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Apocalypto (#110 of 7)

Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions Makeup

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Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Makeup
Oscar 2010 Winner Predictions: Makeup

Yes, I kicked off our predictions last year with a monumental fuckup in this very category, presuming the movie that wasn’t nominated for 12 Oscars would triumph over the one that was, simply due to its plentiful hunks of tempera-hued latex. I atone…and once again predict the movie that most liberally cakes it on to win. But only because, this year, the Academy made it so easy to choose the showiest nominee.

In the same sense that the music branch last year seemed to deliberately keep Bruce Springsteen out of the song lineup to ensure yet another win for that Bollywood facsimile, the makeup branch apparently decided to clear a path for Star Trek by passing over Best Picture-nominee District 9’s goopy, feature-length metamorphosis. Never mind that, among Trek’s main cast, only tribal-tatted Eric Bana looks like he spent more than 15 minutes in the makeup chair. Instead of finding room for District 9’s green Popeye arm, two offshore interlopers took its place on the ballot, presumably on the same biopic-tinged ticket that saw Marion Cotillard’s ghoulish, styptic-penciled decomposition to a win two years ago.

That said, most Academy members probably lack the facilities to properly judge Il Divo’s historical veracity, much less remember that Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano were nominated (and lost) just a few years ago for Apocalypto. (Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some initially thought this nomination was in reference to the Max Factor perfection of this Il Divo.) And Jenny Shircore would be a lot more likely to ascend the podium once again (she won in ’98 for Elizabeth) if the royal vehicle she was hitched to this time around were called The Old Victoria.

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Sound Editing

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

It’s too bad the guild award that most strongly corresponds with this category—the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ “Golden Reel”—doesn’t get handed out until Feb. 24. Granted, the award is sketchy enough as a prognosticator to not only nominate seemingly as many films as they damn well please (last year it was seven, this year eight—and that’s not even counting their extra set of nominations for what they consider “foreign films,” a group which this year includes such from-distant-lands candidates as The Black Dahlia and Lucky Number Slevin...but NOT Letters from Iwo Jima) but also give their award out fairly sensibly (choosing War of the Worlds instead of Oscar winner King Kong, Road to Perdition instead of Oscar-winner The Two Towers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon instead of, um, Oscar-winning U-571). Still, it could’ve really helped out this year to know what they preferred, since the Academy’s sound editing branch got a little crazy this year and opened up their category to include five nominees for the first time. Apparently they just simply couldn’t choose between Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. We can (those muffled flashbacks in Flags of Our Fathers are the aural equivalent of Babel’s smug, flatly associative shock cuts), but we’re pretty sure the Academy can’t. Apocalypto is the only nominee that didn’t manage to crack into the exclusive “Golden Reel” club of 16. Since voters at large seem to prefer rewarding sonic environments that emphasize the loudly synthetic over legitimately dynamic work (1999: The Matrix over Fight Club), we’ll say Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest has the edge over Blood Diamond...unless, like us, you think Leo’s accent is from another world.

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Sound Mixing

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

Last year we sided with the musical candidate and crapped out when voters went for the big black ape instead of the man in black. Fool us once, shame on the Oscars; fool us twice, shame on the Oscars. And even though the IMDB is, for whatever reason, declaring Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest this year’s winner ahead of schedule, we’re still going to hedge our bets with the one nominee in this line-up that doesn’t rely on gunfire or sabre-rattling. Just as Diana Ross herself forced Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers to push their signature Chic sound well behind her vocals, it couldn’t have been easy for the audio technicians to crank up Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, and Jaime Foxx’s voices loud enough to cover the film’s anemic instrumental arrangements. Unless it turns out the IMDB accidentally reported a leak from within the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the most likely alternate winner is probably Flags of Our Fathers, which is not only painfully obvious in its use of muffled audio cues to trigger flashbacks, but also has the benefit of not being up against Letters from Iwo Jima in this category.

