Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Oscar Predictions 2006

I haven't found any reasonable predictions for the nominees yet, so here are my own. I stake my claim today, December 28th, 2005. Take issue, comment - and then come March, let's see how far off I am.

*indicates my prediction for winner, though this will be revised after the actual nominees come out.

Best Picture
Brokeback Mountain*
Match Point
Good Night and Good Luck
Broken Flowers

My reasoning: Brokeback is this year's Titanic. It has everything Hollywood looks for in Best Picture: doomed romance, sweeping epic, stars giving Oscar-calibar performances. As for the rest: Syriana is too circuitous for Hollywood. Hollywood is going to be dying to recognize Woody's first good movie in years. Good Night and Good Luck speaks to the heart of the Hollywood blacklist angst. I put Broken Flowers up here becuase it was the first great movie of 2005 and I hope the Academy remembers it, though it's been shut out of a lot the more recent awards so there's a more than even money chance they'll go with something bigger and more recent (though not necessarily better) like Geisha or The Producers. Munich is the dark horse, but the topicality and seriousness is compelling. (By all accounts, War of the Worlds is the Speilberg movie that should be up here instead, but the Academy has a short memory.)

Best Actor
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain*
Philip Seymor Hoffman, Capote
David Strathairn, Good Night, And Good Luck
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
Bill Murray, Broken Flowers

My reasoning: This will be a showdown between Hoffman and Ledger, but Brokeback will be on a sweap, and the straight-acting gay man will trump the sissy. Murray already had his day in the sun but still needs to be up there again for another truly great performance. Phoenix and Strathairn also give transformative performances but not quite as remarkable as the others.

Best Actress

Ziyi Zhang, Memoirs of Geisha*
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Scarlett Johansson, Match Point
Naomi Watts, King Kong
Judy Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents

My reasoning: This year doesn't present as many best actress opportunities as best actor, and there's no real standout like Charleze Therone's "Monster." The first four are the big praiseworthy performances. Dench's is a lesser known work but you can't go wrong including her. However, Zhang has the most buzz going into the season, so my money is on her.

Best Director
Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain*
Woody Allen, Match Point
Steven Speilberg, Munich
Ron Howard, Cinderella Man
David Cronenberg, A History of Violence

My reasoning: Best director is always a bit of a weird category. Brokeback will be on a sweep and Ang Lee, perhaps our current greatest film resource, is a cinch, here. Woody will be here. The others are a bit unpredictable, but Speilberg, Howard, and Cronenberg all deliver noteworthy films directed with an auter's touch. Other equal possibilities here would be Paul Haggis for Crash, Clooney for Good Night & Good Luck. Jackson would be here for King Kong but I think coming off the Rings Trilogy the Academy will want to spread the wealth.

Best Screenplay (Adapted)
Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain*
Dan Futterman, Capote
Josh Olson, A History of Violence
Stephen Gaghan, Syriana
Robin Swicord & Doug Wright, Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Screenplay (Original)
Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale*
Paul Haggis, Crash
George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Good Night and Good Luck
Jim Jarmusch, Broken Flowers
Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman, Cinderella Man

My reasoning: a lot of good writing this year. Brokeback takes its category. Since it's an adaptation, that leaves original screenplay wide open. I loved Broken Flowers, but The Squid and the Whale has received the most favorable reviews in this category, so I predict that.

The Supports are harder to do but here goes.

Best Supporting Actor
George Cloony, Syriana*
Matt Dillon, Crash
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Brian Cox, Match Point
Anthony Hopkins, Proof

Best Supporting Actress
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain*
Tilda Swinton, Broken Flowers
Catherine Keener, Capote
Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardner

Reasoning: Supporting actor categories need to be memorable roles that threaten to overtake their movies without overshadowing the main performances. I didn't see Cinderella Man or Constant Gardner (i cribbed these from the Globes) but all these others do that. Michelle Williams is the sentimental favorite, and Cloony gives his best performance ever in Syriana - it's time he gets an Oscar. Filling out best supporting actor was hard - I admit to cribbing Anthony Hopkins from someone else and Brian Cox is a total stab in the dark until I see Match Point. I reserve the right to update these two categories in January.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

New Jersey: fuhgeddaboutit

In case you haven't heard, the State of New Jersey (where I live) is looking for a new motto.

At our holiday party, we found the concept hilarious. So we decided to come up with a few of our own. Here are some favorites:

New Jersey: It's Not So Bad

New Jersey: It Could Be Worse

New Jersey: What Exit?

New Jersey: You Talkin' to Me?

New Jersey: Another Thirty-Five Cents, Please

New Jersey: No Parking, Midnight to Six AM

New Jersey: The Suburb State

New Jersey: The Property Tax State

New Jersey: The Shopping Mall State

New Jersey: The Traffic Jam State

New Jersey: The Pothole State

New Jersey: Come See What's Burried Here

New Jersey: You Can Be Outta Here in an Hour

New Jersey: At Least It's Not West Virginia

Got one? Send it in....

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Top 10 Conspiracies of 2005

Here it is again. Time for the top 10 Conspiracy Theories of 2005!

(For a refresher on the rules, see last year's post.)

This year saw one conspiracy after another flow from the administration. Given that vastness of them all, the entire year is almost a tribute to Bush's second term.

Here, then, without further ado, are this year's top 10 conspiracy theories:

10. Winning in the "most weird" category. Too nutty to otherwise make the list except that it was reported in USA Today: that Japan's Yakuza mafia used a Russian-made electromagnetic generator to cause Hurricane Katrina in a bid to avenge itself for the Hiroshima atom bomb attack.

9. An item from last year comes back again: Deibold's voting machines are selected by Republicans because they are designed to be hacked, so much so that the CEO has resigned in anticipation of shareholder lawsuits.

8. John Roberts, if not gay himself, is a secret gay rights champion.

7. The bird flu pandemic scare is a hoax created by the Bush administration designed to sell more Tamiflu.

6. One of my personal favorites: that Google is a secret military conspiracy designed to "identify dissenters" and "control the world". Well, maybe at the very least they distort their search results to favor their own properties.

5. The levees in New Orleans were intentionally blown in order to kill the city's black population.

4. The recent oil price spikes are symptoms of intentional gouging, neglect of resources, profit taking, and other nefarious doings by Big Oil. Or were they simply the precursor to the End of Civilization?

3. That EVERYONE is behind The Valerie Plame conspiracy, including: Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, George Bush, Judith Miller, The New York Times, and no less than 23 administration officials.

2. In a way, this year, I think we can say that the entire Iraq war was one big conspiracy.

and the number one conspiracy theory of 2005:

1. The CIA is kidnapping and holding prisoners in secret, Soviet-era detention camps in Eastern Europe. (Maybe something this eggregious still can be a conspiracy, even if it's true....)