Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Latest Race

February 21, 2007

The only race I really know anything about after all my years of watching races is the one to the Oscar. This award, whimsical as any other, has little to do with merit (and indeed is sometimes awarded to the worst in the field, as Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry and the inexplicable Best Picture nod to The English Patient) but it compels our interest as strongly as any political contest.

This year’s lineup is as noteworthy as any other, which is to say, not very. Never mind that it is pointless to vote for one work as superior to another, and to tally votes in order to name one above the rest. This is America and we invented the form – and all the world looks to us to name our choices. We have devised the most glamorous, most elegant, and at the same time the tackiest venue for handing out statuettes on the planet, so let us make the most of it. One of my theories about thepopulariry of the Academy Awards broadcast is not that viewers care about who wins the award, not that they’ve even seen the movies, but that the show is almost the last vestige of live television. There is something riveting about the possibility that something unscripted might happen. There is, on the other hand very little else of interest to anyone but the participants.

Never mind that. Never mind that I’m pretty sure who will win, and never mind that I’m usually asleep before the big awards are given. I’ll have my tv set on, and I’ll have my opinions about the apparel selected for the presenters and the hangers-on. And I’ll probably be wrong a time or two and right a time or two, and end up wondering why even I care.

My bets are on Forest Whitaker for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
I haven't seen The Last King of Scotland, but I saw the trailer, and that’s enough. Going in, this one has the mo of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote last year. It’s just unbeatable.

The same goes for Helen Mirren in The Queen. The film has blown away the competition in all previous contests, and Mirren does an almost-perfect impersonation of a personage we all almost know, in a film that is also just about unassailable.

Based also on previous recent awards, Best Picture will also go to The Queen, and Best Director to its director Stephen Frears. The possible upset here in both categories would be Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima and best picture to the same. The Academy adores Eastwood, and I’m sure his two war flicks are awesome; they’re as certain to be not my cup of tea. As far as what is my cup of tea, I would give best picture award to The Departed, and probably best director to Martin Scorcese, so I wouldn’t be sorry if these win – but I don’t think it will happen. Scorcese simply makes great films; he doesn’t win Oscars.

Supporting Actor and Actress Awards will go to Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, both for Dreamgirls, which was not nominated as Best Picture. It is always nice when a total newcomer like Hudson wins, kind of a welcome-to-the-club award, but she is not a shoo-in as Murphy is. It could go to Cate Blanchett for Notes on a Scandal.

There will be the usual fashion faux pas this year; the usual in-your-face selections of attire; an occasional tug at the heart by a child star or a former one (and what if Little Miss Sunshine actually wins something?). There will be the awful music, and the superfluous "Best Song" rendering, a few laughs and few tears. I always love the tributes to our colleagues who have left us for that big silver screen above. And somebody always looks smashing.

It's actually the only tedious bore that comes up every year that I wouldn't miss for anything.

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