And the Oscar should go to … |

And the Oscar should go to …

Howie Nave

In what has to be one of the more difficult years when it comes to predicting the Super Bowl of the motion picture industry, the 78th Academy Awards Show may surprise a few and not just be a cowboy sweep, be it straight or gay. At least I’m hoping so, though “Walk the Line” and “Brokeback Mountain” have been getting quite a bit of attention as the straight/gay cowboy pics to see.

Let’s start with the host, Jon Stewart. This is Stewart’s first time hosting the perennial show, becoming part of an elite group that has included Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Jack Lemmon, Whoopie Goldberg, Steve Martin, Chris Rock and David Letterman – the last three having hosted the Oscars only one time.

If you ask most people, though, Billy Crystal is most synonymous with hosting the Oscars, and its most beloved host from the past 15 years. In fact, Stewart quipped that he was asked to host only because Crystal wasn’t available that evening. Having Jon Stewart host will be an interesting experience to watch. The popular political satirist will definitely increase the viewership based on the popularity of his “Daily Show” on Comedy Central.

Those who might not otherwise be interested in the Oscars will probably tune in just to hear what Stewart has to say. It’s interesting to note that many in the motion picture industry consider Stewart an outsider, and it’s the unexpected that always makes for a better telecast to see whose feathers get ruffled from those within Hollywood’s ranks.

Speaking of Hollywood types, famed director Robert Altman will get an Oscar for lifetime achievement. He’s always worked outside the Hollywood system, so I look forward to what he has to say when he accepts his award.

For now, though, let’s begin at the top:

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1) The nominees for Best Picture are:

— “Brokeback Mountain”

— “Capote”

— “Crash”

— “Good Night, and Good Luck”

— “Munich”

Personally I really want “Crash” to take it. Years from now I think people will remember this movie over all the others. “Capote” was excellent too and one of the more fascinating bio-picks I’ve seen all year. George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Munich” both tackled political topics in a way that made you think. But I’m going with the groundbreaking gay cowboy flick. The hype before the movie came out had many pidgeon-hole it as a stereotypical gay movie. That’s not really the case. If you peel back all the hype and actually watched the movie, you’ll realize it isn’t flamboyant. As harsh as it sounds the movie at its gut level is a love story that wasn’t supposed to happen but just did. How this love affair affected those around them was powerfully tragic. I’m going with “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture.

2) The nominees for Best Actor are:

— Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Capote”

— Terrence Howard for “Hustle & Flow”

— Heath Ledger for “Brokeback Mountain”

— Joaquin Phoenix for “Walk the Line”

— David Strathairn for “Good Night, and Good Luck”

The long shot is Terrence Howard who also turned in a fine performance in the ensemble piece “Crash.” David Strathairn turned in a fine performance as well. Joaquin Phoenix took home the Golden Globe (in the category of best musical/comedy) because he did all his own singing in the role of Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line” so he is one of the front runners. So is Heath Ledger, the odds-on favorite to bring home the gold for “Brokeback Mountain.” Then there’s Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I really believe he will buck the “Brokeback” trend and take home the Oscar for his incredible transformation, actually channeling Truman Capote in the film “Capote.” Besides, Hoffman for years has been that character actor who always turned in above the bar performances and has finally been given the role of a lifetime here worthy of his talents. I’m going in the category for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role to Philip Seymour Hoffman.

3) The nominees for Best Actress are:

— Judi Dench for “Mrs. Henderson Presents”

— Felicity Huffman for “Transamerica”

— Keira Knightley for “Pride & Prejudice”

— Charlize Theron for “North Country”

— Reese Witherspoon for “Walk the Line”

Last summer I predicted (it was an easy call) that Charlize Theron would be nominated in his category after her stand out performance in “North Country.” I even joked that because she was all dirtied up like Halle Berry was in “Monster’s Ball” (for which she won the Oscar in 2001) she would probably take home the Oscar. In fact, Theron won the statue (again all dirtied up) for her performance in “Monster” (2003). I thought she might be the winner hands down until I saw Felicity Huffman going through a sexual transformation in “Transamerica.” Talk about baring one’s soul (and body)! Huffman (one vowel away for Best Actor pick-coincidence?) was unbelievable here and even though many folks haven’t seen the movie those that did will attest this was an incredible role for her and one that she made all her own. She could be the upset. British actress Judi Dench has already won an Oscar in this category and fellow Brit Keira Knightly is still young enough (age 20) to wait for another shot at the statue. Because this will probably be the ‘year of the cowboy’ and since the gay flick is getting the mountain share of the publicity, I’m going with Reese Witherspoon in her role as June Carter to balance things out. So, in the category for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role I’m going with Reese Witherspoon.

