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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar comes to town

Our homegirl Ellen Page gets the nod for "Actress in a Leading Role," and rightly so. But what about all those other categories?

Posted on Tue, Jan 22, 2008 at 10:37 AM

Let's hear it for Ellen Page.

Her film, Juno, is all over the list of nominees (http://www.oscar.com/nominees/) for the 2008 Academy Awards announced this morning. It's a list that is being reported on everywhere with an asterisk: the ceremony on February 24 will go on, damn the Hollywood writers' strike, but because of many of the stars’ solidarity with the writers and their demands, the glitz wattage is liable to be much lower this year when those stars stay home instead of crossing picket lines to bathe in bulb-flash on the red carpet.

But, on this wintry Tuesday, what of those nominations? Let’s start with the writers' nods. There is a tradition of the scribblers in the California factory town getting royally and righteously screwed, and due to the strike, that might change. I want to give them some love.

The Academy likes, for a script adapted from a previous work, Christopher Hampton for Ian McEwan's Atonement, Sarah Polley’s job adapting Alice Munro’s short story for Away From Her, Ronald Harwood for Jean-Dominique Bauby’s autobiography The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, Joel and Ethan Coen adapting Cormac McCarthy’s novel in No Country For Old Men, and PT Anderson bringing Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! To the screen in There Will Be Blood, opening this weekend in Halifax.

This is a great collection of talent, and though I’m thrilled that Polley got the nomination, I suspect the Coens have this one sown up.

Diablo Cody’s Juno script got a nod for original screenplay, as did Nancy Oliver for Lars And The Real Girl, Tony Gilroy for the George Clooney thriller Michael Clayton, Ratatouille screenwriter and director Brad Bird and Tamara Jenkins, who wrote and directed The Savages.

These are all good choices for original screenplay…I have no complaints. In fact, aside from all the attention being paid to Atonement---which I liked for its opening act but after that it really lost me---I don’t have many gripes with the list of nominations this year. No wildly irritating picture like Crash, for instance, capturing the liberal guilt of the Academy.

I’m still a little stunned that The Departed won Best Film last year, with Scorcese, a longtime outsider, finally getting Oscar glory for what he does best, the bloody and masculine crime drama, and The Departed really was the best picture of that list. (Yes, I had to look online to remind myself... just goes to show you the transitory nature of all of this silliness. Up against The Departed were Babel, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen.)

As I suspected, Juno is riding a wave of goodwill due to it being this year’s Little Miss Sunshine, the Sundance-anointed indie that everyone loves. Though I find all the hype a bit much for a sweet little film that maybe goes too far out of its way to be inoffensive, that’s probably why people love it so much, its innocence. I have absolutely no reservations on the Ellen Page front… she makes the movie, and it’s awesome she’s getting the recognition.

Though I had problems with Atonement, I was a little surprised that Keira Knightly didn’t get a nod as Best Actress for her work in the film, which is the most complex acting of her career. I was disappointed that Cate Blanchett was nominated for Elizabeth: The Golden Age---but good for her that she’s been noticed in I’m Not There--- because the sequel to Elizabeth, the film that made her a star, was such a disaster, costumes and art department aside. Even the wildly talented Blanchett couldn't save it.

Julie Christie is well deserving of her Best Actress nomination, even if I was a bit sad that her acting partner Gordon Pinsent is being ignored for his work in Away From Her. Of the other Best Actress nods, I have yet to see La Vie En Rose, so I can’t speak for Marion Cotillard, but Laura Linney is great in The Savages, even though I doubt she has a hope in hell of winning this year. Perennial nominee Nicole Kidman didn’t get a nod for Margot At The Wedding, which is surprising. It’s a film less fun than tooth extraction, but she was good in it.

I haven’t seen In The Valley of Elah, but I would have thought Tommy Lee Jones would have been better recognized for his supporting work in No Country for Old Men. Clooney, Depp and especially Mortensen for Eastern Promises are all excellent choices. Day-Lewis I’m looking forward to see in There Will Be Blood. I hear he plays another one of his charismatic monsters, a la Gangs of New York.

Javier Bardem has the Best Supporting Actor statuette pretty much all to himself, I think, but wonderful that veteran character player Hal Holbrook got notice for his affecting role in Into The Wild. And in the Best Supporting Actress category, Blanchett has to be a front-runner. She plays a recognizable icon (Bob Dylan), she cross–dresses… that’s just too delicious a combination for Academy voters to ignore, though Tilda Swinton is convincingly perspiratory in Michael Clayton. She may be an upsetter.

Last year’s Best Foreign Language film nods were wonderful pictures: Pan’s Labyrinth, The Lives of Others, After The Wedding, Days of Glory and Water. This year is another host of films that haven’t played here. (But no 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days on the nomination list? I caught that harrowing, amazing film at the Monday Night Movies and it'll stay with me for awhile.) I hope distributors are taking note of these movies, and maybe we’ll get to see in theatres Beaufort, The Counterfeiters, Kaytn, Mongol and 12.

Otherwise, I find the whole schism between Best Director and Best Picture a weird thing… every year there are movies that don’t appear on both lists. This year, Atonement’s director Joe Wright doesn’t get a Best Director nomination, though his film does get a Best Picture nod, while Julien Schnabel gets a very deserving Best Director nod for his picture The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, but his movie, which is also up for cinematography, editing and adapted screenplay, doesn’t get in as Best Picture.

If I was voting? No Country for Old Men in all the categories it’s nominated, but for Best Adapted Screenplay*. It’s not often the year’s best movie also gets the critical and awards attention it deserves… after The Departed last year, could they make it 2 for 2?

(*I’d send it Ms Polley’s way. Otherwise, for Best Actress my vote is kinda split between Page and Christie for both sentimental and critical reasons, and I’ll let you know my pick for Best Actor once I’ve seen There Will Be Blood. Day-Lewis will have to show me something he hasn’t done before to keep Viggo Mortensen from getting my vote.)

Survey Asks

Atlantic Playland is now Atlantic Splash Adventure, featuring waterslides like the Bluenose Blaster and Bowl of Fundy. What other Nova Scotia-inspired attractions could the waterpark offer?

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