Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

The Academy Awards… Literally the “Superbowl” of the entertainment industry. Even Las Vegas is taking bets on who will win each category. On March 26th, those in Hollywood not attending will surely be glued to the television to watch the glamorous receive their awards. Now many things about the night will be predictable. Roberto Benigni (last years “best actor” winner) will certainly run amok again, babble incoherently in Italian, attempting to make good on his threat to “make love” to the audience. Winners will be rudely cut off by the orchestra while trying desperately to finish their acceptance speech. However, there is one thing that no one can accurately predict… Who will win?

Having spent some time studying the Hollywood frame of mind, I will attempt to arm you, my fellow southerners, with the information to need to make your own Oscar predictions. First off, you probably know by now that you may be at a disadvantage. If you aren’t close enough from the mega-multiplex theaters, chances are you’ve only seen a fraction of the films up for nominations (if any). This won’t stop you from making good educated guesses, however. Here’s a guide that may help you follow the ceremony and predict your winners…

General facts to get you started: The nickname “Oscars” originated when a woman once commented that the bald-headed, Academy Awards statue resembled her “Uncle Oscar.” Henceforth, a legend was born. Also the winners of the previous year usually present the same award for the following year. That’s why the producers probably fear the antics of Roberto Benigni. He will be presenting so no telling what he will do. If you’ve seen the trailers/previews of the film, it will give you a good indication of what the film is like. They often ruin the endings and give you a good idea of what the performances were like. They aren’t a substitute, but they may help you decide. Don’t listen to the numerous hype blurbs like “so and so says it’s the BEST FILM OF THE YEAR.” Those are usually solicited or taken out of context.

Now here’s the guide that might help you make some smart choices for the big-category nominees… Best Picture. The Safe Bet: “American Beauty.” It’s probably the most favored with its strong cast, big earnings and the most total nominations. “The Cider House Rules” was the weakest of the bunch, plus it had a controversial, pro-choice message that probably turned some voters off. On the flip side, it’s strong box-office showing and high pressure awards campaign might sway a good many voters. “The Insider” was great but didn’t make a strong box-office showing or stick firmly in voter’s minds. “The Green Mile” was an amazing, strong film, but many felt it was derivative of the director’s earlier film “The Shawshank Redemption.” The Wild Card in the bunch is “The Sixth Sense.” The unprecedented box-office hit was never expected to be nominated. It might just give “American Beauty” a run for its money.

Best Actor: The Safe Bet is a dead heat for “American Beauty’s” Kevin Spacey and “The Hurricane’s” Denzel Washington. Spacey might be a definite due to the controversy surrounding Denzel’s portrayal of real-life boxer/convict Rubin Carter. Some critics say “The Hurricane” glorifies a man who in actuality was a dangerous thug, but remember… Denzel did win the Golden Globe for this role. Russell Crowe doesn’t have much of a chance for his real-life, anti-tobacco industry character in “The Insider.” Not enough people saw the movie. Absolutely no one saw Sean Penn in “The Sweet Lowdown”, making his win the least likely. Wild Card: Richard Farnsworth in “The Straight Story.” Regardless of the poor box office showing, the aging stuntman/actor may invoke the rare sympathy win, sometimes given when an actor or filmmaker has paid his dues and might not survive to see another nomination (some say that is the reason James Coburn won the “Best Supporting Actor” award last year). Farnsworth has a remote chance of pulling this off being that he’s the oldest “Best Actor” nominee ever at the age of 79.

Best Actress: Usually a hard one to predict. Another tie between Annette Bening in “American Beauty” and Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Bening is the Safe bet mainly because “Beauty” pulled in the most money. Additionally she has been due for a big win for awhile now. Although, despite less money made, Wild Card Swank blew everyone away for her portrayal of a woman masquerading as a man in the tragic true story “Boys Don’t Cry.” Too close to call. Absolutely no one saw the other nominees, including Janet (who?) McTeer in “Tumbleweeds.” Even highly praised, critical favorites like Julianne Moore in “The End of the Affair” and Meryl Streep in “Music of the Heart” couldn’t convince the general audience to catch these movies.

Best Supporting Actor: Usually the most exciting of the categories and the most unpredictable, such is the case this year. For some reason, this seems to bring out the best performances out of the most unlikely actors. Safe Bet: Tom Cruise in Magnolia. Some praised the film, others called it a convoluted mess, but no one denies that this is Cruise’s best work ever. The weakest of the five is Michael Cain in “The Cider House Rules.” While he is good and usually wins this category, he simply doesn’t stack up to the competition. The Wild Card: Everyone else. A three way tie where anything can happen. Jude Law surprised everyone for his role as a spoiled rich playboy in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Same goes for the massive Michael Clarke Duncan in “The Green Mile.” One of the few black nominees with a surprising, tear-jerking performance as the childlike, death row inmate with the power to perform miracles. Finally, the 9 year-old Haley Joel Osment sounds like an unlikely candidate as a terrified psychic kid in “The Sixth Sense”, but he shocked everyone with his amazingly mature acting talents. Watch this category closely.
Best Supporting Actress: Usually more predictable. Safe Bet: John Voight’s daughter, Angelina Jolie in “Girl Interrupted.” She’s clearly the hands down favorite of the voters despite the bad reviews of the actual movie. “The Sixth Sense’s” Toni Collette is a long-shot as well as Chloe Sevigny in “Boys Don’t Cry”. The real Wild Card here is Catherine Keener in “Being John Malkovich”. Her funny, aloof character in this original comedy may not go unnoticed this year.

