The international Academy Awards: ‘So many Mexicans!’ + the British are back
“There’s so many Mexicans!” exclaimed Mexican actress Salma Hayek, too excited to conjugate her verbs properly, upon announcing – along with Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis – the “top” nominees for the 2007 Academy Awards. The announcements were made earlier today, Jan. 23, at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
Hayek was right.
Mexicans at the Oscars
Whether or not announced by the Oscar-nominated Frida actress and the Academy president, below are most (all?) of the “so many Mexicans” – including no less than three Guillermos – in contention for the 2007 Oscars:
- Best Original Screenplay nominee Guillermo del Toro, whose Pan’s Labyrinth / El Laberinto del fauno, which he also directed, was shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film.
- Best Cinematography nominee Guillermo Navarro for Pan’s Labyrinth.
- Best Art Direction nominee Eugenio Caballero for Pan’s Labyrinth.
- Best Director nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also happens to be one of the producers of Best Picture nominee Babel.
- Best Supporting Actress nominee Adriana Barraza for Babel.
- Best Original Screenplay nominee Guillermo Arriaga for Babel.
- Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Alfonso Cuarón for Children of Men, which he also directed. Bypassed for Best Director, Cuarón is also a co-nominee, along with fellow Mexican national Álex Rodríguez, in the Best Film Editing category.
- Best Cinematography nominee Emmanuel Lubezki for Children of Men.
- Best Sound Mixing nominee Fernando Cámara for Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.
Non-Mexican Spanish-speaking Oscar nominees
It’s impossible to tell whether or not Salma Hayek’s “so many Mexicans” exclamation also included Best Actress nominee Penélope Cruz (for Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver).
Okay, so Cruz is a Spaniard – the first ever to receive a Best Actress nod – but Hayek was feeling so enthusiastically red-white-and-green she probably got all geographically incorrect. Not that most Americans would know the difference between Mexicans and Spaniards, anyway.
For those who do know the difference, among the other non-Mexican Spanish-speakers in contention this year are:
- Argentinean composer Gustavo Santaolalla for Babel.
- Spanish set decorator Pilar Revuelta and Spanish composer Javier Navarrete for Pan’s Labyrinth.
- Spaniards Javier Fesser and Luis Manso, the director and producer, respectively, of Best Live Action Short nominee Binta and the Great Idea / Binta y la gran idea.
British talent everywhere
Competing against the Mexicans are the British. Among them:
- Best Director nominees Stephen Frears for The Queen, which is also up for Best Picture, and Paul Greengrass for United 93.
- Best Actress nominees Helen Mirren for The Queen, Kate Winslet for Todd Field’s Little Children, and Judi Dench for Richard Eyre’s Notes on a Scandal.
- Best Original Screenplay nominee Peter Morgan for The Queen.
- Best Adapted Screenplay nominees Patrick Marber for Notes on a Scandal and Sacha Baron Cohen for Larry Charles’ Borat.
Additionally, a number of non-British nationals received nominations for their work in British or part-British productions, including:
- The aforementioned Mexicans Alfonso Cuarón, Álex Rodríguez, and Emmanuel Lubezki for Children of Men.
- Australian Cate Blanchett, a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Notes on a Scandal.
- Frenchman Alexandre Desplat, in the running in the Best Original Score category for The Queen.
- Americans Forest Whitaker, a Best Actor nominee for Kevin Macdonald’s The Last King of Scotland, and Philip Glass, in contention in the Best Original Score category for Notes on a Scandal.
- Irishman Peter O’Toole, a Best Actor nominee for Roger Michell’s Venus.
Missing in action, however, was Martin Campbell’s much-ballyhooed James Bond flick Casino Royale, one of the top nominees at this year’s British Academy Awards. Until fairly recently, there was even (however absurd) talk that Daniel Craig might get a Best Actor Oscar nod.
But why was this well-reviewed brainless actioner completely ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences?
Too Bondish (the plane scenes)? Too squeamish (the sex scenes)? Too ballsy (the torture scenes)? Too glitzy (the chase scenes)?
Whatever the reasons, James Bond is one Britisher who failed to accomplish this important cinematic mission.
Now, what’s good about this year’s Oscars?
Quality, of course, is in the brain of the beholder. If your brain functions as perfectly as ours, you’ll like the things we like and dislike the things we don’t care for.
First of all, we like – a lot – the Best Actress nominees. For once, the Academy has selected five performances that are more than merely adequate, more than merely good, more than merely very good: Penélope Cruz, Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, and Helen Mirren are all superb as earth mothers, bitch fashionistas, adulterous housewives, desperate lesbians, and stoic but warm-hearted queens.
