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Gold Digging

Gold Digging

Given that its late October and its likely that the majority of 2007’s award-worthy films have been seen at least in festivals, I figured its time to start blogging my own awards tracking… So here goes, after the break.

Last year, I had a separate Oscar blog that was part of a directed study for my M.A. (which you can find here), and I’m just going to copy my first entry on it below, as otherwise I’d just be attempting to find a new way to tell the same thing and honestly I just don’t have the energy:

As far as I know, it all started March 26, 1990. I was a little over 6 years old and I wandered into my living room to find my mother watching something on television. She explained to me it was the Academy Awards, a contest where actors and movies compete for little gold statues. Being a bit of a junior movie geek, I was very curious. Three and a half hours later, I was downright obsessed.

A year later, my interest had not faded. Lovingly, my mother arranged an oscar pool that her co-workers and my relatives all participated in. She made little ballots and we bought a fake Oscar statue from K-Mart as the prize. Through most of the night I was doing pretty well for a seven-year old. My aunts had even taken me to Dances With Wolves earlier that week so I could have a somewhat educated opinion. But I vividly remember one category I didn’t get right. Since everyone had chosen heavy favourite Wolves for the last two categories, Best Actress was the deciding category. My rivals, Aunt Audrey and Aunt Tina, had gone with Kathy Bates (for Misery). I had chosen Julia Roberts (for Pretty Woman). When Bates’ name was read, I started bawling. So much so that my mother let me change my ballot and – unfairly – win the K-Mart Oscar.

It wasn’t my most shining moment. But it marked the beginning of a family tradition that grew through the years. Soon everyone was putting in $5 and relatives from across the country were mailing their ballots. My uncle even made a highly advanced (for the mid-1990s) spreadsheet on Lotus 1-2-3 that allowed for quick pool-results. It became like a second Christmas. From that morning before school in February when the nominations were annouced to that festive March Monday, my brain was constantly dreaming of surprise upsets and emotional speeches.

But me and Oscar were headed for some rocky roads. As I grew into an angsty teenager, I started to notice something my naive child mind just wouldn’t have accepted: The Academy Awards were bullshit. The 2000 awards were a specific revelation. The woman who inadvertedly allowed me to first express my Oscar-obsessive tendencies, Ms. Julia Roberts, finally won for Erin Brokovich. But this time around it wasn’t what I wanted. I’d seen her performance. It was certainly decent and incredibly entertaining. But it was nothing compared to Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For A Dream or Laura Linney in You Can Count On Me or not-even-nominated Bjork in the astounding Dancer in the Dark. And in a year when such original and innovative films like Requiem, Dancer, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Traffic were among the many notable selections, an old-school spectacle about Russell Crowe triumphing over all odds in 180 A.D. took home the big prize.

What was going on? Was this just a fluke or I had been blinded by love all those years? I also began to notice that the only categories women seemed to be nominated in were ones that ended in “Actress” and that almost everyone that ever made it to that podium was white. The following year solidified my suspicions. Russell Crowe was at it again, this time for something even worse: A Beautiful Mind. That overly sentimental and fraudulent “true story” of mentally ill math wiz John Nash swept the awards, at the expense of Moulin Rouge!, Memento, Mulholland Drive and The Royal Tenenbaums (among many others). And Denzel Washington and Halle Berry both won in what seemed like Oscar’s way of desperately saying: “I’m sorry black people. I barely gave you any awards in the 70 years I’ve been handing them out, so tonight I’m just going to throw two at you for undeserving performances so you’ll stop yelling at me.”

Like Christmas, the Oscars were becoming an exceedingly depressing experience as I grew older.

When I moved away from home to pursue a bachelor’s degree in film studies, I still managed to find some golden spirit. I blew away the competition at residence Oscar contests and friends would give me a cut of their winnings if I filled out their ballots for work pools. Like any long-term relationship, I was moving into a period of acceptance with Oscar. I knew he was politically motivated, sexist and vain. But he could still be a lot of fun, and always gave me money. So I just didn’t bother having expectations anymore. Until last year. Last year seemed like the year Oscar was really going to get it right. And I couldn’t help but root for him. Brokeback Mountain, my favourite film of 2005 and an important step in the mainstreaming of homosexual love, seemed like a sure bet for Best Picture. It had won all the precursors, and my beloved Entertainment Weekly was certain it was home-free. But just after midnight, Jack Nicholson opened an envelope that would change me and Oscar’s relationship forever. “Crash,” Jack surprisingly read from the card. Fuck that. Not only had they snubbed a revolutionary and mesmerizing film that I personally adored, but it was for a manipulative, overblown film about race relations in Los Angeles made by a white dude from London, Ontario! Within minutes, my parents and siblings called to see if I was okay. My boyfriend seemed scared of me and my party guests left quickly and quietly. As far as I was concerned, me and Oscar were through.

