Sunday, February 25, 2007 at 6:01 PM
ALAN ARKIN in Little Miss Sunshine. Even though Eddie Murphy is the more popular choice for his James-Brown parody in Dreamgirls, Arkin will win because he’s by far the actors’ actor in this category. And the members of the Academy (who vote for the winners) have shown a patented prejudice against comedians doing their shtick in movies. Arkin also enjoys considerable goodwill and respect for his longevity in the business and for producing such a rich body of work, which includes great performances in The Russians Are coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1922). Although, my favorite of all his action roles was the irascible judge he played on the A&E TV series 100 Centre Street.
Best supporting actress
JENNIFER HUDSON in Dreamgirls. Aside from appealing to Hollywood’s fondness for black-Mammy characters, I honestly don’t get this. In fact , 67 years after Hattie McDaniel became the first black to win an Oscar for playing a Mammy in Gone With the Wind, one would’ve thought black actresses would be recognized for more dignified roles. (Hell, Hudson was “even ordered to gain weight” and nappify her hair to look like a bona fide Mammy, em…er “Effie”.)
Indeed, but for this fondness, Hudson would (and should) lose to Cate Blanchette, the actors’ actor in this category. Nonetheless, I grant you, the woman can sing. And for that she deserves to have a Grammy on her mantle. But an Oscar for this role (her acting debut)? I don’t think so. After all, just as Murphy parodied Brown in his role, Hudson merely imitated original Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday in hers….
FOREST WHITAKER in The Last King of Scotland. From the time I saw him play Charlie “Bird” Park in Bird, I have been extremely impressed with Whitaker’s acting talent. And, no one is this category is more deserving of the Oscar than he is for channeling genocidal megalomaniac Idi Amin for our ghoulish entertainment. Although, I wonder why no actor has ever won for playing Adolf Hitler….
Meanwhile, some people expect Peter O’Toole to win in an upset for the same reason they expect Martin Scorsese to win: Because, after being nominated for so many brilliant performances and never winning (7 times for O’Toole), it would redound more to the Academy’s embarrassment than to O’Toole’s disappointment for him to be snubbed yet again. But since O’Toole accepted an honorary Oscar in 2003 “for his entire body of work”, I suspect most members think that was his due and would rather seem him retire gracefully. And this notwithstanding his 8th nomination for a role for which it seems he peeled and pulled back the skin on his face in pathetically vain attempt to recapture the stunning good looks he projected on screen for his first-nominated performance 45 years ago in Lawrence of Arabia.
HELEN MIRREN in The Queen. For everything an Oscar for acting represents, Mirren deserves to win for her uncanny portrayal of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Moreover, as one who is resolutely opposed to Monarchies, I relish any exposé of the anachronistic, superficial, indulgent and spiteful nature of the British royal family.
MARTIN SCORSESE in The Departed. By Scorsese’s standards, established with brilliant directing performances in Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980) amongst many others, this effort was second-rate. Nevertheless, for the same reason (uninformed) people expect Peter O’Toole to win, Scorsese actually will. Because, unlike O’Toole, he has never accepted an honorary Oscar for his entire body of work. And, having been nominated six times without a win, the Academy will embrace this opportunity to make amends and give him his due.
Besides, the fact that the three giants of the directors guild, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas (all previous winners themselves), have agreed to present this award telegraphs the fact that this will be the belated induction of Scorsese into their ranks.
BABEL. It will win because the only other worthy nominee, Letters from Iwo Jima, would award
Clint Eastwood with another Oscar, and he’s won enough already. But this film stands on its own as eminently worthy, despite Brad Pitt. And in the spirit of Gandhi and Schindler’s List, it dramatises the frailties and cruelties of human nature that unite us all, despite our differences: a fact our souls can never tire of having reinforced.
And, it’s worth recalling that a similar theme carried Crash to an improbable Oscar in this category last year. Although I suspect there’s a loose conspiracy in Hollywood to reward films that are made on the cheap ($100 million) to reap as much profit as possible for the studios.
As for the other awards…really, who cares?!
NOTE: Politically-engaged celebrities are salivating over the prospect of Al Gore winning an Oscar for the power-point lecture on global warming he delivers in An Inconvenient Truth. But the real agenda being furthered by his nomination is the contrived launch of a draft-Gore campaign for him to run for president next year. And, he will do nothing when he accepts his Oscar to disabuse anyone of the wistful fantasy of seeing him elected.