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Feature, by Tony Macklin and Wayne Bell

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And the Oscar goes to…. Our predictions and ideas on how to spend Oscar Night
Tony Macklin’s Picks

In 1970 the nominees for Best Picture were really split up into movies for different audiences. The five nominees for Best Picture were “Patton,” “Airport,” “Love Story,” “Five Easy Pieces,” and “M*A*S*H.”

The audience for “Airport” was not the audience for “Five Easy Pieces;” the audience for “Love Story” was not the audience for “M*A*S*H.” “Patton” won.

Since then the Academy has featured very diverse choices.

This year there’s no “Patton,” but 2007 was a very good year for diversity. When “No Country for Old Men” is mixing it up with “Juno,” and “There Will be Blood” is mixing it up with “Atonement,” it shows vast variety.

Here are my wary selections in the six major categories for the Oscars:

Best Picture: “No Country for Old Men”
In another year, in which there was a popular, quality blockbuster, “No Country for Old Men” might be bypassed. But its competition is beatable.

This year there’s an appealing sleeper in “Juno,” which has earned more than $120 million, which is terrific for a small, low-budget movie. There’s also a self-indulgent powderkeg, “There Will be Blood;” a lukewarm romance, “Atonement;” and a nicely-crafted thriller, “Michael Clayton.”

“No Country for Old Men” should win. It’s a superb film, but it will put off some viewers with its violence and unresolved ending.

For others, the many tones and aspects of violence and the open ending are examples of filmmakers not dependent on focus groups. God bless them.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will be Blood”)
This is a category in which two very deserving performances didn’t get nominations. Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”) and Josh Brolin (“No Country for Old Men”) carried their exceptional movies, but unfortunately they didn’t make the cut. In the final analysis, it probably doesn’t matter. Daniel Day-Lewis gave a scenery-chewing, oil-spewing tour de force performance which may dwarf others with its sheer bombast and audacity. Daniel Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar for My Left Foot (1989). He should win again.

Best Actress: Julie Christie (“Away from Her”)
I preferred Marion Cotillard’s sometimes-stunning performance as the neurotic, French songbird Edith Piaf. Christie played a fading victim of Alzheimer’s disease who is institutionalized. Julie Christie won the Oscar for Best Actress for “Darling” (1966). Cotillard is French; Christie is British. There are more Anglophiles than Francophiles in the Academy. It’s between Christie and Cotillard.

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”)
Bardem seems a lock, as the most memorable villain since Hannibal Lector. (Anthony Hopkins received a Best Actor award for portraying Hannibal in “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1991.) Hal Holbrook (“Into the Wild”) might receive the Oscar if he weren’t up against the relentless Bardem. Bardem was mesmerizing.

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There”)
This should be a lock, but it may not be. This sometimes is the awkward age award going to actresses for their careers and for simply enduring. Remember Helen Hayes (“Airport”) in 1970. If it’s the awkward age award, it will go to 83-year old Ruby Dee for her outing in “American
Gangster.” But Cate Blanchett should win for her incandescent performance as the electric-period Bob Dylan. If she wins, she surely will render a heartfelt eulogy to Heath Ledger, who played another replica of Dylan in “I’m Not There.” Amy Ryan has gotten some attention for “Gone Baby Gone.”

Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men”)
The Coen Brothers are auteurs who have a distinctive touch. They won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for “Fargo” (1996). Like Quentin Tarantino, who never had their staying power, the Coen Brothers have a vast knowledge of film and its history. “In No Country for Old Men,” they channeled Alfred Hitchcock, who never received an Academy Award for his direction, although he finally was awarded an honorary Oscar.

The fact that “Atonement’s” director Joe Wright didn’t even get a nomination seems to doom “Atonement’s” chance as Best Picture. The Best Picture Academy Award almost always goes to the winner of the Directors Guild of America. The Coens won this year’s DGA award.

It’s not always easy to gauge the Academy’s sensibilities. This year they gave the back of their liver-spotted hand to Sean Penn. Instead of the six
nominations Penn’s “Into the Wild” should have received (Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, and Song), it received only two (Holbrook and editing).

It is disheartening that one of Eddie Vedder’s songs — probably “Guaranteed” –wasn’t even nominated, while three songs from Disney’s “Enchanted” were nominated.

But that’s the Academy.

