Monkeying Around with 2006’s Potential Oscar Noms


I’m such an idiot. See, months ago Brad asked me to write a piece on the early Oscar race because everyone jumped the gun extra early this year and started spewing out ridiculous predictions. Initially I was going to platform off of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center because I had four films locked up in my predictions and I wanted to see if it would make the cut. I just got more confused and the more I looked at the Oscar race, the more it started to creep the hell out of me. The more I kept hearing about this film gaining favor, and that film falling off.

Last year, it seemed so easy. As late as mid-November I was rock-solid on Memoirs of a Geisha, Munich and Brokeback Mountain, followed by Cinderella Man and Syriana. Now, I was of course, dead-wrong on three out of the five picks (you had to be an illiterate caveman if you didn’t see the writing on the wall for Memoirs of a Geisha) but at least I thought I knew what I was doing. And I’m going to have to be straight up with you now…

I have no idea what five films will be nominated for 2006.

My predicament reminds me of that great scene in The Man Who Wasn’t There where Tony Shalhoub tells Billy Bob Thorton’s Ed Crane where he says:

“Well, you gotta look at it. But sometimes you look at it, your looking changes it. Ya can’t know the reality of what happened, or what would’ve happened if you hadn’t-a stuck in your own goddamn schnozz. So there is no “what happened”? Not in any sense that we can grasp, with our puny minds. Because our minds… our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the “Uncertainty Principle.”

And that’s pretty much how I feel. Because I dragged my feet so long writing this frigging thing, I’ve looked at things for so long that they no longer make any sense. I can’t tell the contenders from the pretenders. And if I can’t make heads or tails out of them, by God my pet orangutan, Wadsworth, will.

This will be Wadsworth’s first foray into Oscar picking, so bear with him. I’m going to tell him about some movies and he will indicate to me what he thinks.

Okay, Wadsworth, This is a true story about Patrick Chamusso (played by Derek Luke), a South African man arrested and tortured for a crime he did not commit. Tim Robbins plays the baddie policeman who tortures him with a bad accent.

Wadsworth took off his diaper and jumped on the chandelier. He seems pretty excited, but he isn’t quite swinging. I take this to mean that Catch a Fire has a chance at a Best Actor nomination for Derek Luke but probably not a Best Picture candidate.

Next, Wadsworth, David Fincher directs a film about the Zodiac killer starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo. Now, Wadsworth, Zodiac has been getting very strong word of mouth but there is confusion as to whether or not the film will be released this year or early in 2007.

Wadsworth jumped down from the ceiling and hopped on his wooden rocking horse (a thrift-shop grab). He is holding his cowboy hat up in the air and hollering. The neighbors will have my ass.

If my monkey senses are correct, Wadsoworth seems to be saying that unless Dreamworks cowboys up and releases Zodiac this year, the film will end up a longshot for the 2007 season. Timing is everything.

Okay, next is Bobby. With a list of actors long enough to be tattooed on Ron Jeremy’s love stick, Emilio Estevez has written and directed a film about the assassination Robert F. Kennedy and the people who were there at the Ambassador Hotel when it happened. There’s a ton of actors in this thing, Wadsworth, and we do like that Oliver Stone Kennedy flick.

Wadsworth just gave me the finger and walked out of the room to raid my fridge. He drinks all my beer. I literally have to hide the mini-cans from him. Needless to say, Wadsworth doesn’t think highly of Bobby‘s chances.

Dude, put down the Heinekin and get back over here (the bastard checked the vegetable drawer). You’re going to like this one. Clint Eastwood set out to make a film about the men who raised the American flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima (Flags of Our Fathers) and somewhere along the line said the hell with it and made Letters >From Iwo Jima (due in February 2007) as well. Letters focuses on the same battle but focusing on the Japanese perspective (for the record, Letters’ original title, Red Sun, Black Sand, was cooler).

The fact is Eastwood could make a movie about the intricacies of nail clipping and Wadsworth would have considered it as a contender. But I have actually seen this one and I thought it was a fine, though flawed, film. I don’t think it’s good enough, but enough people might.

Wadsworth is showing me his teeth.

Next on the list, director Paul Greengrass tells the story of ill-fated Flight 93 and the passengers onboard who became unlikely heroes. One of the most honest portrayals of heroism you’ll likely see, this is still the best film of 2006 as far as I’m concerned.

Wadsworth just defecated on the floor, folded his arms and is staring at me. He might strike at any moment. I don’t think he likes this film’s chances at all.

Martin Scorcese remakes that great Hong Kong cop-and-baddie movie we saw, Wadsworth. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the cop who goes undercover with the Irish Mob. Matt Damon plays the mole in the police force for the mob. Cat-and-mouse games, body counts, the F-word and Jack Nicholson’s eyebrows ensue. Now typically, cops-and-robbers movies don’t an Oscar contender make. Remember how many nominations Heat got? That’s right, nothing.

