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Obst’s Up-to-the-Minute, Party-Insider Predictions

As Oscar night approaches, David Edelstein and Hollywood producer Lynda Obst are discussing the race. Check back here Monday morning for reactions.

To: David Edelstein

Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2008 5:08 PM

From: Lynda Obst

Subject: RE: No Country for Good Cheer

Dear David,

It is Oscar season after all: I saw George Clooney in the flesh and Harvey Weinstein in a suit that made him look like a villain in a Batman sequel, which was not pretty. George Clooney, though, was extraordinarily pretty. I don’t remember what he was wearing except for that smile, which should be patented. It dazzled more brightly than any lighting in Bryan Lourd’s packed atelier. George’s girlfriend patiently stood by as he complimented his admirers of each gender, as if he hadn’t had them at hello.

Hollywood’s partiers, still recovering from the writers’ strike and starved for love and connectedness, clung to one another as if they needed a hug. Lourd, the renowned but low-profile host of the most coveted Friday-night Oscar celebration who was also one of the strike’s heroes, relentlessly scurrying between guild and mogul negotiators early in the crisis (he’s one of CAA’s top three honchos), was beaming. Former Paramount chairman and beloved figure Tom Freston was back from Burma and Afghanistan — his hotel having been blown up on the day after he left, he was especially relieved to be back in a restored Hollywood. I also saw the man who replaced Freston, Brad Grey, and Jennifer Aniston, who I believe no longer speak since The Break Up. Long story.

But the partiers were carefree. Every one had Oscars to celebrate. People were of two minds, either thinking that the Night Is a Snooze Because Everything Is a Lock, or Everything Is Up for Grabs Because of Potentially Split Votes. And so, onto my up-to-the-minute guesses.

Best Picture
No one would be surprised if: No Country for Old Men won. The betting pools have this as a lock, owing to overall excellence in craft and message and pitch-perfect performances and execution.

Some people would be shocked but not completely stunned if: There Will Be Blood won. They work for, are related to, or are in the adulatory fan club of the still-growing auteur Paul Thomas Anderson. But most of this club expects him, if he wins anything, to capture Best Director.

Everyone would be shocked if: Atonement won. What’s up with the BAFTAs? You can’t find anyone in the Academy who admits to loving this movie. What they like is its art direction. It has all the attributes of an Academy movie except for emotion.

Best Director
No one would be surprised if: The Coens win. It is their year, and not an instance of a director deserving the prize in general but not for the particular picture. Last week on a location scout, the crew's highbrows (production designer and director) loved Barton Fink and Miller’s Crossing. The lowbrow (me) loves The Big Lebowski and Fargo. But everyone loved Raising Arizona — and No Country. (Friends of my parents in Palm Beach, meanwhile, ran from the theater in the first thirty minutes of No Country. This does not bode well for the hoped-for Oscar bump.)

People would be shocked but not stunned if: Paul Thomas Anderson, young adored auteur, won this award in a nod to the ambition and thrust of his epic Blood. Many would be angry, many would be cheering. This would be controversial and fun.

People would be stunned and yet think it was okay if: Julian Schnabel won for Diving Bell. Knowing Julian, the man himself might not be shocked. And why should he be? What does he know from the Academy? And the movie is so damn good.

Best Actress
People would be stunned and disappointed if: Julie Christie didn’t win. When you give a performance like hers (in Away From Her) and allow yourself look so damn old to boot, you win, damn it.

People would be disappointed but somehow charmed if: In an upset the prize went to Ellen Page. She is the girl of the year, Abigail Breslin as a teenage doppelganger. She has been lauded, has broken through to star roles, but the Academy tends to think in terms of ends of careers rather than beginnings.

People would be shocked though some would cheer (like a big gay contingent I heard from last night) if: Marie Cotillard won. It depends on the number of raving Francophiles in the Academy, a micro-trend that hasn’t been studied. (Send Marc Penn to Hollywood!)

Best Actor
No one, not even George Clooney, would be shocked if: Anyone but Daniel Day-Lewis won. This is the award to be won for Blood, and I think this is what Clooney meant when he compared himself to Hillary. (But he would look better and get more close-ups.)

Tommy Lee Jones would have had a shot if: Anyone had seen In the Valley of Elah.

Supporting Actress
A few would be more surprised than I figured if: Cate Blanchett won. I learned last night that not everyone in the Academy has seen the Dylan movie. (Dylan? Played by how many actors? Whaa?) But many would not be surprised: She’s getting great roles and doing unusual things with them. Two nominations are worthy of note.

Some would be surprised but not stunned if: Amy Ryan won. Her performance was loved by many and she is an up-and-comer much respected by her peers.

People would be stunned and thrilled if: Tilda Swinton won. She is a truly astonishing talent who is simply not in enough American movies. Bravo, Tony Gilroy, for casting her.

Best Supporting Actor
People would be stunned and befuddled if: Anyone but Javier took this, but we both already said this. When he walks through a room now, people get out of his way. Just in case.

Cinematography
No one would be surprised if: Roger Deakins won for No Country, which would probably be part of a sweep.

No one would be surprised if: Blood won for the gorgeous anamorphic work.

I also could see: Diving Bell or Atonement winning, and no one being surprised.

All of these movies looked great. It depends on if it’s sweep night or split-ticket night. Votes for Diving Bell or Atonement would be the Academy’s way of showing respect for the impeccable craftsmanship of these films (editing and art direction prizes can do that as well). I pick Deakins, having proudly worked with him on the Siege. And call sweep night.

Screenplays
Everyone would be stunned if: Anything but Juno won for Original Screenplay. The campaign has been on for months, and the walking, talking soundbite that is Diablo Cody will win. It is the screenplay that made the girl that made the movie that made the phenomenon. Like it or not.

Adapted Screenplay
No one would be that surprised if: No Country wins — sweeps the awards, the night, then turns into our very own national Ambien, giving the Coens’ parents a night to remember. In fact, I call it.

No one would be surprised if No Country wins, sweeps the awards, and gives the Coen brothers' parents, at least, a night to remember. In fact, I call it.

Some great screenplays that many would be happy if if utterly shocked to see win, if this deserved sweep does not happen: Ronald Harwood’s unadaptable Diving Bell or Sarah Polley’s magnificent and tender Away from Her.

As for the rest of the night, yes to Ratatouille and probably on Michael Moore, for both his celebrity and impeccable timing — health care is the issue of the year.

I think the big issue for the industry, David — aside, of course, from when we can declare this primary season over and start taking on McCain — is whether we can get anyone to stay excited through the evening’s telecast and then go to these cinephile movies once they’ve won.

Even though No Country was my favorite movie of the year, there’s nothing more boring than a sweep. That’s why I was thrilled last night when one of the smartest people in Hollywood, James Schamus (the president of Focus Films, screenwriter of The Ice Storm, and Ang Lee collaborator) confounded all my predictions. “So it’s a lock,” I said. “Oh, no. I think it’s wide open and any movie can win.” “Really?” “Yes. Even Michael Clayton.” So if Clayton wins, everyone will be shocked except James Schamus.

Oh, and overheard by my date, was the most astounding prediction: Owen Wilson was asked what he thought would win Best Picture. “Obama!” he answered. Obama? “Yeah,” he answered, “Obama.” “He’s FREAKIN’ HUGE!”

Here’s to a fun night, David — some upsets, but not the wrong ones, and none from superdelegates.

Hugs,
Lynda

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