Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Movies: Oscar, No Grouch

From an essay by Louis Menand in the New Yorker:

As long as we want to believe that creative achievement is special ... we need prizes so that we can complain about how stupid they are. In this respect, it is at least as important that the prize go to the wrong person as that it go to the right one.

So if I’m reading this correctly – and let’s face it, I’m probably not – then grousing about this year’s Academy Award nominations is a way of celebrating artistic accomplishment. Why didn’t anybody tell me that before?

Great To See You:

MUNICH, Best Picture. I’m glad Academy voters were able to look past the controversy and honor a dense, demanding thriller that’s one of the best movies of the year.

Terrence Howard, Best Actor, HUSTLE & FLOW. A fine actor giving a master class in star power.

“It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” Best Song, HUSTLE & FLOW. I don’t know why I’m surprised. If the song doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t, either. I can hear that chorus now: “Got a whole lotta bitches jumping ship ...”

Paul Giamatti, Best Supporting Actor, CINDERELLA MAN. At long last. The lesson is: if you want to be a winner, play a winner. Here’s hoping Giamatti doesn’t take it.

William Hurt, Best Supporting Actor, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. He’s in a single scene, and it’s the best one I saw all year.

Amy Adams, Best Supporting Actress, JUNEBUG. Her performance made me think, “This is someone I’ll be watching for the rest of my life.”

Wally Pfister, Best Cinematography, BATMAN BEGINS. A little love for a blockbuster that has stayed with me.

Wish You Were Here:

Jeff Daniels, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. The performance of the year, without a doubt. Confusion over whether he was a lead or supporting actor had to hurt his chances.

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE in general. Noah Baumbach will have to be content with cleaning up at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Maria Bello, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. She has stealthily vaulted to the front rank of American actresses. And someday the Oscars will take note.

Ralph Fiennes, THE CONSTANT GARDENER. Career-best work overlooked despite obvious affection for the movie.

Michael Lonsdale, MUNICH. The movie’s sprawling cast worked against any acting nods. But the Supporting category seems tailor-made for Lonsdale’s turn as an epicurean information broker.

Shane Black, Best Adapted Screenplay, KISS KISS BANG BANG. A man can dream, can’t he?

GRIZZLY MAN, Best Documentary. The fix was in on this movie weeks ago. The Academy’s arcane rules also prevented worthwhile foreign films like THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED from competing. As is the case every year since time immemorial.

The Big Winner:

Believe it or not, someone had a better day than George Clooney. Former eBay president Jeffrey Skoll set up Participant Productions to make films with social relevance. The company was involved with four movies in 2005: GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (six nominations), SYRIANA (two), NORTH COUNTRY (two), and Best Documentary contender MURDERBALL. Whoever answers Participant’s phones should be eligible for hazard pay.