There are few nights more anticlimactic than Oscar night, the night where we ignore the back and forth between Barry Obama and Hillary Clinton and celebrate the anti-democratic, unelected elite. It’s hardly surprising that in a time of recession and general economic malaise that we have decided to come together to share in life’s rich pageant and praise famous men and women. It’s just a shame that Letterman won’t be there. Without question, the best Oscar host of the last 15 years.

But since the Academy of Revisionist History Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will never admit their mistakes, there’s nothing to do except pick the losers of tonight’s festivities.

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

In this the year of long titles (we haven’t even mentioned No Country for Old Men), the similarly long winded Daniel Day-Lewis is almost sure to win. The only thing that might hold Lewis back is the very real possibility that the Academy believes Day-Lewis to be on such higher level than any other actor that they don’t actually vote for him. I for one agree; he is so good that there should be a general category, “Best Performance by Daniel Day-Lewis,” but until such time, it’s unfair to hold it against him.

Best Actress: Ellen Page, Juno; Laura Linney, The Savages; Marian Cotillard, La Vie en Rose; Julie Christie, Away from Her; and Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: the Golden Age

This is a really tough category. I think that Ellen Page wins if everything’s coming up Juno–which I don’t see happening. I’d give the award to Blanchett, but I think she’ll win for supporting actress, and no-one has seen any of the other movies. My mind is telling me to pick Christie, but something is telling me to pick Laura Linney. It was something of a surprise nom, but then again, she’s a pro who has been at it for a while now and this may be here year to get recognized.

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. No contest…upset pick: Tom Wilkinson. Affleck may be the next big star, but this just isn’t his year.

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

As I said a minute ago, I’m going with Blanchett since she’ll be recognized for both roles. That said, Amy Ryan has the best upset chance, followed by Tilda Swinton in the unlikely “Michael Clayton sweep scenario” wherein she, Wilkinson, Clooney, and the movie win.

Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood; Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Ivan Reitman, Juno; Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton

As goes the DGA, so goes the Oscar. This year that means Joel and Ethan Coen. A well deserving pair, if not necessarily for this movie.

And, lastly, Best Picture: Read the rest of this entry »

With the Oscars just two weeks days away, it’s way past time to review the last remaining Best Picture nominees: Michael Clayton and Atonement. We’ll start today with Michael Clayton which, as the post title has already given away, is a surprisingly excellent film, a beautiful example of the way elements of different genres can be mixed together in order to create something new and exciting.

In Jacques Derrida’s playful yet obfuscating “The Law of Genre,” JD argues that genre cannot be transcended. last_action_poster.jpgA text, in trying to move outside of its genre, simply changes its definition. A novel that suddenly introduces a play, ala Moby Dick or Exit Ghost, is still a novel, even if the dramatic form appears to be incongruous with the prose of the novel. I bring this up for several reasons. The first is that many movies (and other pieces of literature) play with the “4th wall” and have characters acknowledge their fictionality (the best example of this is Funny Games, Michael Haneke’s magnum opus, whose English language remake is soon to be released. See our coverage of Haneke’s language games, here). Still, this does nothing to change the genre of film. Until such a time when we enter the world of Last Action Hero and moviegoers can enter the movie and film characters can come into our world, film will always remain a film. The other reason that I bring this up is because of this article in Slate, America’s premier online magazine. According to the Slate piece, Michael Clayton is only superficially a thriller. Though it mixes elements from the action genre (quick cuts, car chases, MURDER!) in order to heighten the tension, the movie best succeeds as an indictment of the legal realm. In their words:

beneath the expertly deployed suspense lies something more interesting: an indictment of the mercenary universe of white-shoe law firms and a devastating—and unusually accurate—look at the demoralized lives of the lawyers who work for them.

While Slate considers this the ole switcheroo (a surprising variation, according to Webster’s), I hold Michael Clayton’s admixture of genres to be one of its more interesting developments. Read the rest of this entry »