I'm too taken by what I've seen to go back and quote verbatim David Mamet, but to paraphrase him: What could happen to just anybody, by chance, is the subject of gossip, not Drama.
So, after last year, and in some cases after many years before that, it's very surprising that I can say that this time around, the Academy, whether by choice or not, has chosen five films that center around events that could only occur to a very peculiar set of people under a very peculiar set of circumstances.
It's tempting to try very hard to keep from coming back to that old grindin' axe, but this is a stark contrast to what the Academy wrought for us to hold up to a standard last year.
And thank the golden-age gods, because, and perhaps precisely because, the strongest films this year were surrounded by one of the most abysmal roundups of reprobating paeans to many a rambling flea (see below this post, fer instance).
The films I've seen (save for Little Miss Sunshine) in the major category are all stories consumed with the whale and not the flea.
The two finest films of 2006 were undoubtedly Robert Altman's final kinofuck and Alfonso Cuaron's panorama of a thousand languages, but of course, in a recurring Academy tradition, they were too awesome to be nominated.
Babel is still the red-headed step-child of the Mesoamerican Triad. But it's probably the squash in this case. Would that make Pan's Labyrinth the beans? Probably. He's fatter.
I got lost in my carby metaphor.
Anyway, let not what I've just said fool you. I'm won over. The chronological hullabaloo is not a distraction this time, and the difference in depth, power and directorial mastery is unbelievable between Inarritu's latest and his overrated 21 Grams. It's a fantastic piece. If it wins, I'll be more than satisfied, perhaps even floored. A win for one of those three is a win for them all.
Any one of the five choices would be an interesting one for The Academy. Do they go for LMS in an oddball (and totally undeserved) way? Do they give it to The Departed, signalling a win for masterful entertainment over a "deeper social message"?
Do they give it to Clint Eastwood, for what would decidedly be his most unconventional film?
Do they give it to Babel, with all of its transgressions and unfriendly-to-Americans-multiple-language-sets?
Or do they give it to a biopic? They won't do that. That would be the most conventional choice for them, which is what usually wins out, but The Queen doesn't have that kind of buzz. Mirren will likely win, but the movie itself will not.
See Babel. It seems to be a parable, but it's not perfect. It is astonishing, though.
Glossed: Joseph Andrews, The Wyf of Bath's Tale
Sneak PEAK: Adam Freeland - GU Mexico City
Could There BE Anymore Casualties?: Babel, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One