They’re Super Delegates, who aren’t always super. Let’s hope they are super enough to pick “No Country for Old Men.” The “Old Men” may appeal to them.
And the Oscar goes to…


By Wayne Bell

I have postponed writing this article for two weeks now. The main reason is bi-fold. First off, this is the most competitive Oscar race in years. Last year, I thought the races were hard to predict, but this year makes last year look easy. With no “Titanic” or “American Beauty” to contend with this year, many of the races are wide open. The second reason why I have postponed writing this is because I didn’t know if there was even going to be an Oscar telecast this year. With the writers strike, award shows have been shut down left and right and the Oscars could have been in for a rough night of no-shows if the strike hadn’t gotten settled, just last week!

So the real question is: Why do we even care about the Oscars? I can’t answer for most people. I have friends who watch only for the clothes. I have other friends who like to watch Ryan Secrest squirm. For me, it really comes down to history. The history of the movies, but also my own personal history is what makes Oscar night so important.

I remember sneaking into the living room and getting permission to watch the late night telecast year after year when I was growing up. For me, there was something very special about this particular evening that is celebrating its eightieth anniversary this year.

There’s excitement all Oscar season and a mere nomination can add a ton of box office revenue to a film that otherwise might have been forgotten. My hope is that the Oscar nominations each year will allow a wider audience to appreciate American film.

I have recently finished “No Country” and “There will be Blood” and walked out of the theatre and heard people saying how awesome each was, and also people talking about how much the hated them.

Love or hate the nominees, the Oscar is as American as apple pie and baseball. It is an important part of our history and the ceremony acts as a time capsule for what is occurring in the world.

This article will mix in some predictions and analysis with some ideas about ways to celebrate here in Northwest Arkansas. Everyone watches the Oscars in a different way, but at the end of the day, I hope that you appreciate the work of this year’s very talented filmmakers and craftsmen.

Best Picture
Nominees: “Atonement,” “Juno,” “Michael Clayton,” “There will be Blood,” and “No Country for Old Men”

I’m not really sure how “Atonement” even got in this race over “Into the Wild” or “Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Yes, it won the Golden Globe (they love British stuffy pieces), but this one time front-runner has underperformed in the precursors and got very mixed reviews. Much like with “Good Night and Good Luck,” George Clooney has managed another best picture nominee in “Michael Clayton.” It is very slick and wonderfully acted. However, it doesn’t seem to have the weight and support it needs to go all the way. “There will be Blood” won a few critics awards and its star has won just about everything, however the feeling regarding the film is that you either love it or simply admire it. I have a feeling that many academy members may do the later. Also, its star seems to be a sure shot, which will be a good concession.

That leaves two films vying for the win. “Juno” has done very well at the box office and has received much praise for its cast and surprise best director nominee Jason Reitman. However, “Little Miss Sunshine” followed a similar trajectory and had to settle for a screenplay award. I feel that “Juno” might share a similar fate. However, in a year with so many dark and depressing films, a surprise win is possible.

All consensuses seems to point towards “No Country for Old Men.” It’s my personal favorite film of the year and it has won the Critics Choice, National Board of Review, Producers Guild, Writers Guild, Screen Actors Guild, and Directors Guild Prizes. Plus, its helmers, the Coen Brothers, are expected winners in the director’s race (they should have won ten years ago for “Fargo”). Unless there is front-runner backlash similar to “Brokeback,” this film will and should win. The Coen’s could potentially win four Oscars for producing, directing, writing, and editing the film. They are favorites in each of those categories.

Will Win: “No Country for old Men”
Should Win: “No Country for old Men”

THROW A PARTY!
A great way to enjoy the Oscars is to throw a “party for a purpose” to celebrate in style. Essentially, invite a bunch of your friends and ask everyone to get dressed up and serve some fancy food and enjoy the evening. The twist is to charge everyone a small cover and then donate the cover to the Red Cross, United Way or countless other charities. It’s a great way to celebrate and also raise some money for a local organization.

I’m a big fan of throwing a fantastic party, but keep it simple. Nobody wants to be stuck in the kitchen when the show is on or when those hideous clothes are walking down the carpet. Try a stovetop party! Make something like beef stew or chicken and dumplings and then let them simmer on the stovetop and allow people to serve themselves. Serving a simple comfort food that will serve itself is a great idea. Instead of having a fancy bar, just pick one signature drink and serve it along with beer, wine, and soda. Might I suggest a “There will be Blood Red Martini.” Finally don’t mess with a fancy dessert. Order a nice cake. The idea is to enjoy the show, but also the company of your friends.

