With the turn of each new year, film buffs turn their attention to the awards season. While the quantity of awards shows has increased dramatically over the past few years, there is still only one show that truly matters’the Academy Awards.
This year’s crop of nominated films is as diverse as its honored actors and actresses. There are Spanish- and Japanese-language films alongside one powerful English film and several of the best American-made projects in years, and the most- nominated films are very personal stories, multi-dimensional and universal in theme. These are changing times and this year’s nominees reflect our society’s current need to connect with the world around us.
A look at some of the major awards:
The Queen’s Helen Mirren and The Last King of Scotland’s Forest Whitaker have won all of the major acting awards so far, including Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guilds, and each has a clear lock on the Oscar. Personally, I think Kate Winslet (this is her fifth!) and Leonardo DiCaprio are underrated by the Academy and neither have ever won, despite being nominated several times. Again turning in outstanding performances, these two deserve a shot at Oscar gold.
Best Supporting Actress
Undoubtedly, the award belongs to Jennifer Hudson. She owned the screen in Dreamgirls, with her vocal and acting talents overshadowing her castmates, including Beyonc’ and fellow nominee Eddie Murphy. Despite its eight nominations, Hudson is the heart and soul of an otherwise mediocre musical.
Best Supporting Actor
Things are trickiest in the Best Supporting Actor category with four powerful performances and one that tried really hard. Heaps of praise have been lauded on Eddie Murphy, but undeservingly, in my opinion. Rather than disappearing into the role, he seems more a combination of all his previous characters, with a little of Shrek’s Donkey and Professor Klump thrown into the mix. In a process of elimination, he’s the first one out of the running. Mark Wahlberg’s got a good shot at winning for his biting performance as a detective in The Departed, but my vote’s with Djimon Hounsou, whose harrowing portrayal of Solomon Vandy in Blood Diamond broke my heart.
Best Original Screenplay
The nominees feature compelling contemporary storytelling at its best. Three of the movies delve into the madness of war while one features a monarch trying to hold the reign tight in the face of adversity. Though I loved Pan’s Labyrinth and think it’s owed recognition, I’m pulling for a classic American underdog, Little Miss Sunshine, which showcases a terrific cast and truly original screenwriting.
Best Adapted Screenplay
As much as I’d love to see Sacha Baron Cohen take the Best Adapted Screenplay prize, William Monohan’s script for The Departed is more deserving and less dependent on the ignorance of the American public.
Though he faces tough competition in the Best Documentary category in Jesus Camp and Iraq in Fragments, former Vice President Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth will probably take home the Award and it’s been rumored he’ll announce his plans to run again for the Presidency. Though I’ll support him regardless, I’d rather just see him doing his best to save the environment, as he’s doing here, and hold off on the Oval Office.
With his sixth nomination solidified, if Martin Scorsese remains overlooked for his deft skills in directing, I may give up on film entirely’or at least the Oscars themselves. Returning to form with the meticulously crafted gangster epic, The Departed, Scorsese again proves he can create a film like no one else by encapsulating the best in film, not only drawing top-quality performances from a stellar ensemble cast, but inspiring flawless editing, superb storytelling, and a remarkable soundtrack and score.
Whether or not that’ll bring him the Best Picture trophy as well remains to be seen. Though I don’t think The Queen is Best Picture worthy, Babel could win for its timeliness and global effect and the Academy does have a soft spot for Clint Eastwood, so it could be his Letters from Iwo Jima that takes it. Though I loved Little Miss Sunshine, I’m going with The Departed on this one.
The past couple of years, the top awards have been split between several films with no single motion picture taking all of the important ones. This year could prove to be the first exception since 2003’s Return of the King, especially if Martin Scorsese gets his way.
The 79th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, will air at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 on ABC.
Juli Shipley, a veteran employee of both a movie theater and video rental chain, was a film studies minor at MTSU, has seen at least two decades’ worth of Oscars and has been a film critic for The Murfreesboro Pulse for the past year.