Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Strike up the Academy Awards

Coming on the heels of a truly forgettable and completely star-free Golden Globes awards show (make that “press conference”), comes the announcement of the Academy Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 22. The top nominees certainly fall towards darker material, as “There Will Be Blood” and “No Country For Old Men” each garnered eight nominations. Just behind them comes the thriller “MIchael Clayton” and period drama “Atonement,” with both grabbing seven nominations. With so many films getting a fairly equal number of nominations, there certainly seem to be some open races, including Best Picture, with most various critics awards seeming to split on the top film of the year.

Of course, the bigger news that overshadows the nominations themselves is the ongoing writers strike that has crippled Hollywood for more than two months. Producers of the Oscar telecast maintain their determination to go on with the show Feb. 24, with or without writers. That could force nominees to make a choice whether or not to cross the picket line come Oscar night, if the strike continues.
Visit here for a complete list of the nominees.

The following is a roundup of some of the major categories and an early look at the prospects for some of the nominees.

Best Picture
“Michael Clayton”
“No Country For Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

Hooray for the funny and quirky “Juno” grabbing a nod here, much like the similarly clever movie “Little Miss Sunshine” did last year. Still, it’s in some pretty heady company here, with no clear front-runner at this time.

Best Director
Julian Schnabel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
Jason Reitman, “Juno”
Tony Gilroy, “Michael Clayton”
Joel and Ethan Coen, “No Country For Old Men”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “There Will Be Blood”

Five of the six names in this category received their first nomination, with only Joel Coen having previously received one. He shares directing credit with his brother Ethan this time out, with the Coens actually earning three nominations this time out (writing and editing, with the latter nomination under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes). This one is another wide open race, it would seem.

Best Actor
George Clooney, “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “There Will Be Blood”
Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Tommy Lee Jones, “In the Valley of Elah”
Viggo Mortensen, “Eastern Promises”

This category is packed with some truly great acting talent with three previous winners (Clooney, Day-Lewis and Jones) and another regular nominee (Depp). All the performances have been raved about by critics, but Day-Lewis has been winning most of the awards up to now, which would seem to make him the man to beat.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie, “Away From Her”
Marion Cotillard, “La Vie En Rose”
Laura Linney, “The Savages”
Ellen Page, “Juno”

Although the newcomer Page could be a darkhorse in this race, most critic awards have been split between Christie and Cotillard, with each picking up Golden Globes.

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, “The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford”
Javier Bardem, “No Country For Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Hal Holbrook, “Into the Wild”
Tom Wilkinson, “Michael Clayton”

Bardem has been the one getting the most notice for his chilling portrayal of a cold-blooded killer in “No Country,” but Wilkinson may prove to be strong competition as a powerful lawyer overcome with a crisis of conscience in “Michael Clayton.”

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, “I’m Not There”
Ruby Dee, “American Gangster”
Saoirse Ronan, “Atonement”
Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”

Wow, does the Academy love Cate Blanchett, or what? The Oscar-winner picked up a pair of acting nominations this year on top of the one she got last year and the win she had two years prior. She’s the odds-on favorite here, and unlike the other nominees, she had to play a man (none other than musician Bob Dylan) for her role.

Best Original Screenplay
“Lars and the Real Girl”
“Michael Clayton”
“The Savages”

Unlike the adapted screenplay, there’s quite a bit lighter material nominated here, save for “Michael Clayton” and to a lesser degree, “The Savages.” This might be the category that “Juno” has the best shot at winning.

Best Adapted Screenplay
”Away From Her”
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“No Country For Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

There’s lots of good material to choose from here, with a rather unclear picture of the eventual winner. This category will likely ruin many Oscar betting pools, for those so inclined to gamble on such things.

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