Quick Final Oscar Notes

The Oscars are tomorrow, and I’ll generally stand by my earlier picks, with the following caveat: Call me crazy, but I have the weirdest feeling that Letters from Iwo Jima might walk with the Best Picture award. This will happen if the voters felt like voting for Babel is too much like voting for Crash last year (a vibe I’m getting), if they don’t decide to match up Scorsese’s almost-certain directing nod with a Best Picture nod for The Departed (and I don’t think they will), and if they can’t bring themselves to vote for Little Miss Sunshine, because it’s a comedy, and everyone knows voting for a comedy for Best Picture is like throwing your vote away. At which point they say “screw it, I’m voting for Eastwood’s flick” and they’re done. This could really happen this year. God help me, I think it just might.

So: Letters from Iwo Jima for Best Picture. I swear, if it happens, I’m gonna look like a goddamn genius.

21 Comments on “Quick Final Oscar Notes”

  1. Ken Jennings has other arguments against voting for Little Miss Sunshine. I still haven’t seen it, but if he’s comparing it to Forrest Gump, that’s a low blow.

    David, are you humbugging because you actually expected V for Vendetta to get attention, or simply because you think it deserves it?

  2. I don’t know, John, I can’t back you up on this. Iwo Jima, despite the critical love, hasn’t even done $10 million box office yet. Blockbusters don’t often win Best Picture, but neither do certifiable flops (The Last Emperor being the only one I can think of). I’m going to say it’s neck and neck between Departed and Babel for Best Pic, with the only viable dark horse being Sunshine. Yeah, it’s a comedy, but it’s also The Little Indie That Could, and that gets a lot of goodwill in the business.

  3. “Blockbusters don’t often win Best Picture, but neither do certifiable flops (The Last Emperor being the only one I can think of).”

    The Last Emperor wasn’t a flop; it had a $25 million budget (or thereabouts) and about $43 million in domestic box office. Adjusted for inflation it had a substantially higher domestic gross than last year’s winner Crash (although Crash was substantially cheaper to produce, at $6.5 million).

    I would dispute that Iwo can be considered a flop, either. My understanding is that it was never anticipated to make a large amount of money domestically, but would be making the bulk of its money overseas, and so it has; it’s international cume outgrosses its domestic cume by about 4:1, meaning the movie is a solid theatrical success, given its $20 million production budget. If Flags of Our Fathers was the nominee, I think you could make a more solid “flop” argument, as it had $33 million domestic (and $65 million international) cume on a $90 million budget. But I think Iwo has performed within expectations, and that the relatively saavy Academy voters understand that.

    Having said that, I agree the smart money is between Babel and Departed. But like I said, I just have this nagging feeling. I’m most likely going to be wrong. But if I’m right, damn.

  4. I really need to get around to seeing Letters; Flags is easily the best war film I’ve yet seen.

    Though I must confess I haven’t seen all that many ‘serious’ war flicks.

  5. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, father of pangolins

    I beat my usual trend of seeing zero to one of the nominated films.

    This year we saw 2. King Kong and Little Miss Sunshine.

    Please don’t tell me King Kong doesn’t count.

  6. Cephyn:

    It’s still criminal that the Academy didn’t give Scorsese an Oscar for one of his films that didn’t suck. I made the very big mistake of seeing ‘Infernal Affairs’ – which is tighter, better acted and less miserably self-indulgent than the bloated re-make. IA also had the considerable advantage of not being disfigured by another hammy performance fromy Jack Nicholson that is unsafe to be seen by Jews, Muslims or vegetarians.

  7. I was led to understand that most of The Last Emperor‘s B.O. wasn’t racked up until after its Oscar sweep. Prior to that, it had only done $10M or so.

  8. Martin:

    About $12 million, with another $13 million post-nomination and the rest after the win. But that was part of the plan: It was a holiday-season release (it debuted just before Thanksgiving), and it was a platformed release — it didn’t get into more than 100 theaters nationwide until the second half of January, and its widest release (about 800 theaters) wasn’t until after it had won the Best Picture award. It was a classic release strategy we don’t see too much of in these days of “get it into 3,000 theaters NOW so we can sell the DVD in three months” marketing.

  9. Hmmm… risky pick, and I can’t agree with you John.


    Only 8 “foreign language” films have ever nominated for best picture, and none of them won. Letters from Iwo Jima is NOT nominated for “Best Foreign Langauge Film” in it’s stand alone category – but technically it should be. I have not seen the film, but have heard that the majority of it is in Japanese, with English subtitles.

    If it turns out you are right – I’m going to be VERY disappointed if you don’t post a picture of yourself on Whatever Monday morning, “looking like a goddamn genius”.

  10. Letters couldn’t be nominated in the Foreign Language category because of the rules for nominating foreign language features.

    See, I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. So if I fail, no one will be surprised, including me, and if I’m correct, I’ll look like an Oscar-predicting god.

  11. There’s also something else about Eastwood: It’s not his turn, and you can’t say he hasn’t been getting the Oscar love…

    As for the foreign language Oscar (and those rules are a fraking joke), if Pan’s Labyrinth loses to genre snobbery then the Academy is officially operating on one badly damaged brain cell.

  12. For people who like movies, not just the actors in them, “Letters…. should win. (I have a strange nagging feeling that it will win too) “Flags…. is a very fine film. My wife even stayed awake for the whole thing, on DVD. Last movie she was able to manage this feat – “Crash”. Eastwood is making movies right now that are very tasty, like aged whiskey. May have to try a lot of bad stuff before finding the good.
    Having said that, Alec Baldwin is the man in my books, but he is kind of stuck competing with younger actors. “Departed” is entertaining in that men behaving badly kind of way, intelligent action movie.

  13. More nitpicking: IIRC, there was actually a lawsuit that seriously delayed the release of The Last Emperor in the US. Can’t recall if it was over the running time (which accounts for why the international/DVD release is a whole 50 minutes longer), or what. I do recall reading about it in 1987 and being pissed because I was eager to see the movie (to hear the Sakamoto soundtrack especially). So if there were any kind of release strategy planned I can only imagine it got derailed. (Who knows, maybe that’s what the dispute was over.)

    All I know is, if any movie needs a serious special edition DVD, it’s The Last Emperor. The only DVD that’s out looks and sounds like ass. Worse than VHS!

  14. Oscars. Hmph. As bad as the Superbowl.I swear, if India and Pakistan went nuclear on Oscar Night, the networks wouldn’t even interrupt the pre-show; they’d just put a crawl across the bottom of the screen promising details after the awards ceremony.

  15. Ew… The Academy is now upgraded from ‘brain dead’ to ‘brain scooped out by that serial killer on Heroes in 0.7 seconds’.

    Scorsese get the pity Oscar he should have had twenty-seven years ago, and I’ll swallow that.

    And then, to add insult to injury – the give another hack remake of a vastly superior foreign film because Americans are too retarded to handle subtitles is handed BEST FILM.

    Oh, and I was right about Pan’s Labyrynth getting snubbed for best foreign language film. Damn it.

  16. Oh, and I was right about Pan’s Labyrynth getting snubbed for best foreign language film. Damn it.

    I think Ken Levine summed it up pretty well:
    I’d be outraged that PAN’S LABYRINTH didn’t win Best Foreign Film if I had seen any of the other nominees.

  17. WizardDru:

    I have seen them all, and I still don’t get why Pan’s Labyrinth didn’t win – apart from the blindingly obvious one: It’s far too ambiguous, unsentimentally brutal and a fraking child dies without a sufficient amount of sentimental uplifht.

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