4) The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are:

— George Clooney for “Syriana”

— Matt Dillon for “Crash”

— Paul Giamatti for “Cinderella Man”

— Jake Gyllenhaal for “Brokeback Mountain”

— William Hurt for “A History of Violence”

This is the most difficult category of the lot. For starters Jake Gyllenhall from “Brokeback Mountain” shouldn’t even be in this category. He had just as much screen time as Heath Ledger did and in fact appears in all of the posters for the movie along with Heath. Either give him a nomination for Best Actor or not at all. William Hurt is just the opposite having been onscreen less than 15 minutes for “A History of Violence” so I’ll pass. Matt Dillon was simply magnetic as the bad cop who found redemption in “Crash” and deserves to win and represent the entire cast from that excellent piece of work. The Academy did Paul Giamatti a huge disservice last year in not recognizing him for his contribution in “Sideways” when everyone else in that movie received a nomination. Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” was such a good movie and to have it overlooked by the Academy is a shame. I REALLY want Giamatti to get it. However, George Clooney this past year did it all being a director, co-producer, writer and actor. He’s been the conscience, the thinking man’s actor this past year with “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Syriana.” The Academy will reward him at least one victory so in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role I’ve got to go with George Clooney (but would like to see a tie with Giamatti).

5) The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are:

— Amy Adams for “Junebug”

— Catherine Keener for “Capote”

— Frances McDormand for “North Country”

— Rachel Weisz for “The Constant Gardener”

— Michelle Williams for “Brokeback Mountain”

Oh, the sentimental oohs and ahhs if Michelle Williams wins and her costar Heath Ledger wins. Not gonna happen. Francis McDormand has already won an Oscar before (Best Actress in 1988’s “Fargo”). Catherine Keener could be the upset and wow what a coo too if she snagged the statue. Amy Adams also is the long shot and cancels out Keener’s chance. Did anybody see her in “Junebug?” She was great and could be the upset as well. That leaves the very talented and beautiful Rachel Weisz who played such a commanding presence in “The Constant Gardner.” This was by far her best role to date and because of this for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role I am going with Rachel Weisz.

6) The nominees for Best Director are:

— George Clooney for “Good Night, and Good Luck”

— Paul Haggis for “Crash”

— Ang Lee for “Brokeback Mountain”

— Bennett Miller for “Capote”

— Steven Spielberg for “Munich”

What a treat if Paul Haggis won because this is his first time out the gate as a director. The writer/director scored paydirt with an ensemble movie that makes you think and want to talk about the movie. Any director who accomplishes that feat deserves to take home any award. Clooney has a lot going for him here as well and it didn’t hurt that he’s nominated as a supporting actor in another somewhat controversial film. Bennett Miller’s body of work is pretty sparse but the fact that he scored with “Capote” and garnered Philip Seymour Hoffman says volumes right there about how he handles actors. No one doubts Steven Spielberg as an incredible director and he has received his fair share of awards. As with most past winnings I am betting that since “Brokeback Mountain” will win for Best Picture the Oscar should also go to the one who guided the movie there, Ang Lee for Best Director.

7) The nominees for Best Writing, Screenplay written directly for the Screen are:

— “Crash” – Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco

— “Good Night, and Good Luck” – George Clooney, Grant Heslov

— “Match Point” – Woody Allen

— “The Squid and the Whale” – Noah Baumbach

— “Syriana” – Stephen Gaghan

George Clooney could well walk away with this award along with co-writer, Grant Heslov but they won’t. Woody Allen was overlooked in so many categories for his “Match Point” and will be overlooked this time out as well. Noah Baumbach’s “Squid and the Whale” was a movie I wish more people would have seen. Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana” (and George Clooney’s nod for Best Supporting Actor) was also a well-written, powerful script. As well deserved as all these nominees are you can’t deny that Paul Haggis (who also made his debut here as a director) has fastened a movie that was not only one of the best ensemble scripts in recent memory but had you talking about the movie long after the credits rolled. That to me has got to be the best testimonial for any movie and it all starts with the script. For Best Writing, Screenplay written directly for the Screen I am going with Paul Haggis for “Crash.”

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.