I have only seen 9 films in the theatre this entire year, and at least half have been children’s movies. And the rest (except 1) have been low-budget indie films. I was briefly disturbed by the thought that within my meagre lot of movie going, the actors I’ve seen most often on the big screen are Steve Coogan and Shirley Henderson. If you’re wondering who those people are, don’t worry. It just means that 1) you’re not British and 2) you don’t watch movies with such a low budget that they have to hire funky-looking and -sounding European actors who won’t insist on SAG scale salaries. In comparison, I haven’t seen a single movie starring any major celebrity. In fact when I learned Denzel Washington (none of whose films I’ve seen) is America’s top actor, I confused him with Laurence Fishburne, whom I have seen in School Daze and The Matrix. So that said, based on what I have actually seen in 2006 (and yes, two of the movies were actually from 2005, but I saw them in 2006), here are my choices for the top Oscar categories:
Best picture: Casino Royale This was the only major film I saw, but it deserves all the props it’s been getting. It looked like the James Bond line of movies was going down the drain, and since the mess that was Die Another Day, I didn’t want to waste my time on anything labelled James Bond ever again. But everyone I knew insisted this movie was different, and it was. It was a harsher James Bond than I’ve ever seen before, but I like it a lot better than pretty boy Pierce Bosnan miraculously flying through the air to catch jet planes and Halle Berry as a man with a vagina.
Best actor: Steve Martin in the Pink Panther. I loved the Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers as a child, and I was honestly dreading the remake. But Neil never saw the originals, he wanted to see this, and he thought it was one of the funniest movies he’s ever seen. And in the course of it, I watched Steve Martin steal the role away and erase my fond memories of Peter Sellers. Steve Martin was not only funny, but he managed to give Inspector Clouseau some depth of character. Maybe it was good scriptwriting, but my award still goes to Steve Martin.
Best actress: No actress impressed me so no actress is getting this award
Best screenplay (original): Hoodwinked! was pretty clever movie that turns the story of Little Red Riding Hood into a film noir cartoon. Both Neil and I loved it, and a movie that can be compelling and funny for all ages is an excellent movie indeed.
Best foreign film: Borat. I’m not even sure it is foreign film, but it pretends to be. So I’ll pretend it is, and give it this award.
Best screenplay (adaptation): Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. They said no one could turn that book into a movie, but somehow they did, even if it did include a huge plastic uterus Steve Coogan was expected to emote in upside down while being hosed.
Best cinematography: The Matador. A totally forgotten indie film that takes your expectations and subtly surprises you by doing something else. And it has beautiful shots of Spain.
Best soundtrack: Curious George. I don’t even like Jack Johnson but I totally enjoyed his music in this movie.
Best costumes: Marie Antoinette. There’s not a whole lot of good to be said for this movie, but it was fun to watch and the costumes were awesome.
Best documentary: Who Killed the Electric Car? Ok, I’m cheating here, since I haven’t actually seen this movie, since I was initially turned off by some of the political posturing, but I am planning to see it soon. I am frustrated and puzzled that in our innovative, capitalism-driven country we have such a limited choice of alternative-fuel vehicles. If you want one of the few hybrid cars being made, you’ll have to pay top price and wait a few months to actually get it. With so much demand, as well as state requirements for lower emissions, why are American car manufacturers still pushing out SUVs and mini-vans? Unfortunately, this movie didn’t even get nominated, but Al Gore’s droning on the great global warming hysteria did.
And special award for worst movie: Barnyard. I don’t know where these creators learned about animals, but I always thought it was the girl cows who have the udders. The boy cows (commonly known as bulls) have something else swinging around down there. In the context of a strange art film with multiple contexts, the gender juxtoposition might have been ok. But this was a cartoon, and it also included the cows’ vegan farmer who had to be kicked in the head a lot by the mule. If you haven’t seen it, just skip it. Even in my short list, there are far better films to see.
I haven’t seen too many movies this year, either, but one of them was The Queen, and yes, Helen Mirren deserves every award she’s getting for her terrific work as Elizabeth II. Her co-star Michael Sheen also deserves some kind of nod for his very fun turn as PM Tony Blair.