by Michael Gildea

If you’re a member of the movie-going public who walked out of the multiplexes last year in complete and total disgust—feeling that you’d been incredibly, repeatedly cheated—you’re not alone. After all, if you weren’t kicking the shit out of a garbage can outside after the feature while shrieking at the top of your lungs, you were walking quietly back to your car, knowing too late exactly what your parents meant when they said they weren’t “mad, just disappointed.” All you could do when all was said and done is ask yourself why?

If the drop in ringing cell phones and chatty suburbanites at the theater last year didn’t tip you off to the dwindling numbers the movie industry faces, let the numbers do the talking: According to research firm Exhibitor Relations, Memorial Day weekend ticket sales were down about $15 million, 5% from 2004. Audience levels dropped about 7.5%. True, it would be easy to blame The Dukes of Hazzard, Son of the Mask, Alone in the Dark, The Pacifier, House of Wax, Domino, Fantastic Four, Bewitched, Monster-in-Law, Stealth, The Longest Yard, The Island, Madagascar, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Doom, and anything else that was released this year that left you blinded by rage. You could blame the movies, but behind every bad (and good) movie is someone responsible for making it.

They’re usually a rotten lot. Too self-absorbed, self-involved and self-important to realize they’re just popcorn salesmen in crummy suits. Backstreet Boys who think they’re Beatles. And every March, they all get together on national television to congratulate and give each other backrubs for their collective pollution. They like to laugh at each other’s jokes, too. And the lucky ones get a happy ending in the form of a gold statuette in the culmination of the whole twelve-month mess.

Like any other awards ceremony, it’s run by politics. The Academy doesn’t hand out awards based on something like, say…HOW GOOD A JOB someone did at their particular craft. There are a lot of things to consider. You’ve got half a dozen studios competing and they’ve all got to get something from the major awards like Best Picture, Best Director, or the Best Actor and Best Actress awards. Someone who genuinely deserves an award can and will be robbed because the particular studio that put out their work is getting another award up on the Big Board.

It’s a little tricky, but not too hard to figure out who’s going to be upping their asking price when they go home with a little gold man on Oscar night. This is Vegas odds maker shit that, if interpreted properly, could win you some well deserved bragging rights, and maybe even a little cash. Or at least be made into a drinking game. Follow these guidelines and it’s smooth sailing…

1) The more they have, the less they’ll get. Know your history. Do a little research. If someone’s nominated and they already have two Oscars, they’re a long shot. You’ve got someone who won two years back-to-back like Tom Hanks or Spencer Tracy, chances are he’s not going to win another anytime soon. Jodie Foster, Denzel Washington, and Hilary Swank are other underdogs.

2) If someone’s playing someone “different,” they’re a heavy favorite. This can be someone in a wheelchair, with a mental or physical handicap, a homosexual, whatever. Tom Hanks got a Best Actor award for Forrest Gump. Daniel Day-Lewis played a character who had cerebral palsy and got an Oscar. There’s also Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, Charlize Theron in Monster. The Academy is afraid of offending minorities, and if an actor playing a character with some sort of disability isn’t at least nominated, race wars and picketing abound the next morning. This year, gay is the new retarded.

3) If the film came out during or after September, it’ll probably win. American Beauty, Million Dollar Baby, and Titanic all came out in the fall. Movie studios tend to inundate you with so much crap that even something that’s crappy in a different way will somehow seem better. Misdirection: watch out for it…

4) Comebacks and sympathy points always get a nod at least. Michael Caine in Cider House Rules, Jack Palance in City Slickers, and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond are some examples of this rule in action. It goes the other way too. Paul Newman’s nomination for Road to Perdition and Burt Reynolds’ for Boogie Nights didn’t pay off.

5) Epics usually win Best Picture. Gladiator, Schindler’s List, Return of the King, Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With the Wind. Check it out.

6) For Christ’s sake—don’t ignore the buzz. If you hear about a movie every ten minutes, there’s a big hint for you.


