Although shock waves ran through Hollywood and the media when Dreamgirls was snubbed in the Best Picture and Best Director categories, not everyone was hanging their heads. Three Academy members who agreed to discuss their Oscar choices with EW this year (under condition of anonymity, as usual) all felt that justice had indeed been served. In fact, the Dreamgirls omission was the only thing they could agree on. Our screenwriter, a 25-year Academy vet, simply felt that the film ”wasn’t that great.” Our producer, who has over 25 credits to his name, several of them blockbusters, explained: ”It’s hard for me to get into a musical because it’s unnatural for people to break into song in the middle of a movie.” And our actor, a cross-genre veteran, was on the leading edge of nay-saying: He ”flat-out hated Dreamgirls and all the work in it.” Oh, wait — our moles agreed on one more thing: This is the most wide-open Best Picture race in years.
A former winner for Best Original Screenplay, our scribe not only sees all the nominated movies (you’d be surprised how many voters don’t), but often reads the screenplays of the films, too. For his money, Little Children, which wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, was the best film of the year. As far as the actual race goes, he says the question is whether or not the Academy voters, ”a lot of whom have gotten kicked around by the studios financially in the last few years,” will embrace the indie Little Miss Sunshine over bigger-studio fare.
BEST PICTURE: Little Miss Sunshine
”It was amusing. You get a warm-fuzzy from it,” he says. ”Babel didn’t really achieve what it set out to do, which is look at how the babel of languages separates us. The Queen is okay if you want to see a movie about a dull woman. The Departed is warmed-over Scorsese, and the whole notion of giving it to him as a career thing — I’ve never bought that. The mandate is to vote for the best picture.”
BEST ACTOR: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
He calls front-runner Forest Whitaker ”fine” in a role that was ”not that demanding” for the actor. ”I think they told him, ‘You are going to play Idi Amin,’ and he said, ‘Oh, I know how to do that.”’ Gosling, however, took ”a guy who walks down the street and looks like a guy you know and [made him] an addict — and that’s hard.” As for sentimental favorite Peter O’Toole, he was just ”mocking himself.”
BEST ACTRESS: Kate Winslet, Little Children
”Acting is vulnerability, opening the person up and showing the nerve endings,” explains our screenwriter. The only actress who he felt delved that deep into her character was Winslet. Meryl Streep’s boss-from-hell turn was ”a romp,” but ”she wasn’t playing a person, she was playing a type.” Helen Mirren, who he predicts will win, was doing ”an impersonation.”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Little Miss Sunshine
He eliminated the ballyhooed Pan’s Labyrinth because ”I have trouble with children’s fantasy movies. I turned it off about halfway through [the DVD].” Babel suffered from credibility issues: ”Nobody I know [in that economic bracket] would leave their kids with an undocumented housekeeper and go to North Africa.” And Letters From Iwo Jima was ”a really interesting 1970s Japanese movie…. I didn’t think it was particularly fresh.”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Little Children
”It’s the film I would’ve most wanted to work on,” our screenwriter explains. ”With an adaptation, the problem is always to get the internal stuff external. I thought they did it very well.” None of the others rose to the level of Oscar-worthy. Borat was ”not a triumph of movie writing. It was a triumph of performance art that somebody stood off to the side and filmed,” he says. ”I was more impressed with Children of Men for directing than writing. Notes on a Scandal was kind of restrained, kind of British, not very bold. The Departed was Scorsese leftovers taken out of the refrigerator and put into the microwave.”
NEXT PAGE: The actor’s ballot