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Makeup

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Makeup
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Makeup

It’s running neck and pec between the broody Muppet movie and the one whose cast looks like they’ve been assaulted by Animal wielding a scummy powder puff and shouting “Make Up!” We’d secretly like to give the award to the latter, if only because it proves Mel Gibson can think of at least one civilization with more dirt under their fingernails than Jesus-era Jews. However, the only thing preventing Guillermo del Toro’s wooden fawns and floppy white dudes with eyes for palms from taking the Oscar is the possibility that some voters might think these creations owe at least some of their spell to the CGI magicians in the visual effects department. Of course, this confusion didn’t prevent Chronicles of Narnia’s real-boy fawn from winning last year. Tipping the scales further is the fact that the only previous winner in the category, Bill Corso (who helped Click become the recipient of this year’s “[stupid film’s title here] now has to be referred to as Oscar-nominee [stupid film’s title here]” running gag), snatched what was Gibson’s previous film The Passion of the Chrst’s best shot at an Oscar, sending Jesus home empty handed. If I were Mel, I’d start a whisper campaign pronto to remind voters that Pan’s Labyrinth also features bloody atrocity and sadistic, crypto-Catholic content in equal measure.

The 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations

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The 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations
The 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations

Best Picture: “Babel,” “The Departed,” “Letters From Iwo Jima,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Queen.”

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Blood Diamond”; Ryan Gosling, “Half Nelson”; Peter O’Toole, “Venus”; Will Smith, “The Pursuit of Happyness”; Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland.”

Actress: Penélope Cruz, “Volver”; Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”; Helen Mirren, “The Queen”; Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”; Kate Winslet, “Little Children.”

Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”; Jackie Earle Haley, “Little Children”; Djimon Hounsou, “Blood Diamond”; Eddie Murphy, “Dreamgirls”; Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed.”

Navel Gazing with Burns and Dignan: Apocalypto, Blood Diamond, and The Holiday

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Navel Gazing with Burns and Dignan: Apocalypto, Blood Diamond, and The Holiday
Navel Gazing with Burns and Dignan: Apocalypto, Blood Diamond, and The Holiday

Andrew Dignan: Pardon the interruption Sean, but I take back what I said a few weeks ago about The Fountain being the weirdest, most hallucinatory film of the holidays. I knew I never should have counted out Mel Gibson (aka “Crazy Christian”) who two years after making The Passion of the Christ, the rare film that could appeal equally to Evangelicals and the Fangoria set, returns with Apocalypto—another viscera-dripping exercise in onscreen violence, without any pesky ideology or Jew-baiting to get in the way of all the fun.

I, like most people I know, have spent the better part of the past year making jokes at poor Mel’s expense as his adventures in Malibu appeared to be several chickens finally coming home to roost, all in one glorious/horrifying public breakdown the likes of which I never thought I’d see again (until Michael Richards proved me completely wrong). As Mel’s spent the past three years as fodder for late night talk show monologues, it’s becoming distressingly easy to forget what a provocative and unique filmmaker he’s become, with a keen eye for visual, near-silent storytelling that sets him apart from nearly every other actor turned director in Hollywood. You might be repulsed by what he’s saying with his films, but my God, does he say it with aplomb. Of course your level of revulsion with Apocalypto will likely depend on your tolerance for watching someone other than the Son of God be brutalized for two hours. Playing like The Last of the Mohicans with way more human sacrifice, Apocalypto is a surprisingly conventional action movie, complete with all of the familiar beats one would come to expect from any given mid-’80s Stallone or Schwarzenegger film, the only difference here is it’s a bunch of guys running around in loincloths speaking a dead language (the film strangely reminded me of the Rae Dawn Chong camp-extravaganza Quest for Fire).

Savage Art: Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto

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Savage Art: Mel Gibson’s <em>Apocalypto</em>
Savage Art: Mel Gibson’s <em>Apocalypto</em>

Mel Gibson’s Mayan fable Apocalypto is one of the most viscerally powerful and intensely upsetting movies of the year. But it’s not the shots of severed heads, vivisected torsos and pierced flesh that disturb; it’s the closeups of those who witness or perpetrate violence. The latter are the cinematic version of what gamblers call “tells”—incidental gestures that reveal the filmmaker’s intent. The greatness of the movie’s brutal, tragic first half—which charts a Mayan tribe’s enslavement by a nation-state of militant, human-sacrificing cultists—can be found in close-ups of human faces while suffering is inflicted or endured. Men are strangled in their marriage beds by unseen assailants; women are threatened with rape and sexual servitude while their hogtied husbands look on, weeping with rage; an enemy soldier picks up a screaming child and hurls him like a medicine ball, just to see what happens.