I used to be embarrassed that that night in early 1990 when I first met Oscar was truly one of my earliest memories. It made me feel like my mental organization was a tad too shallow, superficial and – let’s face it – gay. But now I have decided to own it. As much as he’s pissed me off over the years, I’ve accepted Oscar is a part of me. And seventeen years after that fateful night, I’m taking on my old friend in a new way – and in return, he’s giving me credit towards my degree.

So he’s not giving me credit towards my degree this time around, so I’d imagine what was near-daily posting will trickle down to bi-weekly. And as the inagural 2007 entry in this regard, I’m gonna keep it simple and category by category, so:

Best Picture

Current Predictions: Atonement, Charlie Wilson’s War, Michael Clayton, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood

If I Had More Balls: Juno

As far as I can tell, Atonement is the only lock in this category. I could easily interchange any of the other four with the three I listed as “close behind” and be similarly satisfied. But Atonement, in all its epic glory, is the closest thing to the definitative “Oscar movie” we’ll see all year: World War II+Tragic Love Story+Hot Director Snubbed For His Last Work+Based on Big Novel+Up and Coming Stars… And its also quite good: I was a little let down by the last hour of the film (the first hour is something very special), but I’m not going to argue with its eventual nomination. As for the others, I’m slightly confident in Men and Blood. Both come from underewarded contemporary auteurs, both have good (but not excessive) buzz. A lot of people are starting to drop the Coens’ off their final five (usually for Gangster) or Wild), but I think a slew of critics awards and some great limited release B.O. will keep it in. As for the other two, I’m more nervous. Michael Clayton should have been an easy call… but somethings just not going right with its release. But I’d imagine its good reviews and star power will keep it going, and since the Academy likes a little diversity in its picks, a tight political thriller seems like a nice companion to the others (personally, I didn’t love the film. Its plot seemed a bit obvious though I admired the performances). Charlie Wilson just hasn’t been seen, and its trailer makes it look like it has a tone the Academy might not embrace. However, I just find it too much to ignore.. Mike Nichols, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts… So I’m keeping it. All it needs is decent box office and good reviews and its a sure thing. The films I toyed with replacing those two with could come from any of the following: American Gangster, Gone Baby Gone, The Great Debaters, Into The Wild, Juno, Sweeney Todd. Three of those mark actor-turned-director turns that so far (Baby and Wild) have been very well recieved. Any of them could easily get in, and I’d bet its Wild if anything (though the good-press-hungry Academy could give it to Denzel‘s Debaters in an attempt to nominate the first EVER best picture contender directed by an African-American, especially since no female director is getting in this year (sorry, Ms. Polley, I love you) and there are few minority acting contentors). And theres also Gangster, which is is chock full of Oscar-loved-ones (Russell Crowe, Denzel) and also boasts a long, long overdue director (Ridley Scott) – but I’m not feeling its chances; and Sweeney, which nominating will pay tribute to 2007’s musical mania as well as to the never-nominated Tim Burton (but Burton hasn’t be nominated for a reason: The Academy doesn’t like weirdos, however brilliant they may be). My guess that if somethings gonna surprise, its Juno. The Academy does like to put one light film in the mix, and after seeing it at TIFF, my guess is that the film is going to go over very, very well, especially with the public. Its well acted, well written, heartwarming and damn funny… So we shall see.

