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Oscar nominations 2008

The Oscar nominations have been announced and, seeing as I haven’t seen any of the films in the major categories (except Sweeney Todd – review upcoming), I think I am overqualified as a blogger to weigh in with my uninformed opinions.

Best motion picture of the year
Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood

Big surprise is Michael Clayton – all the reviews were of the good but not great variety – even more than Juno, this year’s little film that could. Based on the Golden Globes, Atonement gets the nod (although not enough to get Joe Wright a nod for best director; this always seems strange to me, but it does happen fairly frequently). The two contenders should be No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood – the only deciding factor will be the subject matter: No Country for Old Men is too dark for the Academy, so I think they will plump for There Will Be Blood for best film and No Country for Old Men for best director(s).

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises

By all accounts, it seems to be Daniel Day-Lewis. Clooney, Jones and Depp are there as previous winners/nominees, and Mortensen is the surprise nod (what, for flopping his todger out?), but Day-Lewis has to get it.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton

Wilkinson continues the Michael Clayton surprise, Hoffman is in because of ‘previous winner’ status (and supposedly hilairious to boot), Bardem is a previous nominee and apparently terrific. Holbrook is the sentimental vote, and Affleck is the big nominee for the apparently ignored TAoJJbtCRF (as I shall abbreviate it to). Bardem seems to be the favourite in this, but I’m not sure if the ‘ignored film’ factor might work for Affleck.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie in Away from Her
Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney in The Savages
Ellen Page in Juno

Blanchett should have won for the first Elizabeth; this film and performance are apparently not in the same category, and it would be a shame if she got it here. Linney is a proven proper actor in a proper film; she has the potential to finally get the vote in a very unusual and interesting mix this year. It’s nice to see Page and Cotillard, but I can’t see them winning in this big category. The sentimental vote for Christie could be the other contender, but I don’t know if it’s quite enough.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There
Ruby Dee in American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan in Atonement
Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton

Ah, the supporting actress category, always a mixed bag. Blanchett was apparently great but don’t know if it will help in the split vote and the fact that she won a supporting actress previously (they might want to wait for a big role to get best actress). Strange to see American Gangster get a shout. Swinton is a very interesting actress, keeping the Michael Clayton surprise going, but I don’t know if it’s enough. Ryan might be in with a shout for Gone Baby Gone (still unseen in the UK due to its storyline) and there is hope for the young person vote winning it for wonderfully Gaelic name Saoirse (pronounced Sear-sha) for the Big English Film, always a popular choice with voters.

Best animated feature film of the year
Persepolis, Ratatouille, Surf’s Up

Persepolis is surely too serious and heavy to win this award? Everyone assumes that animated equals light an fluffy, don’t they? I think that Pixar will continue their winning streak, but it could be interesting.

Achievement in cinematography
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: Roger Deakins
Atonement: Seamus McGarvey
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Janusz Kaminski
No Country for Old Men: Roger Deakins
There Will Be Blood: Robert Elswit

Will the split vote for Deakins work against him? I hope not; he is very talented cinematographer who deserves the award after five nominations.

Achievement in directing
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Julian Schnabel
Juno – Jason Reitman
Michael Clayton – Tony Gilroy
No Country for Old Men –Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson

Amazed that Gilroy is in here for Michael Clayton – they do like their tyros on worthy flicks, don’t they? A nice surprise for Reitman, but he’s there to make up the numbers; even Schnabel can’t expect much. The two(three)-horse fight is between the Coens and Anderson; as I said in the best film category, I think the Academy will give directing to the Coens (previous form includes giving best film to Crash and directing to Ang Lee, or film to Chicago and directing to Roman Polanski, or film to Gladiator and directing to Traffic).

Achievement in film editing
The Bourne Ultimatum: Christopher Rouse
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Juliette Welfling
Into the Wild: Jay Cassidy
No Country for Old Men: Roderick Jaynes
There Will Be Blood: Dylan Tichenor

I would love to see The Bourne Ultimatum win for the technical expertise (and because I’ve actually seen it), but it would be even better if ‘Roderick Jaynes’ won, if only for the Coens to reveal their editing nom-de-plume.

Achievement in visual effects
The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Transformers

Surely nerd-tastic Transformers will win – the effects were stunning. (And I’ve actually seen all three films in this category, so that qualifies as an almost valid opinion.) Any other decision is just stupid.

Adapted screenplay
Atonement (Christopher Hampton), Away from Her (Sarah Polley), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Ronald Harwood), No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen), There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Hmm, always a tricky category. You would think the big two films would be the main contenders, but it always seems to throw up an unusual winner. Will Atonement get a consolation prize for being ignored in the main acting categories? I can’t see Polley or Harwood winning, but I have no objections.

Original screenplay
Juno (Diablo Cody), Lars and the Real Girl (Nancy Oliver), Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy), Ratatouille (Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird), The Savages (Tamara Jenkin)

Hurrah for Ratatouille and Brad Bird for getting the nod – good to see that people realise that animated films just don’t appear as if by magic. I don’t know if it will win but I can’t pick a winner here; Gilroy might get a sympathy vote (Michael Clayton won’t win any of the big awards) but the ‘original’ definer of the award might work to the advantage of Cody, Oliver or Jenkin. Again, no clear leader.

And that completes the categories I want to talk about. I don’t know if voting will be influenced by the sad death of Heath Ledger (good obituary from David Thomson here) but the general quality of the majority of nominees (and the overall quality of films last year) mean that it should be a good set of results, especially with the lack of a WTF?! contender.

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