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Little Miss Oscar: The 2007 Academy Awards

Now that we’re well into January, we’ll stop complaining about what a rotten year 2006 was for movies. The Oscars, being announced on February 25, will be our merciful last reminder of ’06, after which we need never speak of it again.

2006 offers a surprisingly difficult set of nominees. Many races are toss-ups (at least now… we make our official predictions the day the nominees are announced, January 23), and many are outright baffling. We’ve given it the old college try (with my new co-Oscar-picker, Sean O’Connell), so enjoy our selections and our commentary. Of course, we’ll be updating this site live on Oscar night and keeping tabs on who has more correct picks. Wish us luck!
– Christopher Null and Sean O’Connell

Reload this page for live results (noted in BOLD) in the nominee listings. And here’s the tally of how well we did…

Null: 11/24 (OK, we officially suck.)
O’Connell: 11/24

Best Animated Film
Happy Feet
Monster House

Sean O’Connell: Penguins are so last year. With Pixar’s push (and a healthy take at the box office), Cars should race across the finish line.
Christopher Null: Cars is probably the least entertaining film on this list, but Pixar is promoting it mercilessly for an Oscar. I wish Monster House would take it, but reluctantly give the nod to Cars‘ marketing machine. Just remember, Hollywood: You have no one to blame but yourselves for giving an Oscar to a movie starring Larry the Cable Guy. Academy: Please kill this category!

Best Art Direction
The Good Shepherd
Pan’s Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
The Prestige

SO: Some worthy nominees. Pan’s Labyrinth feels like it’s going to sweep up several artistic awards, so I’m putting it in the lead for this category.
CN: Art direction often gets swept up in ‘whose gown is prettiest,’ so I’ll go with Dreamgirls here.

Best Cinematography
The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Prestige

SO: I’m cool with any of these five winning. Great nominees. Let’s assume the Academy throws Children of Men a bone (it should have been in the Picture and Director race) by acknowledging the work of Emmanuel Lubezki.
CN: Really tough category with numerous worthy entries. I’m going with The Illusionist, for no particular reason other than instinct and that it’s nominated for an ASC as well.

Best Costume Design
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Marie Antoinette
The Queen

CN: You can’t look in any direction and not see an ad featuring three girls impossibly squeezed into blue sequined gowns. Dreamgirls it is.
SO: A toss up. Costumes were the only thing worth mentioning in Marie and Golden Flower. Prada basically lifted its clothes off the fashion rack. And the Academy seems to hate Dreamgirls. I’ll hazard a guess for Marie Antoinette, only because the costume work was impressive and Sofia Coppola carries some Oscar weight.

Best Documentary Feature
Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

SO: You can’t handle the truth! But the Academy will honor Al Gore’s environmental lesson An Inconvenient Truth on Oscar night.
CN: I’ll bet cash money on An Inconvenient Truth getting a standing ovation. It’s how Hollywood ‘sends a message’ to Washington and the world. I’m sure it will change climate policy overnight!

Best Documentary Short Subject
The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands

CN: The Blood of Yingzhou District looks pretty tear-jerkingly sad.
SO: We’re all about the environment this year, so Recycled Life piggybacks on An Inconvenient Truth.

Best Editing
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed
United 93

SO: Babel, which streamlined four seemingly disconnected subplots into one compelling narrative.
CN: Four? I counted three. Anyway, I’ll actually break and pick United 93 here, for its masterful blend of real-time action in multiple locations… and real-life events.

Best Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding
Days of Glory
The Lives of Others
Pan’s Labyrinth

SO: No Almodóvar? No problem! Guillermo Del Toro carries the torch this year for his militaristic fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth.
CN: I almost picked Water, but Pan’s Labyrinth has a zillion nominations in other awards ceremonies (including a whopping 13 Goyas).

Best Makeup
Pan’s Labyrinth

CN: Click, are you kidding me? Because Sandler turns green in one scene and old later on? Pan’s Labyrinth, please.
SO: Adam Sandler’s Capra clone? Mel Gibson’s ego-stroking abomination? How on earth does Pirates of the Caribbean get overlooked? Expect Click and Apocalypto to make way for the makeup in Pan’s Labyrinth.< br>

Best Score
Babel, Gustavo Santaolalla
The Good German, Thomas Newman
Notes on a Scandal, Philip Glass
Pan’s Labyrinth, Javier Navarrete
The Queen, Alexandre Desplat

SO: Thomas Newman’s brilliant throwback score for The Good German will remind the decrepit Academy members of the pictures they used to adore.
CN: This is always a tricky category (Brokeback Mountain and Finding Neverland are past winners), but I’ll throw a pick out for Notes on a Scandal and three-time nominee Philip Glass, whose scores are always haunting and who got robbed for 2002’s The Hours.

Best Original Song
‘I Need to Wake Up’ from An Inconvenient Truth, Music and Lyric by Melissa Etheridge
‘Listen’ from Dreamgirls, Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler, Lyric by Anne Preven
‘Love You I Do,’ from Dreamgirls, Music by Henry Krieger, Lyric by Siedah Garrett
‘Our Town,’ from Cars, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
‘Patience,’ from Dreamgirls, Music by Henry Krieger, Lyric by Willie Reale

SO: The Dreamgirls snub carries over. Three songs split the vote, allowing Oscar staple Randy Newman and Cars to cruise to a safe victory.
CN: Can you say ‘split vote’? Randy Newman’s ho-hum Cars tune squeaks by with a tepid win. What will the Oscars be without the 3-6 Mafia?

