Ken Jennings


January 24, 2007

I try not to blog about it, because it’s already an overcrowded space, but I’m a nut for movie awards season. I’m a big Oscar prognosticator (suggested new word: prognOscarcator). Yesterday evening, I got my e-ballot for my friend Nels’s annual Oscar contest, which I have won before but which is usually won (as revealed on page 12 of Brainiac) by my friend Earl.

I can’t remember a more wide-open Best Picture race than this year’s. Even in recent upset years (Shakespeare in Love in 1998, Crash last year) there was a presumptive favorite for months going in. This year, nothing feels like a Best Picture-type movie, especially now that Dreamgirls has been upset for a nomination. The Queen? No one dislikes it, but it seems sort of small and BBC-teleplay-ish, doesn’t it? The Departed? Better pedigree, but a police/crime drama hasn’t won since 1991 or 1974, depending on how you categorize. Everyone loves Clint, but Letters from Iwo Jima surprised just by being nominated. There seems to be a growing consensus that the front-runner is now the sweet, audience-pleasing indie Little Miss Sunshine.

Now i was never a huge fan of, say, Chicago, or Gladiator, but if Little Miss Sunshine wins next month, it’ll be the most clueless Academy Best Picture pick since Forrest Gump in 1994. There’s not one solitary second of this formulaic road-trip crapfest that felt true or honest to me (much less perceptive or lovingly observed) in any way. Not for one moment did I believe any of it. The cast isn’t a family. They’re not even characters. They’re always just actors–and actors I like very much–bouncing around at the “but-wouldn’t-it-be-funny-if” whims of an endlessly quirk-plagued script. The big audience laughs–Grandpa’s doing heroin! Steve Carell’s buying gay porn! Greg Kinnear’s stealing a body!–are just the worst examples; every scene is full of contrived crap like this. The unbearably misconceived pageant finale, from the gag-ridden “we’re-gonna-make-it” car chase borrowed from a 1970s Disney movie all the way down to the queasy striptease, doesn’t work at all–in a way, it’s the apotheosis of clownish unbelievability the movie’s been promising all along.

I laughed out loud at the out-of-nowhere ending tacked onto The Departed, and I’d still rather see that flawed movie beat up on Little Miss Sunshine. In fact, I want to see Mark Wahlberg literally beat up Abigail Breslin, preferably while she’s dressed like the Bee Girl from the Blind Melon “No Rain” video. Yup, if Children of Men or Pan’s Labyrinth can’t be nominated, I’m actually rooting for The Departed. For a change, I actually want the sympathy-vote old-timer obviously-lesser-work to win over the token hip indie. Oh yeah, and Peter O’Toole too, sorry Forest. Thank you and good night.

(ObTrivia: there are good trivia reasons to vote for Forest Whitaker [if O’Toole loses, he’ll be 0-for-8 lifetime, breaking his tie for futility with onetime drinking buddy Richard Burton] and Helen Mirren [who’ll have an Emmy for playing Elizabeth I and an Oscar for playing Elizabeth II in the same year]. Has anybody done the math on Dreamgirls? What was the last movie to lead the nomination count without a Best Picture nod?)

Posted by Ken at 12:00 pm