Wadsworth just jumped on the couch and used the clicker. “Project Runway.” Are you kidding me, with this crap?

I think Wadsworth is telling me the screenplay and director may get a nomination, but nothing else will. I’m also beginning to rethink this entire enterprise.

Commercial break, dude. Now let’s go. Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott reunite to ask once again, are we not entertained? Crowe plays a rich corporate type who inherits a vineyard he doesn’t really want. When he tries to sell off the land, he meets a beautiful woman who claims it isn’t his to sell; it’s hers. From the trailer, this lighter-than-usual fare for Crowe may get him back on track with mainstream audiences. Me? I want him to do that remake of Oldboy.

Wadsworth is scratching his orangutan nuts and sniffing them. He turns to me and shakes his head. This one doesn’t smell like a contender to Wadsworth.

Okay, no more jokes. This is the true story of two Port Authority policeman who were buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001. Unlike United 93, this is a story of survival and is devastating account on what it was like for officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno to be alone, hurt and in need of rescue. A tribute to the wounded, the killed and the family members affected that day, it is Oliver Stone’s best film in years…

Wadsworth hops to his feet on the couch and starts doing the “Walk Like an Egyption” dance. Hmm. The last time he did this it was because a movie did decent box office but it needed at least 100 mil and an impassioned fan base in order to have a shot.

Will Smith is Chris Gardner, a man who must care for his five-year-old by himself after his wife leaves him. He struggles to make ends meet and he is tested spiritually while trying to become a Wall Street stockbroker.

Wadsworth seems to be thinking extra-hard about this one. His eyes squint and his body tenses up. I can understand, why. This is a hard film to gauge. I doubt it will be a great film. But it might be a good one and Will Smith looks like he has a legitimate shot at his second nomination. It could be the feel-good surprise of the year.

Wadsworth ended up just passing gas.

Based on the hit Broadway musical, Dreamgirls tells the story of three singers’ (Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose) rise to the top. They begin singing back-up for headinliner James Thunder Early (Eddie Murphy, making a rare appearance in a promising film) but soon break away to form their own group called The Dreams. Jamie Foxx stars as the trio’s manager.

I can’t explain quite what Wadsworth is doing at this moment, but suffice to say as soon as I mentioned Beyonce Knowles’s name he began doing “it.” Wadsworth is officially fired. He leaves the room in defeat.

Consider this not only a contender, but the favorite from here on out because Flags of Our Fathers is respected, but not loved. I don’t care what that frigging ape says.

The tumultuous early history of the Central Intelligence Agency is viewed through the prism of one man’s life in The Good Shepherd, an espionage drama starring Academy Award® winners Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Robert De Niro who also returns to directing. Based on the trailer, it looks like De Niro may have hit this one out of the park. Then again, there is a danger the film will suffer from dullness. I’m going to flip a coin and bet on De Niro’s gang. Darn. This was so much easier when Wadsworth was here.
The Good German finds George Clooney trying to sneak Cate Blanchett and her husband out of post World War II Berlin. Tobey Maguire also stars and Steven Soderbergh directs.

The movie looks good but Soderbergh is so hit-and-miss it’s hard to tell. I will guarantee a Cate Blanchett nomination but that’s about it for now.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is one of the best directors working right now and Gulliermo Arriaga is one of the best writers and the duo have teamed up again with Babel. As the title and cast would suggest, this is a film of the international flavor. Expect a lot of subtitles and a lot of actors not having the audience’s luxury of reading them. This has been a called an emotional ride of cause-and-effect which is pretty much what this writing-directing team specializes in. What I’m saying is, don’t expect a ton of money to be made and do expect a polarizing reaction. Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Clifton Collins Jr., and Koji Yakusho star.

Wadsworth is back and giving me those puppy-dog eyes, only they’re from an orangutan.

Speaking of polarizing…Todd Field’s sophomore effort after In the Bedroom is a look at the lives of people in a small community and how they sometimes interlock in dangerous ways. I have even heard the book the film is based on is comical, albeit a very dark one. This film can make the grade once it is released and it has enough fans, but it has to be considered a dark horse at this stage.

Wadsworth is now holding a knife. Someone call the police.

Hellen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II in this behind-the-scenes look at how the queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair handled the death of Princess Diana. Hellen Mirren is a mortal lock for a nomination and it is looking more and more like the film is as well.

Wadsworth has asked I announce to the online world that the orangutan’s day has come. He says Flags of Our Fathers, Dreamgirls, The Queen are locks. He also seems to believe The Good German and The Good Shepherdhave the next best chances because the feature the word “Good.”

I think he’s right about the locks, but I say two “Good” movies is one too many. I say The Good Shepherd makes it, but the German doesn’t. I say Little Children has too many people that hate it and The Departed ends up getting the surprise nod. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a death-dance with a monkey.

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Weekend: Nov. 15, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018

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