Best Animated Short Film
The Danish Poet
The Little Matchgirl
No Time for Nuts

SO: Pixar’s lone entry, Lifted, will lift an Oscar in triumph.
CN: Even Oscar must know Pixar is operating on fewer cylinders these days. And Pixar doesn’t always win this category. Go watch The Little Matchgirl on Youtube and you’ll see why I picked it to win. [Alas, it appears to have been removed.]

Best Live Action Short Film
Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)
Éramos Pocos (One Too Many)
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

SO: A shout out to my homies on the West Bank (Story).
CN: West Bank Story (a Muslim-Jewish rendition of West Side Story) is actually rather amusing… and topical. Winner!

Best Sound Mixing
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

SO: Give it to Dreamgirls, the only musical in the bunch.
CN: Give it to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the only film with pirates in it in the bunch.

Best Sound Editing
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters from Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

SO: Yo ho ho and a bottle of technical awards, it’s Pirates for the win.
CN: Pirates 2.0.

Best Visual Effects
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Superman Returns

SO: Pirates will send the Man of Steel to a watery grave… where he will run into Poseidon!
CN: Yeah, probably Pirates (the first one lost in just about every category to Lord of the Rings).

Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

SO: Most of these titles fall into the ‘happy just to be nominated’ category. What the hell was Borat adapted from? Right now, it’s Departed scribe William Monahan’s race to lose.
CN: Borat was adapted from Da Ali G Show (where many of the bits actually appeared in the past, nearly verbatim). I agree, this will be where The Departed wins.

Best Original Screenplay
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Queen

CN: The screenplay categories usually give us a surprise winner that represents a film that, you know, people actually liked. Viva Little Miss Sunshine!
SO: Guillermo Arriaga globetrotted through Babel, capturing the essence of divergent communities. He also eschewed a traditional narrative procession. The Academy, however, rarely thinks outside of the box, so they’ll reward Peter Morgan and The Queen for its concise viewpoint on England’s royal family in time of crisis.

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

SO: I’m just thrilled the Academy passed on Jack ‘Ham and Cheese’ Nicholson. So, strike up the band for Eddie Murphy, who blows the dust off his SNL-era James Brown impersonation but finds actual sorrow in the later stages of Dreamgirls.
CN: Like Sean Penn before him, Eddie Murphy shows that Axel Foley and a talking donkey were just a warm-up to Serious Actor mode. Watch for Murphy to completely squander the play this gives him over the next few years.

Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

SO: Jennifer Hudson is the first lock of the evening.
CN: It was Breslin’s win until that damn Jennifer Hudson showed up and stole the show. Man, American Idol is never going to end now, is it?

Best 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

SO: It’s achievement (Whitaker) vs. nostalgia (O’Toole) in the year’s tightest race. Whitaker has swept every guild show leading up to the Oscars, but Daniel Day-Lewis did the same for Gangs of New York and lost to Adrian Brody. I’m banking on the Academy’s old farts casting a blind vote for their senior compadre, propelling Peter O’Toole to the podium on Oscar night.
CN: I was with you until you picked O’Toole, who was given an honorary Oscar (lifetime achievement kinda thing) in 2003. I figure most of the Academy will feel that award counts for all performances past, present, and future. It’s Forest Whitaker by default!

Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

CN: I still don’t understand how Meryl Streep is in this category instead of supporting actress. She’d have won that category. Here she’ll lose to Helen Mirren.
SO: Helen Mirren is the second lock of the evening.

Best Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Paul Greengrass, United 93

SO: Is this finally Martin Scorsese’s year? If so, it would be a tragedy, for The Departed is a hollow copy of the filmmaker’s past successes. The final shot of The Departed is an actual rat scurrying across a balcony. I thought that was a joke. Seems the joke is on us. I pray for Paul Greengrass, who did amazing work in United 93, but acknowledge that Martin Scorsese is likely to pick up a trophy he should have received years ago.
CN: I feel like I always pick Martin Scorsese and I always get burned for it. But what the hell, he won at the Golden Globes, and he just might be able to do it here in what is a considerably weaker field than usual.

Best Picture
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

SO: And the winner is … not Dreamgirls! My selection comes by process of elimination. Babel is too similar to last year’s winner, Crash. The Departed is way too violent for the Academy. Clint Eastwood recently won with Million Dollar Baby, so that hurts Letters. And The Queen is a vehicle for Helen Mirren that’s way too British. What’s left? Little Miss Sunshine, a can-do independent that made everyone feel good. Hey, if Shakespeare in Love was able to upset Saving Private Ryan, then Sunshine has a shot (and the Producers Guild win only helps its chances).
CN: I would love for Little Miss Sunshine to win this race, and it’s my #1 pick of the year. But without even a best director nod, that seems awfully farfetched. Babel may be a lot like Crash but this one has a lot of foreign languages in it, which Oscar will likely mistake for depth. With seven nominations, that’s a lot of support. I think The Departed has more of a shot than Sean does, but giving it the win could give Scorsese too big of a head. Oscar just doesn’t like him that much.

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