That THE DEPARTED was nominated for “Best” picture, and Scorcese for “Best” director, and DREAMGIRLS wasn’t (let alone NOTES ON A SCANDAL, LITTLE CHILDREN, and a handful of other more deserving films and directors) is just the same old lame attempt to make up for not giving Scorcese and his films awards in the past when they truly were the “best.”
As good as THE QUEEN is, it too does not stand above NOTES ON A SCANDAL or LITTLE CHILDREN or FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, or for that matter WORLD TRADE CENTER, which, despite the sometimes faulty New York and Jersey accents the actors often push over the top, is a powerful and memorable movie memorial to the heroism brought out by the events surrounding 9/11.
More so, in my opinion, than UNITED 93, whose director got a nomination, but Oliver Stone didn’t, for the most focused directorial job he’s done since his masterpiece (again, in my opinion) SALVADOR.
In fact, how did they nominate Paul Greengrass for directing UNITED 93 and Stephen Frears for THE QUEEN, two competent and not bad movies, but nowhere near as impressive a directing achievement as was evidenced in twenty or more movies whose directors didn’t get nominated.
BABEL deserves best film and best director, simply for the magnitude of the achievement alone, not even considering the pitch perfect acting and the screenplay’s capacity for complexity without losing the audience or the point(s).
As for "Best" actor, Forest Whitaker seems to have it sewed up, deservingly so, the guy has always been one of the best, but Peter O'Toole has never won for a performance, and this one actually deserves it too, according to all my actor friends, though I haven't seen VENUS yet.
DiCaprio has had a good year as well, doing some of his best work in a while in BLOOD DIAMOND and THE DEPARTED, and I hear Ryan Gosling is great in HALF NELSON, but haven't seen that yet either. As for Will Smith, there's way too many better acting jobs by men in leading roles this year to give it to him. Greg Kinnear, in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, an often overlooked terrific actor, for one, and Ken Watanabe in LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA for two.
Judi Dench is still my choice for best actress, but in truth, the other four nominees deserve it just as much: Helen Mirren, Penelope Cruz, Meryl Streep, and Kate Winslett.
Another tough choice is in the “Best” supporting actress category, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi in BABEL deserve it as much or more than Jennifer Hudson for DREAMGIRLS, though Hudson will probably be the favorite.
And Cate Blanchett gave two amazing and diametrically opposed performances in BABEL and NOTES ON A SCANDAL, so she may be most deserving just for that. Then again, Abigail Breslin as the star of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE kicks ass among a cast of accomplished adult actors, and may be a sentimental favorite just because she’s so cute while doing it.
Eddie Murphy is probably the favorite for DREAMGIRLS, in which he did demonstrate he can hold his own in dramatic scenes, as well as musical and humorous ones. But Jackie Earle Haley in LITTLE CHILDREN managed to surprise me in every scene he was in, with his unique acting choices and ways of putting them over. His performance was the most impressive to me, despite Murphy’s and Djmon Houson’s and Mark Wahlberg’s equally impressive performances in DREAMGIRLS, BLOOD DIAMOND and THE DEPARTED.
But Alan Arkin is another sentimental favorite for past work. Yes, he’s terrific in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, but there’s nothing new in his performance in terms of what we’ve seen him do before. I love Arkin and his acting, but he has been doing pretty much the same character all his life, so it’s not exactly fresh, except maybe for the circumstances of his character.
Think of all the supporting actors in all the films made in 2006 and I’m sure you can, as I can, come up with several more original performances that had an equal or even greater impact than Arkin’s, like, say, Adam Beach in FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS as Ira Hayes, the American-native soldier who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima and was ruined by the public adulation and sense of guilt, despite his obvious heroism
That performance deserves an Oscar, period. And there’s plenty more, like Michael Pena in WORLD TRADE CENTER—or Jamie Foxx in DREAMGIRLS for that matter, seemed like I hadn’t quite seen some of those moves from him before.
At least NOTES ON A SCANDAL and LITTLE CHILDREN got nominated for “Best” adapted screenplay, but THE DEPARTED did too. A screenplay that may have been coherent when it was first presented to the actors, but after Nicholson got his hands on it and started changing things around, it became more and more confusing and full of scenes that led nowhere.
What was that montage about where Nicholson is seen with a beautiful black woman who otherwise has no role in the film or the story? When you see a montage like that, you can bet you’re being distracted from the fact that the previous scene does not lead to the next and something is missing from the end product because of a technical or creative glich.
As for “best” original screenplay, again THE QUEEN is nominated, for a not bad speculation on what might have been going on behind closed doors, but is it really better than BLOOD DIAMOND, BOBBY, BREAKING AND ENTERING, THE DEAD GIRL, HALF NELSON, KINKY BOOTS, SHERRYBABY, STRANGER THAN FICTION, UNITED 93, VENUS, and WORLD TRADE CENTER?
Ah well, it’ll all be forgotten two days after the Oscars are given out. But in the meantime, it’s fun to pick apart the Academy’s (in quotes) choices. Aint’ it?