Well, boys and girls, just like that Oscar season has come and gone, but thankfully for us blogers and journalists, the night was not only pretty entertaining, it had a few surprises in store as well, and they bode well for some young filmmakers.Foremost among them are the so-called ‘Three Amigos’: Guillermo del Torro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Alfonso Cuaron. del Torro’s Pan’s Labyrinth didn’t win the Best Foreign Language Oscar, as most prognosticator’s predicted, but did walk away with awards for makeup, art direction, and cinematography. And the profitability of that film, combined with del Torro’s nomination for original screenplay, will make him a very hot commodity in Hollywood for the next few years. I expect an artist of his caliber to take advantage of the opportunities.
Inarritu, similarly, failed to win the Best Picture Oscar that many (including yours truly) had expected, but has built steadily on the success of his first film, Amores Perros, both critically and in box office. He faces a bigger challenge than his counterparts in that his next film really has to break away from the fractured narrative that has become his signature, in large part because of a feud with writer Guillerrmo Arriaga (whom I also expect big things from following his nomination for Original Screenplay). And Babel did walk away with a richly deserved award for composer Gustavo Santaolalla.
Cuaron has had the most success coming into the night, having proved himself capable of handling big budgets with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and receiving his second nomination as a writer for Children of Men after a previous nod for Y Tu Mama Tambien. But Men was the least recognized among the three films, the least profitable by a lot, and was robbed of an award for Emmanuel Lubezki’s brilliant cinematography, which instead went to Guillermo Navarro for Pan’s Labyrinth as a consolation prize for losing the Foreign Language Oscar. Navarro’s work was very, very good, but contained nothing like the long, sustained takes in Men that were so brilliantly effective. Still, I’m guessing that Children of Men will find a Shawshank-like following on video. Cuaron already has several projects lined up, but my guess is his choices will be even broader as esteem for this film grows over the next few years.
Of course, the big winner for the night was The Departed, which took home awards for Director, Editor, Adapted Screenplay, and Picture. Director was expected. Most thought Editor would go to Babel‘s Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione, but I, for one, was just as happy to see Thelma Schoonmaker’s work take the award. She made that two-and-a-half hour movie feel like a freight train with its intensity and suspense, and it only seems fitting that if they were going to recognize Marty for the first time, she ought to get one too. William Monohan was also generally considered a lock for the screenplay. But I think Best Picture was the real surprise.
Now, The Departed was the only nominee to break $100 million domestic box office, and that doesn’t hurt (Babel would have been the lowest grossing Best Picture in many years). But after picking up the editing and screenplay awards, I felt like it had some momentum, and that definitely carried it through. And I really, really like The Departed, but I still feel- personally, mind you- that it lacked the thematic complexity of Raging Bull or even Goodfellas.
The other big coup was Alan Arkin’s win over Eddie Murphy in the Supporting Actor race. It’s generally known that Murphy isn’t an industry favorite (he’s often seen as difficult to work with, and as more concerned with his paycheck than the quality of his work), and that image of him is no doubt confirmed by reports that he stormed out of the awards right after losing. Far be it from me to judge a person’s graciousness in losing (I’d be a sore loser myself, if I hadn’t WON my Oscar pool), but it does seem relevant to any discussion of Murphy’s character that he missed out on performances by his co-stars and Jennifer Hudson’s win for Supporting Actress.
So all in all, not a bad year. I was glad to see some awards recognition for sci-fi and fantasy (Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth), and happier still to see Scorcese walk off with his statue. Maybe now he can afford to get his eyebrows dyed to match his hair. Of course, with Zodiac opening next week, it’s time to start talking about next year’s race. Any early favorites for Best Picture?