With the Oscars a mere two days away, I present the partially written ages ago …
Oscar Nomination Round Up 2009!
Or, “The Latikas”, as they shall henceforth be known.
So I’ve had a week (hah!) to think of these babies, and here’s some initial thoughts. As with every year, it’s a hodge podge mix of what I would like to happen and what I think will happen. I’ll most likely deadblog the event again this year. I mean, seriously, I care about the outcomes but the ceremony itself eventually grinds you down regardless of who the host is.
Three years ago I went to see Brokeback Mountain for a second time instead of staying home and watching Crash win. I still think I made the right decision.
(I’ve updated parts where necessary, and marked the parts out. Everything past Original Screenplay was written on February 21 or later)
An underline means what I think will win, a bolding means what I kind of think should win but might not be 100% certain about on a case by case basis.
- THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
- THE READER
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Movies seen: 4/5 (Not The Reader)
Firstly, I’m really surprised by all of the love that both Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon have received at these Oscars. Frankly, I think that Benjamin Button is a sort of jigsaw of a movie of potential greatness that’s missing a few pieces, and is grossly impersonal as a result.
Now Frost/Nixon, there’s a good movie: it humanises a monster precisely by illustrating his monstrosity. You feel for Nixon despite knowing full well that he’s not really a person.
That said, Slumdog Millionaire is the darling of the critics and the establishment and is very likely the firm favourite for this award. It’s kind of strange how strongly it took off, to the point that it’s playing at Miranda (okay, that means nothing to almost everyone in the audience, but Miranda is a suburban cinema out my way that is so daring as to show movies like There Will Be Blood and Charlie Wilson’s War, that don’t play at my closest cinemas). Now, Slumdog Millionaire is a good movie, but there is a dab of colonialism at its heart and, of course, there’s also the inexplicable backlash felt by people like me for the very virtue of its “darling” status. I think it’s going to win; I don’t know which of these films I think should win, so that’s okay by me.
Update: I’ve since seen The Reader and it was very good. On top of that, its smear campaign started too late to have any effect, whereas Slumdog’s began the moment the ballots were sent out. While the Academy does love films about the Holocaust and German guilt – at least, if you ask Spike Lee – I’m not sure it’s a real contender. I think it’s a two horse race twixt Slumdog and Milk, and Milk was doped beforehand and died at the end of the first furlong; that is, it never stood a chance next to the juggernaut.
- THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – David Fincher
- FROST/NIXON – Ron Howard
- MILK – Gus Van Sant
- THE READER – Stephen Daldry
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – Danny Boyle
Movies seen: 4/5.
At last! The best movie and best director nominations totally match up! To me, this is actually easier than the best picture this year (again keeping in mind that I haven’t seen The Reader). The best part of Slumdog Millionaire was the well designed end credits sequence, so I want to give this to either Ron Howard or Gus Van Sant. They both did good jobs of making period pieces look like period pieces, much like Spielberg did with Munich a few years back. I’m more inclined towards Milk simply for the scale of the piece and the atmosphere, but Frost/Nixon would be a worthy contender. There’s some really powerful stuff there for something that’s on a much smaller scale, plus Martin Sheen and Frank Langella are both amazing.
Update: Having seen The Reader, my stance on this hasn’t really changed. Danny Boyle’s chances of winning for Slumdog have lessened seeing as he is “personally” responsible for the exploitation of little Jamal and Latika. Sure, they’ll be attending the Oscars, but the damage will be done! (Frankly, I think they’ll be bored. It’s hard enough to get through them when you understand English).
- Richard Jenkins for THE VISITOR
- Frank Langella for FROST/NIXON
- Sean Penn for MILK
- Brad Pitt for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
- Mickey Rourke for THE WRESTLER
Movies seen: 5/5
Conventional wisdom says that this is Mickey Rourke’s for the taking. My own observations of the past few years show me that the Academy loves giving awards to people who have played historical figures. This is actually a really strong category this year, despite the inexplicable presence of Brad Pitt (and at this point I get the strangest feeling that I’m beating up on Benjamin Button, but I’m not; I’m simply baffled). The “shock” nominee is Richard Jenkins, because I doubt very many people saw The Visitor despite it being a very good movie indeed – and one of those rare joys that had me more emotional on the second viewing.
So, while there’s a high likelihood that this award will go to Mickey Rourke, and it could be argued that the historical figure he’s playing is Mickey Rourke twenty years after his glory days, I think that this could easily be taken by Langella (very good, and he plays a hated Republican, which liberal Hollywood would jump at), but would likely will go to Sean Penn for his excellent work on Milk. Man’s a damn chameleon. His last win was for Mystic River, and it’s hard to imagine two more different roles.
Update: The Wrestler was infinitely better upon its second viewing, so I’m erring further in Rourke’s favour now.
