When the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday (Jan 23) morning, none of these will make the cut. They should, darnit.
Rian Johnson, best original screenplay for "Brick" -- It's shouldn't work. High school students talking like rejects from a Raymond Chandler novel, trying to solve a mystery that I don't understand despite seeing the movie multiple times in the theater. But the dialogue, complete with created slang and near-Mamet rhythms, often seems to sing, making actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lukas Haas seem plausibly tough and hard-boiled.
"The Aura" for foreign language film -- Did anybody see Fabian Bielinsky's bizarre thriller about a narcoleptic taxidermist forced to mastermind the perfect crime? It's a pity. The late director of "Nine Queens" turned in the kind of intellectual puzzle picture that David Mamet turns in at his best. Throw in a great performance by Ricardo Darin and you have Argentina's Oscar submission, so at least it's eligible.
"Dave Chappelle's Block Party" for documentary feature -- If the odds of every other ideal nomination here taking form are *near* zero, they're still better than this one. Michel Gondry's subversively political, unexpectedly hilarious, exuberantly musical concert flick wasn't even on the documentary branch's short-list, meaning that the year's best non-fiction film is fated to join docs like "Grizzly Man" or "Hoop Dreams" on the too-good-for-Oscar list.
"Click" for outstanding makeup -- While "Block Party" may not have made the Academy short-list in its main category, "Click" was announced as one of the potential finalists in the make-up field. The old-age make-up in "Click" was horrible, as was the film itself. The idea of it earning an Oscar nomination just makes me giggle. Sorry.
Wally Pfister, outstanding cinematography for "The Prestige" -- As Christopher Nolan has grown more confident as a cinematographer, he's brought Pfister along with him, as the DP has grown ever more assured. Or perhaps it's the other way around. "The Prestige" is a beautifully made on every level, full of memorable images, none moreso than the field of light-bulbs charged from the ground, as lovingly composed a frame as I saw at the movies all year. "The Prestige" is a near-brilliant movie about illusion and Pfister was complicit with Nolan on every level, weaving the magic.
"Marie Antoinette" best costumes (because outstanding achievement in cinematic pastry isn't available)-- With "Marie Antoinette," Sofia Coppola may have made the year's most superficial film, but that doesn't mean that you can't give awards to those pretty surfaces. Heck, no film last year won more Oscars than "Memoirs of a Geisha."
Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, best original score for "The Proposition" -- Perhaps the year's finest 100 minutes of pure mood, John Hillcoat's mediation on human savagery flowed by like a haunting dream, punctuated only by moments of extreme violence. The violence sold itself, the backwards-looking score sold the rest of the movie.
Ellen Page, best actress for "Hard Candy" -- I think the genius of her performance is that even after all of the facts were revealed and everybody's motivations were laid out on the table, I still wasn't sure if I was supposed to believe that she was who she said she was and I built an entirely different backstory in my head based on details from the performance. What I'm saying is that she was good enough that she created an entirely world around her character and that's kinda cool for a tiny Canadian gal.
Edward Norton, best actor for "Down in the Valley" -- I thought Norton gave one of his worst performances in "The Illusionist" and I still haven't seen "The Painted Veil," but he did vintage work in "Down in the Valley," not that anybody saw David Jacobson's warped vision of The Valley as a Western frontier town, with Norton as the last outlaw hero. At times charming and sympathetic, at other times charming and off-his rocker, Norton created a portrait of complete self-denial and self-illusion.
Alfonso Cuaron, best director for "Children of Men" -- Watch the entire 'Fugee camp sequence, an unflinching and kinetic depiction of hell-on-Earth, and tell me how any director could have done it better.
"Pan's Labyrinth" for best picture -- Magic. Pure and simple. The idea that a contrived and utterly mediocre indie-by-numbers comedy like "Little Miss Sunshine" will be nominated for best picture but the best film I've seen in three or four years will have to pick up scraps is part of why nobody with any sense takes the Academy seriously.