The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, February 22, 2007 - 3B
Top of the mountain
Which directors, actors and actresses
deserves the laurels for 2007? The next
three pages have the answers.
H aving already made a
thorough sweep of 2006's
year-end awards, "The
Queen's" Helen Mirren is beyond
the safe bet for best actress - she's
currently resting on the most
favorable odds in Oscar history.
In any category. Ever.
That said, give some apprecia-
tion to the rest of the category's
nominees as well. Sure, it feels
rather ceremonial to even bother
listing the foregone losers in such
a clearly dominated category, but
aren't the Oscars all about duti-
fully proceeding through cer-
There's Kate Winslet, receiv-
ing her fifth nomination for
another strong (if unspectacular)
performance, this time as a cheat-
ing housewife in "Little Chil-
There's Judi Dench, receiving
her sixth nomination for being
British and aging regally. She's
convincingly creepy as a manip-
ulative old maid in "Notes on a
Scandal," but her performance
was nothing that any actress of
her generation- Helen Mirren,
perhaps? - couldn't have man-
There's Penelope Cruz,
receiving her first notable nomi-
S nation from someone other than
Maxim - and deservedly so. Her
Cate Blanchett, "Notes ona Scandal"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"
Will win: Helen Mirren
Should win: Helen Mirren
role in "Volver" is certainly the
most important of the also-rans,
so don't just root for her because
you'll get a chance to hear that
Spanish-accented purr at the
podium (though I would argue
this is a legitimate consideration
for Oscar voters to keep in mind).
In director Pedro Almodovar's
capable hands, Cruz's lumi-
nance in "Volver" extends well
beyond her looks.
Then there's Meryl Streep,
receiving her 14th nomina-
tion for being Meryl Streep
- because honestly, what's the
Oscars without Meryl Streep?
This woman earned a nomina-
tion instead of a divine smiting
for giving inner-city kids the
joy of schmaltzy violin in
"Music of the Heart."
Hell, she could recre-
ate a dial tone and get
nominated for an Oscar. Oh, wait.
"Adaptation." She did.
But watching Meryl shred
the self-confidence of her "Devil
Wears Prada" assistants with
such cold efficiency was a true
highlight of last summer. Unfor-
tunately, like Johnny Depp's
"Pirates of the Caribbean" nod,
Streep's nomination here adds up
to the Academy simply proving
it's not too snobbish to appreciate
commercial hits. The Academy,
however, is too snobbish to appre-
ciate commercial hits. Meryl will
go home empty-handed this Sun-
day, although she'll probably be
back next year, too.
T he best actor award has
essentially been a forgone
conclusion since critics
first got a peek at "The Last King
of Scotland" last September. Rash,
domineering and explosive, For-
est Whitaker's turn as infamous
Uganadan dictator Idi Amin is
perhaps the most appropriately
forceful performance in a decade.
Whitaker has long been well-liked
in Hollywood, and should he take
the award on Sunday, he'll be the
second "Fast Times at Ridgemont
High" alum to do so.
Whitaker, to be sure, has a
wide field of deserving nominees
behind him. Leonardo DiCaprio
gave a flawless turn as a diamond
smuggler in "Blood Diamond," a
performance Oscar-worthy where
his nominated turn in 2005's "The
Aviator" was not.
The other longshots of the cat-
egory include the versatile Will
Smith for his most complete emo-
tional performance yet as a strug-
gling single dad in "Pursuit of
Happyness," and Ryan Gosling,
the indie performer of the year
and "Half Nelson's" crack-addict
inner-city teacher. But the real
dark horse in this race, nominated
for his eighth time, is aging icon
Peter O'Toole for his charming
role in "Venus" as, well, an aging
In a night that may see anoth-
er perpetual bridesmaid (Mar-
Forest Whitaker should bring home the Best Actor honor.
tin Scorsese) finally rewarded, it
would be truly special - and not
totally unsurprising - if O'Toole
won as well.
Despite his embarrassing melt-
down after winning a Golden
Globe last month (including an
incoherent acceptance speech),
the sheer gravity of Whitaker's
chilling role will - and should -
be impossible for voters to forget.
Will Smith,"Pursuitof Happyness"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of
Will win: Forest Whitaker
Should win: Forest Whitaker
Martin Scorsese's "The
Departed" is terrific.
And it wouldn't have
been anything but a generic cop-
and criminal-caper if it weren't
for the pure craft of his dynamite
direction. With his verve for bad-
boy fantasies, why shouldn't he win
after being nominated five times?
This is Martin Scorsese we're talk-
ing about, and here he's directing
something as good as his very best.
Or is that just a guilty vote?
Paul Greengrass's "United 93"
was held together by an exemplary
respect for a tragic event that never
veered into saccharine drama. Ste-
phen Frears's tightrope balancing
From page 1B
greatest missteps in Academy his-
At the happier other end of this
spectrum, "The Queen" is the quin-
tessence of a traditional best pic-
ture, but the modesty that endeared
it to critics last fall is exactly what
will work to its disadvantage here.
Since Helen Mirren is the film's
undisputed centerpiece, in many
people's minds rewarding her is
rewarding the movie, too. "The
Queen" has the aura of an 11th-
hour dark horse, and it's the best-
reviewed movie nominated, but it
just doesn't feel like a winner.
The most conventional Best
of "The Queen" as a tragedy as well
as a comedy of manners is some-
thing few directors could actually
pull off. And Clint Eastwood has
ambitions unparalleled by people
half his age, and with his violently
aware "Letters From Iwo Jima"
continues his new series of master-
pieces. But the man of the year with
rockstar momentum is Alejandro
Gonzalez Ifiarritu and his bold hit
"Babel." Any filmmaker who can
craft such dense, involving drama
(whatever your opinion of it) in four
languages with as much force ast
Ifarritu may just deserve an Oscar.i
It sure would be nice to seex
Scorsese get one of those golden
Picture choice here - "Letters
From Iwo Jima," with its quietly
groundbreaking story of World
War II - wasn't even supposed to
be nominated, and buzz-wise it's
tracking by far as the weakest of
This leaves us with "Babel," a
film that people alternatively love
and love to hate, and also the only
movie nominated thatreally makes
sense as a winner. It's the only one
that has it all: name stars, high-
concept filmmaking, loud drama,
a fleeting sense of political rele-
vance. It's ahip but also traditional
choice, extremely appealing in
every sense but one: It's considered
by too many to be fairly bad.
But then, neither, mind you, was
"Crash." I understand the belief
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Paul Greengrass, "United 93"
Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
Clint Eastwood, "Letters from Iwo Jima"
Alejandro Gonzdlez Ifidrritu,
Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
teases, but something doesn't seem
right here. The upset of the year
might just go to IRirritu.
the Academy won't repeat a win
for a movie so closely styled after
that film, but remember that the
outcome of last year's contest was
a shock, not the product of the
media-anointed preference among a:
voters. And surely I need not
remind you that historically the
Academy is all about repetition,
and the idea of honoring two films
similar in concept is hardly some-
thing it has been squeamish about
in the past.
Among this fuzzy collection
of very different movies, the only
way the Academy can get itself out
this predicament is with the movie
that seems too obvious to win. It's
not going to be a friendly sight, but
"Babel" will be named best picture
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