Friday, February 20, 2009



SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE of course. Deservingly so. If it DOESN’T win it’ll be a crime.


This one’s a little trickier. Penn and Rourke could cancel each other out, splitting the majority of voters allowing Langella to get it for his depiction of Nixon. I’m not crazy about Langella’s acting, including his Nixon. If he deserved a nomination for anything it was last year for STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING. A much braver and truer performance I thought.

Not enough people I’m guessing saw Richard Jenkins in THE VISITOR for him to squeak through, though that’s an amazingly worthy choice.

And Pitt in BENJAMIN BUTTON is too controversial because of other actors being the bodies in some scenes and so much of the performance requiring computerized tricks. Even though to my mind that made it all the more impressive. Movie acting is difficult enough because it’s sliced and diced into tiny segments shot out of order, to add on top of that difficulty using only facial expressions to then be mounted on someone else’s movements seems like a pretty daunting challenge that Pitt successfully pulled off.

The money’s on Rourke after his Golden Globe, but I’m guessing enough people had bad experiences working with him that Penn’ll eke out a victory. Hopefully.


This is a tough one to my mind. It looks like it’s Kate Winslett, from the cover of this week’s TIME to almost all the odds makers. And it’s a typical Oscar move, since she really deserved an Oscar more for much of her past work but didn’t get one, so making up for it now would be pretty predictably Oscarish (like Sean Penn getting it for MYSTIC RIVER in which he was good but uneven and his performance wasn’t anywhere near as great as his best work in previous years, or this year for that matter).

But Winslett’s role in THE READER got some flack for seemingly making Nazis seem sympathetic, or somehow justifying some of their behavior in the eyes of some viewers. Usually the holocaust is a surefire Oscar winner, but since this softens the ones who caused it, I’m thinking there may be a bit of a backlash…

…in which case Meryl Streep seems like the default winner because she’s the baby boomer’s Katherine Hepburn and deserves the record for Oscars etc.

But if Winslett and Streep split the majority vote, then someone else can slip in.

I doubt many Academy voters actually saw FROZEN RIVER, but Melissa Leo is known to a lot of them from past work, so she could be the one in that scenario.

On the other hand, Anne Hathaway represents the future of Hollywood female leads and her versatility puts her in a very rarified group, from musicals to comedy to drama she has proven she has amazing acting chops, and her character in RACHEL GETTING MARRIED would resonate with Academy voters I’m thinking.

As for Angelina Jolie, she deserves an Oscar for past work or the accumulation of her own clear diversity (though mostly between drama and action), but this ain’t the one.


Heath Ledger of course (though everyone in this category is equally deserving, even if Philip Seymour Hoffman should have been up for leading actor not supporting for his role in DOUBT).


They say this is the toughest one to call this year (as it often is), though there’s a lot of sympathy for Viola Davis in DOUBT, which would be delightful if only because her role was smaller than most supporting actor nominations are for, and she’s even less well known than most in this category.

But Amy Adams is an up-and-coming star in this category and may get the usual Oscar boost from people who now wish they had rewarded her for previous (and to my mind better) work.

And Taraji P. Henson was the least boring thing about BENJAMIN BUTTON, an otherwise pretty boring flick, and so she jumped off the screen, even if for my taste what she was doing was predictable though unrealistic for the time and place etc.

I’d give it to Penelope Cruz for her character in VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA. She’s an amazing actress and should have won awards for past work as well (like VOLVER last year) and is way underrated to my mind. Her performance in VICKY was nothing short of brilliant for me. But I don’t think Academy voters want to reward anything connected with Woody Allen any more. Unfortunately, because he’s as good as ever in this flick. (And again, to my mind, Cruz was a lead actress in the movie, not supporting, if we must have these categories.)

Marisa Tomei is one of my all time favorite actresses, so I wouldn’t mind seeing her win for THE WRESTLER, which would finally put to rest the old rumor that she won the Oscar for MY COUSIN VINNY because Jack Palance couldn’t read the card inside the envelope without his reading glasses so looked to the prompter and read her name as it was first on the list but not the true winner and the Academy was too embarrassed to correct the “mistake”—something I never believed because that was a brilliant performance too.


