Letters to Holly

Friday, March 3

Oscar predictions

We’re hosting Your Sister’s Anglican priest and his wife tonight for din-din. I’m a little worried how this will go for two reasons:

1. Can they eat lasagna on the Friday after Lent begins? If not, we’ll go out to eat somewhere. I spent an hour last night getting the fixin’s ready. All we have to do is bake the dish.

2. Is he mad because we didn’t get married in his church? Officially, the Anglican church doesn’t recognize our marriage, but he strikes me as the kind of guy to move aside the hardline dogma when dealing with his parishioners. If it’s a real problem (and if it is, why would he come to dinner?) I can take off for a few hours and bowl. Your Sis can show off the house and cover all the pictures of me with cut-out faces of Antonio Banderas.

Since the Oscars run on Sunday, it’s very unlikely there will be another post between now and Sunday night. I love watching the Oscars. I have no idea when I picked it up, but I remember Johnny Carson hosting. I have lots of good memories over the years:

-- The roar of the audience when Daniel Day-Lewis won for My Left Foot

-- David Letterman’s truly funny hosting job, a gig that’s almost universally panned

-- Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White and Corey Feldman trying to dance like Michael Jackson during his “think I’ll be a choreographer” phase.

-- Halle and Denzel winning, the first time black actors have taken the best actor and actress Oscars in the same year.

-- Goldie Hawn mistaking a Kurt Russell flirtation for an engagement proposal

-- Tom Hanks winning for Philadelphia, a moment I, who grew up with his ‘80s comic work, never thought could happen.

-- Morgan Freeman finally winning an Oscar and giving a short thank-you.

Whoopi Goldberg was a far better host than Billy Crystal, whose show-opening medley was brain torture. I have high hopes for Jon Stewart as host this year. He’s easily the finest guy currently on TV and has owned that distinction since Dave Chappelle went nuts.

This year’s crop looks like a solid group of nominees, so let’s look at the big categories with a list taken from Oscars.com. Picking the winners this year will be tricky; for the first time in years, there are no nominees for a handicapped role.

Best Actor
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote"
Terrence Howard in "Hustle & Flow"
Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain"
Joaquin Phoenix in "Walk the Line"
David Strathairn in "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Hoffman seems to have momentum by winning the SAG Award and the Golden Globe for his work. I like the guy, but I was stunned by Heath Ledger’s work; he’s almost unrecognizable. Both are up for homosexual roles, which I think is a first for this category. I want to root for Joaquin, but he can only win if Phillip and Heath split the vote enough to give Phoenix the majority. David only wins if Good Night sweeps. Howard can sit back and enjoy the party.
The probable winner: Hoffman
My pick: Ledger

Best Supporting Actor
George Clooney in "Syriana"
Matt Dillon in "Crash"
Paul Giamatti in "Cinderella Man"
Jake Gyllenhaal in "Brokeback Mountain"
William Hurt in "A History of Violence"

The Academy likes to give consolation Oscars to those who should have won in previous years. Nichole Kidman won for The Hours the year after she lost for Moulin Rouge. Renee Zellwegger won for Cold Mountain after losing the year before for Chicago. I think Giamatti could see a win after failing to receive a nomination for Sideways, a film he carried like a champ. Jake is getting short shrift for his work in Brokeback, and William Hurt wasn’t onscreen long enough to really deserve it, even though Beatrice Straight and Judi Dench both have won for appearing onscreen for less than 15 minutes. Dillon can only win if Crash sweeps (as some project), and Clooney strikes me as guy people like but not enough to give him an award for this kind of film.
The probable winner: Giamatti

My pick: Giamatti

Best Actress
Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica"
Keira Knightley in "Pride & Prejudice"

Charlize Theron in "North Country"
Reese Witherspoon in "Walk the Line"

This is Reese’s to lose. She owns the film and works her ass off to perform onstage. She also has a sterling reputation in Hollywood as a star it can boast with no scandal. Right role, right actress, right year. I love Hoffman’s other work, but I don’t see her winning in this role. Not enough people saw Theron or Dench’s films, and Keira’s nod seems like it was made to fill out the list.
The probable winner: Witherspoon

