Thursday, January 12, 2006


Sometimes, there are disadvantages to watching at home

By Edward Copeland
Tonight, I watched a screener of Syriana and it immediately raised to me not questions poised by the film about politics, oil and the Middle East, but questions of how older Academy voters will react, if they watch it at home.

Letterboxed — even on a good-size television screen — the many white subtitles are incredibly hard to read, even for someone like me with good eyesight. It led my dad to abandon his effort to watch the film early in the playing.

As for the movie itself, perhaps it plays better in a theater, but it is extremely hard to follow in the earlygoing. Writer-director Stephen Gaghan follows a structure similar to the one of his Oscar-winning screenplay for Traffic. While it eventually comes together with a degree of coherence, Syriana tries a bit too hard to obscure the entire picture in the beginning stages.

George Clooney appears to be the one talked about for a possible acting nomination and, while he is fine, there are better supporting performances in the movie — Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, even Tim Blake Nelson in a brief bit — and it really is more a function of them wanting to give him a chance to win something for the year he had, where he is certain to get a screenplay nomination for Good Night, and Good Luck and perhaps a directing nod for that as well.

At this stage in the Oscar struggle though, I think it is entirely possible that Clooney will end up going 0 for 3 this year. Ang Lee is nearly a lock to win director for Brokeback Mountain, so that nomination is out for George. Clooney faces stiff competition for original screenplay from Crash, which just seems to be gaining more and more momentum and now that I've seen Syriana, this just doesn't seem like a performance destined to win an Oscar. At this point, I think they'll want to have overdue makeup Oscar sex with Paul Giamatti for Cinderella Man.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: The more I think about Syriana, the more it seems to me like a miniseries cut down to a 2-hour running time. Though admittedly I've never seen either version of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, it reminded me of what I read of the truncated version, where characters would walk through secret doors that they shouldn't know were there.

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