Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Movies: Golden Boy

A few quick thoughts on this morning’s Academy Award nominations.

It’s always nice to see some dark horses score, and this year quite a few did: Ryan Gosling (who in a just world would have been acknowledged several years ago for his performance in The Believer), Jackie Earle Haley, Paul Greengrass.

I saw Letters from Iwo Jima over the weekend, and it’s Best Picture inclusion doesn’t surprise me. It’s a solidly crafted, traditional war movie. Then every few minutes, the realization hit me anew: this is about the Japanese, fighting the Americans. Forging that level of identification is an amazing accomplishment.

I have no idea who the Best Picture favorite is. Going in, I assumed it would be The Departed, and it still may be. But with Leo getting the nod for Blood Diamond and no nomination for Jack, I’m not sure. When in doubt, I always go with the Jack Warner Gambit: saturation in the major categories. The only movie up for picture, director, script and lead performance is The Queen.

Marty vs. Clint is the new Manning vs. Brady. And we all know how that turned out this year.

Six nods for Pan’s Labyrinth. Amazing.

Once again, the writers show their stuff. They gave Borat its only recognition and are the sole above-the-line branch to single out Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth.

Also worth noting: two of the writers who worked with Steve Coogan on the various Alan Partridge series are represented, Peter Baynham (Borat) and Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal).

I love that the cinematographers vote solely to honor their craft. Their nominees: The Black Dahlia, Children of Men, The Illusionist, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Prestige.

The best performance I saw this year was sadly snubbed, and that’s Michael Sheen as Tony Blair in The Queen. On degree of difficulty alone he deserved a nod: playing not just a well-known public figure but a currently serving world leader. As miraculous as Helen Mirren is in the title role, the movie is in many respects a two-hander. Without Sheen, it wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.

Finally, it’s great to see Mark Wahlberg get some love for his work in The Departed. I’ve been parroting his dialogue for months. He warrants the nod just for the way he delivers the line of the year, written by William Monahan, when a guy he’s berating asks who he is: “I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.”