[list][*]'The Aviator'[*]'Finding Neverland'[*]'Million Dollar Baby'[*]'Ray'[*]'Sideways'[/list][u]My initial take[/u]: *yawn* <-- My sentiments of this year's entire crop of nominees. Maybe last year had too many big names (despite its predictability), but this year really isn't inspiring. Rather indicative of the year's big releases.
Anyway, 'Million Dollar Baby' is a film that has all the momentum, and I quite enjoyed it, but I do take issue with the ending; not the denouement itself, but the framework built around it that created a ...troubling conclusion. Even so, it is a powerful, well-crafted tale. 'The Aviator' is a gorgeous film with deserving noms for its art direction and costuming. Scorsese did an excellent job in recreating a larger-than-life world around Howard Hughes, but I just didn't feel it had any striking blow. 'Sideways' was a complicated but attentive film that capitalizes on awkward, almost painful moments for the two main protagonists that to show its humanity. I think it had a lot to it, yet some of it was too bizarre and absurd to be considered excellent. 'Ray' was a good film, and that's about all I can say about it. 'Finding Neverland'...completely overrated by most of this board. Such fluff (this is coming from both a big-time Depp fan & Winslet fan).
[u]My prediction[/u]: 'Million Dollar Baby'
* 'The Aviator' will give MDB a strong run for its gold.
[u]My personal favorites[/u]: Coming soon: Neumdaddy's Top 24 of 2004! Your confusion on what to think of 2004 film will be solved in this thread! Stay tuned!
[list][*]Annette Bening, 'Being Julia'[*]Catalina Sandino Moreno, 'Maria Full Of Grace'[*]Imelda Staunton, 'Vera Drake'[*]Hilary Swank, 'Million Dollar Baby'[*]Kate Winslet, 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'[/list][u]My initial take[/u]: The token "obscure nominee" goes to probably the weakest candidate, Catalina Sandino Moreno. Actually, she put in a 'very solid' performance for the film, but it was a simpler role than the other noms. Basically, I was more impressed by the others (though not by much). Imelda Staunton aptly portrays a gentle, harmless soul with a flip-flop of emotions in the film: her cheeriness is fun and smile-inducing, but her incessant crying becomes tiresome after a while. The movie is better than her performance, which is the opposite for Annette Bening in 'Being Julia.' Bening was great fun in her role, and was basically a showcase film for her acting. She's more or less in a head-to-head match with Hilary Swank in a reprise of the 2000 Oscar race (Swank, the underdog, won for 'Boys Don't Cry,' beating out favorite Bening for 'American Beauty'). It's a bit of a role reversal this time around, but I don't think Bening will pull it off. Kate Winslet was fantastic fun in 'Eternal Sunshine,' and definitely deserves recognition. Some may think Uma was snubbed, but I'm not so sure. Maybe Bryce Dallas Howard, Irma P. Hall and Julie Delpy have stronger arguments.
[u]My prediction[/u]: Hilary Swank
[u]Rationale[/u]: Swank has momentum, as does 'Million Dollar Baby.' She plays a more dramatic, fulfilling character that will likely appeal to the modern Academy voters.
Bening has a chance if only to "justify" her past failures. More than a charity win, but less than a "may the best candidate win" situation.
Staunton and Sandino Moreno are here for the fun. They know they won't win.
I liked Winslet the best. Except 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,' a film released oh, 11 months ago, has no hype at this point in time. Not this year, Kate, but you will get your Oscar.
[u]My personal favorites[/u]: In brief...
-Hilary Swank: Strong, determined, fearless performance from Swank. She's talented.
-Annette Bening: She was very enjoyable as the over-acting actress of 1930's London who confuses reality on and off the stage.
-Kate Winslet: Her role in 'Finding Neverland' was borderline throwaway, but she added the life and the energy to the unique, genuine relationship between Joel & Clementine in 'Eternal Sunshine.'
-Catalina Sandino Moreno: A quiet, involving, convincing and yes, graceful performance in an optimistic tragic tale out of Colombia ('Maria Full Of Grace').
-Imelda Staunton: Shows the dichotomy of her helpful but sourly-perceived identity in a range of cheeriness and sobs.
-Audrey Tautou: She seems to be playing a similar role in all her films (lovestruck, determined, strangely original, cutesy)... but it works nearly every time. 'A Very Long Engagement' needed her amiability to keep the audience involved.
