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February 23, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 08
 
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Academy Awards: A guide to Oscar's golden night
Academy Awards: A guide to Oscar's golden night
by Lorelei Quenzer - SGN A&E Writer

The 79th Annual Academy Awards are two days away, and they're sure to be Gaylicious. Oh, I don't mean Brokeback-licious. There's nothing as good - or as controversial - as Brokeback Mountain nominated this year, and the closest thing to a Gay character is that the guy from The Crying Game is nominated for playing Idi Amin. Gay icon Ellen DeGeneres is hosting for the first time, and out Lesbian Melissa Etheridge is nominated for her song "I Need to Wake Up," from the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth. How many times will the camera zoom in on Degeneres' partner, Portia de Rossi? Or, on Etheridge's partner, Tammy Lynn Michaels? How much will that confuse the viewers in South Dakota?

But what about the films, you ask? I've seen 'em all. Well, not literally all. Not Poseidon, Click or Apocalypto, for example. You couldn't pay me enough. And not the shorts - there wasn't enough time. And I swear, I wanted to get to more foreign films and documentaries this year, but half of them never made it to the theaters and the other half& well, I wasn't in the mood. You might be tempted to say it's been a depressing year for films all around, and you'd be right. Not that the films were bad, but they were uniformly dark.

Take the documentary feature category: child molestation, global warming, the war in Iraq, the Iraqi elections, and children "taking back America for Christ." Pretty heavy stuff, right? And I haven't seen a single one. Bleh. And feature films? Talk about dark: the sanest character in the obligatory comedy nominee was a Gay Proust scholar who had just attempted suicide. I suppose the animated features might have raised my spirits, but after all of those sad films I couldn't drag myself to some computer-generated pap about cars talking, houses eating children, or penguins dancing. Here's hoping 2007's films are a little "happier."

The bottom line is I really did see all of the films in the major acting and writing categories. And more Oscars geekdom than usual went into my predictions this year. (You should see the spreadsheet I worked up charting the Guild and Critics' Association wins!) Here is a preview of the awards ceremony and key categories.

79th Annual Academy Awards
Sunday, February 25 - 4pm pre-show and red carpet coverage, 5pm main ceremony

Performers: No official announcements about presenters as of this writing, but with three songs nominated from Dreamgirls, we can expect to see Beyoncé and J-Hud take the stage. Melissa Etheridge should perform, as should the ubiquitous Randy Newman ("Our Town," from Cars).

Presenters: Ben Affleck, Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kirsten Dunst, Will Ferrell, Eva Green, Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Tobey Maguire, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Rachel Weisz, Kate Winslet and Reese Witherspoon. Biggest "Huh?": Jessica Biel. Look for her to present Best Cinematography, the category The Illusioninst was nominated in. And no: Sacha Baron Cohen will not be presenting a statuette. The Borat star was asked but declined, according to the LA Times.

BEST PICTURE
Nominees: Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

Will win: Color me simple, but I think voters will find it really easy to check the box next to The Departed after they've chosen its director.

Should win: After last year's hoopla and heartbreak, I'm hesitant to put my trust in any one film. I also sincerely think it's a pretty even playing field, although the best movies weren't even nominated (United 93, Borat and Dreamgirls come to mind), so I'll go along with The Departed.

BEST DIRECTING
Nominees: Clint Eastwood - Letters from Iwo Jima; Stephen Frears - The Queen; Alejandro Iñárritu González - Babel; Paul Greengrass - United 93; Martin Scorsese - The Departed

Will win: Scorsese deserved the Oscar long ago, so no one will be surprised when he pulls the sympathy votes. Oh, and The Departed is good, too.

Should win: Greengrass. Yes, I've been converted: United 93 is that good. It's a shame it didn't make it into the Best Picture category.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio - Blood Diamond; Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson; Peter O'Toole - Venus; Will Smith - The Pursuit and Happyness; Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland

Will win: Whitaker, no question. He's won almost every award possible for this performance. Let's hope he's taken some Paxil or hired a speechwriter.

Should win: Okay, Whitaker deserves it. But I want, want, WANT the Oscar to go to O'Toole, who's been nominated 7 times previously and never won. That's a crying shame. (I said shame, Whitaker, not Game!)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Nominees: Penelope Cruz - Volver; Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal; Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada; Kate Winslet - Little Children

Will win: Unlike Whitaker, Mirren actually has won every award possible for this performance. Oscar night shouldn't be any different, as there doesn't seem to be any "backlash" for HRH.

Should win: Mirren, although if there's going to be an upset look to Dench& oh, who am I kidding? It's Mirren, all the way.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Nominees: Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine; Jackie Earle Haley - Little Children; Djimon Hounsou - Blood Diamond; Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls; Mark Wahlberg - The Departed.

Will win: This is not the slam-dunk for Murphy people were predicting post-Globes. Haley won more critics' awards, and there seems to be a sympathy movement for veteran Arkin. If the voters don't split, look for Murphy to take the stage. If they do split, Wahlberg might sneak in for a steal.

Should win: Please - did you see Little Children? Haley wasn't on screen much, but he was the center of that film.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Nominees: Adriana Barraza - Babel; Cate Blanchett - Notes on a Scandal; Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine; Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls; Rinko Kikuchi - Babel

Will win: J-Hud needs to move her Globe and SAG statuettes off the mantle and make room for Oscar.

Should win: I'm not saying this is a weak category, but& as with the best picture nominees, these ladies are pretty neck-and-neck. While Hudson made people sit up and take notice, I preferred Kikuchi's gutsy, subtle performance as a deaf mute.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nominees: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan; Children of Men; The Departed; Little Children; Notes on a Scandal

Will win: The Departed has a string of wins, but I'm guessing Academy members may want to liven up the proceedings by placing Sacha Baron Cohen on the stage. I'm going with an upset from Borat.

Should win: Borat made me squirm in my seat like no other film this year, even United 93.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Nominees: Babel; Letters from Iwo Jima; Little Miss Sunshine; Pan's Labyrinth; The Queen

Will win: It's a toss-up. The Queen may have won the Golden Globes and a slew of critics' awards, but Little Miss Sunshine took the Writers' Guild (the Brits even chose Sunshine over home fave HRH, giving it the BAFTA). I'm with the Brits on this one, and expect much glee from the Sunshine supporters.

Should win: You want originality? Pan's Labyrinth is like nothing you've ever seen. And if you're lucky, it's also like nothing you've ever imagined.

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