We also like the fact that this year’s Oscars are remarkably international. Besides the Mexicans/Spanish-speakers and the British/British-associated contingent, there are, to name a few:
- Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, a mostly Japanese-language World War II drama in the running for Best Picture.
- Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, up for the Best Supporting Actress statuette for Babel.
- James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments, a Best Documentary Feature nominee about the bloody and chaotic aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion.
- Benin-born Djimon Hounsou, a Best Supporting Actor nominee for Edward Zwick’s Sierra Leone-set, German-U.S. thriller Blood Diamond.
- Australian George Miller’s Best Animated Feature nominee Happy Feet.
- Chinese costume designer Yee Chung Man for Zhang Yimou’s period epic/psychological drama Curse of the Golden Flower.
- Torill Kove’s The Danish Poet, a Norwegian-Canadian co-production in the running for Best Animated Short.
Here is one more great inclusion and one welcome exclusion:
- The inclusion of Best Actor nominee Ryan Gosling for his idealistic, drug-addicted teacher in Ryan Fleck’s little-seen Half Nelson.
- The exclusion of veteran Jack Nicholson’s appalling mugging in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.
What’s bad about this year’s Oscars?
Here’s what we didn’t like about the 2007 Oscar nominations & snubs:
- Volver getting bypassed for Best Foreign Language Film and other key categories (Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, etc.).
- The life-imitates-art absence of Catherine O’Hara, who should have been a Best Supporting Actress Oscar contender for her performance as a would-be Oscar contender in Christopher Guest’s For Your Consideration.
- The absence of Pan’s Labyrinth psycho military villain Sergi López from the Best Supporting Actor category.
- The inclusion of Little Miss Sunshine in just about any category.
- The inclusion of the generally outstanding cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) for the inappropriately artificial look of Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia.
- The inclusion of two, however well-intentioned, by-the-book dramas in the Best Foreign Language Film category: Rachid Bouchareb’s French – ahem… Algerian World War II-set Days of Glory / Indigènes and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Stasi spy tale The Lives of Others / Das Leben der Anderen.
- John Curran’s The Painted Veil being completely overlooked.
What’s surprising about this year’s Oscars?
Besides the sheer number of Mexican nominees* the two biggest eyebrow-raisers are:
- Bill Condon’s splashy musical Dreamgirls – this year’s top nominee with eight nods (three of which in the Best Original Song category) – being left out of the running for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
- Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver being left out of the Best Foreign Language Film category.
* The British have been, off and on, invading the Oscars since Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII back at the 1934 ceremony. So, their strong presence this year shouldn’t be seen as a “surprise.”
What’s curious about this year’s Oscars?
Below are a couple of Oscar 2007 curiosities:
- Following changes to the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film eligibility rules, Deepa Mehta’s Hindi-language, India-set Water is representing … Canada. It may be open to debate whether or not Mehta’s child-marriage drama deserves an Oscar, but Mehta herself undeniably merits an award for perseverance, considering all the hassles she had to deal with – courtesy of Hindu fanatics – while making her film.
- None of this year’s Best Actor nominees have their films up for a Best Picture Oscar. That’s a first in the Academy Awards’ 79-year history.
What’s tedious about this year’s Oscars?
The Oscar telecast – inevitably. Next Feb. 25, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles.
Update: Below is the full list of this year’s Oscar winners and nominees.
Academy Awards: Winners & nominations
Babel, prod.: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik & Steve Golin.
* The Departed, prod.: Graham King.
Letters from Iwo Jima, prod.: Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg & Robert Lorenz.
Little Miss Sunshine, prod.: David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf & Marc Turtletaub.
The Queen, prod.: Andy Harries, Christine Langan & Tracey Seaward.
Best Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding / Efter brylluppet, Denmark.
Days of Glory / Indigènes, Algeria.
* The Lives of Others / Das Leben der Anderen, Germany.
Pan’s Labyrinth / El Laberinto del fauno, Mexico.
Best Documentary Feature
Deliver Us from Evil, Amy Berg & Frank Donner.
* An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim.
Iraq in Fragments, James Longley & John Sinno.
Jesus Camp, Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady.
My Country, My Country, Laura Poitras & Jocelyn Glatzer.
Penélope Cruz, Volver.
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal.
* Helen Mirren, The Queen.
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada.
Kate Winslet, Little Children.
Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel.
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal.
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine.
* Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel.
Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu.
* The Departed, Martin Scorsese.
Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood.
The Queen, Stephen Frears.
United 93, Paul Greengrass.
Best Original Screenplay
Babel, Guillermo Arriaga.
Letters from Iwo Jima, Iris Yamashita; story by Iris Yamashita & Paul Haggis.
* Little Miss Sunshine, Michael Arndt.
Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro.
The Queen, Peter Morgan.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer; story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines & Todd Phillips.
Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby.
* The Departed, William Monahan.
Little Children, Todd Field & Tom Perrotta.
Notes on a Scandal, Patrick Marber.
The Black Dahlia, Vilmos Zsigmond.
Children of Men, Emmanuel Lubezki.
The Illusionist Dick Pope.
* Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Navarro.
The Prestige, Wally Pfister.
Best Film Editing
Babel, Stephen Mirrione & Douglas Crise.
Blood Diamond, Steven Rosenblum.
Children of Men, Álex Rodríguez & Alfonso Cuarón.
* The Departed, Thelma Schoonmaker.
United 93, Clare Douglas, Christopher Rouse & Richard Pearson.
Best Original Score
* Babel, Gustavo Santaolalla.
The Good German, Thomas Newman.
Notes on a Scandal, Philip Glass.
Pan’s Labyrinth, Javier Navarrete.
The Queen, Alexandre Desplat.
Best Animated Feature
Cars, John Lasseter.
* Happy Feet, George Miller.
Monster House, Gil Kenan.
Best Art Direction
Dreamgirls, John Myhre; set decoration: Nancy Haigh.
The Good Shepherd, Jeannine Oppewall; set decoration: Gretchen Rau & Leslie E. Rollins.
* Pan’s Labyrinth, Eugenio Caballero; set decoration: Pilar Revuelta.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Rick Heinrichs; set decoration: Cheryl A. Carasik.
The Prestige, Nathan Crowley; set decoration: Julie Ochipinti.
Best Costume Design
Curse of the Golden Flower, Yee Chung Man.
The Devil Wears Prada, Patricia Field.
Dreamgirls, Sharen Davis.
* Marie Antoinette, Milena Canonero.
The Queen, Consolata Boyle.
Best Visual Effects
* Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson & Allen Hall.
Poseidon, Boyd Shermis, Kim Libreri, Chaz Jarrett & John Frazier.
Superman Returns, Mark Stetson, Neil Corbould, Richard R. Hoover & Jon Thum.
Best Original Song
* “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth, music & lyric by Melissa Etheridge.
“Listen” from Dreamgirls, music by Henry Krieger & Scott Cutler; lyric by Anne Preven.
“Love You I Do” from Dreamgirls, music by Henry Krieger; lyric by Siedah Garrett.
“Our Town” from Cars, music & lyric by Randy Newman.
“Patience” from Dreamgirls, music by Henry Krieger; lyric by Willie Reale.
Best Sound Editing
Apocalypto, Sean McCormack & Kami Asgar.
Blood Diamond, Lon Bender.
Flags of Our Fathers, Alan Robert Murray & Bub Asman.
* Letters from Iwo Jima, Alan Robert Murray.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Christopher Boyes & George Watters II.
Best Sound Mixing
Apocalypto, Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell & Fernando Cámara.
Blood Diamond, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer & Ivan Sharrock.
* Dreamgirls, Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer & Willie Burton.
Flags of Our Fathers, John Reitz, Dave Campbell, Gregg Rudloff & Walt Martin.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Paul Massey, Christopher Boyes & Lee Orloff.
Apocalypto, Aldo Signoretti & Vittorio Sodano.
Click, Kazuhiro Tsuji & Bill Corso.
* Pan’s Labyrinth, David Martí & Montse Ribé.
Best Documentary Short
* The Blood of Yingzhou District, Ruby Yang & Thomas Lennon.
Recycled Life, Leslie Iwerks & Mike Glad.
Rehearsing a Dream, Karen Goodman & Kirk Simon.
Two Hands, Nathaniel Kahn & Susan Rose Behr.
Best Animated Short
* The Danish Poet, Torill Kove.
Lifted, Gary Rydstrom.
The Little Matchgirl, Roger Allers & Don Hahn.
Maestro, Géza M. Tóth.
No Time for Nuts, Chris Renaud & Michael Thurmeier.
Best Live Action Short
Binta and the Great Idea / Binta y la gran idea, Javier Fesser & Luis Manso.
One Too Many / Éramos Pocos, Borja Cobeaga.
Helmer & Son, Soren Pilmark & Kim Magnusson.
The Saviour, Peter Templeman & Stuart Parkyn.
* West Bank Story, Ari Sandel.
Honorary Academy Award: Ennio Morricone.
Gordon E. Sawyer Award: Ray Feeney.
“Academy Awards: Mexicans Invade the Oscars!” endnotes
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website.
Image of the Faun (Doug Jones) in Pan’s Labyrinth: Warner Bros.
Penélope Cruz and Yohana Cobo Volver image: Sony Pictures Classics.
“Academy Awards: Mexicans Invade the Oscars! The British Are Back! + Pedro Almodóvar Snubbed” last updated in September 2018.