17 February 2009

Obligatory Oscar post

Nothin' beats idle speculation on meaningless awards adjudicated in inscrutable fashion. Let's take a look. My uneducated guesses in bold, as always.

Best Picture

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

After a couple years of taking a few risks, the academy returns to tradition by delivering a slate of pictures written and produced to be Oscar bait. Genre-hopping gadfly Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" looks like a slight favorite from a very uninspiring crop. Well, not every year can be 2007. And hey, that's a funny Forrest Gump parody, right?

Best Director

There's no need to retype the nominees here, as they're the same five films as above. I'm not a film expert, of course, but it seems that, with the admission that this category is effectively extraneous, what justification there would be to give the award to someone else? Are we to assume that direction is the only important factor to a film's success? Apparently so.

Best Actor

Richard Jenkins - "The Visitor"
Frank Langella - "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn - "Milk"
Brad Pitt - "Forrest Gump: The Musical"
Mickey Rourke - "The Wrestler"

Frank Langella's Nixon is pretty damn awesome, and certainly makes that film far more attractive, but he and Richard Jenkins are the plucky underdogs here. If Penn or Langella were to win--and I suspect Penn will--it would be the fourth time in five years the Best Actor Oscar would be given for a portrayal of a historical person. Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, it's apparently the highest form of acting as well. Who knew?

Best Actress

Anne Hathaway - "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie - "Changeling"
Melissa Leo - "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep - "Doubt"
Kate Winslet - "The Reader"

I don't have much of a clue here. Leo is my sentimental choice, but that movie looks awfully depressing, however timely it may be. I'm leaning a bit toward Hathaway here and, for Pete's sake, let's get a DVD release of "Rachel Getting Married" already.

Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin - "Milk"
Robert Downey, Jr. - "Tropic Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman - "Doubt"
Heath Ledger - "The Dark Knight"
Michael Shannon - "Revolutionary Road"

I think we all know what's going to happen here. I just wanted to point out that "Doubt" has four acting nominations--essentially all of its major roles--as well as a best adapted screenplay nod, but no best picture nomination. I can only assume the direction must have been terrible.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams - "Doubt"
Penelope Cruz- "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis - "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson - "The Curious Case of...zzzzzzz"
Marisa Tomei - "The Wrestler"

I love Adams and Tomei, largely from residual good feelings for their parts in "Junebug" and "In the Bedroom", two of my favorite movies. But I don't think "Doubt" will get shut out, and Davis, who has a smaller but more Oscar-friendly part, will walk off with it.

I'm happy to be through the acting categories. Too much typing...

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who Framed Benjamin Button?
The Reader
Slumdog Milionaire

If these titles look familiar to you by now, they should. Once again, it's the best picture nominees except with "Doubt" in place of "Milk," which is an original screenplay. Hollywood is apparently self-aware of its inability to produce much quality original work. Which isn't necessarily the case when you consider that..

Best Original Screenplay

Frozen River
In Bruges

...the nominees in this category would've made a fine best picture slate in their own right. I have the advantage of actually seeing "In Bruges" which was released forever ago, and it manages to be both a wickedly funny black comedy and touching tale of hitman comradeship. I'll give it some props here.

Best Foreign-Language Film

The Class
The Baader Meinhof Complex
Waltz with Bashir

This category is always a crapshoot, as no one is ever sure quite what the rules are or whether anyone from the academy even watches the films that are nominated. "Waltz with Bashir" has been released in the US already to positive reviews, but it's predominantly animated, and that's something of an irrational threshold for the voters. I'm still taking it, though, because "The Band's Visit" was totally shafted by this category's dumb rules last year.

Best Documentary Feature

Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

This, of course, is the category I love to geek out on, For example, it shows how little I know about cinema that I primarily think of Werner Herzog as the guy who makes quirky, philosophical nature documentaries. Though there are always some choices out of left field and the winner often seems chosen randomly; in this case I've never heard of
Nerkhoon" or "The Garden." The other three films are highly regarded, as the feared "Doc Crash" hasn't yet arrived, at least in terms of quality pictures. "Man on Wire," less a documentary than a taut heist movie, is a head above the rest.