It's nice to see Roger Ebert rallying from a tough year of illness and joining the Oscar fray. He's doing his annual Outguess Ebert contest for his Chicago Sun-Times readers at rogerebert.suntimes.com.
Like most of us scribblers this time of year, the veteran film critic is giving his predictions of who and what will win, along with his preferences of who and what should win.
In four of the top six Academy Awards categories, his predictions and preferences are identical: Babel for Best Picture, Helen Mirren for Best Actress, Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor and Jennifer Hudson for Best Supporting Actress. He predicts Forest Whitaker will win Best Actor; he prefers Peter O'Toole.
But Ebert's line on Best Director is puzzling. He's teasing us with a mystery. He predicts Martin Scorsese will win for The Departed. And his preference?
"For reasons of tact, I prefer not to reveal my preference," Ebert writes.
Since when are Oscar pundits supposed to be tactful? Where's the fun in that?
Ebert obviously admires Scorsese's work: "I reviewed Martin Scorsese's first film in 1968, something I never tire of reminding patient readers. In the review, I predicted, essentially, that he would stand astride the film world in, oh, say, 10 years. And so he did. But where is the recognition? Where is the Oscar after 39 years?"
That sound like a preference to me. So why not just say it?
Is Ebert afraid he might sway Academy voters? If so, then what's the intent of his long-running "Memo to the Academy" feature on his TV show?
Is he worried about jinxing Scorsese's chance by piling on too much praise? Is he afraid of hurting the delicate sensibilities of Clint Eastwood? Does Clint still carry a .44 Magnum?
Ebert's preference of Babel for Best Picture implies support for Alejandro González Iñárritu. Ebert often champions favoured underdogs; why not this time? Ebert also really liked The Queen and United 93. But does he have no love for Stephen Frears or Paul Greengrass?
I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm just really curious.
How about it, Roger? Could you tell us your preference after the votes are in?