MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

The Oscars are Here!

We’re just a few short days away from red carpets being strutted upon by bejeweled starlets, handsome men in tuxedoes and thousands upon thousands of dumb questions by gossip-mongers posing as media. The Oscars are the movie version of the Super Bowl – or claims to be – and has all the requisite hoopla surrounding the event. In actuality, it’s more like the Pro Bowl and if none of your favorites are in the game, then it’s not nearly as interesting to watch. Either way, it’s an all-day viewing event for people that want to be entertained by the glitz and the glamour or for the folks that just want to mock it. It’s the show that you have to watch if you want to keep up with the gossip at the water cooler, but it’s more likely you’ll just talk about how it’s overlong and boring.

I’ve always loved the Oscars. Since I was a little boy, I loved plopping down in front of the couch all day and watching all the stars walking down the red carpet looking beautiful or the excitement of finding out what the filmmakers actually looked like. In the days before the internet and before Quentin Tarantinobecame a household name, it was the first place a young movie fanatic like myself could see what Jonathan Demme or Robert Zemeckis looked like – guys who didn’t have books written about them. And I loved hearing who these people thanked and wondering why that agent was so important and what that executive did for the film, etc.

Today, Oscar has become an industry and there are people who care very deeply about the twists and turns of the race, that love watching certain films’ stock rise and fall because of the guilds and critics’ awards. In the end, though, it all comes down to one night where awards are handed out for being the best in your particular category that year. Sure, there is an argument to be made that artists shouldn’t be judged in relation to one another, that the films and the performances should speak for themselves. But if it wasn’t for the Oscars, we’d be comparing them anyway.

This is what we do with all art and for those of us who are moved by this particular art form, we spend a lot of time on the internet – and in person – comparing and contrasting these works of arts and these performances. Can there ever really be a definitive answer about whether Crash or Brokeback Mountain is the better film? No, but I might not have thought to compare the films at all if it weren’t for the Oscars. Putting those films side by side gives me a chance to rationalize to myself why I believe one film is better than the other, making me mount a convincing defense about why I feel the way that I do. Ultimately, it makes you understand yourself and your own tastes better by having to make these arguments. And to argue about these things with fellow like-minded individuals is all part of the fun of being passionate about anything.

It seems fashionable amongst many of my peers, however, to bash the Oscars as something callous and damaging to a real appreciation of the art of filmmaking. But even if this is ultimately a money-making venture, it’s still a day and night devoted to the love of films. Sometimes the nominees are there because of excessive marketing and sometimes they are there because they deserve to be, but even if you disagree with every nomination, it’s still a night where the people above the line and below the line are shown some appreciation in front of a large audience. It’s a night where costume designers get just as much time to speak as actors and directors. It’s a night where they pay tribute to humanitarians and lifetime achievements and there is always the elegy to the artists in this field that have left us over the past year. Sure, it might be a little corny at times, but it’s also nice to see the joy on the faces of the winners who couldn’t care less about all the money being thrown around, the careers that are being made or broken in the Oscar trenches. Because in that moment, when those winners are holding that award, they are feeling the exhilaration of a hard job done well and getting to say their thanks to the people who helped them along the way.

Speaking of “thank you” speeches, that was always one of my biggest pet peeves about the show. This is the summation of an entire year of film, where hundreds of millions of ad dollars are being spent and there is time for ten minute monologues and long musical acts and yet the winners only get forty-five seconds to speak? I know most people don’t want to hear long lists of people’s names, but if you get up to that podium then you deserve to have as much time as you want (within reason). It’s just incredibly rude when the orchestra comes on right in the middle of a winner thanking a dead relative or telling their spouse that they love them. Of course, whenever the music starts playing all of the winners wind up wasting more time by mentioning that the music is playing, “oh, here comes the music…” Let’s just lose the orchestra playing the winners off the stage, shall we?