Best Actor
Nominees: George Clooney “Michael Clayton,” Daniel Day Lewis “There Will be Blood,” Johnny Depp “Sweeney Todd,” Tommy Lee Jones “In the Valley of Elah,” and Viggo Mortensen “Eastern Promises”

Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones snagged a super-surprise nomination here for a movie that nobody saw. He was clearly assisted by his acclaimed work in “No Country.” Either way, his third nomination is a gift within itself. Viggo has received many nominations throughout the award season and this first time nominee should appreciate this attention, but a win is slim.

All year, I have felt that this was Johnny Depp’s Oscar to loose. He has been nominated twice before and is beloved within the industry. There is a real desire to reward him. However, the film didn’t do as well as many expected (shocking to me) and therefore he may have to relish in his Golden Globe win. He will probably win someday, but this isn’t the year. I will remind you that a few years ago, two previous Oscar winners split the vote and in the end, a surprise winner, Adrien Brody walked away with the statue. Johnny could do that this year. However, “The Pianist’s” Brody was in a best pic nominee, and Johnny is not.

One of the men that Brody beat was former winner Daniel Day Lewis. This eclectic actor has won the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, SAG, and about everything else this year. He is the clear front-runner for a second Oscar. He stars in a best pic contender and is very appreciated in the industry. His real competition comes from another previous winner, George Clooney. Clooney did win the National Board of Review award, but other than that, he has had to settle for runner up at everything else. DDL won an Oscar years ago for “My Left Foot,” but Clooney won recently for “Syriana,” so DDL is way overdue.

Will Win: Daniel Day Lewis
Should Win: Daniel Day Lewis

Best Actress
Nominees: Cate Blanchett “Elizabeth-Part Deux,” Marion Cotteliard “La Vie en Rose,” Ellen Page “Juno,” Julie Christie “Away from Her,” and Laura Linney “The Savages”

First off…where is Amy Adams? Her work in “Enchanted” should have landed her a spot on this list over Blanchett, who apparently gets nominated for reading the phone book. Celebrating her fifth nomination in ten years, Oscar winner Blanchett has no real chance. The second installment of “Elizabeth” received terrible reviews and a lot of people are quite pissed about this nomination. On the flip side, Linney received her third nomination for her work in “The Savages” and it is considered a welcome surprise. Most critics felt that winner Angelina Jolie would be nominated, but Linney received one of those “gift” nominations for this little-seen film.

The other three actresses nominated have lost of pluses and minuses going for them. Cotteliard gave a brilliant, Golden Globe winning performance. However, foreign speaking roles rarely win and she isn’t well known in the United States. Many people have complained that she is far superior to the film, which is a huge strike against her. Ellen Page could very well become a superstar because of “Juno.” She has a legitimate shot at winning this because she is the only nominee in a best pic nominee. However, she hasn’t done well at the precursors (neither did Brody) and she may be considered too young and smug at this time.

Christie won an Oscar decades ago and is in line to repeat. She has won the Critics Choice, SAG, Golden Globe and National Board of Review. Her work as a patient loosing her mind is pure Academy bait. However, Christie has already won and is notoriously difficult on award shows. She is very public about her dismay at having to attend and therefore, the academy may spread the wealth to Page or Cotteliard.

Will Win: Julie Christie (barely)
Should Win: Amy Adams

BACKGROUND NOISE
This year featured some of the best scores in recent history. If you’re going to have a dinner party sometime in February, why not feature the music of this year’s nominees? I would suggest Radiohead’s brilliant (ineligible for a nomination) score to “There will be Blood” or perhaps the score to “Atonement.” Many times local bands or symphonies also highlight the nominated scores in concert form. Check out some local music events to see if they will be featuring the scores. Finally, tune into NPR to enjoy their highlights of the selected music throughout February.

Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Casey Affleck “Jesse James,” Javier Bardem “No Country for Old Men,” Hal Holbrook “Into the Wild,” Phillip Seymour Hoffman “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and Tom Wilkinson “Michael Clayton”

Don’t always believe that frontrunners can’t loose. Lauren Bacall, “Brokeback Mountain” and Kate Hudson have all lost Oscars that they were locks to win. I say this because Javier Bardem is such a sure lock for this win that backlash could set in. However, that would be a true disappointment. His portrayal of Anton Sughar has stayed in my head for months and he is hands down the scariest thing on film in years. He has already won the Critics Choice, SAG and Golden Globe and should win the Oscar on his second nomination.