Best Director: A very competitive category which could hold a serious upset this season. Sam Mendes is the Safe Bet for his exceptional first feature “American Beauty”, but he’s new blood and may not be considered simply because he hasn’t been in the film business long enough for everyone to think he deserves it. Lasse Hallstrom doesn’t seem have a chance with the predictable story and hum-drum camera work in “Cider House Rules.” The Wild Cards take up the last three spots with incredible shows of talent. Spike Jonze for the terribly underrated “Being John Malkovich.” Everyone knows this film deserved more nominations, which is why they might make it up by awarding Jonze this win. Michael Mann certainly deserves it for “The Insider.” As does M. Night Shyamalan for the inventive “Sixth Sense.” Prepare for a potential bombshell here.

They screenplay awards are different in that they comprise of two categories. “Best Adapted Screenplay” (usually means it was a book before a movie) and “Best Original Screenplay” (written exclusively for the movie). These are the most volatile and unpredictable of the categories because of two reasons: One because of the voting system. The Academy voters primarily comprise of actors, who favor actors that write their own screenplays (example: “Good Will Hunting”), shifting the weight of the votes. Two because many voters opt to only see the film instead of actually reading the screenplays. Screenplay content is often mangled by the filmmakers in order to achieve the grand vision. Just the same, some nominated scripts are unreadable, serving as a shot by shot guide that only the director can follow. It’s a mess but most often the most deserving scripts do win. The Safe (adapted) Bet will probably be Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and the Safe (original) bet will definitely be Alan Ball’s script for “American Beauty.” The others are also very good competition, so as for wild cards, your bet is as good as mine.

The remaining categories such as “Best Editing” and “Best Sound” are incredibly difficult to predict due to their craft-specific nature. Only the experts can really tell us which was the best because they have developed the eyes and ears for that sort of critique. These are pot-luck, I recommend guessing for either A. the film with the most nominations or B. your favorite film in the category. Same goes for “Best Original Score” (music without lyrics). However keep in mind that there was a “Star Wars” film this year. Every Star Wars film in the past has won practically every technical award it was up for. Expect it a near lock in the “Visual Effects” category. On the “Documentary” and “Short film” categories, make your best guess. I usually pick the nominee with most catchy title.

The “Best Original Song” category was a bit of a controversy this year. The Academy debated on whether to include this category at all. They claimed it was because of the lack of nominee choices, but rumors suggest that the decision due to the inevitable nomination of at least one of the profanity-filled songs from the animated “South Park” motion picture. Their fears were well founded when one of the least profane songs “Blame Canada” was nominated. Every year they have the singers perform the nominated songs live on stage, but everyone is watching to see if the Academy will have enough guts to showcase the “South Park” number. Consequently, always bet on a song from a Disney animated movie. Either Tarzan or Toy Story 2. It’s almost scripture.

Biggest nomination snubs: Every year, the Academy seems to miss a few nominations that were hard to overlook. Here are a few of the films/people that probably should have been nominated: “Three Kings”… The visually stunning Gulf War movie was on many critics best of the year lists. So was the highly original “Being John Malkovich” which was expected to get a “Best Picture” nomination. The unusually exciting German suspense thriller “Run Lola Run” was passed up for “Best Foreign Film.” Its style has already been imitated and probably will continue to influence films for years to come. Director Frank Darabont received no nomination for “The Green Mile” nor did actor Jim Carry for his role as the erratic comedian, Andy Kaufman in “Man on the Moon.” This is the second year Carry has been snubbed, last year being his outstanding performance in “The Truman Show.”

Now a word about all of these other TV motion picture awards shows… Too many of them are coming out of nowhere, giving dubious adulation and claiming that their winners are good indicators of who will win an Academy Awards. Most of these are a joke to the industry and the actors mainly humor them to appease the media. The “Golden Globes” are the most notorious for boasting their Oscar influence and for taking bribes from campaigners. I say ignore those winners. In my research they are never accurate indicators of Oscar winners. Who cares what the “Foreign Press Association” thinks anyway… They gave Pia Zadora “Best Actress” back in 1981. To this day she is considered one of the worst actresses that ever lived.

Now you should be adequately armed to pick your own winners from this year’s list of contenders. I hope you’ve found this guide helpful and please remember… these are just movies. Try to have fun and don’t take it too seriously. That is, unless you’ve decided to take your chances with Vegas…

Coop’s Oscar Favorites:
This just wouldn’t be complete without declaring the nominees that I will be cheering for on March 26th. Keep in mind that these are the picks that I want to win, not the ones that I predict will win:
Best Picture: “The Sixth Sense.” Talk about an enjoyable movie that really shocked me with its scares and its style. If it wins, it will be only the second horror/thriller to win this category. The first being “Silence of the Lambs.”
Best Actor: Russell Crow in “The Insider.” I like underdogs.
Best Actress: Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry.” She’s young and an upstart refugee from “Beverly Hills 90210”, but her transformation into a male was uncanny.
Best Supporting Actor: Tie between Osment “Sixth Sense” and Duncan “Green Mile.” Osment is a child playing an adult. Duncan is an adult playing a child. Both have supernatural powers. Both were incredible. How can I be expected to choose?
Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Keener for “Malkovich.” She was hilarious.
Best Director: Spike Jonze for “Malkovich.” Another underdog, but it was my favorite movie of the year.
Adapted Screenplay: Frank Darabont “The Green Mile.” Darabont captures lightning in a bottle twice. First adapting Stephen King’s “Shawshank Redemption” now King’s latest serial novel.
Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman “Malkovich.” Some say it is the best-written comedy script ever. Unfortunately, comedies usually don’t win Oscars.
Best Visual Effects: “The Matrix.” Yes, “The Phantom Menace” will win, but even the cynical critics liked “Matrix.” Its stop-motion effects were revolutionary.

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Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…

A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

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Northern Mississippi 1932:
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Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…

My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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