To bring everyone who didn’t read our Oscar nomination prediction article up to speed, we’re disinterested in the concept of treating the Academy Awards as anything other than the spectacle of a glitzy Queen Bee organizing her army of schmoozing publicist Worker Bees to construct a temple dedicated to the glory of her legacy—a frenzy of almost telepathic orchestration. You hardly have to be a rock-throwing punk to know which way the honey will drizzle, and don’t let anyone who labels their vocation with either the words “awards,” “show,” or “expert” tell you otherwise. In the spirit of the occasion, we give you a ceremony of our own: Watch as we unveil one winner prediction every day until the Saturday before Oscar night. So as to avoid any irritation we may have caused last year, the most recent prediction has been dutifully checkmarked—and for those who really, really like us, we’ve splooged on our personal favorite in each category.
PICTURE: If you’ve been following these Oscar blurbs from the beginning, you’ve no doubt come to the realization that we’ve purposefully slipped a jab against Crash into each category, no matter how far we’ve had to bend over backward to do so. If you’ve made it this far without taking notice, then you’re undoubtedly a member of that exact same, incredibly desensitized, woefully oblivious demographic to whom Paul Haggis aimed his bullhorn screed, written and directed like a New Age episode of Jerry Springer. But taking one last potshot against Crash feels so pointless, even with the trade columnists and self-appointed “awards experts” all attempting to spin some semblance of a last-minute surge of Crash support in the (apparently very long-lasting) wake of its win for Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards. Roger Ebert’s recent huffy defenses for the integrity of Haggis’s vision only confirm that history’s vindicating judgment has been unusually swift this time around—at least in the critical community—and already people are looking back on Crash’s nomination as an outrage for the ages. So why kick the deafened and dumbstruck majority while they’re down? Especially when the objection-squawking slack has been picked up (and then some) by Brokeback Mountain’s fan base, who had already been slapping our wrists over Ed’s mixed review for some months before the Oscar nominations were even announced. Suggestions that Brokeback Mountain was just too socially important for any self-respecting gay man to be allowed any aesthetic reservations grew into shrill hysteria when we used the word “fag” to illustrate the latent prejudices we sensed in Oscar voters. That we actually endorsed Jake Gyllenhaal as our pick of the contenders apparently carried little sway, and our perceived assault on the tender sensibilities of Brokeback Mountain’s fans resulted in harassment on our forum, in our email inboxes, and even at Fashion week where our poor Alexa took a tofu cream pie to the face while attempting to get Nick Verreos’s cell number. (I’m still convinced that this counterstrike was carefully organized over at the Tennessee Williams Discussion Forum for Very, Very Sensitive Homos.) That this race boils down to Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash (in which harmless mediocrity will almost surely defeat pure evil, if only so that the Academy doesn’t have to spend the rest of our natural lives living down accusations of homophobia) testifies to the widespread nature of political navel-gazing. The category’s two arguably superior films Munich (perhaps flawed, but certainly not lacking in ambition) and Good Night, and Good Luck (a solid reiteration of a historical episode the nation is in sad need of relearning) are both sanguine alternatives to the political culture of “Me!” So of course they’ll both go home empty-handed.
Will Win: Brokeback Mountain
Should Win: Munich
ACTOR: Another year, another overblown bitchfest over female actors getting a raw deal compared to their male counterparts. Truth be told, we don’t notice a significant drop-off in quality looking at the line-up of Best Actress contenders, and a hypothetical list of close-but-no-cigar contenders left off the final ballot probably includes more women (Joan Allen, Ziyi Zhang, Q’orianka Kilcher) than men (Russell Crowe and Jeff Daniels). But that’s not to say that the complaints are without some validity. Three out of the five Best Actor nominees play the central roles of Best Picture nominees, another (Joaquin Phoenix) spearheaded a film that was probably edged for Munich’s slot by a mere handful of votes. And, let’s be honest, would Terrence Howard’s pimp performance in Hustle & Flow have been given a single glance from the Academy’s Charlton Heston demographic had he not also played one of the two noblest roles in Crash? (That “Santo” Michael Peña wasn’t even mentioned as a viable Supporting Actor contender alongside Howard and Don Cheadle tells us just how much longer we can expect to wait before we get an Oscar “Year of the Hispanic.”) Does one have to be a raging feminist to suggest that Capote and Brokeback Mountain aren’t aesthetically superior to North Country and Transamerica? Or that what distinguishes your glorified Lifetime movie of the week from your serious Oscar contender is whether or not the lead character has exterior genitalia? Perhaps in deference to the newly glorified spirit of Betty Friedan, the Best Actor race is a two-man contest between the category’s sensitive, sweet-natured homosexuals. (Though one could certainly make the case for Strathairn’s crusade against the “fairy”-baiting Senator McCarthy or Howard’s lady-lovin’ pimp.) If Heath Ledger’s lovelorn cowboy frequently inspires romantic types to clutch their fists to their hearts and purr “awww,” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Faberge eggshell queen (and, especially, his “no spit-lube required” relationship with author Jack Dunphy) won’t spook the voting body’s cattle. And, oh look! Coincidentally, the goddamned movie’s named after his character.
Will Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Should Win: Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow)
ACTRESS: We are not of the opinion that Judi Dench can score a nomination for as little as hailing a taxi cab. If that were true, she would have been nominated this year in the supporting actress category for bitch-slapping Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice. Not that that would have been a bad thing, since we’re of the opinion that Dench’s talent for causing a ruckus is fine when corralled to five-minute intervals and not stretched out across an entire film’s running time, for what is Mrs. Henderson Presents but an insufferably long titty attack? It’s obvious some Academy members like Dench’s ping-ponging shows of cattiness, but the truth of the matter is that Mrs. Henderson Presents hasn’t quite commanded the same attention as Being Julia or displayed the nuance of our own Mr. Henderson’s review of Bambi last year. We’re not even going to insult your intelligence by talking about Knightley’s star-making turn and Saint Charlize Theron’s latest flailing pantomime and instead get straight to business. In this corner we have Reese Witherspoon, America’s go-to movie star for Adult Contemporary comedies, the woman Ryan Phillippe gets to crash into every night, and, as of this week, the highest paid actress in Hollywood history. In that corner we have Felicity Huffman, survivor of the David Mamet School of Dick-Smacking Sadism and star of the biggest (and worst) show on network television. For whatever reason, there seems to be a consensus that Witherspoon is due for an Oscar. For reversing all the voice training she’s done over the years and essaying a pretty little impersonation of June Carter in James Mangold’s glorified TNT movie Walk the Line, Witherspoon has the Golden Globes and SAG on her side…just as Annette Bening did before losing the Oscar to Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry, Unless They’re Girls Pretending to Be Boys. No less of a “stunt” than Witherspoon’s performance, and don’t let haters tell you otherwise, is Huffman’s unpretentious turn as a male-to-female transsexual in Duncan Tucker’s flawed but kindhearted Transamerica. To hear naysayers lambaste Huffman’s performance you’d think her Bree character gets her dick cut off by a pack of angry ’phobes in the film, but it’s precisely because something like this doesn’t happen to her character that we appreciate the film and think Huffman will lose here. Her acceptance speeches may be sweeter and her Dove commercial may be somewhat less off-putting than the amount of money Witherspoon is going to be making for her next movie, but we must remember that a vote for Witherspoon is a way for Hollywood to extol its Midas touch, and golden girls don’t come more golden than this one-time indie darling.
Will Win: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Should Win: Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)