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Oscar Predictions for 2007 Nominees
By Marie Asner
It is a brisk, freezing day throughout the country, but somewhere hearts are light and warm---the Oscar nominations have been announced for 2007 films. Now gentle protesting will begin (“I am SO surprised” or “…so honored to be included in a company of wonderful actors” or “I wasn’t paying attention, it’s THAT time already?”) In the meantime, sidestepping the afore-mentioned comments, I’m going to do my predictions based on films I have seen. This will exclude the nominees for Best Foreign Film, since they have not played in my part of the cinema world, though I am disappointed that my favorite so far, "My Best Friend (France) was not nominated.
We begin with nominations for Best Picture. “Atonement,” my favorite, held together well as an adaptation and because the scenes were placed before the audience much like chapters in a book. “Juno” is a brisk look at teen pregnancy with clever dialogue that is way too flippant for a young girl. However, with Hollywood on a baby boom, “Juno” was heart-warming to some. “Michael Clayton,” another favorite of mine, showed redemption of someone who picks up emotions after other people. “No Country For Old Men” was a film of violence and a killer who could have been nick-named “Terminator.” This film and “There Will Be Blood” were confusing to follow, both filmed in rugged country and exploiting greed with a capital “G.” “There Will Be Blood’s”  fingernails-on-a-blackboard soundtrack did nothing to enhance the film. My vote goes to “Atonement,” though “No Country For Old Men” will probably get it.
Julian Schnabel’s direction of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (which I thought would fall into Foreign film category) purposely gave us a uncomfortable viewpoint, that of a paralyzed man. Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton” zeroed in on actor’s faces and let the camera rest on emotions. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen let the blood run on “No Country For Old Men” and gave more screen time to a new method of killing than Tommy Lee Jones. Paul Thomas Anderson's “There Will Be Blood” was a study of a man similar to Howard Hughes and I half-expected to see an airplane in the background somewhere. I wanted Joe Wright for “Atonement” to be nominated, but it didn’t happen, so my vote goes to Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”
There are familiar names on the Best Actor list and several films with fight scenes. Viggio Mortensen as a Russian hit man in “Eastern Promises” was the daring performance. He did it in the nude. Johnny Depp’s “Sweeney Todd” showed Depp can manage a few musical notes, plus use that razor like a matador’s cloak. George Clooney’s face expressed emotion in a corporate world where emotion is carefully hidden. Tommy Lee Jones in “In The Valley Of Elah” has quiet grief as a father trying to find his soldier son. However, it is Daniel Day-Lewis as Plainview in “There Will Be Blood” I am disappointed with. The meticulous actor has an accent here that went from Wisconsin to Irish brogue to English and back again. All those years in Texas digging wells and not a hint of a drawl? My vote goes to George Clooney for “Michael Clayton.”
In Best Actress, when you first saw Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” you knew the historical drama was back. The film rambled a bit, but Cate did not. Where is Angelina Jolie for "A Mighty Heart?" Julie Christie’s “Away From Her” opened early in the year and I’m glad voters remembered her performance as a woman sliding into dementia. Laura Linney in “The Savages” and Ellen Page” in “Juno” performed well, but I don’t think they were Oscar-nomination material. Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose” transformed herself and she gets my vote.
Javier Bardem as the hit man in “No Country for Old Men” acted with weapons not emotion in the Best Supporting Actor category. Where was his prey, Josh Brolin in this group? Philip Seymour Hoffman has a stellar year with performances in “The Savages” and the one he was nominated for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” so it must have been difficult for members of the Academy to choose which role for him. Hal Holbrook is the sentimental favorite in a short, but warm role for “Into the Wild.” Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” went over-the-top with dramatics and rambled on in the role. It is Casey Affleck” as Bob Ford in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” that surprised everyone. The film is really about him and he carried it well. Casey Affleck gets my vote, but I think Hal Holbrook just might get the Oscar.
In Supporting Actress, Cate Blanchett is back with another nomination for playing a young Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There.” Well, neither was I for her portrayal. She just may cancel herself out. Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” was solid. Saiorse Ronan’s young girl in “Atonement” was almost comatose in her performance, while Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” was good, but it is Tilda Swinton as the deceptive I’m-not-sure-what-I’m-doing (oh, yeah?) lawyer in “Michael Clayton” that has my vote and maybe that of the Academy, too.
Diablo Cody’s Original Screenplay for “Juno” will probably get the Academy’s nod for it’s freshness. A close second would be Brad Bird, a surprise nomination for the animated “Ratatouille” about rats in the kitchen. Nancy Oliver’s “Lars and the Real Girl” also had a clever premise, but the cast’s execution of the script was nominal. Tamara Jenkins for “The Savages” took a well-worn path of placing an elderly relative in a nursing facility, while Tony Gilroy’s script for “Michael Clayton” was strong, he might cancel himself out by being nominated in two categories. My vote goes to Diablo Cody for “Juno.”
Adapting material from a previous source for the screen is difficult. Christopher Hampton’s “Atonement” captured the flavor of the book and enhanced it for the screen. Sarah Polley’s “Away from Her” was also in the category of we-have-seen-it-before about placing relatives in nursing facilities. Ronald Harwood took the story of a paralyzed man and enlightened it for the screen, using the focus of the character. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for “No Country for Old Men” and Paul Thomas Anderson” for “There Will Be Blood” had gaps in the storyline that were confusing to some film fans. Therefore, my vote goes to Christopher Hampton’s “Atonement” for giving us a film that is an adaptation but could stand alone as its own film.
The three films in the Animated Feature Film category have three different stories to tell. One of a rat who wants to be a chef, another of a penguin who wants to be a surfer and the third a young girl in another culture. “Ratatouille,” “Surf’s Up” and “Persepolis” are the films, and though “Persepolis” is innovative, I believe “Ratatouille” will get my vote and win the Award. 
Best Cinematography is, hand’s down, “Atonement” with scenes like pictures from a art book. I’m still disconcerted over “The Assassination of Jesse James” because of mountains in the background in Missouri. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is a close second, but “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” just showed us desert and barren landscapes, plus more uses for the color red. Where was "3:10 to Yuma?"  My vote goes to “Atonement.”
Best Documentary category has topics ranging from medical to war to imprisonment. "War/Dance" chronicles the use of dance to rise from a tragic situation. "No End in Sight" is a viewpoint of the U.S. involvement in Iraq. "Sicko" is Michael Moore's examination of the U. S. healthcare system. "Taxi to the Dark Side" is the U.S. treatment of prisoners and "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" uses letters from military abroad to tell of their war experiences. Amid the wealth of material in documentary, I choose "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" for showing that even while being a soldier, there is time to write.
Last, Original Score does not have my favorite which is "Becoming Jane" by Adrian Johnston. However, there is Albert Iglesias' Mid-Eastern sound in "The Kite Runner," Michael Giagghino's bouncy "Ratatouille" with European flavor, Marco Beltrami's unique "3:10 to Yuma," James Newton Howard's poignant "Michael Clayton" and Dario Marianelli's haunting "Atonement." My choice is Dario Marianelli for "Atonement" with Albert Iglesias "The Kite Runner" a close second, though it runs loud at times.
Copyright 2008 Marie Asner
Submitted 1/22/08
Marie Asner is celebrating 25 years as a film critic. She is past president and member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle.


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