Please Don't Make Me See Babel
Will it become this year's Crash?
Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007
The Field Shapes Up:This year's race for the best picture Oscar is starting to resemble the 2008 presidential campaign: so many contenders but no one compelling choice.
By now, you know that Dreamgirls pulled in the most nominations—eight—but was snubbed for best picture and best director. It is fascinating to imagine how this news is being received at Paramount headquarters, where Babel (from the studio's Vantage label) got seven nominations, including the big ones.
All has turned out well for studio chief Brad Grey. He got to issue a press release proclaiming that his studio led with 19 nominations, knowing that his friends at his DreamWorks "label" were left to lick their gaping wounds.
Yes, this was a bad day for DreamWorks (though not for composer Henry Krieger, who appears to be the single most nominated individual, with three best song nods for Dreamgirls).
Clint Eastwood, having been snubbed by the Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, the Producers Guild, and the Screen Actors Guild, had to be at least a little surprised to be running another victory lap with his best director nod for Letters From Iwo Jima. "When it comes to the Academy, never overlook an old guy who can do it and do it well," chortled one voting member.
The academy showed a healthy respect for diversity. African or African-American actors got five of 20 nominations (Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Jennifer Hudson, and Djimon Hounsou). And the academy recognized all three of the three amigos—Alejandro González Iñárritu for Babel, Guillermo del Toro (for best foreign-language nominee Pan's Labyrinth), and Alfonso Cuarón for writing and editing Children of Men.
As the dust settles, little light has been shed on the eventual best picture winner. Some think that since only Babel and The Departed were nominated in the influential editing category, the race comes down to those two. Others point out that a contingent of academy voters hates Babel and dreads nothing more than seeing it become this year's Crash. Another group seems inclined to go only so far for Scorsese—and especially for this movie, which seems to have a number of endings.
So, if you need help with this year's office pool, don't call us. There are a lot of factions out there—making for mathematical possibilities too weird to contemplate. (link)
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.