Tuesday, January 23, 2007

2007 OSCARS—Quick Takes & Initial Responses

The Oscar nominations are set! As questionably cruel as the Oscar elimination process might be—according to Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck—he must be exhaling a sigh of relief right about now. The Lives of Others made the final five in the foreign language category. Congratulations, Florian! His film might very well be the dark horse winner at this year's ceremonies—and it certainly deserves its nomination—though I am unquestionably conflicted about this category, wanting Pan's Labyrinth to win. I was hoping The Lives of Others would be nominated for Best Original Screenplay in hopes that there might have been a tradeoff with Guillermo walking away with one statuette and Florian with the other and there's still a very strong possibility that might happen, only in the inverse. As an aside, I love that I feel comfortable enough to use their first names. As a further aside, I am surprised not to see Volver among the hopeful quintet.

The other category that I'm deeply conflicted about is for Best Actor. I'm polishing my nails and blowing air on them as I remind my readers that I predicted Ryan Gosling would be nominated for Half Nelson way last Summer. At the same time, Forest Whitaker's performance as Idi Amin is formidable and I hope he takes my sound advice and wears something fabulous to the Oscars ceremony. I suspect Gosling will walk away with the Independent Spirit Award and Forest with the Oscar. Either way, I will be bouncing on my sofa whichever one of them wins whatever award or renting my shirt and smearing ashes on my face should neither of them win either award. That's a problematic sentence, I know, to mirror the depths of this dilemma. I'm sure you feel my pain.

I haven't caught Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in Blood Diamond so I can't comment on it (though, for some reason, his accent in the trailer made me cringe and was probably the main reason I decided against seeing the film; that and my aversion to white-man-in-black-Africa stories); but, with regard to his nomination for Best Actor, he has responded: "I'm honored to receive this nomination from the Academy—especially in a year full of such worthy nominees. I'm grateful to everyone who has supported Blood Diamond. Being nominated is a tribute to everyone who worked on this film—especially Ed Zwick. I am also thrilled for Djimon, Mark and Marty—all so deserving of this recognition."

As for Best Actress, I think we can all spell Helen. One "l", right? Through The Queen's Bay Area publicist—Michelle Jonas of Allied Advertising—Helen has commented: "I would like to thank the Academy, it is a great honor to be nominated. When the idea of making The Queen was first mooted we had no idea that the result would have quite the impact it has had. It is astounding the way that audiences have responded by taking the film to their hearts.

"It is one of the hardest roles to play not just a living person but one who is part of our everyday lives in Britain. Whilst her presence is with us from her image on the letters that come through our door and on the money we spend, we know so little of the woman behind the image. I hope that my performance has conveyed a sense of Elizabeth the woman as well as the Queen.

"I am indebted to Peter Morgan for his tremendous screenplay and to director Stephen Frears who was a joy to work with and was sensitive to the nuance of the role. I am so proud to be a part of this incredible film-making team and the recipient of this nomination."

Peter Morgan, nominated for his screenplay, has stated: "This is, of course, the highest compliment our industry bestows and the greatest honor. I am proud and thrilled The Queen has been embraced internationally like this. The whole journey has been mind-boggling and exciting. I sincerely hope friends at home will still talk to me." Only if you don't win, Peter, only if you don't win.

Mike Olcese of Terry Hines & Associates ("THA"), Bay Area publicist for Touchstone Pictures, has forwarded John Lassiter's reaction to his nomination for Best Animated Feature: "We are so happy here, all of us at Pixar and Disney. As you know it takes a long time, from inception to completion to make one of our films; we live with these characters and grow very close to them and the story, so it's so gratifying to be recognized by the Academy for the effort. We're thrilled that the Academy, as well as audiences, seem to have connected with the Cars story, and it's in no small part due to the contributions from everyone associated with the film, from our producer Darla K. Anderson, to the artists, writers and voice performers. A special congratulations to my longtime friend Randy Newman for being recognized for his song "Our Town," which truly captures the heart of the story. A special thank you, now that I'm thinking about it, to Paul Newman, for all his support and friendship throughout the making of the film."

Up against Cars is Happy Feet—which I actually found quite entertaining despite myself—and I regretted that my interview with George Miller was canceled at the last moment. He has responded: "We tried to make Happy Feet different from anything that has been seen before. It was a crazy four-year labor of love that brought together great talent from all around the world. A stunning voice cast, brilliant singers and musicians, an army of young and passionate animators and visual effect artists who were determined to push the technology to its limits. To know that the film has been so widely embraced and now acknowledged by an Academy nomination for Best Animated Film validates all our best labors. It means we weren't so crazy after all."

Fox Searchlight Pictures Bay Area publicist, THA's Shelley Spicer, has forwarded reactions from the Little Miss Sunshine crew. Nominated for Best Picture, directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris—who I interviewed some time back—reacted: "Little Miss Sunshine pokes fun at our country's obsession with competition and being number one. While winning isn't everything, it's sure nice to be nominated. It has been an amazing year, from our premiere at Sundance to this Best Picture nomination, we are so grateful to all those who have supported the film." Actor Steve Carell adds: "The honor and recognition of receiving an Oscar nomination is one of the sweetest things that can happen in one's professional life. I have been blessed and am proud to be part of such an outstanding ensemble of actors and creative talent." I'm charmed that Abigail Breslin was acknowledged by way of nomination for her heartfelt portrayal of Olive. She's stated: "When my Mom woke me up this morning and told me I had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Little Miss Sunshine, I gave out a little scream—I can't believe how very lucky I am. I love everybody involved with Little Miss Sunshine, and this truly feels like one big family celebration." And finally, Michael Arndt, nominated for Best Original Screenplay, has responded: "I am deeply honored to have been recognized by the writers of the Academy with the nomination of Little Miss Sunshine for Best Original Screenplay. While I am sorely tempted to steal all the credit for the script for myself, the honest truth is that a writer is only as good as his collaborators. This nomination would never have happened, I am sure, without the extraordinary talents of Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, and especially Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris—the true authors of this movie—who worked with me for five years honing the script, and who turned mere words on a page into a work of art. This nomination is theirs as much as it is mine."

