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The 81st Academy Award Nominations: The Big Show Goes Small

Posted by goldwriting on January 22, 2009

oscarDo you know how long I have been waiting to duel with someone. Seriously! I have the sword and everything.

For movie fanatics all over the world, this is the morning we wipe our crusted eyelids, roll clumsily out of bed and collapse on the couch to see the live announcement of the Academy Award nominations. It is more than a testament to the passion we have for cinema, it is a statement of how much we want to quickly and violently debate the fairness of the Academy’s choices. So, let the debate begin…

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Frost/Nixon

Milk

The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

What can anyone do to stop the steamrolling power of the Slumdog? Pretty much nothing. Sweeping every category it was nominated in at the Golden Globes, Slumdog has all the momentum and all the passion of an Oscar winner. It’s uplifting, full of hope and adversity, and overall everything the Academy voters love to rally around. When it wins for Best Picture it will also help paint the picture of the Academy as a more international accepting body of voters. I give great credit to Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon for both being incredible films, but I don’t see them climbing over Slumdog for a win. Milk to me is over-nominated and I would have gladly let this one go in favor of The Dark Knight or Revolutionary Road. My disappointment over the snubbing of The Dark Knight isn’t truly due to thinking it would win the category, but because it would have given some validation to the comic book genre and really helped to boost the idea that these are not just costumed vigilantes on a violence bender, they are incredibly complex and moving stories available to be enjoyed by adults as well as kids. As for The Reader, Ricky Gervais must have been right when he told Kate Winslet at the Golden Globes, “See, just do the Holocaust movie and awards just come rolling in.”

Best Achievement in Directing

David Fincher: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Ron Howard: Frost/Nixon

Gus Van Sant: Milk

Stephen Daldry: The Reader

Danny Boyle: Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

This is the first time since 1944 where there is an exact match between the Best Picture category and the Best Director. Commonly the two awards go hand-in-hand, but there is usually one oddball or mismatch between them. Not this year and my feelings remain pretty much the same from the previous category. Danny Boyle will walk away the winner.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Richard Jenkins: The Visitor (deserves to win)

Frank Langella: Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn: Milk

Brad Pitt: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler (most likely winner)

Now here is some excitement and tension for the night. The inclusion of dark horse Richard Jenkins throws a distinct wrench in the celebratory plans of Mickey Rourke, who took the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama. Jenkins hands down deserves the nomination and I am pulling for him to win. All these performances were incredibly strong, which could split the voting and leave Jenkins available for the sneak attack. The big money is on Rourke because of his Cinderella-esque return to the limelight, but I’m personally hedging my bets and putting some small change on Jenkins. Sean Penn can proudly stand here as the one thing I agree with in terms of nominations for Milk. He was the lightning rod for this film and it all hinged on his stellar performance. Langella and Pitt both were terrific, but the momentum and buzz are not behind them this year.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin: Milk

Robert Downey Jr.: Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Doubt

Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Michael Shannon: Revolutionary Road

I was thinking about just leaving this area with one word, “Duh”, but that would steal my opportunity to praise and shout for the nomination of Michael Shannon. He was the most outstanding and powerful part of Revolutionary Road and I am thrilled he got the nod here. Yet, with that said, let me now return to my previous thought…

“Duh.”

Ledger takes this.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway: Rachel Getting Married (deserves to win)

Angelina Jolie: Changeling

Melissa Leo: Frozen River

Meryl Streep: Doubt

Kate Winslet: The Reader (most likely winner)

Who is Melissa Leo and what is this film, Frozen River? Pulling a repectful Jenkins-like move, Leo throws this semi-strong category into a whirl. Hathaway and Winslet are the two obvious front runners, with Hathaway almost sure to take the Independent Spirit Award the night before the Oscars and Winslet still fanning herself off after the double grab at the Golden Globes for both her roles this year. Holocaust subject matter aside, I think Hathaway was stronger in her role as an ex-junkie struggling with reintegrating herself into her own family, where as if Winslet had been nominated for Revolutionary Road instead of The Reader I would be more inclined to begrudgingly hand it to her. Streep can’t be totally counted out, especially since all four of the main actors from Doubt got nominations, but I think she will fall by the wayside here. Maybe when she lands there, she can bring Jolie a drink, she’s been down there all year.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams: Doubt

