I didn’t participate in J.T.’s “Who Influenced You?” thread yesterday, not because I don’t
have tons of people I should be on my knees thanking every day for their
inspirations. But really,
it’s the meme thing. There’s
just something soul-killing about it.
Look, the whole reason I
started writing story structure articles to begin with was that I just didn’t
have anything more to say about myself.
But if I HAD participated in the meme that was or maybe
still is going around, “Twenty-Five Things You Don’t Know About Me”, this would
have been one of them.
I win Oscar pools.
I don’t gamble, hate cards, don’t buy lottery tickets, am
bored senseless in casinos… but over the years I have won thousands of dollars
on casual Oscar pools, and have made other friends who took my picks a few
hundred here and there, too. And let me be clear – the vast majority of these Oscar pools that I've won have been at parties IN HOLLYWOOD, where I was betting against other screenwriters, directors, actors, agents, DPs, editors, production designers – many of whom were arguably more clued in than I was.
actually won my first Oscar Derby when I was sixteen years old and entered a
contest in the local paper.
I think that’s young enough to count as evidence of a genetic
Or maybe it was just foreshadowing.
So I was going to post another story structure article
today, but hell, it’s Oscar weekend, and why should we at Murderati be exempt? I bet you all want to dish. And myself, I’m curious if this
talent I have was mostly a product of living in Southern California and just
having it all in the air.
This year I am NOT in California and in fact just got back from out of
the country, so I don’t feel at all plugged in.
In other words, no promises!
All that disclaimed, let’s take a look, here. And here’s a link to a printable
Oscar ballot, for your own purposes and so that I don’t have to list all the
Best Picture. I’m not going out on a limb to say that SLUMDOG
MILLIONAIRE is a juggernaut.
But if you’ll remember, I raved about it the second I saw it.
SLUMDOG’S Danny Boyle, whom I’ve loved since the outrageous
Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for MILK. And anyone who hasn’t seen this one – what are you
waiting for? Bio pics are
about the hardest genre of all to pull off, and this one lets you live this
history AND a wrenching, uplifting story at the same time.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for SLUMDOG. I understand perfectly why
Indians would take offense at the character changes he made to Vikas Swarup’s
novel. This is a
quintessentially Hollywood film, stereotypes and all. But as Hollywood films go, it’s magic.
(Note how Oscar ballots don’t list the names of the
nominated screenwriters. The
“Big Six” Oscar ballots don’t list the screenwriting categories at all. Now, aren’t you glad you’re an
Haven’t seen THE READER yet – that’s tonight. Didn’t particularly care for her performance in
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (and the film – not recommended!!) No matter what
she does in READER, and no matter how much I love her, and I truly do, I cannot
in my wildest imagining believe that she even comes close to Meryl Streep’s
literally breathtaking performance in DOUBT. But if you’re voting to win, that’s the buzz. (I heard someone put it
perfectly, in Hollywood terms:
“The movie’s about the Holocaust. How can she lose?”)
Here’s the real race.
If I were voting my heart, Sean Penn, hands down. He didn’t play Harvey Milk – he
became Harvey Milk. I
completely forgot that was Sean Penn up there. But Mickey Rourke was heartbreaking in THE
WRESTLER, and Hollywood loves a comeback. And Frank Langella was truly mesmerizing in
FROST/NIXON, and as another prognosticator put it, Rourke and Penn have the
same fan base so they might split the vote and give Langella the edge (these
are the things you REALLY have to consider when you’re handicapping the
Oscars). Every one of these
men deserves an Oscar for his performance. I say Penn, but my guess is as good as yours,
Best Supporting Actress: Here’s a rule of thumb for voting this category: “Youngest, cutest.” Sad, but true. The race is between Viola Davis
and Penelope Cruz.
Both stellar, Oscar-worthy performances in polar opposite roles. I hear people saying, “Viola
might get it because of Obama.”
This is the kind of talk you hear for months around Hollywood, really,
it’s fascinating. I’d
love to see Viola, but Penelope was better than I’ve ever seen her (and I’m not
really a fan) in VICKI CHRISTINA BARCELONA. I say Penelope gets it.
Best Supporting Actor: And this is no race at all. Heath Ledger, and it’s really just too sad.
Now, if you’re going for the whole ballot, there are a couple of other good bets I
can give you.
SLUMDOG will probably sweep, so you can’t go too far wrong
just marking it down for all the tech categories, sound, editing, effects, it’s
nominated for. It won’t WIN in all
of them, probably, but if you’re playing to win, it’s still your best bet.
WALL-E – unbeatable.
almost always wins along with director. Chris Dickens for SLUMDOG, in case you were thinking
of voting for something else.
This is the one that I think has a chance of going elsewhere. This might be the one big award
that BENJAMIN BUTTON gets.
But that’s a lot about my personal taste.
Best Song: I’d
go for the one from WALL-E, but haven’t heard it.
Art Direction, Makeup, Visual Effects – SLUMDOG’S out of the
running for all of these and it’s going to be a battle between BENJAMIN BUTTON
and THE DARK KNIGHT. As a matter
of fact I’m most curious about these production awards. I found BUTTON a very
unsatisfying movie but the look of it was just stupefyingly lovely, and I’d like
to see it rewarded for that.
There’s sort of a backlash against the film, though, a lot of grumbling,
and a lot of Hollywood talkers think THE DARK KNIGHT hasn’t been recognized
Documentary feature, short feature, animated short: the handicapping rule of thumb here is
– Is there a Holocaust movie? Vote
for that one. This
year I know nothing about any of them but I have heard people rave about MAN ON
WIRE, for whatever that’s worth.
So there you go.
Not all-inclusive, but if you don’t generally have luck at these Oscar
pools, it might help you. Or – not. That's why they call it gambling.
Me, I actually have other plans tomorrow night, so I’ll be
speeding through the show on DVR later.
If you’re not at an actual Oscar party, and drinking heavily, it’s the only way to get through
I do have to say that I’m grateful for some truly
exceptional films and performances this year. I can’t remember when I was last excited about so many
films in a single year – DOUBT, SLUMDOG, MILK, FROST/NIXON, THE VISITOR, THE
WRESTLER, GRAN TORINO (but I definitely don’t want to get into THAT debate
If you haven’t seen some of these, do yourself a favor and
go. Sometimes Hollywood just gets it right.
Okay, people – let’s hear it. Your favorite films? Writing?
Who should win, and who do you think WILL win?
Are there any other Oscar pool pros out there?
And Monday, we can talk about the clothes.