As charmed as I am by the Academy's acknowledgment of Abigail Breslin's supporting performance in Little Miss Sunshine, it's a slippery slope. If they're going to be acknowledging the performances of such young actresses, why not Sarala's performance as Chuyia in Deepa Mehta's Water? Her performance was every bit—if not more—complex than Abigail's. I was heartened to see Water nominated for Best Foreign Language film and I'd have to be honest and squeeze it in tight after Pan's Labyrinth and just a hair short before The Lives Of Others. Such a difficult category this year! Deepa will always be close to my heart because she was my first face-to-face interview for The Evening Class (it seems so long ago now, though less than a year). Of the nomination for Best Foreign Language Feature, Deepa has responded: "It's been such a tumultuous road with Water. The lows have been very low and the highs have been very high. The weakest low was when the film was violently shut down by Hindu fundamentalists in India and my mother had to see my effigy being burned. And the ultimate high is of course the nomination by the Academy in the Foreign Film section. What great company to be in." The film's producer, David Hamilton, has said: "The seven long years it took to make this film accompanied by riots, death threats, set and equipment destruction has suddenly faded into a distant past with this nomination. To be in the current company of the other nominees offers us a sense of vindication and a deep satisfaction."

Fox Searchlight Pictures is also responsible for Notes Of A Scandal, for which Judi Dench has been nominated as Best Actress. Dench has responded: "I'm very pleased. I'm in frighteningly good company. It is very nice of the Queen to allow me in for a minute. It was one of the harder parts I have played. At the end of the day I was quite glad to get back to the person I am. I had the power to do it because of Richard Eyre. He steered me through the rougher waters of it."

Paramount Pictures' Bay Area publicist, THA's John Weaver, advises that Paramount leads with 19 Oscar nominations with films released by Paramount Pictures and Paramount Vantage in 2006. Those include eight nominations for DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures' Dreamgirls; seven for Paramount Vantage's Babel; two for Dreamworks Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures Flags of Our Fathers, distributed by Paramount Pictures; and two for the Paramount Vantage documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Clint Eastwood's statement: "I want to thank the Academy for recognizing both Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers. It is particularly gratifying that Letters from Iwo Jima was included as a Best Picture nominee. When we were working on Flags, I knew there was another part of the story that deserved to be told, but I could not have imagined where we'd be today. I share these nominations with our entire creative team." Flags Of Our Fathers has been nominated for sound editing (oddly enough, against Letters of Iwo Jima) and sound mixing. Letters has been nominated for the aforementioned sound editing, original screenplay, directing and Best Picture.

Martin Scorsese, nominated for Best Director, has commented: "I am very pleased that The Departed has been honored with five nominations for this year's Academy Awards. I am particularly happy that the hard work of the entire cast and crew has been rewarded with a Best Picture nomination and that the specific contributions of Mark Wahlberg, our screenwriter William Monahan, and my longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker have been recognized with nominations as well." William Monahan, nominated for Adapted Screenplay for The Departed, has reacted: "This is a very great honor. In writing, rewards can be kind of thin on the ground, and it's nice to be recognized. Thanks to the Academy voters and to everyone who made The Departed a success." In the wake of its five Oscar nominations, The Departed is being re-released this coming Friday in more than 1,300 theaters nationwide.

Although I've already mentioned about the wrestling match between Guillermo Del Toro and Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck for original screenplay, my deep down honest druthers would be for Guillermo Arriaga to walk away with the screenwriting award for his exquisite work in Babel. Not only because he deserves that award but he deserves it, me entiendes, Mendez?

That being said, it only underscores how agonizing it is to choose between favorites and to emphasize, as Robert Osborne mentioned, that this truly is an incredible year with noteworthy selections. I can't even comment on the supporting actor and actress categories because I find it impossible to make up my mind one way or the other. Thank God there's an Academy to do that!

Cross-published at Twitch, where Wolf has alerted that the Animation World Network site is offering up profile reports and preview clips for each animated short nominated.

01/24/07 UPDATE: Via Frako Loden, it looks like the program of nominated animation shorts will open at Landmark's Lumiere and Shattuck theaters on February 16.


Marina said...

You and I share the same conflicting thoughts regarding the foreign film category. I'm also torn between "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Lives of Others" but I'm secretly hoping "Lives" walks away with it. They're both great films but the latter touched me much more.

I also think you're prediction in the Actor category is a great one. My thoughts exactly!

Maya said...

My staged concern is that the Best Actor award will be given to O'Toole for sentiment's sake, which I think would be a horrible upset.

Peter Nellhaus said...

I found it interesting that The Prestige and The Illusionist both got nominated. I haven't seen either, but their inclusion seems like an unintended reminder that the first nsrrative filmmaker to specialize in special effects was magician Georges Melies.

Maya said...

That's an interesting take, Peter. I haven't seen The Prestige and wasn't that impressed with The Illusionist.

Terminal said...

I predicted Ryan Gosling as well.

"Half Nelson" was my favorite of 2006.