I know the reason for wanting the speeches shorter is so that the telecast will be shorter. But I don’t mind a long broadcast. There are no rules that say you have to watch every single segment, so you can always turn it off if you aren’t interested. Besides, I sit through tons of long movies every year and, as long as it’s engrossing, I don’t mind. I usually find the Oscars riveting – because I genuinely want to see these people accept awards and give speeches. If all you’re interested in is seeing who wins, then you can watch a movie and check out a list of the winners online or in the next day’s papers.

So I’m still looking forward to this Sunday. It’s a time to forget all that elitist bunk about how the right films weren’t nominated or how the foreign language Oscar has a bunch of dumb rules (it really does) and just bask in the joy of film.

What follows are my predictions for all the Oscar categories, which will make me look either incredibly smart or incredibly dumb come Monday morning, so feel free to praise me for my prescience or berate me for my ineptitude.

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men is the film I thought would win in November and I haven’t changed my mind since then. I’ll be rooting for There Will Be Blood, but I won’t be crying because No Country is a deserving film. If Juno wins, though, I might be throwing a shoe at my television.

Best Director: I think the Coen Brothers are going to take this for No Country, though I thinkPaul Thomas Anderson has a shot. The deciding factor might be that the Coens have been at this for a lot longer than Anderson and the Academy might rightfully believe that P.T. Anderson will have many more shots at this award.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis – the greatest living actor – will take home his second Oscar for his bravura turn as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. I don’t even see any real competition for him in this category, all filled with worthy performers. Perhaps Johnny Deppcould be a dark horse, but I don’t think it’s likely.

Best Actress: This is actually a difficult category to predict. It’ll either be Marion Cotillard forLa Vie en Rose or Julie Christie for Away From Her. Christie has a gold man and Cotillard has never been nominated previously. Cotillard is a relatively unknown actress playing somebody famous while Christie is somebody famous playing someone unknown. I think in the end it goes to Cotillard because the Academy loves actors who ugly themselves up to play famous people (see Nicole Kidman in The Hours). Christie gives a better performances, but they are both more deserving than anyone else in the category. Ellen Page might ride theJuno wave, but I hope this talented young actress doesn’t have an Oscar in her hands beforeKate Winslet or Natalie Portman.

Best Supporting Actor: This is pretty much a lock for Javier Bardem for his role as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. It’ll be a well-deserved award for a tremendous actor giving an iconic performance. No arguments here. Hal Holbrook is the only other guy in the category that has a shot and he deserves some sort of honor for his incredible career. But, this is about the best supporting performance in a given year and there’s no question that it is Bardem’s year.

Best Supporting Actress: This is always a difficult category to predict because of past surprises (Marisa Tomei, Anna Paquin and Mira Sorvino among them). The early money was on Cate Blanchett for her Bob Dylan impersonation in I’m Not There, but then the critics gave most of the awards to Amy Ryan for her role as the distressed mother in Gone Baby Gone. Now there is some talk that Ruby Dee will get the win for a lifetime of superb work (she should have won this in 1989 for Do the Right Thing), but ostensibly for her decent performance in American Gangster. Tilda Swinton has some support too, for her incredible work in Michael Clayton. Not a single person has mentioned young Saoirse Ronan for her role as the young Briony in Atonement and I’m not going to be the first. My money is on…Tilda Swinton, simply because I think she was the best out of these five and I hope the Academy agrees.

Best Original Screenplay: Just a few weeks ago, I would have had to pencil in Diablo Cody’s name for her scrapbook of clichés spiced up with blogspeak known as Juno. But the backlash against Cody has come on quite strong and since this is her first script, I’m sure she’ll have plenty more chances in the future, seeing as she’s so talented and all, right? So I think Tony Gilroy will get the award for his taut screenplay for Michael Clayton.

Best Adapted Screenplay: This is one of the toughest categories because the nominees are all great. But the Coens are bound to get this for their masterful work on No Country for Old Men. If it’s not them, though, then the field is wide open and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ronald Harwood snuck in there for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly or Paul Thomas Andersonfor There Will Be Blood.

