Greetings from the Big Easy, ya’ll!
Oh how I hate it for all of you back in Tennessee, stuck up there with the bone-chillingly cold winter weather that refuses even the promise of snow while I open my windows on warm, breezy Sundays and walk down the street for iced coffee under the cover of centuries-old oaks and lush palms. Jazz emanates from street corners and parades seem to travel past for good reason or none at all.
But the best I’ve discovered of New Orleans in my mere four weeks as a welcomed resident is the art house theater down on Canal Street, only ten minutes from my house.
That’s right, my fellow cinephiles. I no longer have to brave the 45-minute drive to Green Hills to see the good stuff?it’s right down the street.
But I digress . . .
I’m writing this article, my last for The Murfreesboro Pulse (thanks for the love, Bracken!), not to rub in my good fortune but for a more serious matter at hand?It’s Oscars time again, my friends, and I gotta tell ya, this is a tough year for me, with some of my all-time favorite directors on the marquee.
Not only have they held up my standards, but Paul Thomas Anderson, Joel and Ethan Coen and Tim Burton have surpassed my expectations. With There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men and Sweeney Todd, respectively, they have raised the bar for American filmmakers. And the time of year has come again to honor these and other filmmakers, as well as the actors, writers and behind the scenes professionals who bring it all together to create the best in movie-going experiences. ##M:[read Juli’s predictions]##
Here are my predictions for some of the most anticipated awards:
Best Supporting Actor
As strong a performance as delivered by Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton, no one in this category stands out like Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men. Though he hardly utters a word, his lurid portrayal of hitman Anton Chigurh confirms what his native Spain has known about Bardem for years: the man is a brilliant actor, assuming each role with a distinct uniqueness and passion for the job that shows onscreen.
Best Supporting Actress
As much as I wanted to slap Atonement’s little Saoirse Ronan for the betrayal of her sister, she doesn’t even come close to taking the prize from Cate Blanchett. In the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There, six actors play the beloved musician but none stands out like her. Blanchett penetrates the role as less of an act and more like a conduit in a way her fellow actors (both in the film and within this category) do not.
This category is stronger than it’s been in years, with all nominees at the top of their game, rather than a standout performance or two. Viggo Mortensen’s harrowing portrayal of a man on the wrong side of the Russian mafia In Eastern Promises is remarkable and it hurts me to vote against my boy Johnny Depp, who was so good in Sweeney Todd, but I’m betting on Daniel Day Lewis’ depraved oil man in There Will Be Blood. He skillfully manages the difficult task of creating an unlikable madman with a sensitive and affected soul.
She’s cute as a button, but Ellen Page is a long shot as the snarky title character in Juno, and Cate Blanchett mightily reclaims her throne in Elizabeth: the Golden Age, but having won the top honor playing the same queen years ago, I think her best chance this year is in the supporting category.
Marion Cotillard could provide an upset for her convincing portrayal of famed French singer Edith Piaf, but I believe experience is key for legendary actress Julie Christie in Away from Her. As a woman losing grip on her mental state, her brilliance shines as bright as her eyes as she reflects on her life and loves.
Best Adapted Screenplay
There’s tough competition here, and the scripts involved are all worthy of the prize . . . it’s a shame they can’t all take one home. Though I’d love to see PTA or the Coen Brothers win, I believe The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the moving and monumental autobiography of the paralyzed French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby’s struggle to communicate via the blinking of his eye, will take the honor.
Best Original Screenplay
Without a doubt, this award will be the first win for Diablo Cody. The refreshingly original and hip Juno has won the hearts of viewers and critics alike, and it’s sure to have the same effect on Oscar voters.
Atonement has all the makings of an Oscar winner: alluring storytelling combined with stunning art direction, a moody score and terrific performances. And it’s a period piece, a tragic tale of love and war that always stands out with voters.
But I prefer something grittier and even bleaker. I worry that No Country and Blood will divide the vote. Both have the same dark tone and are atypical Westerns with ferocious killers . . . not to mention those abrupt endings! For me, the decision between the two is the toughest prediction to make.
After much deliberation, my vote’s going to Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece, There Will Be Blood, for its gritty images, commanding performances and enthralling storytelling.
No matter the outcomes, I’ll be glued to the television come Sunday night more of a fan and less of a critic. The end of the recent writers’ strike is sure to provide lots of fodder for outspoken host Jon Stewart and ensures the star count and couture will be high.