-Julie Delpy: She was fiery, fresh and downright sexy in 'Before Sunset.'
-Natalie Portman: Bouncy and fun in 'Garden State.' I liked her in this film more than I did in her Oscar-nominated role for 'Closer.'
-Katrin Sa�[color=black]: She plays the Mother in 'Good Bye, Lenin!' so sternly but knows exactly when to open her eyes to the reality of falling Communism in this 1989-era film.
-Uma Thurman: Uma was equally dangerous and dead-sexily destructive as The Bride in this second half of the over-lauded Kill Bill saga.
-Irma P. Hall - She was the maintaining force of wholesome naivete in 'The Ladykillers,' a film that, because of all other character relationships besides her, barely saved itself from disaster. She was also in 2004's 'I, Robot.'
-Bryce Dallas Howard: Was probably the best part about 'The Village,' an earnest, subtly frolicsome and utterly likeable role as a blind girl with a determination that will not be quelled.
-Kyra Sedgwick: For 'The Woodsman.' She played a nice balance of being confidently gruff and emotionally scarred.
-Lynn Collins: Was Portia in 'William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice,' and played the attractive, distracted, "unlearned" love interest.
-Emmy Rossum: Almost too bright-eyed and one-note (pun?) as Christine in the early go, but either by virtue of the story, the song, or the visual allure of the film taking a stronger hold on me, she rang truer (pun?) by film's end.
[/color][b][i][size=3]Best Supporting Actress[/size][/i][/b]
[list][*]Cate Blanchett, 'The Aviator'[*]Laura Linney, 'Kinsey'[*]Virginia Madsen, 'Sideways'[*]Sophie Okonedo, 'Hotel Rwanda'[*]Natalie Portman, 'Closer'[/list][u]My initial take[/u]: All are worthy performances, though Laura Linney's role in 'Kinsey' was something of a boilerplate role. Cate Blanchett probably had one of the performances of the year in channeling Katharine Hepburn in 'The Aviator'...and that makes me happy, as I'm quite the fan of hers, too. Virginia Madsen has a soft-spoken but understanding role, and deserves her place here. Sophie Okonedo was surprisingly good, with a lot more subtlety in her role that could've easily been exploited with annoying, overly-emotive "wife in distress" nonsense. Portman was good in 'Closer,' but ...eh. I can't think of any snubs.
[u]My prediction[/u]: Cate Blanchett
[u]Rationale[/u]: I don't know...she's due? Also: it's maybe the best female performance of the year. Only Virginia Madsen has a shot at overtaking her, I think. Maybe Portman, but only for her name (which means she won't win).
[u]My personal favorites[/u]:
-Cate Blanchett: Mmmhmm.
-Virgina Madsen: Yep, she was good.
-Sophie Okonedo: Turned a cliched character into something worth watching.
-Maggie Cheung: For 'Hero.' Confidently and powerfully played her Flying Snow character. I said last year that I'd recognize her for this year's list. So, here we are.
-Kate Beckinsale: For 'The Aviator.' Well, she was [i]pretty good[/i] as Eva Gardner, but ain't she gorgeous? Anybody?
-Daryl Hannah: Was the evil, merciless assassin Elle Driver in 'Kill Bill.' A fun role to watch.
-Emily Browning: For 'Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events.' She was very capable and believable as Violet, the eldest sister of the Baudelaire orphans.
-Aitana S�nchez-Gij�n: For 'The Machinist.' Played her character with enough sympathy and intrigue to keep the viewer hooked.
-Maia Morgenstern: As Mary in 'The Passion Of The Christ,' she actualized grace and sadness and a mother's underlying affection yet realization of the inevitable.
-Kate Ashfield: For 'Shaun Of The Dead.' Maintained a very quirky, likeable and trusting image as Shaun's girlfriend.
-Tilda Swinton: For 'Young Adam.' It was a risqu� role in a dirty, filthy, racy film, and she displayed some subtle dynamics amidst all the gloom and single notes.
-Paz Vega: For 'Spanglish.' She was charming, direct, held her values, and is attractive as hell.
