My Oscar predictions, Christian Oscars(?), and Left Behind

If “Falling Slowly” from Once doesn’t win, it’s just another confirmation that the Academy voters don’t know anything about good songwriting. (Remember when Celine Dion’s Titanic histrionics beat Elliott Smith’s Good Will Hunting song?)

But okay, enough already. I never do very well at this game, but as a film critic, I’m required to submit my predictions for Sunday night’s glamour-bash. So here we go…

Will win:

PICTURE: I’m very, very tempted to say Juno. I just have this hunch that it will win.¬†But I think that the Academy will have enough foresight to choose a movie that won’t make them have to explain themselves ten years from now. Sure, Juno is a great movie. Entertaining, funny, and meaningful. But is it The Greatest Movie of the Year? Is it the film from 2007 that great artists will still be talking about with awe and wonder in decades to come? The Coen Brothers are overdue for a win, so the Academy will vote safely and pick No Country for Old Men. IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: There Will Be Blood. By a mile. By a hundred miles.

ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis. IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: Are you kidding? Daniel Day-Lewis.

ACTRESS: Julie Christie.¬† IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: Marion Cotillard. By a mile. By ten miles. Cotillard’s performance in La Vie en Rose is so much more astonishing, complex, and creative than Christie’s, it’s amazing. But the film is from France, so I suspect that many Academy voters won’t give Cotillard a fair shot.

SUPPORTING ACTOR: I’ll go against the popular prediction here, and say¬†Hal Holbrook. I suspect the Academy plans to honor the Coens in other categories, so they’ll go with a chance to honor this Hollywood veteran.¬†IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: Well, I would have given it to Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Savages, but he wasn’t nominated; or perhaps Peter O’Toole for his brilliant voice work in Ratatouille; or Ian Holm for his even more brilliant voice work in Ratatouille;¬†or Kurt Russell for his hilarious turn in the Death Proof section of ¬†Grindhouse, but he wasn’t nominated either. Among these nominees, I’d have a hard time deciding between three performances: Hal Holbrook, who owned the most powerful, memorable moments in Sean Penn’s wonderful movie, and Casey Affleck, who was really the lead actor in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but the studio strangely confused him as a supporting actor here.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: I’ll go against the grain her too, and say¬†Tilda Swinton. IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: Jennifer Garner for Juno, although she wasn’t even nominated. Give me a break. It was Jennifer Garner that made Juno so wonderful. She was the heart of the movie. She gave us so many powerful, subtle moments, taking the character she was given and elevating her into a complex, thoughtful, wounded young woman. Among these nominees? Saoirse Ronan, whose performance in Atonement was the only thing I liked about that maddening film.

DIRECTOR: The Coen Brothers. IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: Paul Thomas Anderson, whose work in There Will Be Blood will be discussed and debated and studied and examined for decades to come. The Coens are fantastic, and they did some of their best work here. But this film isn’t even in my top 5 Coen Brothers movies.

ANIMATED FEATURE: Ratatouille. IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: You betcha, Ratatouille.

DOCUMENTARY: No End in Sight. (You can watch the movie here for free!) IF I PICKED THE OSCAR: Didn’t see enough documentaries this year, but No End in Sight is very, very good, and I’ll be pleased if it wins. My favorite documentary released this year was Into Great Silence, but technically that film was finished in 2005 and played a couple of festivals before this year. So I’d go with The Devil Came on Horseback.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: I refuse to even acknowledge this category this year, as the Academy has somehow overlooked the extraordinary Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. (My review is coming soon.)

They’re called “The Christian Oscars.” But which Christians are we talking about?

When blogger Jeremy Lott looked at Movieguide’s nominees for “the best 2007 film for adult audiences,” he was baffled. The list looked like this:

1. Amazing Grace
2. August Rush
3. Spider-Man 3
4. I Am Legend
5. Strike
6. The Great Debaters
7. The Astronaut Farmer
8. Pride
9. Transformers
10. Live Free or Die Hard

Lott responded:

Could somebody please tell me how the Transformers increased people’s understanding and love of God? Or some of the others like Spiderman 3? Seriously I’m at a bit of a loss here … Or are the pickings just that slim?

Elsewhere, Alan Noble blogged on what’s wrong with Movieguide’s “Faith and Value” Awards (otherwise known as “The Christian Oscars.”)

Movieguide’s judgment of the quality of a film is based almost entirely upon its presentation of morals and morality. Returning to Paul’s list of things to think about, it seems that Movieguide has only heard Paul say, “whatever is pure;” ignoring all the other standards Paul gives us. Is Alvin and the Chipmunks really excellent? Is Nancy Drew commendable? Is Shrek the Third lovely? The problem here is that they are willing to praise films that are pure (which Movieguide seems to have defined as being morally inoffensive and having an uplifting message), even at the expense of excellence, loveliness, truth, and justice.

I would offer my own thoughts on this subject but, well… that’s why I wrote Through a Screen Darkly. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to questions of assessing the value of a work of art. If I start offering my response to “the Christian Oscars,” I’ll end up with another 400 page.

Better that I steer you elsewhere, to a very different Christian perspective on the best films of 2007, voted on by Christianity Today’s film critics. (Who exactly votes on the Movieguide awards? I’m curious. Artists? Professional critics? Who?)

In response to Jeremy Lott’s question “Are the pickings just that slim?”, I humbly submit my own alternate list of 25 favorites. It was a fantastic year at the movies, and there were dozens of films far superior to those on Movieguide’s list (in my humble opinion). I would never claim that my list represents “the Chrsitian Oscars.”¬†It just one man’s opinion. But it’s made up almost entirely of movies that were apparently rejected (if they were seen at all) by Baehr’s voters. And I’ll let you decide if these are more excellent, or more worthy of praise, than Spider-man 3 and Live Free or Die Hard.

