An alternate take on the Naked Man Trophy

I won't be watching the Academy Awards on Sunday night, but that won't stop me from voicing my opinion on who should take home one of those worthless Naked Man trophies.

In this very publication you hold in your hands (or are reading online), the great Roger Ebert has made his predictions as to who will win the trophy this year.

I grew up reading Ebert's reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times (not online, as I am very, very old) and watching him and the Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel fight over the quality of movies such as "Beaches" on "At the Movies." I miss that show.

If you don't read Ebert's blog or follow him on Twitter, you're missing out. The cat has some interesting things to say about philosophy, politics, old Chicago diners, and, yes, movies.

Strange that his movie writing has taken a back seat to his other musings these days. I wonder if he's tapped that last vein of film writing after four decades grinding out reviews on deadline. He seems more free in his non-film writing, as if there's been a great buildup of pressure that's finally found release.

It's well documented that Ebert's health has been in serious decline the past few years. There's no telling how many well-crafted blog posts or film reviews he has left, but something tells me a clock has started running in his head and he feels a subtle urgency to get as many thoughts down on paper or bandwidth before the hands strike zero.

This is the first year in some time when I've seen the bulk of the movies nominated in the Best Picture category. All in all, it's not been a terrible year in movies.

My take differs from Ebert's, because I will give you who I think deserves to win, whereas Ebert tells you who he thinks will win. Also, I will go off-script and award deserving artists who weren't on the Naked Man Trophy ballot.

And away we go.

Best picture

Ebert predicts: "Argo"

I say: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

No doubt "Argo" was an awesome flick. I enjoyed every minute. It helped that I saw it at Living Room Theaters in downtown Portland. Great screens and a fancy bar. Nothing beats nursing a pint of Desolation IPA from Amnesia Brewing while watching a movie.

As good as "Argo" was, "Beasts" left me floored. It's difficult to capture true childhood on screen, but that movie did it. It's magical and scary and bizarre. A must-see.

Best Actor

Ebert predicts: Daniel Day-Lewis

I say: Matthew McConaughey

Day-Lewis will win for his epic Abraham Lincoln. Can't argue with it, though the movie was flat in places and would have benefited from the more truthful title, "Honest Abe: Tellin' Stories." The best parts were Day-Lewis' monologues. The rest was high-school history, though beautifully staged.

Joaquin Phoenix's work in "The Master" was insane genius. He didn't so much act as he bared his twitchy, sullen id on screen for our viewing unease. Brave stuff. And Bradley Cooper, yes, he of "The Hangover" and "The A-Team," was Philadelphia crazy personified. Bipolar disorder would be hard to pull off without flashy over-acting, but Cooper does it beautifully.

But McConaughey's work as a dead-eyed, pervert hitman in William Friedkin's "Killer Joe" was a game-changer for me. McConaughey wasn't nominated, of course. The Academy wouldn't touch this twisted Greek tragedy set in a Texas trailer park with a 10-foot Naked Man Trophy. It's a shame, because McConaughey seeps deadly charisma in every scene. If you haven't seen "Killer Joe," be warned: This thing goes to some dark, creepy-crawly places, one of which involves a greasy chicken wing used in a way that will force you to avoid KFC for the rest of your life.

Best Actress

Ebert predicts: Jennifer Lawrence

I say: Jennifer Lawrence

"Silver Linings Playbook" is the most realistic movie about modern romance in years. You can't do a movie about the brief transcendence gained from being in a doomed relationship any better. Lawrence stuck her part of a widowed neurotic because she avoided the over-acting trap. She's brilliant and will be with us for some time.

Best Director

Ebert predicts: Steven Spielberg

I say: Quentin Tarantino

Ebert's probably right in that Naked Man Trophy ambassadors love a history lesson. Only thing is, they're going to reward the wrong history lesson.

I prefer Tarantino's take on our horrifying slavery past to Spielberg's. I saw "Django Unchained" twice and I still don't know what to make of the damn thing. All I'm sure of is it thrilled, shocked and haunted me both times.

Tarantino was robbed by Robert Zemeckis when Naked Man Trophy ambassadors found themselves on the wrong side of history and awarded "Forrest Gump" over "Pulp Fiction." They will do the same here.

Which is why I don't watch the Naked Man Trophy presentation.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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