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 artsandfaith.com 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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