Best Art Direction: I think There Will Be Blood picks this up because it looks so damn accurate. Production designer Jack Fisk, Terrence Malick’s go-to guy, deserves a lot of credit for the period detail and Jim Erickson’s set decoration is minimal and reeks of realism.

Best Cinematography: It’s almost unfortunate that Roger Deakins is doubly nominated forThe Assassination of Jesse James and No Country for Old Men because those are probably the two best photographed films of the year and they will likely cancel each other out. I’d look for Spielberg’s guy, Janusz Kaminski to pick up the award for his tour-de-force in this first half an hour of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. If not, then I expect Robert Elswit will swoop in for the amazing contrasts in There Will Be Blood.

Best Editing: I think this is a category where all the prestige films fall by the wayside and the Academy goes for the rat-a-tat-tat editing of The Bourne Ultimatum by Christopher Rouse.But the Coens, under their Roderick Jaynes pseudonym, stand a good chance if No Country starts sweeping.

Best Costume Design: I think out of all the costumes and outfits that were designed in the past year, the one that sticks out the most for people is Keira Knightley’s gorgeous green dress in Atonement. For that reason alone I’d say Jacqueline Durran has this one in the bag.

Best Make-Up: Norbit, Oscar Winner. Doesn’t that just have a great ring to it? In all seriousness, Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji’s work for the Eddie Murphy vehicle is more than deserving, even if the film is not.

Best Music: Dario Marianelli takes this one for Atonement, for a score that sticks with you for better or worse. But, this category would be a lot easier to predict if they allowed Jonny Greenwood’s remarkable score for There Will Be Blood. That one was a landmark in music for films and the Oscar will look foolish in the coming years for ignoring it.

Best Song: This is a no-brainer, right? It absolutely has to be “Falling Slowly” from Once, performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. If it’s anything other than that beautiful tune, then I’ll be throwing more than a shoe at my television.

Best Sound: Always a difficult category to predict, but I’m going to go with the work by Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis for The Bourne Ultimatum, simply by going with the theory that action films tend to pick up technical awards.

Best Sound Editing: I’m going to go with There Will Be Blood here and the work byMatthew Wood simply because there were several points during the film where I actually remarked to myself, “the sound effects are spot-on.”

Best Visual Effects: This has got to go to the Transformers team of Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier. I wasn’t a fan of the movie, but they definitely brought those machines to life in such a way as to be nearly invisible as works of CGI.

Best Foreign Language Film: I regret to say that I haven’t seen all of the films, but I’d put my money (pun intended) on The Counterfeiters from Austria, which is a fascinating film about counterfeiters in Nazi Germany.

Best Documentary (Feature): Having seen all of these films, I can say without a doubt that the two most important and most well-made documentaries of the year were left out (Lake of Fire and The Devil Came on Horseback). That being said, Charles Ferguson’s No End in Sight is excellent and deserves the win that will come its way and will hopefully preventMichael Moore’s unfocused Sicko from receiving any more kudos.

Best Documentary (Short): I haven’t seen a single one of these films – although I would like to – but am going to say that James Longley’s Sari’s Mother will get the win.

Best Animated Film: Considering it also got a nomination for its screenplay, I think the Academy is as in love with Brad Bird’s Ratatouille as most of us are. Persepolis would be an equally deserving winner, but Ratatouille’s beautiful visuals and heartwarming story will be too much to overcome.

Best Animated Short: My pick is Josh Raskin’s I Met the Walrus, since it is apparently about the Beatles. And with this being the year of a Beatle divorce, a Beatle tribute movie (Across the Universe) and a Beatles show (Cirque du Soleil’s Love), I think Beatlemania has returned with a vengeance.

Best Live-Action Short: I’ll see all of these movies as soon as I get the opportunity, but I’ve heard a lot of good word about Om Natten (At Night), which is Christian E. Christiansen’s story about three young girls in a cancer ward.

– Noah Forrest
February 19, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 24 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon