Oscar thoughts...

>> Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hmm, I wonder if I can finish this post before watching the red carpet? Last year I intended on recapping my pre-Oscar thoughts before the ceremony, except in my rush to watch nominees on video I never got around to it. I finished watching Gone Baby Gone that morning, wrote about it and started watching the red carpet.

Here we go...

I actually managed to watch all 5 best picture nominees. It almost didn't happen. Just finished watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Damn that is a LONG movie. I don't hate it like I hate Forrest Gump. Gump is shallow, glib and monotonous. Button actually has something to say. A short article I came across last night surmised (some of) the anti-Button sentiment quite well:

Benjamin Button as Forrest Gump - I maintain that only weak minds find the two movies to be the same. It’s true that there are similarities in the story and if anyone on the Button team had figured this out early on they could have and would have done something about it. The beauty of that film, though, I think, was lost in translation. It was the frontrunner before it was seen, that’s never a good thing. Even though we know this, we continue to follow the dangerous behavior of predicting films before they’re even being filmed, before they’re even written sometimes. Button was doomed to fail because of this. 13 Oscar nominations, though, does not a failure make.
I caught Slumdog Millionaire a couple of weeks ago. The ending didn't leave me jumping for joy—I figured he won no matter how he answered his final question considering how events began to work in his favor towards the end—but it didn't leave me cold either. At the same time, I'm not vigorously enthusiastic of it like I have been of past Oscar nominees.

The Reader I caught Monday while I was in Salt Lake. Considering how little play this movie has gotten around the nation, I consider it a minor miracle I was able to see it in the theater. It played late last year at the Broadway. I overheard someone asking the theatre management if it would possibly comeback, and they said no. Behold, a nomination for Best Picture completely changed that. The Reader isn't an easy film to describe. I've seen a few comments where people didn't understand the plot. It's not an easy film where the characters are black and white. Well, they can be for some people, but I think it's entirely mixed. Hanna Schmitz is a very unlikeable character. I totally think Kate Winslet deserves an award for playing her; however, I can see why it was considered a supporting performance. I think she's only in about a third of the movie.

My thoughts on each category.

Visual Effects
I picked Benjamin Button for this. I mean, come on, seamlessly integrating Brad Pitt's face in various stages. Without it, the movie doesn't work. The other two—Iron Man and The Dark Knight—will undoubtedly have another shot down the road.

Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing
Taking the easy way out, I picked The Dark Knight for both of these. I don't necessarily think it's the best, but given that TDK missed out on a best picture nomination, I think many people will want to make sure it wins something. If I was voting on merit, I'd give them both to WALL•E. I could not understand Jim Gordon's last line when I first watched TDK at the Cinerama. That to me is a mistake of sound mixing. I think the robots sound effects were far more key and well done in WALL•E. I can't see the Academy awarding an animated film in this category. Other animated films have been nominated, such as Aladdin, but I none has ever won.

Best Song and Score
I picked WALL•E for score given how key it is to the first half of the movie. Many critics have noted how the first half is like a silent movie—no dialogue. The music was so central to that portion of the movie. I'm thinking that many might remember that point. Also, animated films have always done well with score and Thomas Newman has been nominated multiple times for more than a decade and never won. I think this might be his year and rightfully so.

For Best Song, I picked "Jai Ho" from Slumdog. I don't remember much about the song other than I can't quite get the little bit where they say "Jai Ho" out of my head. Nothing really sticks out for me. Knowing my luck, the winners of these two categories will probably flip.

Best Makeup
Benjamin Button. For all the various stages of aging makeup used on multiple characters.

Best Live Action Short
Gee, since no one but the Academy sees these, it's always a toss up. I went with Toyland (Spielzeugland).

Best Animated Short
I know some think Presto will win. Perhaps it will. That bunny was frakkin' cute! But I think those who vote in this category will purposely not hop on the Pixar train because they figure Pixar will win Animated Feature. Therefore, I went with La Maison En Petits Cubes for the upset.

Best Documentary Short
Another award voted on by a small group within the Academy. (Only those who attend screenings can vote on it.) I have no idea. I went with The Conscience of Nhem En.

Best Documentary Feature
This week, I read an excellent summary (here) of why Man on Wire should not win. I'm not going to resummarize it. I think Man on Wire may, in fact, be the weakest submission in this group. Encounters at the End of the World is FAR better in my estimation. I went with Trouble the Water about a couple who went through Hurricane Katrina, filmed it and how their lives proceeded afterwards.

Best Film Editing
Slumdog. The cutting back and forth in the movie is what most Academy members will remember when voting.

Best Costume Design
Benjamin Button. For some, I may be going on a limb here since most assume The Duchess will win. The Duchess is nominated only for costume design and art direction. I think it's a bit much assuming that it will automatically win because it's a "period piece." BB is too. In fact, BB covers a much wider swath of costume territory than probably any of the nominees. After seeing BB, I think it deserves to win, particularly for that yellow coat Daisy was wearing when she was hit by the car. Giving it to The Duchess seems a knee-jerk response to the category. I haven't seen it, so I don't know whether the costumes go beyond what I've seen in pictures. But just because Elizabeth: The Golden Age won last year, doesn't mean a traditional period piece will win this year.

Best Cinematography
This usually goes to either a best picture nominee or the best picture winner, which knocks The Dark Knight and Changeling out of consideration. Personally, I would pick TDK on merit since I think it accomplished the most, but the ASC gives awards on merit for a single picture, not always so with the Academy. Or Roger Deakins would have won for The Shawshank Redemption long ago. Anyhow, as someone pointed out that there is a strong correlation between having an art direction nomination and winning cinematography, I went with Benjamin Button. Seemingly out on a limb considering most seem to be predicting Slumdog, but hey, this isn't the ASC.

Best Art Direction
Again, I went with Benjamin Button. So many sets. All done well. I think BB will score a lot of wins in the "minor" categories. As I remember an Acadmey voter saying when it came to how he voted, BB was so well done, so beautiful looking that he couldn't help but vote it for best picture.

Best Foreign Language Film
Departures. I would never have come to this conclusion with out reading a few articles over the past few days. At first, I couldn't pick between The Class and Waltz with Bashir. Then I read about a new rule the Academy instituted after last year's awards. This year's nominating committee bumped three original nominees to make way for three other nominees so that there would be no uproar like there was last year when 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days was not nominated. And as this article points out, if certain critical darlings couldn't make it in via the nomination process, why would they win? Remember, Pan's Labyrinth couldn't win either! Departures, people, I'm telling you now in case it wins.

Best Animated Film
WALL•E. There is no other.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Original Screenplay
Milk. I've read that some people think WALL•E will win. I would like it to. It certainly deserves to. Except the Academy maligns animated films. I thought Ratatouille was one of the best written films last year. It had every right to win. I don't remember what won in this category last year, but I doubt WALL•E is going to break the animated film losing streak in this category. That said, I did enjoy Milk tremendously. I think it's well written and uplifting. Prop 8 will probably send this to the podium.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams. Yeah, I'm going on a limb here, particularly after reading this article earlier in the week. Marisa Tomei ain't going to win. She already has one. And what exactly has she done with her career? Most people already consider her win for My Cousin Vinny to be a complete fluke. The Academy isn't going to make the same mistake twice even though she is a great actress. Viola Davis is on screen too little. Those who think she's going to win need to re-think their rationale if they're using Judi Dench as the reason why. Judi Dench won because a) Shakespeare in Love won a shitload its year and b) Dench lost the year before for Mrs. Brown when by all accounts she should have won. It was the Academy righting a "wrong." I was going to try and see Doubt on Friday so I could judge this category better, but got stuck fixing computer problems. I don't think Taraji will win either. Great performance. Great energy. But still, she's not on screen that much. Penelope Cruz I don't think will win for the reasons mentioned in the article that states why Amy Adams may win. Amy Adams is the complete underdog. Her case reminds me of when Jim Broadbent won when many were predicting Ian McKellen.

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger. If anyone else wins, there'd be a huge outcry in the auditorium. Should be interesting either way.

Best Actress
Kate Winslet. Yeah, there's some that think Meryl will win instead. Perhaps so. Like I just mentioned, I didn't get a chance to see Doubt. Of the few clips I could see of her performance online, it looked kind of one-note-ish to me. But then, I haven't seen the full movie.

Best Actor
Sean Penn. I don't think Mickey Rourke is going to win. As written yesterday, the Independent Spirit award shall be his consolation prize. Let's remember that Rourke has burned his bridges down so much that he's able to parade his comeback story extremely well in his campaign for Oscar. He is a wife beater. A frakking prick. If John Travolta's comeback story couldn't get him the prize for Pulp Fiction against Tom Hanks, who won the year before, why should Rourke get it? The rationale that his performance was so amazing, so above everyone else's I don't buy. Okay, I haven't seen The Wrestler, but Sean Penn was amazing as Harvey Milk. I thought it was far, FAR better than his performance in Mystic River. Sean Penn is widely considered to be one of the best actors of his generation. Yes, he already has an Oscar, but that didn't get in the way of Tom Hanks winning two in a row. Penn is also well liked. Rourke, not so much. Actually, if Rourke wins, I'll probably be pissed.

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire. If The Reader or Milk wins instead, I won't be disappointed. I loved those two. Anything else? No. No. NO!


Janel B 22 February, 2009 19:15  

You were right on Animated Short!

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