- Anne Hathaway for RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
- Angelina Jolie for CHANGELING
- Melissa Leo for FROZEN RIVER
- Meryl Streep for DOUBT
- Kate Winslet for THE READER
Movies seen: 1/5 (Doubt).
Hah, uh … no comment, I guess. Kate Winslet’s the sure bet, so I’ll go with her. I’ve honestly got no idea what Frozen River even is, but I have been looking forward to the other four movies. Meryl Streep was undoubtedly good in Doubt (proof positive that I don’t think my sentences through before I write them), but hey, Kate Winslet: she combines Hollywood’s favourite – Nazis – with the narrative of a multi-nominee who’s never quite secured herself that golden statuette.
Update: I’ve now seen The Reader and Changeling. I’m pretty sure that Kate Winslet has got this one locked in. I’ve also found out what Frozen River is, but am unlikely to be able to see it before the ceremony. The smear campaign against Winslet in particular amongst all of The Reader stuff is ridiculous – she creates sympathy by getting naked! This is a crime, and clearly Winslet is pro-Nazi! Oh, please. I have read that Winslet should be shot down in flames because Streep is more deserving, but I don’t see that. Of course, I have bias on my side because I liked The Reader better than Doubt. They’re both films of ambiguity, but I loved how straightforward and unrepentant Winslet’s Hannah was compared to my reaction to her. Jolie was also good in Changeling but I’m not sure that was ever really an option. Rachel Getting Married is on my agenda for tomorrow, but I don’t think Hathaway’s going to win (and have you got any idea of the public backlash against her? It’s weird). Also, without casting aspersions on Melissa Leo, I tend to think that Kristin Scott Thomas was ripped off: I’ve Loved You So Long was great, and she was great.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Josh Brolin for MILK
- Robert Downey Jr. for TROPIC THUNDER
- Philip Seymour Hoffman for DOUBT
- Heath Ledger for THE DARK KNIGHT
- Michael Shannon for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
Movies seen: 4/5 (haven’t seen: Revolutionary Road)
Oh, come on, this is either the biggest gimme or biggest upset in ever. Sure, there was some other guy who was posthumously nominated for an Oscar who didn’t win in the past, but that was before the internet age and I’m sure that fellow hadn’t been canonised like Heath Ledger has been. I hate that I have to write wondering “would Heath Ledger have been nominated if he hadn’t died?”
I would like to have seen that nomination made on the strength of his performance, which was indeed stellar. Ledger deserves the award, but in a perfect world it would have been on a totally level playing field.
Josh Brolin was good in Milk, playing a man who was clearly becoming more and more unstable, and he can take the Matt Dillon comfort: “people don’t remember who won, they remember who was nominated” (seriously, Matt Dillon said that when he was nominated for Crash). Of course, it doesn’t work so well when you’re up against Heath Ledger.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was very good in “Two hours of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman yelling at each other while Amy Adams says ‘oh dear me'”, but I don’t consider it his best work.
Robert Downey Jr. nomination is interesting; his performance was hilarious, but it’s clear that the whole “retard” debate surrounding the movie at its release was a smokescreen from the whole “black face” issue. Of course, Stiller had written the movie well enough that everyone knows that RDJ’s character is doing a terrible thing (actually, they’re all oblivious, but that’s rather the point), but it’s still at least a little controversial.
All of this discussion is clearly a moot point because of Ledger’s inevitable triumph, but sometimes you need to talk these things through.
Update: I’ve seen Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road and he was the element that everyone laughed at out of nervousness. Just thinking about his performance now is making me cringe. Good performance, yes, but yet another contributing factor in my total lack of desire to think about that movie. Changes nowt.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Amy Adams for DOUBT
- Penelope Cruz for VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
- Viola Davis for DOUBT
- Tarija P. Henson for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
- Marisa Tomei for THE WRESTLER
Movies seen: 4/4
No movies highlighted or underlined because I’ve NFI.
The surprises here are, of course, Henson for Benjamin Button and Viola Davis for Doubt. I have no idea who’s going to take this, or who’s tipped. I think that Marisa Tomei could do it, but I’d have to go back and watch My Cousin Vinnie so I can snark about her win. I love Amy Adams, but felt that Doubt was a bit mousey. I also love Penelope Cruz, and she could also take it.
So basically I have no idea and I’m useless.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- FROZEN RIVER
- IN BRUGES
Movies seen: 4/5 (not Frozen River)
This could go many ways, too. Without knowing what Frozen River, I’ll go potted. Happy-Go-Lucky is Mike Leigh’s excruciating but somehow compelling tale of a woman who responds to everything in her life with smiles and laughter, and her vague adventures and her encounters with a racist driving instructor with anger issues. It’s a contentious film and not one that I’d easily recommend, and it’s not really notable for either its dialogue or its scenarios; it’s a bunch of scenes heading towards not much of a conclusion.
