Saturday, February 21, 2009

If I chose the winners

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 Oscar Night, 2009

Key: Will Win - X
 Should Win - O

  • BEST PICTURE
  • [___] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • [___] Frost/Nixon
  • [___] Milk
  • [_O_] The Reader
  • [_X_] Slumdog Millionaire
  • "Slumdog Millionaire" was the early underdog nomination
  • that remarkably gained momentum as more people have sought it out. Truly the one word of mouth nomination. But was it the best film of 2008? For that matter, were any of these decent but not masterful films the best of the year? "Benjamin Button" is burdened by a predictably whimsical story and an unnecessary present day deathbed storytelling editing choice. "Frost/Nixon" was a fascinating look back in history with two brilliant acting turns, but is this a film to revisit again and again. "Milk," the uplifting contender here and a tie with "Reader" for best film of the lot, is probably "Slumdog's" toughest competitor but "liberal" Hollywood has not been friendly to past films with a prominent homosexual focus (see "Brokeback Mountain"). "The Reader" is the one truly thought provoking film in the lineup, not to mention the most surprising and controversial. Naysayers are coining this film yet another emotional Holocaust drama. They clearly have not seen the film. What "The Reader" excels in is its ability to spark debate. Regret, shame, legal morality, love, are all themes woven together in this fascinating film. Winslet's performance is worthy of her first Oscar prize, however, the most underrated turn was from relative newcomer David Cross. 
  • ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • [___] Frozen River
  • [___] Happy-Go-Lucky
  • [___] In Bruges
  • [_XO_] Milk
  • [___] Wall-E
  • Dustin Lance Black is a name to get used to. His work on "Milk" and on the now fascinating HBO series "Big Love" shows a level of personal touch rarely spelled out on the page. A dark horse win for "In Bruges," one of the better films of the year and a slyly dark comedy would be nice but is highly unlikely.
  • ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • [___] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • [__] Doubt
  • [___] Frost/Nixon
  • [_O_] The Reader
  • [_X_] Slumdog Millionaire
  • Adapted Screenplay will probably be another of "Slumdog's" sweep later tonight but I would argue that again, "The Reader" is the most thought provoking story of the lot. One puzzling absent nomination is "Revolutionary Road," a surprisingly faithful adaptation of a fiction masterpiece. 
  • ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
  • [_O_] Anne HathawayRachel Getting Married
  • [___] Angelina JolieThe Changeling
  • [___] Melissa LeoFrozen River
  • [___] Meryl StreepDoubt
  • [_X_] Kate WinsletThe Reader
  • Winslet will probably take her first Oscar this evening after a stunning six prior nominations. Her win, while warranted, will be the "it's about time" prize of the evening. Streep may be here toughest competitor (after all she's Meryl Streep), however, for my money the strongest and most surprising performance of the group was from Hathaway who is quickly shedding her Disney princess actin roots and is evolving into one our most exciting rising actors. "Rachel Getting Married" did not receive enough credit this year and an upset by Hathaway would be just what this little movie needs to garner a wider audience. 
  • ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
  • [___] Amy AdamsDoubt
  • [_O_] Penelope CruzVicky Cristina Barcelona
  • [_X__] Viola DavisDoubt
  • [___] Marisa Tomei,The Wrestler
  • [___] Taraji HensonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • This may be the toughest category of the night. All the actors shined and it'll probably come down to Davis or Cruise. Tomei continues to turn in remarkably intimate performances in tough roles. Henson was probably the best part of "Button." "Doubt" was an acting showcase but Cruz was dazzling as a high-maintenance, artist ex-girlfriend in Woody Allen's most recent masterpiece. Cruz has parlayed through Hollywood for some time often with less than stellar results, however, when she's on her native ground in Iberia her true talents come out.
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
  • [___] The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany
  • [_XO_] The Class, France
  • [___] Departures, Japan
  • [___] Revanche, Austria
  • [_O_] Waltz with Bashir, Israel
  • Another tough one. "Bashir" and "The Class" were both remarkable pieces of cinema. "The Class" gives a new meaning to realism while "Bashir" took animation in an exciting and deep realm of possibilities (a reading of Joe Sacco's graphic novel "Palestine" would be a perfect companion piece to this film). Either would be worthy but knowing the Academy, "The Class" will probably be the safest bet. 
  • ANIMATED FEATURE
  • [___] Bolt
  • [_XO_] Wall-E
  • [___] Kung Fu Panda
  • A category that was clearly created for Pixar. "Wall-E" could be in the Best Picture category but this sure-shot win will be enough.
  • DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
  • [___] The Betrayal
  • [_O_] Encounters at the End of the World
  • [___] The Garden
  • [_XO_] Man on Wire
  • [___] Trouble the Water
  • A terrific lineup of docs this year. "Encounters" and "Wire" or so radically different but each films that will resonate long after tonight's festivities. "Encounters" that speaks to a certain demographic of individuals, more specifically the adventurous souls. "Wire" is a one of a kind documentary/caper film about a one of a kind personal feat in human history. 
  • SHORT FILM - ANIMATED
  • [_O_] La Maison En Petits Cubes
  • [___] Lavatory Lovestory
  • [___] Oktapodi
  • [_X_] Presto
  • [___] This Way Up
  • The first year I've been able to catch the Oscar Shorts before the festivities. Pixar's "Presto" will probably prevail but look out for the beautifully imagined "La Maison" from Japan, a film that proves old fashioned animation techniques are still alive and well. 
  • ORIGINAL SCORE