Our own “Johnny Cinema” handicaps the Oscar nominees, all of which played at The Lake this past year:
There is something unavoidably subjective about picking the Best Motion Picture of the Year. It reminds me of an argument I have had with my foodie friends. I maintain that the fried chicken from Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook is arguably just as good as the pepper encrusted Alaskan king salmon at Everest. My friends think I’m an idiot, but who’s to say? Similarly, if you think Eddie Murphy in a fat suit in Norbit makes for a better movie than Citizen Kane, then you’re entitled to your stupid opinion. I guess.
This year’s Academy Award contest is pretty wide open. Every picture has at least a chance because there is no obvious “film for the ages” or clear clunker.
Babel is a possible winner, but for me it’s the worst of the nominees. This business where things that happen in Japan affect things in the desert in the Middle East has been done before. I get it. There is a deaf Japanese teenager who doesn’t wear underwear. Cate Blanchett does some serious getting-shot-in-the-neck acting. A confused, pretentious mess. This is the only one of the nominees I will be upset about if it wins. Not stay in bed and don’t go to work upset. Just upset.
The Queen has its supporters. This movie is about the time after Princess Di’s death and explores the interplay between Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth as they seek out an appropriate public response. Helen Mirren is a deserved lock for Best Actress, but for me this movie has the feel of a made-for-TV movie, albeit with great actors. Plus, I don’t get the transformation of a spoiled, rich girl into “Mother Theresa,” but that’s a story for another column.
Letters from Iwo Jima is terrific. The story of the American invasion of the Pacific island is masterfully told from the perspective of the Japanese. Hollywood loves director Clint Eastwood, so this picture has a chance, but since half of the aging Academy probably fought in World War II, there may be an anti-Japanese backlash. Just kidding.
For me the race is really between Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed, which is back to this problem of just how one decides between a quirky, independent comedy and a taut, brutal gangster picture. Grape kool-aid or milk?
Both of these movies are deserving. Both have great ensemble acting. Both entertain and inform. Martin Scorsese, who is long overdue, having lost for Goodfellas and Raging Bull, will win Best Director, and this may be enough to put The Departed over the top. Fine by me. Nicholson, Damon, Di Caprio, and Wahlberg at the top of their games is a winning team, even if the movie is violent and not for the “feel-good” crowd.
Other likely winners are Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, Eddie Murphy, who will have to overcome being in Norbit, to win Best Supporting Actor for Dreamgirls, and Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls for Best Supporting Actress for singing really loud.
I’m for Pan’s Labyrinth for Best Foreign Language Film, but I’m prejudiced because it’s the only one I have seen in that category.
We shall see. So get your popcorn and scorecard. And just remember, even if your favorites don’t win, you can be certain there will be many priceless moments during the telecast this Sunday when Hollywood’s finest citizens will make jackasses of themselves.
Now that’s entertainment.