Best Director

Current Predictions: Paul Thomas Anderson, There WIll Be Blood; Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men; Mike Nichols, Charlie Wilson’s War; Sean Penn, Into The Wild; Joe Wright, Atonement

If I Had More Balls: Sidney Lumet, Before The Devil Knows Youre Dead

Because the Academy treats this category like an extension of Best Picture, a lot of what I could say here was said above. However, there is the matter of the likely one slot difference between the two. First-timers (unless youre an actor) or not-technically-challenging films are usually the ones that fall out, so Michael Clayton and Juno are likely to be the Pic nods without Director nods if they make it in. I feel like The Coens are a lock even their film isn’t, as is Wright. In the scenario I have predicted, Penn gets the lone director over Gilroy, but this is a prickly thing to call. Todd Haynes and David Cronenberg could make good lone directors for the slightly more ambitious director’s branch (think Atom Egoyan in 97 and David Lynch in 00), but I think their films have not been celebrated in the mainstream way they need to be.. The lone director slot might find its way to: Old, unrewarded guys: Sidney Lumet might be a hard honor for them to pass up, considering his film’s good reviews and the fact that he’s in his EIGHTIES and still pumpin’ em out. Ridley Scott could also benefit from the never-won-but-deserved-to thing, as he did with Black Hawk Down‘s lone director nod a few years back… Minorities with historically appalling representation: And then of course theres the aforementioned idea of nominating Denzel Washington for the very unseen Great Debaters but I just am not feeling the plot of that film. Id like to say a woman now but Suzanne Bier‘s Things We Lost In The Fire bombed, Sarah Polley‘s film is just too small and Tamara Jenkins‘ work on The Savages is just not flashy enough to take it that far.

Best Actor

Current Predictions: George Clooney, Michael Clayton; Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood; Emile Hirsch, Into The Wild; Tommy Lee Jones, In The Valley of Elah; James McAvoy, Atonement

If I Had More Balls: Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd

When I saw Lars and the Real Girl back in August, I was certain Ryan Gosling was in. Certain. But now, as its being released, he seems like a very, very dark horse. And while I still have some naive optimism that enough people will see this film and rally him to a nom… I’m sadly leaving him out of this discussion. Likely, he will be out in favour of: Daniel Day-Lewis and James McAvoy, who are both locks. McAvoy won’t win (especially since hes so young and the twentysomething Adrien Brody win for a similar role a few years back), but Day-Lewis is definately the frontrunner as of now. Tommy Lee Jones is very vunerable after Elah failed to go anywhere but I’m keeping him out of regard for the likely buzz his other performance (in No Country For Old Men) will bring him and the fact that even when people didn’t like the film, they liked him. George Clooney is as vunerable as the film itself is, but people are really going for his work (even though its a little same-old as far as I’m concerned), and hes very well liked. Denzel Washington is my shakiest pick, but when the film comes out in a few weeks we’ll know for sure. And if he, or Clooney, or Jones, should be taken out, these are their men in waiting: Denzel Washington, American Gangster; Johnny Depp, Sweeney Tood; Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War; Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises; John Cusack, Grace is Gone; Phillip Seymor Hoffman, The Savages. I think Viggo will actually become a more serious contender than people suspect, as I’d bet he’ll split the critics awards with Day-Lewis. Washington’s performance just doesn’t seem like enough, and theres too many signs of Training Day; Tom Hanks looks irritating in Charlie‘s trailer, but the Academy has a serious hard on for him so they’ll enjoy welcoming him back. Cusack and Hoffman are both unlikely, but we’ll see when their films get released. I almost put Johnny Depp in, but I feel too strongely that he is gonna get some bad notices due to his inability to sing. However, IF he pulls it off well, he will shoot to frontrunner status (long overdue, that Depp).

Best Actress

Current Predictions: Julie Christie, Away From Her; Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose; Keira Knightley, Atonement; Laura Linney, The Savages; Ellen Page, Juno