Penelope Cruz: Vicky Christina Barcelona

Viola Davis: Doubt

Taraji P. Henson: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei: The Wrestler (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Even though Vicky Christina Barcelona took home the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, I think Penelope is the only one is this category you can count out of the running. The two Doubt women, Davis and Adams, were both sensational, but they might end up splitting that audience in half. This leaves Henson and Tomei to battle it out, with Tomei a touch ahead since I think she only lost out on the Globe because she was battling Winslet on her night-of-all-nights. If Henson pulls it out here, she will most likely be one of very few of the thirteen nominations for Button that will result in a win.

Best Animated Film of the Year

Bolt

Kung Fu Panda

Wall-E (deserves to win, most likely winner)

I’m still baffled by all the acclaim for Bolt, but it really doesn’t matter this year. Wall-E lost out on a Best Picture nod most likely because everyone just wanted to give it this award and be done with it. Plan on Pixar walking away once again, proud of its tiny trashman.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Eric Roth: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

John Patrick Shanley: Doubt

Peter Morgan: Frost/Nixon

David Hare: The Reader

Simon Beaufoy: Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

There’s a good chance Slumdog will continue its reign here, but it’s a strong category so anything could really happen. The Reader has pulled in lots of support and you can count on a huge studio push for the win, but the rest of the pack are no slouches either. Shanley wrote the play for Doubt as well as the screenplay and he was already heaped with acclaim for the stage version (surprisingly, the same holds true for Morgan with Frost/Nixon). Hare succeeded greatly with taking an incredibly minute starting point, a much loved, but much thinner short story, so his skill and credit comes from the expansion and illumination of tale we are lucky to not have missed. Anyone’s game, but I’ll lean towards the Bollywood train based on sheer momentum.

Best Original Screenplay

Courtney Hunt: Frozen River

Mike Leigh: Happy-Go-Lucky

Martin McDonagh: In Bruges

Dustin Lance Black: Milk

Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon: Wall-E (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Again, this is a category where Milk really doesn’t fit. I don’t see it as an original story since it was a biopic and mostly a dramatization of the documentary, The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. It’s a good film, but not what I consider an original story. Then there’s that mystery movie, Frozen River, once again. I really need to see this. Wall-E deserves writing acclaim without a doubt since the first twenty minutes were done beautifully with virtually no dialogue at all. That’s talent, people. Happy-Go-Lucky and In Bruges are getting more acclaim since both movies had their main actors recognized with Golden Globes this year, but I think this one will still end in the incredibly cute storage bin of our friend, Wall-E.

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Changeling

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (deserves to win, most likely winner)

The Dark Knight

The Duchess

Revolutionary Road

The Duchess is a period drama and those tend to do well in this category. As for the rest, they are all incredibly picturesque and beautifully designed films, ranging from the aging, earthy tones of Button to the stark and stunning colors of Road, any of these films deserves the accolade on this night. Just for the sake of picking a winner, I’ll toss my tiny iota of support behind Button. (Sorry, Dark Knight, I still love you.)

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Changeling

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish the difference between Best Art Direction, which is how the film and its universe looks, and Best Cinematography, which is how the film is shot, which in turn show you how the universe looks. It’s a fine line, but this year I think the inventiveness of movement and pacing coupled with the saturated colors of India are going to bring Slumdog yet one more statue for the night.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Australia

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (deserves to win, most likely to win)

The Duchess

Milk

Revolutionary Road

Except for The Duchess, these are all dramas set in fairly contemporary time periods, so the costume design was more about complementing the world and environment, whereas in Duchess gets to really show off the fashions of its 18th century era; big hair pieces, huge dresses and rib-crushing corsets. I’ll lean towards Button due it sheer volume of nominations and its clarity of vision inside the entire project, but this is truly a toss-up.

Best Documentary Feature

The Betrayal

Encounters at the End of the World

The Garden

Man on Wire (most likely to win)

Trouble the Water

I can’t put “deserves to win” here since I have seen absolutely none of these. I love documentaries, but I happen to miss this grouping completely. I’ve heard amazing things about Man on Wire from both friends and industry readings, so I’ll go with that one.

