the next Hollywood ‘genius’ will be the man who can design the whole movie to look like a high-powered ad.” – Noted New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael (1919-2001)

In the 40-something years since Kael made that comment there have been many many movies that have looked like whole-sale high-powered ads but while watching THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA I thought of that quote quite a few times. Based on the best selling novel by Lauren Weisberger, TDWP has slick glossy direction by David Frankel (Sex and the City, Entourage), a world class wardrobe (Oscar nominated costume design, mind you) and an earnest Anne Hathaway as an aspiring journalist who gets schooled in professionalism when she suffers a stint as fashion magazine mogul Miranda Priestly’s (Meryl Streep) assistant.

Streep’s Oscar nominated performance is as acidic as it is measured and Stanley Tucci comes on acutely as a cynical clothes horse Yoda. Actually there are a number of Yodas in this movie – Hathaway gets lectured by nearly every character – Tucci, her live-in boyfriend Adrian Grenier, rival assistant Emily Blunt, and her hip friends – Tracie Thomas and Rich Sommer. This should have stayed more in a fluffy fashion world spoof mode than to pretend at all to be a statement making cautionary tale. An obvious take would be ‘it’s all style and no substance’ but it’s more apt to conclude that it’s style lusting after substance. High-powered ad nauseum. As Streep’s Miranda would say “that’s all”.

THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON (Dir. David Leaf & John Scheinfeld, 2006) As both hardcore and casual Beatles fans know in the eyes of the media and popular public perception there are 2 John Lennons. The 1st is quite bluntly – the rock and roll Jesus. A saint who spread nothing but words of love and peace through radical protests like bed-ins and generational anthems like “Give Peace A Chance”. A genius icon who inspired millions and whose songs are among the greatest classics ever written. And then there’s the 2nd Lennon – who quite bluntly was an asshole pop star. A huckster who put on a man-for-all-causes front while cheating on his wife, doing smack, and even harassing waitresses. The actual human being was a wicked mixture of some of those exaggerated extremes – not perfect obviously but not as fatally flawed as some perspectives claim. Well which Lennon do you think this doc gives us? Of course Lennon #1 full force who here faces off with the Nixon administration as the Vietnam War rages.

Lennon and wife Yoko Ono were undoubtedly under government scrutiny after relocating from Britain to New York in the early 70’s with deportation threatened. Talking heads Gore Vidal, Walter Cronkite, G. Gordy Liddy, Mario Cuomo, and even Geraldo Riveria tell some tasty tales about the politics, protest stunts and “power to the the people” posturing of Lennon’s self described radical period. It’s just that with the exception of a few new insights this ground has been well covered before especially by VH1 who co-produced this film. As a teaching tool perhaps – that is if one really feels that kids today have to know who Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, or John Sinclair are – this film may have value but as Ono approved-docs go you’re better off with IMAGINE : JOHN LENNON (Dir. Andrew Solt, 1988).

MAN OF THE YEAR (Dir. Barry Levinson, 2006) – Can’t say I wasn’t warned. By the time the red Netflix envelope containing this film’s DVD came to my mailbox I was well aware that the critics tore it a new one when it was released last fall with most complaining that it had been marketed drastically wrong. Indeed they were right – all the original trailers and TV ads made this movie look like a broad comedy along the lines of ‘what if a Daily Show type cable TV host (Robin Williams in full-throttle rapid random riffing mode) was elected president? – Wouldn’t wackiness ensue?’ Well, yes for a bit wackiness ensues (about 8-10 min.) but then we are forced to stomach a parallel plot in which programmer Laura Linney discovers a glitch in the electronic ballot system that got the comical candidate into the White House. So it’s supposedly half political satire and half topical thriller. Too bad neither half works. Too bad this is such a wasted opportunity with a good cast but a lousy script (written by Levinson). Just too bad.

With his jokes about “weapons of mass distraction” (yep, that’s the level of wit here), breast implants, cellphones, and making Bruce Springsteen Secretary of State, Williams is just doing his same old shtick and it’s so sad to see Christopher Walken and Lewis Black (cast as his manager and chief writer) having little to do but sit around laughing at everything he says. In fact there are many shots of scores of people laughing at Williams’s tired antics throughout MAN OF THE YEAR. I bet there are more people in the movie laughing in the movie than there were laughing at the movie in it’s brief run in theaters and certainly more than will ever laugh at home in the years to come. This whole thing is just misguided on every level.

More later…

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