If I Had More Balls: Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding

Three of the big hopes in this category: Cate Blanchett, Jodie Foster and Halle Berry have officially crashed and burned, leaving us with essentially 9 possibilities: The six I listed above, Amy Adams, Angelina Jolie and Helena Bonham Carter. A lot of people are putting Adams and Jolie in their predictions, but I just don’t buy it. Adams’ film (Enchanted)is a Disney fable co-starring McDreamy and Jolie’s film (A Mighty Heart) simply just bombed too badly. Both of them are definately Globe bound, but I think think that will be that. IF Sweeney Todd is Oscartastic, Bonham Carter could easily rise up, but at this point, the 5 I have predicted are my most confident of all the categories. Christie and Cotillard have retained their status as front runner since their Spring releases, and critics awards will revive that. Cotillard is likely going to win the Oscar as well, unless Christie wins every critics award out there and pulls a Helen Mirren. The other three are all really great in their roles (though Knightley’s is smaller than I expected) and will likely get some extensive good press come December (when all those films are released). I’d even say Knightley’s pretty much a lock. Page and Linney are the ones that would get kicked out if something wacky happens, for the reasoning that their roles are comic and that Page is very, very young for this category (20). I’d like to say that it would be Nicole Kidman standing waiting for their fall, but for reason people have written off this film and performance before its even come out. I really adored the film and Kidman’s performance and feel like it marks a return to form.. but like Lars and the Real Girl, I’m a little bit alone in these feelings.

Best Supporting Actor

Current Predictions: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford; Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men; Philip Seymor Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War; Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild; Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

If I Had More Balls: Max Von Sydow, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This category is very packed. The list of actors that could easily join those guys is long: Philip Bosco, The Savages; Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood; Russell Crowe, American Gangster; Alan Rickman, Sweeney Todd; Albert Finney, Before The Devil Knows Youre Dead, John Travolta, Hairpsray(please god no on the last one)… And I have little reason to seriously argue for or against their inclusion. But I do feel like despite the overall Jesse James buzzkill, Casey Affleck is likely in due to the Gone Baby Gone raves and the fact that hes damn good in James, and that Bardem is the surest thing to a lock we have. The other three are easily interchangable (especially for Dano or Bosco, who just missed my 5) but heres what Im saying: Phillip Seymor Hoffman is in three buzzed films this year and need a nod somewhere. And the trailer makes him look likes playing a eccentric in Charlie which the Academy loves. Hal Holbrook has NEVER been nominated and is not only very old, but also very good in Wild while Tom Wilkinson plays just the type of crazy the Academy loves in a film I think is going to over very well (though as aforesaid Im nervous about that proclamation). Max Von Sydow is a serious dark horse here. He’s great in Butterfly, which might end up going over really well in December.. Hes also a legend that has big ties to recently departed (and shamefully underrewarded Academy-wise) Igmar Bergman. ie: Nominate him, and he’ll come to a tribute.. Anyway, he’s someone to look out for. However, he won’t win. Bardem has this in the bag.

Best Supporting Actress

Current Predictions: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There; Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding; Saorise Ronan, Atonement; Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone; Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

If I Had More Balls: Leslie Mann, Knocked Up

I’m actually experiencing some balls here by leaving out Vanessa Redgrave who in all likelihood will replace Leigh. But having seen both works, I really hope this doesn’t end up being the case. Leigh is so good in Margot, falling deeply into a fully realized character. Redgrave shows up for 8 minutes and makes you get watery-eyed. So what? I know too brief means nothing (ask Judi Dench and Beatrice Straight) but I just have a feeling the Academy might honestly feel too brief means too brief this time around. And also, Redgrave is not alone: Jennifer Garner, Juno; Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson’s War; Ruby Dee, American Gangster; Marisa Tomei, Before The Devil Knows Youre Dead and Leslie Mann, Knocked Up are also waiting in the wings. If Gangster goes big, Dee’s chances rise phenomenally. Same for Roberts and her film. And Garner will definately get a Globe nod, but likely just fall under the Academy’s radar (like her husband’s chances). Of the five I have in, Blanchett is the only real lock. But I just can’t see her winning so soon for playing two celebrities.. I honestly have no clue who could win in her place though.. Ronan? She’s very good, and I’d bet Atonement will win best picture, and this could be its accompanying acting statuette. But shes a kid, and thats a rare bird to fly on Oscar night (though its been almost 15 years since Anna Paquin was the last to do so). Ryan and Leigh’s nominations are already shaky, so a win seems unlikely (but this is the category to have under the radar winners). Which leaves my beloved Tilda. Who’d I love to say will win but just can’t see it after seeing Michael Clayton. She has some excellent, excellent scenes, but her character is just so unlikeable and she herself might be a tad too unconventional for those Academy squares. This is a really interesting category, and will be fun to watch unfold…

As for the other categories, I’ll wait a week or two before delving that deep. But as of now, I’d definately say this race is in full-swing, and I look forward to including its development as a regular part of this blog…

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