If anyone beats him it will be Hal Holbrook. Alan Alda won an Oscar last year for “Little Miss Sunshine” and it was more of a lifetime achievement win. The same could be true of Holbrook. However, he’s barely in the film and “Into the Wild” was shut out of every other race that it was supposed to be nominated in. It was a huge shocker on nomination morning, and a win for Holbrook would be a lifetime achievement award at best.

National Board of Review winner Affleck should relish his first nomination. Former nominee Wilkinson was superb in “Michael Clayton” but if he couldn’t win years ago for “Into the Bedroom,” it’s doubtful that he will win now. Previous winner Hoffman received a somewhat surprising nomination for “CWW” which received mixed reviews. He is somewhat of filler in a fairly strong category. The truth is: if Bardem doesn’t win, it’s a shame.

Will Win:
Javier Bardem
Should Win: Javier Bardem

ENJOY THE SHOW ALONE
No one can complain about you talking to the TV when you’re by yourself. Therefore, a great way to celebrate is to get yourself some popcorn, chocolate chip cookie dough and other party food and throw yourself an Oscar watch party. If you would prefer the company of others, check out Oscar.com and see if any local parties are featured. Many charities have Oscar viewing parties.

Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Cate Blanchett “I’m Not There,” Ruby Dee “American Gangster,” Amy Ryan “Gone Baby Gone,” Sorisee Ronan “Atonement,” and Tilda Swinton “Michael Clayton”

This is the hardest category to predict and has had no real frontrunner all season. Amy Ryan won most of the critic’s awards including National Board and Critics Choice. Then Blanchett won the Golden Globe. Ruby Dee then surprised many by winning the SAG. There has been no consistency.

If your film is nominated for best pic, your chances traditionally rise. That bodes well for Ronan and Swinton. However, I feel Swinton would probably benefit more. Although Ronan was very good in “Atonement,” the film got mixed reviews and her character was icy at best. Swinton has a strong chance at winning this based on vote splitting amongst the other actresses. Plus, I feel she was the best part of “Clayton” and true supporters of the movie may feel the need to give it some love somewhere on their ballot.

Most everyone is predicting a win for Blanchett. However, I wouldn’t be so sure. She won an Oscar two years ago for playing Oscar winner Katherine Hepburn in “The Aviator” and now she is nominated again for playing Oscar winner Bob Dylan. She has already won for one of these flashy imitation type roles, and it would seem odd to reward her again for a similar type performance in a less loved film.

Amy Ryan won most of the critic’s awards for her unsympathetic mother in “Gone Baby Gone,” but the film wasn’t seen by many and critics’ picks aren’t always easily translated into Oscar. Virgina Madsen won all the critics prizes a few years ago for “Sideways” but lost the Oscar to the more well-known Blanchett. Tony nominee Ryan is a Hollywood outsider and may have to overcome that stigma.

That leaves Ruby Dee. She was well overdue for her first Oscar nomination. The 83 year old won the SAG and is considered a favorite for the Oscar. However, the academy hasn’t been very kind to older actresses in this category (Lauren Bacall and Gloria Stuart). Also, Dee is only in American Gangster for five minutes. That may be a hard justification to some actors. However, Judi Dench won for “Shakespeare in Love” for eight minutes.

Will Win: Probably…Amy Ryan (but Dee or Blanchett may)
Should Win: Tilda Swinton

SO WHO WON?
The truth is…in three months you won’t remember who won the Oscar this year. Its okay! It is a given. Quick! Can you name last year’s winners for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress? I didn’t think so. Btw, the answers are “The Departed,” Forrest Whitaker, Helen Mirren, Alan Alda and Jennifer Hudson. Chances are that you didn’t know any of those. Truth is…it doesn’t matter in the bigger picture.

If you have some time this month, enjoy the bigger picture. Turn your TV over to TCM and enjoy the “31 Days of Oscar” marathon. It’s when you’re watching classic winners like “Sunset Blvd,” “All about Eve,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Casablanca,”,“Citizen Kane” and “Kramer vs. Kramer” that you truly can appreciate what it means to be in Oscar’s company.

I may not have had this appreciation when I was sneaking downstairs to watch the late night awards when I was a kid, but now I get it. Oscar enters a film or actor into the top echelon of American film culture and we mere mortals get to watch it all happen…LIVE!

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