In Bruges is one of my favourite films of 2008, and disproves the old adage (is it one that we even use anymore?) that swearing is a substitute for wit and intelligence. It’s one of the more thoughtful and strangely moral films of the year, with great dialogue being equalled by the performances of the leads. It’s one of those movies that I think about and quote apropos of nothing, and I think the nomination is well deserved.
Milk is notable for being the only film on this list to be nominated in the Best Picture category, and it’s a good movie. The writer, Dustin Lance Black, is even glamorous:
See? He’s got a photo shoot from Gus Van Sant to his name and everything. I liked Milk, but its script doesn’t stand out to me like all the others. Note, however, that Black is far more attractive than last year’s winner, Diablo Cody. I’m not sure if it counts for anything, but I’m just putting that out there.
Wall-E is the surprise nomination here, but it’s a welcome one. So much more goes into the construction of a movie than simply words, but you can be certain that the script for Wall-E was not only the dialogue from the computer, from Otto, the ship’s Captain and Kathy Najimi and John Ratzinger. The first half of Wall-E, with its almost entirely diegetic exposition and musical world building, was amazing. It was something like how I Am Legend should have been (the movie, not the book). Anyway, the screenplay is interesting because, while it mentions all of Wall-E and Eve’s beeps and boops, it also has a translation of what is meant by each sound. I think that a lot of strong writing would have been employed in order to present the subtlety offered on screen in the finished product. I’m tempted to give the whole dang thing to Wall-E, but I think it’s a courtesy nomination. While it’s possible that Milk could take it, I think I’d like In Bruges or Wall-E to.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
- THE READER
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Movies seen: 5/5
You know how hard it is to judge best adapted screenplay when you’ve read none of the originals? It’s a bit difficult. Let’s just say that Slumdog takes it, because you know that this is exactly what’s going to happen. I’m waiting for the day when someone explains to me precisely why Benjamin Button is nominated for so much stuff. Is it the double whammy of down home nostalgia? “Hey guys, remember Hurricane Katrina? Because that sure as eff happened. Rather like the Bible foretold AIDS, so too did F. Scott Fitzgerald foresee a mighty wind …”
That’s all I’ve got.
Most of the rest of the nominations are all technical as eff, so I won’t bore you with misinformed and ill thought out predictions, with some key exceptions for those that I consider more major..
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – “O Saya”
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – “Jai Ho”
- WALL-E – “Down to Earth”
Someone explain this category to me. I’m not going to pretend to remember “O Saya”, and I honestly thought they’d changed the rules so that you can only nominate one song from each movie so that it doesn’t get split up and you give the award to Melissa Etheridge so she can tell you to recycle polar bears. Jai Ho has obviously got it, because it’s Slumdog. “Down To Earth” was okay, more notable for its accompanying animation, but the real question is where the hell Bruce Springstein’s “The Wrestler” is? That song perfectly captured the spirit of The Wrestler and I was very emotional the second time I saw that movie.
I can only suggest that this is a nonsensical beat up and am boycotting the Academy. Well, not really, but it’s an inexplicable oversight. What the Hell, man.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
- KUNG FU PANDA
I would say that Wall-E is a shoo-in, but seriously, Kung Fu Panda cleaned up at the Annies and Wall-E got nothing. I’ve got no idea how that happened and can’t even begin to understand. Apparently, animation-wise, Wall-E was pretty pedestrian or something. I don’t know, it looked pretty beautiful to me, maybe it didn’t reticulate enough splines or something similar. I like all three of these movies and even though Bolt doesn’t have a chance it was quite nice. If Kung Fu Panda wins it’s plainly the biggest upset. Yes, I got sentimental, but it’s no damned Wall-E. With the weight of the screenplay nomination, I’ll be surprised if there’s a derail from the narrative.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
- THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX – Germany
- THE CLASS – France
- DEPARTURES – Japan
- REVANCHE – Austria
- WALTZ WITH BASHIR – Israel
Can you believe I’ve seen two of these films, and can go and see a third in the next few weeks? Departures and Waltz With Bashir were both very good movies, although Waltz With Bashir is more documentary than fiction; I’m not entirely certain how they differentiated, because it’s really no different to a documentary with re-enacted scenes. Mine is not to question the Academy. I’ve no idea what will win, though, because it’s incredibly difficult to wonder as to the quality of films you’ve never heard of.
So join me on Monday night, Australia Time, for my annual Deadblog of the Academy Awards! It’s sure to be at least vaguely interesting! How about that Hugh Jackman, huh? It makes no sense for him to host it, but hey, Ricky Gervais has helped him out with some of the jokes so it might be a good four hours of gentle racist jokes from a lovable scamp!
Finally, I’d like to point out that Wanted has been nominated for an Academy Award. Chew on that.