My Oscar Ballot
For Best Picture, I like films that deliver powerful statements as well as quality performances. "Blood Diamond" is difficult to watch because of the violence involving children, but its impact is lasting. So is "Babel"'s, even though the explicit sexuality will offend many. "Flags of our Fathers" is an important tribute to a literally dying breed of World War II vets, and "Flyboys" a strong memorial to the war their fathers fought. "Bobby" is a memorable valentine to a fallen political idol, artfully integrating newsreel footage. "The Pursuit of Happyness" will resonate with many struggling Dads. "Mission Impossible III" is just a good story, and so is "The Departed," though it is devoid of any heroes. "Little Miss Sunshine" is in here literally for laughs (though the humor is too dark for many), and "The Nativity Story," while unlikely to receive an Oscar, still ought to be seen by everyone, so there, I'm still a preacher at heart.
A "Best Foreign Language Film" does not necessarily have to be produced outside the U.S. "El Laberinto del Fauno" (Pan's Labyrinth) is simply magical. "Volver" is enchanting and funny, "Apocalypto" is mesmerizing but bloody, "Letters From Iwo Jima" is tragic but compelling, and "Curse Of The Golden Flower" features incredible pageantry.
Under "Best Documentary," "Forgiving De. Mengele" is the true story of a Holocaust survivor who wants to put the anger behind her, to the chagrin of many, but because she is human, she has her own political inconsistencies. "Deliver Us From Evil" is a positively chilling expose' of a prodigal Catholic priest. "Shut Up And Sing" follows the Dixie Chicks before, during, and after their infamous public criticism of the President.
Best Animated Feature: "Cars." Destined to become a classic baby-sitter movie
Best Screenplay: "Venus." Witty repartee is still treasured in some obscure quarters.
Best Actor: In "The Last King of Scotland," Forest Whitaker is Idi Amin brought to life; a significant cinematic accomplishment. In "All The King's Men," you can't keep your eyes off Sean Penn. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a memorably nuanced performance in "Blood Diamond" (and also in "The Departed," but we won't make him run against himself). Peter O'Toole brings an audacious vivacity to "Venus," and Will Smith plays against type in "The Pursuit of Happyness."
Best Actress: Helen Mirren is a force of nature in "The Queen," as is Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada." Renee Zellwegger brings spunk to the hoop skirt era in "Miss Potter," Penelope Cruz lights up the screen in "Volver," and Natalie Portman conveys a dark future in "V for Vendetta."
Best Supporting Actor: Tim Robbins is eerily evil in "Catch A Fire." Ben Affleck is palpably conflicted in "Hollywoodland." And Jack Nicholson simply takes over the screen whenever he appears in "The Departed."
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett is unforgettable in "Notes From A Scandal" (though the film is dreadfully exploitative), Marcia Gay Harden makes a brief but powerful appearance in "The Dead Girl," and Sharon Stone plays the gum-smacking beautician to perfection in "Bobby."
Best Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris had to get all the timing just right for their strange comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" to work, and they did. Steven Soderberg sustains a consistent and unique mood in "The Good German." Oliver Stone makes "World Trade Center seem so realistic that watching it starts debates on whether we're ready for that, yet. Clint Eastwood captures the grim determination of doomed soldiers in "Letters From Iwo Jima," and Pedro Almodovar presents the liveliest of relational complexities in "Volver."
Best Cinematography: "Children Of Men" stunningly creates a future we hope we never see.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas