Oscars, 2006

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – Did you really have a better time at the movies this year than the night you saw this movie? It surprised and delighted audiences who laughed in recognition at a family portrait of oddballs who spring from innocence and good intentions. How often do you feel collective pleasure engulf a theater? The entire cast acted in perfect harmony and, best of all, they seemed to be having a good time – right along with the rest of us.

BABEL – Multiple languages and cultures with only the thinnest of actual connections represent the true diversity of tragedy. Japan, Mexico, America, and Africa – a wrenching story from each country that leaves audiences emotionally wrung out but admiring of the excellence of the whole. Credit director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for pulling together a string of beautiful performances.

THE QUEEN - What would this one have been without Helen Mirren? Very good, no doubt, but with her it became transcendent. The week of Diana’s death forced a dutiful monarch to face the ways of the new world and possibly the moment when her own began to crumble, partly because she didn’t see it coming. We will always feel, I think, that Mirren read the mind of Queen Elizabeth II.

THE DEPARTED – This is a director’s and actors’ celebration for Martin Scorsese and some of Hollywood’s best male stars. If you can depersonalize the blood, it can become fun, I suppose, in the manner of a video game; but close range shootings by the mob in a rage just don’t touch the funny bone for some reason that shouldn’t be too hard to understand these days.

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA – People love to act with or be directed by Clint Eastwood. They’ll do anything for this beloved guy and they usually do his bidding very well. Clint used to be Rowdy Yates on “Rawhide” on Friday nights, and because he is a modest, decent, talented man who is sensitive to the emotions of beleaguered individuals, he has become the man with the golden touch.

Who should win: Picture: Little Miss Sunshine or Babel, both deserving. Actor: Forest Whitaker, Actress: Helen Mirren, Supporting actor: Alan Arkin, Supporting actress: Adriana Barraza, director: Paul Greengrass. Honors well earned, but let’s not forget other memorable nominated performances: Will Smith acting with his son in a rags to riches true story (“The Pursuit of Happyness”;) Leonardo DiCaprio proving he is a talented adult actor in “Blood Diamond;” Penelope Cruz exhibiting a blazing presence in her native language in “Volver;” Meryl Streep, always peerless in a challenge, creates a dazzling and delicious portrait of a nasty fashion editor (“The Devil Wears Prada;”) Eddie Murphy a dancing and singing lightning bolt in “Dreamgirls;” Djimon Hounsou breaking our hearts as a family man in the path of violence in “Blood Diamond;” and Abigail Breslin liberating her brother from his doldrums and the audience from its lives in “Little Miss Sunshine.”

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