The year was 2005. It was a very shaky year at the local cinema, as some films challenged our perceptions and most just challenged our patience. So many films were sequels, remakes, or rehashes of previously-released material.
I have to hand it to the Academy this year in spreading out the nominations and trying to not favor any particular film.
Like every year with my preview, I talk about who I would love to win, who will win strategically, and some frustrations with nominations. This year is a strange one in that I have hardly any frustrations.
To comment on the nominations as a whole, I have to say that I was disappointed by the amount of nominations for Munich and Capote vs. The Constant Gardner and Walk the Line. The latter two were praised more at the Golden Globes than here, which begs the question: were these nominations an afterthought post-Globes?
I have to say the strongest lead category this year is once again the Best Actor race. Every one of the men nominated deserves to win and each of the performances were amazingly strong.
Usually when I get to this point I remark about how I am frustrated about the Oscar nominations and how it is a tragedy that Oscar is so unfair in some respects. This year I am changing suit a little and saying a couple things I was happy to see.
Winner: (Tie) Ledger vs. Hoffman.
Why?: I really think that Hoffman is the front-runner in this category after grabbing up the Globe, but with the expected avalanche of Brokeback Mountain wins, it could be Ledger's night. Personally, I felt Phoenix blew away last year's winner Jamie Foxx in his role as Johnny Cash, but because the field is so strong this year versus a weak year last year, Phoenix just doesn't have a chance.
Worst Case Scenario: There really is none. All are brilliant.
Winner: Felicity Huffman in TRANSAMERICA.
Why?: It is hard to ignore the amazing performance from Huffman this year. My sentimental favorite is Reese Witherspoon, who I wish could win this category but probably in a different year. Witherspoon has come a long way and I really hope she continues her pursuit for Oscar gold, because she could be a front-runner some year soon.
Worst Case Scenario: (Tie) Dench and Theron. Both are accomplished actresses but both of their performances were hardly Oscar-worthy.
Winner: Matt Dillon in CRASH.
Why?: I never thought in a million years I would ever be saying Oscar-winner Matt Dillon, but that is just the kind of movie Crash was. There were so many brilliant performances in that film from the most unlikely of places (ie. Dillon and Bullock). I really do have to say that Clooney and Giamatti are the front-runners, which is deserving, but their performances were in no way career-makers like Dillon.
Winner: Rachel Weisz in THE CONSTANT GARDENER.
Why?: It has been a long time coming for Weisz. The underrated actress has done a lot of brilliant stuff over the years, but hardly anyone noticed. The avalanche called Brokeback could tarnish her hopes, pushing Williams into the lead, but I really think her Globe win will solidify her Oscar win.
Winner: CRASH (Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco).
Why?: Paul Haggis has been previously nominated and won in this category before, but the man seems to be unstoppable in the writing category. He is amazing and his script for Crash made me believe once again that Hollywood hasn't run out of original ideas. But what is uncanny is that his next script is for the forthcoming James Bond film, Casino Royale. So go figure.
Winner: (Tie) BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN vs. THE CONSTANT GARDENER.
Why?: Too close to call. Both are brilliant.
Winner: Ang Lee for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.
Why?: Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain is brilliant on so many levels and he is an amazing director. Haggis's direction of Crash was more about the people and the script than his handling of the film. I am sad to see that there was no nomination for Fernando Meirelles for The Constant Gardner, who is much more deserving than Miller or Spielberg.
Worst Case Scenario: (Tie) Miller or Spielberg. Miller's Capote is more about mood and Hoffman than an achievement in direction. I also think these nominations were assessed to echo the best picture nominations. I think this year, Oscar is looking for a match unlike other years where they had no problem splitting these categories. I guess that's great for Ang Lee.
Best motion picture of the year (Best Picture):
Winner: (Tie) BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN or CRASH.
Why?: Personally, it is too close to call when it comes to Brokeback and Crash. Brokeback is about what is inside us and how complicated our own self can be, and it also about the power of loneliness. Crash is about the world we live in and the people in it. It is more of a global film about ideas. I was also sad to see, once more, no The Constant Gardner.
I have to say the biggest crime of the nominations this year was that there weren't more nominations for The Constant Gardner. I think it should have been nominated in Cinematography, Direction, and Best Picture.
I really don't think that Munich deserves all the praise in the key categories. Spielberg didn't want the praise and he got it anyhow. I also still feel it wasn't one of his best efforts.
I was a little disappointed about Theron being nominated for North Country, but I think her nomination showcases that there just aren't that many strong lead roles for women in Hollywood, even still. That is a shame, because there are so many brilliant actresses working right now. Studios have to get over the stigma that a woman can't carry a film, other than a comedy, on their own. I hope that this will change very soon.
Other than the lack of Gardner nominations and a couple small things, I really have no nominations that made me throw up my arms in a tantrum. For the most part, all the nominations make sense, which is very strange. I am just glad to see that there was no Terence Malick.
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman in CAPOTE
Best Actress: Felicity Huffman in TRANSAMERICA
Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney in SYRIANA
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz in THE CONSTANT GARDENER
Best Original Screenplay: CRASH (Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco)
Best Adapted Screenplay: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana)
Best Director: Ang Lee for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
Best Picture: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (Diana Ossana, James Schamus)
It is amazing, I guess, that going into Oscar time I am quite mellow. Usually I am screaming from a pulpit about the outrage I have for the Academy and the Oscar process. This year, I have to admit I quite agree with its assumption. So breathe easy, folks, because hopefully that means that someone is Hollywood is listening.
So Says the Soothsayer.