[list][*]Don Cheadle, 'Hotel Rwanda'[*]Johnny Depp, 'Finding Neverland'[*]Leonardo DiCaprio, 'The Aviator'[*]Clint Eastwood, 'Million Dollar Baby'[*]Jamie Foxx, 'Ray'[/list][u]My initial take[/u]: Hmm. Pretty good, I guess, but nowhere near as exciting as last year's list. I wasn't as keen on Jamie Foxx as many seem to be; his role felt more like an emotionally impenetrable impersonation than an actual embodiment of Ray Charles. I simply didn't get the range from the guy that, I think, is required to make the movie superb, and that's probably why the film is merely "good." Leo was very good but very business-as-usual as Howard Hughes. I don't know that I saw anything overly memorable in his role. He was better last year in 'Catch Me If You Can.' I'm a big Johnny Depp fan, but being nominated for 'Finding Neverland' was just weak. It was too simple and misdirected by the banal storyline. He's been infinitely better. Don Cheadle calibrated his role well, slowly amping up his energy, especially in a film that took a rather safe route in depicting the Rwandan genocides. I really enjoyed Clint Eastwood as Frankie, an aging boxing trainer, in 'Million Dollar Baby,' and am satisfied of his nomination. Because of Paul Giamatti's snub (for 'Sideways'), many are arguing that he shouldn't be nominated. Bah, I say. As weird as it is for me to say it, Depp should've been optioned out. And [i]Jim Carrey[/i] should've been in, dammit! Or Jim Caviezel. Or Kevin Bacon.
[u]My prediction[/u]: *sigh* Jamie Foxx
[u]Rationale[/u]: Well, everybody else is saying he'll win. Everybody else can't be wrong...right?
Actually, the hubbub is far too disproportional. I'm pulling for Clint Eastwood. He may make a surprise win, but the stronger contender is probably Leo. Meh.
[u]My favorite performances[/u]:
-Clint Eastwood: Does he feel lucky?
-Don Cheadle: Yep yep.
-Jamie Foxx: Okay, yeah, so he was good. But not that good.
-Leo DiCaprio: Again, he made no great mistakes. He also made no great impression. Classic "B+" type of leading role.
-Jim Carrey: Maybe my favorite performance of the year in 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.' Me? Biased? *laughs off the silly notion and kills the man who mentioned it* No, but he was completely convincing as Joel, a reserved, interesting man that was perfectly portayed by Carrey's "natural energy" (as Ebert said).
-Paul Giamatti: Was very good as the borderline alcoholic wine conoisseur/English teacher/failed novelist. He was written very well, but Giamatti redefined how pitiful he was with hopeless energy and desperation, and fills a satisfying character arc.
-Mario Van Peebles: For 'Baadasssss!' Probably Van Peebles' best performance in portraying his father, Melvin, as a struggling filmmaker creating a revolutionary film while on the verge of being banished by distributors.
-Jim Caviezel: For what else? He was powerful and kind and caring. For 2 hours, he made a pretty darn good portrayal as Jesus.
-Kevin Bacon: For 'The Woodsman.' Awesome awesome awesome. Definitely the performance of his career. He plays such a troubled, troubling character that you can't help but to sympathize with his struggles. His silence and facial expressions were the basis of perhaps the best scene in film of 2004.
-Ethan Hawke: For 'Before Sunset.' Again plays the charming, hopeless romantic with a facade of deep restraint.
-Craig T. Nelson: For voicework on 'The Incredibles.' He was *so* Mr. Incredible.
-Tony Leung: For both 'Hero' and 'Infernal Affairs.' In both instances he's quite good as a hopeless, grizzled hero mired in a seemingly lost cause.
-Tom Hanks: For both 'The Ladykillers' and 'The Terminal.' He's excellent with his comedy, too. I think he deserves his praise.
-Christian Bale: For 'The Machinist.' He lost [i]how many pounds??[/i] [i]Seventy??[/i] Dear Bob, that can't be healthy. Also, he was really good.
-Kurt Russell: For 'Miracle.' Played a convincing Herb Brooks.
-Gerard Butler: He made a [i]good[/i] Phantom, dangit!
-Simon Pegg: Is now one of the most memorable horror movie heroes of all time as Shaun ('of the Dead'), the oafish wisecracker with relationship problems and a fixation on old skool hip hop.
-Beat Takeshi: For 'Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman.' A cool, interesting film made better by Takeshi's fine performance in the lead role.
-Val Kilmer: For 'Spartan.' This guy is underrated sometimes. What a cool-as-hell role for him, and he filled it well.
-Tobey Maguire: For 'Spiderman 2.' Pitch perfect as Peter Parker.
-Al Pacino: He was Shylock in 'William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice,' and was as tragic as he was powerful. Excellent stuff.