Best Documentary Short Subject

The Conscience of Nhem En

The Final Inch

Smile Pinki

– The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306

Umm…[tries to read tea leaves]…uh…The Witness? Yeah, that’ll win.

Best Achievement in Film Editing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Frost/Nixon (deserves to win)

Milk

Slumdog Millionaire (most likely winner)

Although the editing in Slumdog was sensational, I am happy to announce I think there is actually a better choice in this category. Frost/Nixon tackled a nearly yawn-inducing subject, one last interview with an old and broken man, and turned into a harrowing, sweat-filled ride towed along by brilliant pacing. Do I think it will actually win, nope, but it most certainly gets my vote for most deserving.

Best Foreign Language Film

The Baader Meinhof Complex

The Class

Departures

Revanche

Waltz with Bashir (most likely winner)

Bashir took home the Globe and you can expect it will do the same here. Nothing but praise has been heaped on this oddly animated drama and I am itching for my chance to witness it myself.

Best Achievement in Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (most likely to win)

The Dark Knight

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (deserves to win)

The real choice here is what you find more impressive, making something look incredibly realistic with a mixture of CGI and practical makeup or making something fantastical come to life with prosthetics and makeup? The former would give you Button as the winner and the latter would give you Hellboy II, while the only makeup worth celebrating in Dark Knight is the insanely creepy and dripping face of the Joker. I would like to see Hellboy win here for the amazing work not only on the main character, but also the underworld villain Prince Nuada and his sister, Princess Nuala.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

Alexander Desplat: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

James Newton Howard: Defiance

Danny Elfman: Milk

A.H. Rahman: Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Thomas Newman: Wall-E

While this might be the happiest group of characters Danny Elfman ever scored for, I think he will lose and quickly return to his gothic roots. Slumdog has a good chance due to its unique international flavor and the Golden Globe A.H. Rahman is already carrying, but the other three are very much in the running.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

Peter Gabriel: “Down to Earth” from Wall-E (most likely winner)

Gulzar: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win)

– A.R. Rahman, Maya Arulpragasam: “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire

There is a distinct lack of the man commonly referred to as “The Boss”! Why Bruce Springsteen didn’t get a nomination for the Golden Globe winning song he wrote and performed for The Wrestler is beyond me. Also surprising is the exclusion of Academy golden oldie, Clint Eastwood, and his warbling diddy for Gran Torino. With those two oddly out of the limelight, Gabriel could indeed walk away with it for his heartwarming tune, but Gulzar’s tune is the ending credits number and backs up a huge Bollywood dance number, which helps lift the audience to their feet after all the yearning and struggling they just witnessed. I’m going to put my mark there, while internally wishing I could actually dance like that.

Best Animated Short Film

La Maison en Petits Cubes

Lavatory – Lovestory

Oktapodi

Presto (most likely winner)

This Way Up

Presto is the only one I have seen since it was shown before Wall-E in the theater, but the whole thing is done with no dialogue and is gut-wrenchingly funny. Plus, it’s a Pixar joint, so just give it the gold and be happy they want to make more.

Best Live Action Short Film

Auf der Strecke (On the Line)

Mannon on the Asphalt (most likely winner)

New Boy

The Pig

Spielzeugland (Toyland)

I’ll go with Mannon on the Asphalt because it makes me think of a montage of skateboarders faceplanting.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

The Dark Knight (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Iron Man

Slumdog Millionaire

Wall-E

Wanted

The fact Wanted can now call itself an Academy Award nominated film just tickles me. There was some great sound work by all the nominees in this category, but here I will lovingly and joyously put my ballot into the box of Dark Knight. From the sounds of the jet engine of the Batmobile to the bone-crushing thud of Ledger’s head hitting the interrogation room table, this was a symphony of audio accomplishment.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight (deserves to win)

Slumdog Millionaire (most likely winner)

Wall-E

Wanted

Evidently Iron Man didn’t mix as well as they edited. Odd. Anyway, I’d still like to see Dark Knight get this, but I think the voting block might split this one up. There might still be enough uber-love for Slumdog to pull this one through for them as well.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (deserves to win, most likely winner)

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

This is the one category where Button truly deserves to win, hands down. The character of Benjamin was so incredible and adorable, I couldn’t felt any more sympathy and yearning for him if he were sitting right in front of me. The only reason it worked was the sheer realism of this aged and decrepit child, so without any reservations, this one goes to them.

