Oscars — Writing and Acting Etc.

Just a few more comments about the Oscar nominations–because I can’t stop myself.

First, in the best foreign language film category, I would be remiss as a Canadian (and an avid movie-goer) if I didn’t mention the film Water, by Deepa Mehta.

Ms. Mehta had a lot of trouble making this film. She was kicked out of India (where it was filmed) more than once, I think, and picketed a number of times because of its controversial subject — the treatment of widows in the Hindu culture. The movie is set in the 1930’s — which is not that long ago — and I think this is a film every woman should see. But while its subject is serious and sad, the film isn’t all darkness and depression. It really has a lot of hope and humor, too. (and even a little romance.)

I was super annoyed last year at whomever it is in Canada who picks which film to put forward for the Academy Awards. (It’s my understanding that each country can make one official entry to this category.) Last year, Canada put forward the French language film, C.R.A.Z.Y — which didn’t get a nomination and I was angry that Water hadn’t been put forward in its place. (Don’t get me wrong, C.R.A.Z.Y. is a good film, too. I saw both at the 2005 TIFF, but Water is better.) What I didn’t understand is that Water wasn’t released in the US until 2006, so couldn’t be put forward last year. Phew. At least it was put forward, now, and got the nomination it deserves. With the other great films in this category, I doubt Water will win… But at least it’s getting some well-deserved recognition.

Because I’m a writer, albeit not a screenwriter, I should also talk a bit about the writing awards. (Always listed at the very bottom of the nominations…. like the writers don’t really matter. What’s up with that???)

“Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” is up for best adapted screenplay. Huh? I loved this movie, but don’t get this nomination, at all. To me, it’s like nominating Survivor for best writing at the Emmys. Sasha Baron Cohen is clever… but really, how much of this film was “written” other than his stand up-ish stuff. Doesn’t seem right to me.

Of the other films in this category: “Children of Men”, “The Departed”, “Little Children”, “Notes on a Scandal”…. I’d have to go with Little Children. I know I’m not a screenwriter, but I’m not sure if adapting a foreign language screenplay (Infernal Affairs) into an English language screenplay is all that much “adapting” compared to adapting a complex novel. It bugged me a few years ago that Cameron Crowe (who I’m a big fan of, generally) took a writing credit on Vanilla Sky. I’ve seen the original, Open Your Eyes, and thought he should have taken a translation credit, not a writing one… I admit I haven’t read the novel Little Children , (but would like to), but this was a very interesting film and I loved the way the screenwriter integrated some narration into it in a clever way. Children of Men and Notes on a Scandal were both excellent films as well, but I want Little Children to win. (It won’t though. Too dark. Didn’t make enough money.)

While I’m talking about Little Children, it would be amazing if Jackie Earle Haley won for best supporting actor. A creepy performance to be sure. But amazing. It was driving me nuts while I was watching this movie, trying to figure out where I’d seen him before. Turns out he hasn’t worked for a while. The two films I remember him in were the original Bad News Bears, 1978, where he played the love interest for Tatum O’Neil and then in Breaking Away, 1979. If you haven’t ever seen Breaking Away, rent it. It’s worth it to see a very young Dennis Quaid, in what I believe was his first film performance. But a great film in other ways, too.

The original screenplay nominations are: “Babel” Written by Guillermo Arriaga; “Letters from Iwo Jima”, Screenplay by Iris Yamashita, Story by Iris Yamashita & Paul Haggis; “Little Miss Sunshine” Written by Michael Arndt; “Pan’s Labyrinth” Written by Guillermo del Toro; “The Queen” Written by Peter Morgan.

I would be happy if any one of Babel, Little Miss Sunshine or Pan’s Labyrinth win this category. I think Little Miss Sunshine deserves recognition because it seemed so tightly written to me — particularly for a comedy where often scenes are added just to be funny, but don’t advance the story. I want to see it again to study it more, to think about it rather than just enjoying it… But the other two were more complex and also amazing, so I’m torn… I’ll be ticked if either The Queen, or Letters from Iwo Jima wins…

Okay, I promise to stop talking about the Oscars for a while.

  6 comments for “Oscars — Writing and Acting Etc.

  1. January 26, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Keep talking Oscars… I love discussing them… but do realize I occasionally bore family and friends to tears with Oscar talk.

  2. January 27, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Yeah, the whole Boar thing annoyed me. The film was brilliant, but adapted screenplay? Huh?

    I’m glad Jennifer Hudson won the Golden Globe and is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the Oscars but saying she’s a supporting acctress is somewhat absurd.

  3. January 28, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    I know it’s a long shot, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE anyhow. I loved that movie, and felt, as you did, that it was tightly and beautifully written.

  4. January 29, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    I hadn’t heard anything about Water when it caught my eye in the foreign films section of my local Blockbusters (it’s not a real Blockbusters mind you… copyright and brand infringement laws seem to lose their effect somewhere in the Caribbean sea). I watched it three times that weekend. That’s how good it was. Then I blogged about it. So the director is Canadian? Too cool! I kind of remember seeing something Canadian in the credits now that you mention it…

    And I’m totally with you on Little Miss Sunshine – it was one of the more memorable movies I’ve seen this year, and one I’d see again.

  5. January 31, 2007 at 1:24 am

    Hey Maureen, I read Little Children, but haven’t seen the movie yet. I don’t think it’s been close to me yet. There are craft things I like about Little children, but I wasn’t drawn into it like I like to be. I really felt like I was reading a man writing a woman rather than just getting into the character. But what do I know. It’s a national best seller. I guess I didn’t like all the different pov’s. again, I realize I’m being critical of a book that is wonderful in many ways…kind of like being critical of the top five Olympian figure skaters. They’re all good, but some are just a smidge better.

  6. January 31, 2007 at 1:26 am

    Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention how much I like your blog!

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