[b][i][size=3]Best Supporting Actor[/size][/i][/b]
[list][*]Alan Alda, 'The Aviator'[*]Thomas Haden Church, 'Sideways'[*]Jamie Foxx, 'Collateral'[*]Morgan Freeman, 'Million Dollar Baby'[*]Clive Owen, 'Closer'[/list][u]My initial take[/u]: Just like the Best Actor category, this one is somewhat of a disappointment compared to the past couple of years. I think I enjoyed Jamie Foxx's role here more than 'Ray,' and Thomas Haden Church was basically playing himself (though a good version of it) for 'Sideways.' Clive Owen maybe had the best performance in 'Closer,' a movie I now revile. Alan Alda?? Wha-? It was such a nothing performance. Weak. I am very happy not only with Morgan Freeman's nomination, but the fact that he has all the momentum. A very good turn for him, who's always mesmerizing.
[u]My prediction[/u]: Morgan Freeman
[u]Rationale[/u]: He's better than the others. ;)
[u]My personal favorites[/u]:
-Morgan Freeman: :)
-Clive Owen: He had more energy than the rest of the cast (required for his role), and thus was more exciting to watch.
-Jamie Foxx: Sure. Sidenote: glad that he's finally making it big. Though I'd prefer [i]another [/i]"In Living Color" alum, Jim Carrey, to be getting some serious Oscar recognition.
-Thomas Haden Church: Sure.
-Jeremy Irons: For 'Being Julia' (and for 'William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice'). Neither were spotlight performances, but both confirm Irons' prowess in front of the camera.
-Bill Murray: For 'Coffee & Cigarettes.' He played himself for just a few minutes, but it was hilarious.
-Tom Cruise: Wha? I didn't just write "Tom Cruise"...alright, I'll stop. His role in 'Collateral' was tailor-made for him; a cocky assassin with machismo to spare.
-Rob Schneider: For '50 First Dates.' Maybe his funniest role to date. Er, maybe I should rephrase: "Maybe his only funny role to date."
-Paul Bettany: For 'Dogville.' Depicted the flawed conflict of the quiet, level-headed leader of Dogville fairly well.
-Peter Sarsgaard: For 'Garden State.' I liked his character, and was filled well by Sarsgaard.
-Tom Wilkinson: For 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.' He may just be "Dr. Howard Mierzwiak" forever to me.
-Gary Oldman: For 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban.' He's just so much fun to watch...
-Mark Wahlberg: For 'I Heart Huckabees.' Maybe the only truly satisfying performance of an otherwise annoying and unsatisfying film.
-Jason Lee: For 'The Incredibles.' Man, great voicework on Syndrome. Hardly knew it was him.
-Dennis Quaid: For 'In Good Company.' Had all the right amounts of fatherliness, likeability, friendliness and crabbiness for his role as an aging businessman and father.
-David Carradine: He made a fine villain as Bill (in 'Kill Bill' of course), though excessively narcissistic and a little too complimentary of The Bride.
-Jim Carrey: For 'Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events.' Manic, whacky, diabolical and completely comical. Me likey.
-Nick Frost: For 'Shaun Of The Dead.' A riot as Shaun's slobbish best friend/video-game junkie.
-Patrick in 'The Spongebob Squarepants Movie.' Come on, he's funny!
-Richard Graham: For 'Vera Drake.' Played Vera's husband as an affable, understanding man who loves his wife no matter what.
-Mos Def: For 'The Woodsman.' He's getting better and better. Can't wait to see him in 'Hitchhiker's Guide...'
[list][*]Mike Leigh, 'Vera Drake'[*]Martin Scorsese, 'The Aviator'[*]Alexander Payne, 'Sideways'[*]Clint Eastwood, 'Million Dollar Baby'[*]Taylor Hackford, 'Ray'[/list][u]My initial take[/u]: All were very well directed films. Glad that Marc Forster (for 'Finding Neverland') was not nominated.
[u]My prediction[/u]: Martin Scorsese
[u]Rationale[/u]: "He's due," is lame, but it's going to have to pass tonight. I personally prefer Eastwood's direction, but this may be the sympathy Oscar for Scorsese for possibly losing Best Picture.
[u]My personal favorites[/u]: Ugh, I've written enough already... NO MORE!!!
I was going to write something on my favorite scripts, but I'm pooped. This'll hafta do.
PS.- Yes, these Oscars are utterly predictable this year, too. Mleh.