If you made it all the way down here, thanks once again for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts. Tell me I’m right, tell me I’m wrong, make me believe I missed out on something truly great or just let me know what you thought of that box of Raisinets you got at the movies (Were yours stale? Mine were last time, but I can’t stop getting them).
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Oscar Wrap-Up 2008

Posted by goldwriting on February 24, 2008

no_country.jpg Go ahead, say one more thing about the haircut. Just get it out of your system already.

Another year has passed and another year of watching Jon Stewart polish off the Oscars like it was just another episode of The Daily Show. I swear the man cannot be fazed. As for the winners, I made predictions a while back, so let’s see how I matched up: (I’ll mark the ones I got right with a “*”)

* Best Picture: No Country For Old Men – Flocks of people left this movie confused about the ending, but I stand as one of the minority that enjoyed it, understood it (at least I think so), and was glad they didn’t try to wrap it up nicely in a Hollywood colored bow. A well deserved win for the Coen Brothers and I anxiously await their next picture, the adaptation of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood – Was there anyone who didn’t see this one coming? I wasn’t a huge fan of the film, but his performance was the one thing that kept me interested. I still hold that this role felt a lot like a continuation of his character from Gangs of New York, but since he lost that year I consider it a dual win for him this time around. You might notice the star missing, because even though it was all going his way, I actually wanted Viggo Mortensen a little more for his role in Eastern Promises. I’m happy either way.

* Best Actress: Marion Cotillard for Mome La (or The Rose or La Vien Rose or whatever else they called it) – If she hadn’t won this I might have punched the nearest puppy. This was a monumental performance and when I saw her at a screening of the film there was a five minute standing ovation for her. Never before have I witnessed such an outpouring in person and I felt it could have gone on for even longer and been worthwhile. She was truly brilliant.

* Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men – Another shoe in for the award, even though his field was well stacked. In the end I think he just scared the living crap out of people who might vote against him.

Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton – This was the biggest upset of the night. Most people had Cate Blanchett walking away for her Bob Dylan interpretation in I’m Not There, but again I was in the minority of people who liked Michael Clayton and I congratulate Tilda on her award. If you happen to see her winning it, you can tell she was also honestly shocked. She probably bet against herself in her own Oscar pool.

* Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men – I was thrilled by this. All the other movies were well deserving of nominations, but this film was a true work of art. Well paced, well acted and well shot. Overall fantastic work by these two geniuses.

Best Editing: Christopher Rouse for The Bourne Ultimatum – This is one of three awards the film took in surprising fashion tonight. I would be incredibly remiss to disagree with the choice though because the movie was thoughtfully and skillfully paced. Editing action is an amazing balance of quick cutting and specific holding and if you watch the Brazilian fight scene in this film, you will know why he won. Best use of a book in a fight ever!

Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood – Another well deserved win for this film. I might not have been one of the die hard devotees to it, but it was beautifully shot. The landscapes were picturesque and the intimate moments were kept close and meaningful.

* Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Any Tim Burton film is automatically a wonderland for an Art Director. The worlds are dark, ornate and yet lovely in their eccentricities. The morose canvas they had to play with was helped to create the playground for Tim Burton and his man-muse Johnny Depp to complete yet another in their list of superb collaborations.

Best Song: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for “Falling Slowly” in Once – The main reason I didn’t vote for this, when everyone in the world who saw it told me to, was because I honestly never heard the song or saw the film. It had a limited run here and I never made it out to see it, but it moved a nation of people and after hearing it played on the show I can see why it walked away the winner. I also want to give a hearty thanks to the amazing Jon Stewart for bringing Marketa back out on stage since she got cut off on her way to the microphone to deliver her thanks. Very classy.

Best Visual Effects: Michael L. Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood for The Golden Compass – The world of cyber-geeks was stunned by the passing over of Transformers and so was I. I saw The Golden Compass and I’ll give them credit for the amazing effects, but the movie itself lacked in so many other areas it was hard to come out appreciating anything about it. If I were them, I would make sure to hide those awards in something bomb proof because Michael Bay is comin’ for them.