My pick: Witherspoon

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams in "Junebug"
Catherine Keener in "Capote”
Frances McDormand in "North Country
Rachel Weisz in "The Constant Gardener"
Michelle Williams in "Brokeback Mountain"

This is perennially the tightest group to choose from; anyone could win. To give you an idea, children have won this twice: Tatum O’Neal and Anna Paquin. Marisa Tomei’s win in My Cousin Vinny is long rumored as a mistakenly read name the Academy is too embarrassed to fix. Weisz has the vocal momentum, and critics have openly supported Adams’s work. McDormand won before for Fargo. I like Williams’s chances. She of all the characters has to react for the audience as she realizes her husband loves another man without knowing how to respond. She did a fantastic job.
The probable winner: Weisz
My pick: Williams

Best Director
"Brokeback Mountain" Ang Lee
"Capote" Bennett Miller
"Crash" Paul Haggis
"Good Night, and Good Luck." George Clooney
"Munich" Steven Spielberg

Simply put, Brokeback doesn’t happen without Lee. If he doesn’t win for this, we will have a true scandal of the night. Miller is an actor stepping in as a first-time director, and that doesn’t mean he can’t win. Redford and Costner won for this first direction, both beating out Scorsese, for crying out loud. Spielberg’s inclusion is to honor the subject of the film. Crash is getting momentum as the pundit pick because of its subject matter, and because people want to write about something other than Brokeback.

The probable winner: Lee
My pick: Lee

Best Picture
"Brokeback Mountain

"Good Night, and Good Luck"

Unlike some years, the best director nominations are the same as the best picture group. The winner here is not dependent on who wins best director. Chicago, Gladiator, and Shakespeare In Love all won best picture without their directors winning. And this is where Crash could slip by Brokeback. Some feel Brokeback can’t win because Hollywood is afraid of the political backlash. Some say it only wins because Hollywood is daring such a reaction to happen. But Hollywood loves a decade-spanning romance blocked by culture, and that’s what the film ultimately is. It wins because it’s a great film, not because it makes a great statement.
The probable winner: Brokeback Mountain
My pick:
Brokeback Mountain

The Picture of the Day
This is an editorial cartoon by legendary artist Thomas Nast (who brought down the corrupt officials in New York’s Tammany Hall) in reaction to the death of Lincoln. It’s from the online version of Harper's Weekly, April 29, 1865 edition. You can see the whole issue here.

In the news
A new video obtained by the AP, shows Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco assuring the president that the levees had not been breached. This comes just a day after a video shows a weatherman warning the administration that the levees might not keep out hurricane waters.

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The NY Times is reporting that the GOP may consider a former Pentagon spokeswoman (free registration) to run against Hillary Clinton for the N.Y. senate seat. This follows the disastrous campaign of Jeanine F. Pirro as the GOP frontrunner in that state. Of course the prominent conservative talking heads in the media are convinced that Hillary is going to run for the presidency in 2008. They think a Senate loss two years before that election will kill her momentum.

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Here’s a special link for you: The online archives of This American Life. This week’s show, “Cat and Mouse,” is really good. David Sedaris is giving an evening of readings here in April, but you couldn’t drag Your Sister to the show.

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This is coming to the Cartoon Network this year:

Class of 3000. The half-hour series featuring a group of musically gifted kids at the WestleySchool for Performing Arts in Atlanta is set to premiere in November. When former student Sunny Bridges returns to regain something he lost on his way to fame, he brings sunshine to the lives of the culturally diverse students. The series was created by Outkast member Andre Benjamin, who will contribute music and his voice talent to the series. Other cast members are Tom Kenny, Crystal Scales (Static Shock), Jennifer Hale (The Powerpuff Girls), Janice Kawaye (Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi) and Jeff Glen Bennet (Johnny Bravo). A dozen half-hour episodes and a one-hour premiere are being produced at Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank, Calif.

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And just for fun: Triumph The Comic Insult Dog goes to Chinatown.

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