Today was the one day of the year that someone was up at 5 a.m. in Hollywood other than the gardeners and cooks. Of the Academy Award nominations, we here in Santa Cruz have a clear rooting interest — “Little Miss Sunshine,” the obtuse little family comedy directed by husband-wife team Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton who are the daughter and son-in-law, respectively, of Jim and Paula Faris of Santa Cruz. And, beside, “Little Miss Sunshine,” with its weird, abrasive, warts-and-all portrait of family life feels like Santa Cruz, doesn’t it?
The drama in the Best Picture category is that it again sets up the Scorsese vs. Eastwood dynamic with “The Departed” going up against “Letters From Iwo Jima.” This marks Scorsese’s sixth nomination for Best Director; and the fifth Scorsese film to be nominated for Best Picture. Thus far, old Marty’s come away with a big old goose egg for his efforts. Eastwood, on the other hand, has won Best Director and Best Picture twice, including two years ago when his “Million Dollar Baby” beat out Scorsese’s “The Aviator.”
It’s tempting to think of Scorsese as the Colts to Eastwood’s Patriots (for those of you hip to modern-day football rivalries). Just as the Colts finally beat the lordly Pats this year in the playoffs after many losses, Scorsese could be poised to punk Eastwood, finally after so many years.
But “The Departed” — a magnificent crime family, in my view — is awash in blood and killing. The Academy may have little stomach to endorse such an exercise in ultraviolence, particularly with a horrifying war going on. Blood and death as entertainment while American boys and girls are dying in Iraq? Don’t think so.
My bet? A shocker: “Little Miss Sunshine.”