* Best Score: Dario Marianelli for Atonement – I went for this no only because it is a truly wonderful collection of music, but it is also the best use of a typewriter in movie history. Clickity clack indeed.

* Best Sound Editing: Karen M. Baker and Per Hallberg for The Bourne Ultimatum – You could hear every piece of breaking glass when he jumped through the window and every bone that got bruised by being bashed with a book (YAY!) or a table leg or an entire cabinet. Amazing work done here.

Best Documentary: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner for Taxi to the Dark Side – A definite shock since Sicko by Michael Moore made a ton more money along with the fact there were two other Iraq war documentaries nominated so the thought was the votes would be split, but I have read that this was extremely well done and hopefully more people, like myself, will see it now. In fact, I’m issuing a challenge to everyone out there to watch at least one documentary a month, just one. So much is out there to learn about. It’s not all people being beat up with books (Can I mention that fight scene some more? It was awesome!)

Best Foreign Film: Austria with Falscher, Die (The Counterfiters) – I actually didn’t even cast a prediction in this category, along with the short film nominations, because I know nothing about them, but congrats to them all the same. I’ll try to see if I can find this on Netflix or somewhere and give it a spin in the ole’ DVD player.

Best Live Action Short Film: Phillippe Pollet-Villard for Mozart des pickpockets, Le (The Mozart of Pickpockets) -They showed a clip of a little kid hiding himself in a duffle bag so he could steal someone’s wallet. I give him the award just for the sheer ingenuity.

Best Animated Short Film: Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman for Peter and the Wolf – Again, I didn’t see it, but the animation looked cool. Kid hung upside down from a tree branch and caught a wolf in a rope net. Sweet move.

* Best Animated Feature: Brad Bird for Ratatouille – This was one where I actually felt bad for the other nominated films. I’m sure they were good, but Pixar is a beast and cannot be stopped by ordinary means. They will continue to dominate the Animated Feature world until someone comes up with a whole new form of CGI. Until then, I’m perfectly fine sitting back and laughing like a little kid in front of their cartoon worlds.

* Best Costume Design: Alexandra Byrne for Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Put Cate Blanchett in that role and those clothes, sign yourself up for the post-Oscar party and save a chair for your statue.

* Best Makeup: Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald for Mome La (or all those other names) – They took a gorgeous actress and made her look not only plain, but aged her nearly forty years. The transformation throughout the film was staggering and I was convinced that three different actresses were playing the part. Stunning work done here. Absolutely stunning.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men – What can you say about these two. This was their year. I was pulling for Sarah Polley for Away From Her, which is one of the most tender films of the year, only second to Lars and the Real Girl (almost completely passed over in my opinion by the Academy), but I can’t be sad about the Coen’s winning anything this year. Tremendous work and they deserve it all.

Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody for Juno – Yes, I loved Juno. Yes, I didn’t vote for it. This goes back to my absolute infatuation with Lars and the Real Girl and this was the only category it was nominated in, so I hoped beyond hope that it would get something. But Juno was another steamroller in the hearts of the voting public and I agree (just take out the uber-cutesy first scene and the movie is scripted flawlessly). Also, kudos to Diablo for a touching acceptance speech.

Best Sound Mixing: Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis for The Bourne Ultimatum – Yet another blow by Jason Bourne and his third film in the franchise against those big spiky, nasty robots.

Best Documentary Short Subject: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth for Freeheld – According to her speech the film is about the discrimination of same sex couples. Most likely she was on the “give them equality side” of the argument, so I’m happy she won then. Like her, I don’t have that discrimination against myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support those who have to deal with it on a daily basis. Were all human, so we should only fear one thing and that’s big spiky, nasty robots. And if you give them a book to fight with, oh hell no, I’m leaving this place right quick.

In the end I got 10/24 right, which isn’t too bad considering there were a handful I didn’t even try for. All the movies this year were outstanding and I can only hope that we keep having Oscar shows where I don’t care who wins what award because they are all so damn good. Those are good days for a movie fanatic such as myself.

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