January 23, 2007

Oscar nominations

Not too exciting of a list … "Babel" got the Best Picture nod that "Dreamgirls" deserved far more. I'm not saying that "Dreamgirls" is a great picture, just that it would have made a respectable Best Picture nominee due to it being both crowd-pleasing and classy. In contrast, Babel represents all that's worst about Academy voters' desire for self-glorification of their industry through rewarding pretentious but knuckleheaded tripe.

Good to see Mark Wahlberg get a Best Supporting nomination. I wrote in my American Conservative review of "The Departed:"

"The secret weapon of "The Departed" is that it can afford to relegate a sizable star, Wahlberg, to a small role, but then bring him back off the bench at the key moment. While most actors these days are the offspring of artistic types who took the Sixties a little too seriously (Damon, like many current stars, spent some of his childhood in a hippie commune), Wahlberg was a juvenile delinquent from working class Dorchester, near Southie. Hollywood typically misuses him as a generic leading man (in remakes, he has filled roles created by Cary Grant, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, and Michael Caine, none of whom Wahlberg resembles in the least). Finally, he gets to play a thuggish cop he might have grown up to be, with sensational results."

The usual anti-comedy bias is evident. Meryl Streep won a Best Actress nomination for "The Devil Wears Prada," but, then, she's always nominated (and, almost always, deserving). "Thank You for Smoking" and "The Science of Sleep" were shut out completely, not even Art Direction for Michel Gondry's marvelous "Science."

"Borat" did snag a nomination, but it wasn't for Sacha Baron Cohen's lovable performance, but for Adapted Screenplay. (Hey, wasn't this supposed to be a documentary showing us the unscripted truth about the anti-Semitism of Red State America?)

In the battle of the three talented Mexican directors, the distribution of nominations seems intentionally perverse. Alejandro González Iñárritu got the Best Director nod for "Babel," a horribly directed film. As I write in my American Conservative review:

"Dreadful as the screenplay is, the trendy direction might be worse. González Iñárritu spent a fortune to make "Babel" look like it was filmed on a cellphone. The annoyingly shiny images lack saturated color and fine detail. And the jittery handheld camera work belongs in an episode of "Cops," not in this 142-minute slog, where it induces motion sickness.

"Worse, the gratuitously chaotic editing intentionally makes the story needlessly incomprehensible to the half of the population with two digit IQs. If you cut up a picture of dogs playing poker into a jigsaw puzzle, those with the ability and obsessiveness to reassemble it successfully will feel quite pleased with themselves, but it's still just dogs playing poker."

In contrast, Alfonso Cuarón was relegated to the Best Editor category, even though his "Children of Men" was most memorable for its successful lack of editing, with single shots extending for many minutes, which would seem to be the very definition of a triumph of directing, not of editing. And Cuaron was nominated, along with a cast of thousands, for Best Adapted Screenplay, even though his script made a dopey hash of P.D. James' novel. Meanwhile, Guillermo del Toro got an Original Screenplay nod for "Pan's Labyrinth," as did most of the below-the-line talent on the film.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

What was the Borat screenplay adapted from?

Anonymous said...

I've seen Little Miss Sunshine, and while it wasn't an awful movie, not once did it occur to me that I was watching a Best Picture nominee.

Steve Sailer said...

"Borat" was adapted from the Borat segments on the Ali G show.

Garland said...

Man, I assumed De Niro would do better. Kind of a snub. Plus that movie was much better than Babel, or most of the crud this year.

Anonymous said...

The difference between Babel and dogs playing poker is that dogs playing poker is entertaining. If you can put the jigsaw together, haha!, it's dogs playing poker! They're cute and funny, or if you're not into cute and funny, they're at least ironic.

If you put Babel together it's still 142 minutes of crap without cute or funny or even or irony to redeem it. Babel is just tedious.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks, I'll add the dogs playing poker comment to the blog.

Anonymous said...

Have Bollywood films ever been entered for Best Foreign Picture?

Anonymous said...

De Niro appears to have sunk into self-parody sometime during the late 1980s and his career has been unwatchable since.

Anonymous said...

Sure, Shepherd isn't a thrill a minute, but if it was it wouldn't be a reasonably authentic presentation of the "spy mind" (at least circa 1960). It also creates a genuine feeling of tension between job and family responsibilities. I didn't think the movie was principally an attack on WASPs, but its characterization of the Yalie upper crust at that time, which could be viewed as a touch ridiculous from our later viewpoint, probably wasn't too far off the mark. One positive on Departed was its live-wire quality, that sense that everything was potentially on the table for the director. However, it didn't leave me much to reflect on later, was contrived in the plot, and not as tightly executed as Shepherd.

Chip said...


Did you ever get around to reviewing Children of Men?

Steve Sailer said...

I liked the Good Shepherd quite a bit, but I was able to keep track of what was going on, which my wife, for example, couldn't. For most people, it would be a good DVD movie to watch with at least one other person, and stop repeatedly and discuss what was happening.

The one lack of restraint in the movie went all wrong: Angelina Jolie's casting. Better to have an Aryan from Darien like Chloe Sevigny as the CIA man's wife. Jolie is kind of like casting the young Sophia Loren in the role -- you just want to call out to Matt Damon to open his eyes and take a look at his wife.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Angelina Jolie was totally out of place (you could argue she was cheapened by the early sex, driving Damon to Europe, but it's unconvincing), although other big names fit in well. Also, the meaningful plot turns were all predictable. I'm not sure if Damon was outstanding in his role, or if the range required to play a circumspect intelligence mastermind was so limited that it seemed so. One thing worth mentioning is that the visual style of the movie, with its emphasis on order, seemed to fit the deliberate pacing and contribute to the mood.

Anonymous said...


Did you review The Fountain?