Monday, February 19, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Techs

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

Next up: the technical categories.

Children of Men
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
United 93

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. They preferred the multiple arcs of Babel and the...whatever the hell happened in Blood Diamond to Brick and Letters.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: A History of Violence; 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; 2003: Kill Bill, Vol. 1; 2002: The Hours; 2001: Memento.

Why These Five? Brick was a dense mystery with potentially confusing dialogue, so the editing went a long way to making it as comprehensible as it was. The Departed paralleled the DiCaprio and Damon halves of the story without being too regimented. Iwo Jima and United 93 were sad, fatalistic tales that nevertheless played as alive and breathing. The pacing on Children of Men left audiences breathless for long stretches, with the most important cuts being those that weren't taken.

Who Wins? I still can't get some of those action sequences in Children of Men out of my head, which makes this a terribly close race. Ultimately I felt the work accomplished on United 93 was so closely tied to the reasons it succeeded -- the heart-stopping tension involved in a story where we know exactly what happened; the frantic and frustrating cross-cutting while the plane's still on the ground; the canny way the voices and intentions of the passengers become clear among the chaos. An incredible accomplishment.

Children of Men
The Fountain
Marie Antoinette
Pan's Labyrinth
Stranger Than Fiction

Matches with Oscar: 1/5. Yikes. The Academy's on my wavelength re: Pan's Labyrinth but not much else. I mentioned in the Oscar Symposium how weak the Academy's art direction choices were, particularly compared to the other tech categories.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Sin City; 2004: The Life Aquatic; 2003: Kill Bill, Vol. 1; 2002: Far From Heaven; 2001: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Why These Five? Pan's Labyrinth is here for those grisly subterranean fantasy realms. The Fountain for not only that golden orb of heaven but also for pulling off those Spanish and Mexican locations on a limited budget. Marie Antoinette started with the majesty of Versailles and really pulled the walls in on Mariet's pretty prison. I found Stranger Than Fiction's minimalist sets to have surprising variety (note the mathematical precision of Harold's environment contrasted with the gray emptiness of Katharine Eiffel's). Children of Men painted all the way to the edges, creating a brand new world and then set it to crumbling.

Who Wins? Children of Men's dying police state.

The Devil Wears Prada
Marie Antoinette
A Prairie Home Companion

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. They liked Curse of the Golden Flower and The Queen. I liked A Prairie Home Companion and Shortbus.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Sin City; 2004: The Aviator; 2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King; 2002: Catch Me If You Can; 2001: The Royal Tenenbaums

Why These Five?: Dreamgirls is kind of a no-brainer. A Prairie Home Companion had all those cool cowboy outfits, Meryl Streep's Loretta Lynn on the High Seas getup, and Virginia Madsen's breathtaking white coat. Shortbus made the discerning choice to have cast members be naked a whole lot, which is appreciated, but when they were clothed -- Lindsay Beamish's bondage gear, Sook Yin Lee's dowdy professional look -- it was pretty inspired. Both Prada and Marie took subjects whose clothes defined so much of them, which made for big expectations that were more than lived up to.

Who Wins? Tough call between the queen and the editor-in-chief, but I give The Devil Wears Prada degree of difficulty points for being subject to closer scrutiny for being a contemporary picture.

Marie Antoinette
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest

Matches with Oscar: 1/3. Once again, we agree on Pan's but nothing else.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Sin City; 2004: Hellboy; 2003: Monster; 2002: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; 2001: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Why These Three? Jack Sparrow's eyeliner came to play for the second film in a row, not to mention the rogue's gallery of pirates, witch doctors, and rampaging islanders. Marie paints a gallery of pretty and bored faces. Pan's Labyrinth...well, Pan's Labyrinth created the Pale Man.

Who Wins? Pan's Labyrinth created the Pale Man.

Phillip Glass - Notes on a Scandal
Alberto Iglesias - Volver
Nathan Johnson - Brick
Clint Mansell - The Fountain
Gustavo Santaolalla - Babel

Matches with Oscar: 2/5. The Acadamy liked Thomas Newman (The Good German), Javier Navarrete (Pan's Labyrinth), and Alexandre Desplat (The Queen) better than Iglesias, Johnson, or Mansell.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Mark Isham (Crash); 2004: Marcelo Zarvos (The Door in the Floor); 2003: Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King); 2002: Phillip Glass (The Hours); 2001: Angelo Badalamenti (Mulholland Dr.)

Why These Five? Santaolalla -- Oscar winner for Brokeback Mountain -- continues his streak of sprawling and memorable work. Same for Iglesias, who once again teams successfully with Pedro Almodovar. Once again, I find myself on the same side as the divisive Phillip Glass, who also delivered his signature strong, plinky work on The Illusionist. Nathan Johnson, much like the film he served, took traditional noir themes and modernized them in a much more interesting way than the work that Thomas Newman got nominated for on The Good German. Finally, I can't find enough good things to say about Clint Mansell's score for The Fountain...

Who Wins? ...but I guess I better try. I f you're ever looking for music to ride your fellow conquistadors into battle or float up to a higher plane of consciousness by, this would be your choice. It gets hardcore up at the end there, too. Sneaks up on you a bit. Then shoves you, mile-a-minute up into this rapturous crescendo. Uh, in other words: Clint Mansell.


adam k. said...


Would you REALLY give the Crash score the Rezzie over Brokeback Mountain?

I concede that Crash had (among its few virtues) effective and hypnotic music, but... BROKEBACK. MOUNTAIN. Need I hum it for you?

Joe R. said...

Looking back after a year...maybe. For as much as I hated Crash, I really did enjoy the music. I liked the Brokeback score very's tough to say.