Another perspective on Left Behind

A Muslim responds to the Left Behind movies.

My hope is that other, more spiritual and less ideologically driven Christian filmmakers step up and offer more mature and nuanced readings of these prophecies and eschatological issues.

Thanks to Peter Chattaway at for discovering this, and for reminding us to got back and revisit Ken Morefield’s essay on Left Behind as Evangelical Pornography.


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  • petertchattaway

    Re: the Tautou movie. I saw it last year at the Vancouver film festival, but it wasn’t until today that I realized it is already on DVD in Canada. claims it has been out since August, claims it has been out since February. For whatever that’s worth.

  • Best picture: my choice would have been TWBB

    Best actor: how can you choose anyone but Day-Lewis

    Best actress: I could be happy with Christie, Page, or Cotillard. Christie’s performance was really wonderful and deserving and if the buzz does indeed translate to a second nod I wouldn’t complain one bit; even though I love Page’s Juno and Cotillard “sheesh” performance as Piaf.

    Best Supports: I say Affleck and Blanchett. I think their two films were far too overlooked this Oscar season; not that I expected anything else.

    Director: Oh, how I hope Anderson takes this one, though I am counting on the Coens. Wouldnt be all that surprised if Schnabell manages to win either. Wouldnt be a shock anyway.

    A few others: as you said, Jeffrey, “Falling Slowly” better win, I’d love to see Elswit’s work on TWBB honored, but Deakins’ work on both his films was beautiful and poetic as well. Adapted screenplay should go to No Country I would think. TWBB is not all that close to “Oil!” itself from what I understand, and though Atonement seems a bit of a dark horse with all the Buzz No Country has received I wouldnt be shocked if it stole the award in that category. Foreign films: My choice would be syndromes and a century. there were so many great foreign films this year that simply weren’t honored like they should have been. Time will tell of their greatness I suppose.

  • faraway212

    MovieGuide has a positive review of an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary (which I know nothing about) up on its site.

    “The problem is, the movie does little to inspire viewers to become Republicans or conservatives, much less Evangelical Christians, or to get behind any particular issues of concern to Republicans, conservatives and/or Christians. Consequently, the filmmakers lessen their chances that their movie will change many hearts and minds on the other side.”

    I didn’t know failing to inspire people to become Republicans could be a problem with a film…

  • Best Picture: No Country For Old Men

    Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (Pref: P.T. Anderson)

    Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

    Best Actress: Julie Christie (Pref: Marion Cotillard)

    Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (Pref: Casey Affleck)

    Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett

    Best Original Screenplay: Juno

    Best Adapted Screenplay: No Country For Old Men

    Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille

    Best Foreign Language Film: 12

    Best Documentary: No End In Sight

    Best Short Documentary: Freeheld

    Best Short Film (Live Action): Tanghi Argentini

    Best Short Film (Animated): Madame Tutli-Putli (Pref: Même les Pigeons vont au Paradis)

    Best Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum

    Best Art Direction: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

    Best Cinematography: No Country for Old Men (Pref: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)

    Best Costume Design: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

    Best Make Up: La Vie En Rose

    Best Original Score: Atonement

    Best Original Song: “Falling Slowly” (Once)

    Best Sound Mixing: Transformers (Pref: No Country for Old Men)

    Best Sound Editing: No Country for Old Men

    Best Visual Effects: Transformers

  • The MovieGuide list is an almost complete disgrace to top tens everywhere. Truly reprehensible. But what is that Epiphany Prize bit? There is seriously a Christian group that hands out thousands of dollars to studio executives every year? That’s like making donations to Scrooge McDuck . . . c’mon. Welcome to the top spot on my “Worst-Spent Funds Ever” list.

  • joshmshep

    MovieGuide is a joke. Check out this new item from their site (here’s the link if they don’t take it down):

    MOVIEGUIDE® Supporters Make a Difference: Fewer American Teens Engage in Sex
    Dec 21st, 2004
    In news that we feel reflects the influence of MOVIEGUIDE®’s faithful readers and supporters, the National Center for Health Statistics reported recently that fewer teenagers aged 15-17 are engaging in sex.

    For girls aged 15 to 17, the percentage of those who ever had intercourse declined from 38 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in 2002. For boys, the decline was 43 percent to 31 percent.

    Although never married girls aged 18 and 19 who ever had intercourse has risen from 68 percent in 1995 to 69 percent in 2002, the percentage dropped for never married boys age 18 and 19, from 75 percent to 64 percent.

    MOVIEGUIDE® feels that these positive numbers are the result of our Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to Hollywood, featuring the John Templeton Foundation Epiphany Prizes for Inspiring Movies and TV, which has encouraged filmmakers to triple the number of movies with moral, biblical and Christian content in the last 10 years.

    By supporting the Gala with your most generous monetary gifts, you can ensure that these positive trends continue. Call 1-800-899-6684 now to make a donation. We need many, many gifts of all sizes before the end of the year.

    — Associated Press, 12/10/04.

    MovieGuide’s Awards Gala is the reason teens are having sex less often??? Totally laughable.


  • Amen to the Jennifer Garner bit. She made “Juno” for me too. My favorite moment of that movie, and one of my favorites of the entire year, actually, was when she touched Juno’s belly and felt the baby kick. It really was, as she put it, “magical.”

    And ditto on the Casey Affleck thing. When I heard he was nominated, I was really happy and delightfully surprised. But then I paused. “Woooo go Casey! Wait…best *supporting* actor? Huh? How did they get that?”

  • Agreed on the director award. It will most likely go to the Coens (no problems with that!), but I think that Anderson is more deserving. There Will be Blood was not only well done, but a departure from his usual line of work. Brave stuff.