Place Your Bets!

Best Picture

-Brokeback Mountain

-Capote

-Crash

-Good Night, and Good Luck

-Munich

Who should win: Without a doubt, Good Night, and Good Luck. It’s a classy and intelligent movie. A great story that complemented the solid, but not over-the-top, performances and found the perfect balance between the two. Which is exactly why it won’t win.

Who will win: Brokeback Mountain. It’s an epic, it opened around Christmas, it’s two main characters are gay, and you can’t so much as turn on a TV without hearing about the damned thing. Brokeback Mountain wasn’t a bad movie. It just wasn’t the best.


Best Actor

-Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

-Terrance Howard, Hustle and Flow

-Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain

-Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line

-David Straithairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

Who should win: Joaquin Phoenix was a great Johnny Cash, and the fact that he sang is also in his corner. He won’t win because Jamie Foxx won last year playing the same type of role.

Who will win: Either Heath Ledger or Phillip Seymour Hoffman. They’re both playing gay characters and there’s a lot of buzz around both films. But wouldn’t it be so cute if Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal got to win together? Awwwww…


Best Actress

-Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents

-Felicity Huffman, Transamerica

-Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice

-Charlize Theron, North Country

-Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Who should win: Reese Witherspoon. I can’t stand Reese Witherspoon. She traded the makings of a great career and decided to make shitty date movies instead. But watching her in Walk the Line made me forget the words Legally Blonde. She can still act and she can sing.

Who will win: Reese Witherspoon. Theron already got her ugly girl Oscar. Keira Knightley’s still a little green, and fuck Judi Dench. Witherspoon’s only worry is that Felicity Huffman played a transsexual.


Best Supporting Actor

-George Clooney, Syriana

-Matt Dillon, Crash

-Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man

-Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain

-William Hurt, A History of Violence

Who should win: George Clooney. He got fat for his role in Syriana and grew a Guantanamo beard. Watching Syriana and then Batman and Robin and you’ll see just how far the man’s come.

Who will win: It’s a toss up. Depending on how well Brokeback Mountain does throughout the night could either help or hurt Jake Gyllenhaal. It would be really dreamy if he and Ledger won, but Clooney’s going to give the little rapscallion a run for his money. Clooney’s also up for Best Director, so his chances of going home with an Oscar are better than fair. It’s just a matter of which category he wins.


Best Supporting Actress

-Amy Adams, Junebug

-Catherine Keener, Capote

-Frances McDormand, North Country

-Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener

-Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

Who should win: I’m pulling for Catherine Keener myself. She turns in consistently solid performances and rarely gets recognized for them.

Who will win: That’s a toughie. This is usually one of the first awards handed out and it usually goes to the dark horse. I’m expecting Amy Adams to win. Frances McDormand already has an Oscar for Fargo, but it’s too soon to tell. If Michelle Williams wins, that could put the Brokeback Boys in trouble so keep on your toes.


Best Director

-George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck

-Paul Haggis, Crash

-Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

-Bennett Miller, Capote

-Steven Spielberg, Munich

Who should win: Both Clooney and Lee made damn fine-looking films. I won’t call bullshit if either one of them wins.

Who will win: Spielberg’s already packing, so that clears the way for Clooney and Lee. But if I did have to pick one, I’d say Clooney. Brokeback’s a shoe-in for Best Picture.

Let’s not forget those from this year who got shafted. Christopher Nolan’s direction for Batman Begins and Stephen Gaghan’s work in Syriana were worthy. Syriana deserves the Best Picture Oscar. Sin City deserved something for visual effects, but the m\largely geriatric Academy is known for its neglect in this area.

Normally, I’m content to hear who won the next day. For the better part of four hours you’re watching awards accepted for categories like Best Basket Weaving in a Documentary. And the musical numbers are murder. But this year, Jon Stewart is hosting, which makes up for more than a few things.

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