Danny Boyle should win for SLUMDOG. Because, to my mind, the movie was an amazing directoral coup. Not just filming in the actual slums of Mumbai, and using non-professional slum kids playing the leads when they were kids, but because it is an old fashioned big Hollywood style movie BUT shot on location in India!—not out in David Lean country but in 21st-Century teeming slums, etc. An amazing achievement.


SLUMDOG should win this too. Hands down the best adaptation, because Simon Beaufoy took a book (by Vikus Swarup) about a very limited subject (a quiz show scenario) and not only turned it into an epic film, but an epically filmable story.


This is another tough category. The movies the nominated screenplays are for were all pretty good in extremely different ways: FROZEN RIVER; HAPPY-GO-LUCKY; IN BRUGES (which I still haven’t seen and need to but friends who recommend it say the ending kind of doesn’t work); MILK; and WALL-E.

Most of the above are relatively obscure and probably weren’t all seen by the Academy (let alone read—the studios send out bound scripts now, or sometimes the little devices you stick in your computer, whadda they call’em? flash thingees, but only a few writers are actually gonna take the time to read a script).

So it’s between MILK and WALL-E.

The odds are on WALL-E because many thought it was so original and brilliant there’s a belief it should have been up for best movie, not just best animated movie.

But if there’s a sympathy vote for Penn (if Rourke or someone else wins best actor) and for Van Sant (if SLUMDOG does pick up the major awards) then MILK will win this one.


SLUMDOG’s got this one too. The only competition is BENJAMIN BUTTON, which may get a sympathy vote if it’s shut out of all the other awards.


WALL-E for the obvious reasons.

These are the categories that most get my attention (and I suspect the audiences) so...there you have it.

I think in the end, the most interesting (and possibly most disappointing thing) about the Oscars this year will be seeing how Hugh Jackman (I almost wrote Jude Law) pulls off hosting without being a comedian. If they really are going to rely on more show numbers and less film clips as I’ve heard, I think we’re in for a longer than usual and more boring than usual show. I hope I’m wrong. But in the end, who really ultimately cares? It’s only a TV show.

1 comment:

Curtis Faville said...

Just got through watching the Oscars this evening, and went to compare your picks with the real winners. You hit most of them right on the head.

My sense is that Slumdog is another one of those PC picks with "third world" traction which everyone seems to get excited about, just out of a sense of guilt, or curiosity, or whatever. Every two or three years some non-Western country manages to put something together, looking a little clunky and flat, and the academy falls all over it. I haven't seen it, and don't want to. Didn't they used to put all those into a basket category once upon a time, "best foreign language film" or something? Gee, I'm dumb about this stuff.

I was routing for Rourke, but that movie may have been too "B" to foreground what talent he still has left.

I haven't seen Milk, but my guess is I'd be disappointed in the choice of Penn for Best Actor. Ditto with Ledger, who if he had lived would certainly have gone on to other chances--hated to see Brolin miss it, but he too will have other nominations in the future. Ditto with Hoffman and Downey, though Hoffman's part as the priest was so suitable to his look and talents, one like that's not likely to come along again soon.

I'm looking forward to seeing Vicky Cristina, having just watched two other Allen films, Match Point and Scoop, in the last two weeks, both set in Britain, oddly.

Wall-E was a pleasant surprise. I have a deep sense of impatience with these new slick computer-animation movies, with their crass voices and hard-edged condescension. At least the old Disney stuff and cartoon shorts we grew up on were sweet and innocent; the new ones in the last 30 years have become almost like porn in their cynicism. But Wall-E made some kind of narrative sense, and didn't belittle its characters. The robots had real identities. Also, it parodied the "human" character traits--obesity, gullibility, vulnerability--and showed how dependent they had become on machines. That's something the new generation of techno-animator producers haven't had the guts to do: Denigrate technology.

I already feel Winslet is becoming over-familiar, that she'll peak too early and become complacent, the way so many pretty actresses do after a first series of successes. When she just sits quietly, she can look stunning, but when she starts to talk and grin and giggle, I tend to cower in embarrassment for her. Her face has that pleading upsidedown smile that used to be popular in the 1940's--imagine her with a long blonde wave, a husky drawl, and a "heavy" cigarette like Betty Bacall. Maybe she just suggests an overgrown teenager trying to fend off her prom date. Whatever, she just doesn't do it for me.