Fair warning: Oscar logic confounds

William Goldman -- Screen Trade

I KNOW WHO I WANT TO WIN BEST supporting actress this year. She was so brilliant I could not tear my eyes away. And most remarkable, she played an ordinary woman, not a drug addict, not someone who gained a lot of weight for the role. She was just, well, there, saying her lines, showing her pain.

If you are wondering why I am withholding a little crucial bit of info like, well, her name, there is a reason: I can’t remember it. She played the mother in “Ray.” Can you come up with her moniker? I’ll go check IMDB while you try… OK. Time’s up. Sharon Warren.

Sharon Warren, let us all remember that name please.

The reason I start with Miss Warren is that she presents a problem: It’s her first flick ever, and is that fair? Is it fair to win the brass ring the first time out?

Oscar season is with us again, folks, and a few reminders are in order. First and most crucial, and never forget this please: There is no best. Only what we like most. And yes, the voting is honest. And please remember that most of all it really truly matters to those of us in showbiz. (Our obit will begin with those three magical words: Academy Award winner so and so died today.)

And yes, it is OK for Sharon Warren to win, because the Oscars are many things, none of them fair.

An example now. Let’s go back 50 years. Ernest Borgnine wins the best actor Oscar for “Marty.” And a popular win it was, too. A TV show exploding that way. Want to know whom he beat? Only Cagney for “Love Me or Leave Me,” Dean for “East of Eden,” Frankie for “The Man With the Golden Arm” and, oh yeah, Spence from “Bad Day at Black Rock.”

I am a fan of Borgnine’s — how can you not be? — remember his terrifying Fatso in “From Here to Eternity”? Still, it’s my guess going back 50 years, with the freshness of TV drama no longer having the shock of the new, today Ernie runs dead last. (It really is most amazing to me that James Dean didn’t win — he had been killed in that awful car crash six months before the awards were given out, and considering that Elizabeth Taylor won for pneumonia, how did that brilliant young actor not win for dying?)

And if Sharon Warren is the new girl in town, this year’s awards will be mostly about one particular old vet — get ready, boys and girls for a barrage of bullshit concerning Martin Scorsese’s newest film “The Aviator,” a critical orgasm unlike anything since, well, Marty’s last flick “Gangs of New York,” the most overrated snooze of that year.

I am a gigantic fan of Scorsese’s — very few even brilliant directors have a decade like he had — unfortunately, it was the ’70s and his last world-class work was a quarter of a century ago.

But trust me, the critical hysteria is already on its way — because Scorsese has managed to orchestrate the greatest menage of critical groupies working on his side of the street since maybe ever. I mean, a far greater director, the late Mr. Kubrick, who also never won best director, had nothing like it.

And why the hoopla for Scorsese? Because “Ordinary People” won the best directing Oscar over “Raging Bull” in 1980.

I wish he had won for “Raging Bull.” I was nuts about “Taxi Driver,” for which he didn’t even get nominated, and I am really nuts about his unlikely wonder, a sweet family flick, for God’s sake, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”

If you want to know what I think about “The Aviator” I will tell you — haven’t seen it. Haven’t seen most of what I am going to talk about now. But here’s the thing about movies today: You don’t have to see them to know about them. The hype is unending.

Want to know what I hear about “The Aviator?” Waaaay better than “Gangs.” And the first hour is terrific. But Scorsese has never been at ease with story, and the rest of the film just does not measure up. You watch — when the gushing starts, that decline will be buried.

Part of me hopes he wins this time out, because then we can watch the rest of his stuff without guilt. I would like that.

But an enemy has appeared.

I don’t mean “Closer,” which I hear is intelligent and frigid. And I don’t mean “Sideways,” which doesn’t seem to be doing the necessary business, and probably not “Finding Neverland,” which has a lot going for it, most notably the wondrous affection for Mr. Depp that has developed of late.

And I don’t mean the movie most people love most, “The Incredibles.”

But a movie has moved surreptitiously into position that no one dreamed was going to be an Oscar force. I keep hearing these incredible things about “Million Dollar Baby.” A flick about a lady fighter.

Can it really be brilliant?

Bet on it. And all those adjectives that are rolling toward Marty now? Maybe those critics should save a couple for Clint — but probably they think it’s too early to judge the career. And of course, critics are always right. Forty-five years since “Rawhide” and Rowdy, 50 since he was the uncredited lab technician in “Revenge of the Creature.”

He will be 75 next May, boys and girls, and getting better as he leaves adolescence behind.

Final words now: I have seen some flicks, and “Before Sunset” had the best last minute of the year, Jamie Foxx’s Ray was the male performance maybe of his lifetime, and favorite movie for me was “Motorcycle Diaries.” Which, natch, will not get nominated.