- THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
- THE READER
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Overall Thoughts: Obvious choices in a boring, forgettable year of film. Everyone with eyes and a working brain knew Button, Frost, Milk and Slumdog were locks. The fifth spot was the only real source of suspense; would it go to Rev Road (which most people are indifferent to), The Wrestler (which it should have), The Reader (was it the Nazi’s or Winslet’s Wintits? You decide.), or world-stomper The Dark Knight? My money was on the Bat. But really, it doesn’t matter. None of these films are classics. None of them truly stay with you, none are universally loved. We haven’t had a transcendent Best Picture winner the Lord of the Rings, and the streak won’t end this year.
Biggest Surprise: The Reader. I know few people who have seen it, and even fewer who have an interest to. Going back to the nudity, this is Winslet’s fourth of fifth time dropping top on the big silver, so, as Rosie in A League Of Our Own would say, we can draw her tits from memory. Also, and more importantly, it’s schoolwork. A history lesson. It may be an interesting way to approach a discussion of the Nazi Regime, but in the end, it’s still a historical discussion of the emotional and sociological ramifications of the Nazi regzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Biggest Snub: The Dark Knight. It was the only universally loved movie of the year, usually an arbiter of Oscar success. And it shattered box office records, which is the only way a studio blockbuster ever steals the big one (Titanic, Gladiator, LotR). Also, it’s a pretty good movie. Not sure what went wrong here, though I suspect the continuing trend of nominating heavy dramatic pap had something to do with it. Also, Winslet’s boobs.
- David Fincher, BEN BUTTON
- Ron Howard, FROST/NIXON
- Gus Van Sant, MILK
- Stephen Daldry, THE READER
- Danny Boyle, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Overall Thoughts: The five directors of the five Best Picture nominees are nominated here. And you know what that means: toss-up. And you what that means: count the pre-Oscar awards. And you know what that means: congrats Danny Boyle.
Biggest Surprise: Stephen Daldry. See above for my comments on The Reader. But I will add this: is it really so hard to make a good movie with Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, Nazi’s and pseudo-pedophilia? That’s an easier lay up that Ron Howard had for Frost.
Biggest Snub: Darren Aronofsky. Talk about an anti-lay up. This was a half court shot at the buzzer. To make a film about Mickey Rourke as a broken down professional wrestler, with no budget, no big name co-stars, and Marissa Tomei as your female lead? And then to NAIL it? C’mon! Are we still punishing him for screwing up The Fountain? I thought Bald Jackman was pretty cool.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
- Richard Jenkins, THE VISITOR
- Frank Langella, FROST/NIXON
- Sean Penn, MILK
- Brad Pitt, BEN BUTTON
- Mickey Rourke, THE WRESTLER
Overall Thoughts: I like this list of guys. Every performance was stellar, and they all deserve the praise. Nice to see Richard Jenkins get honored after a multi-decade career of playing Hey! It’s That Guy’s. I saw Langella do Nixon on Broadway, any award we want to give him is fine (though I’d prefer him winning only if Whoopi were hosting, which she’s not, so I’m not down for it). Brad did some really difficult work in Ben Button, carried a 3-hour movie to the century mark, and used every trick in the pretty boy book to get the job done. Respect. Sean Penn showed up for work. Nomination. And Mickey Rourke… well, if Mickey Rourke doesn’t win it will be the biggest travesty since Roberto Benigni stomped on Steven Spielberg’s head to get to the podium.
Biggest Surprise: Richard Jenkins. The early frontrunner back in the Spring, but was never in discussion by the Fall. Great performances in little seen indie movies are the hallmark of the Acting categories, but an early release is quite the handicap. Also, his movie was only OK.
Biggest Snub:Someone’s publicists are getting fired. And they would be the ones who used to work for Will Smith and Clint Eastwood.
Biggest Snub 2: RoDoJu in Iron Man. When you single-handedly bring a movie to hugenormous box office numbers it had no reason getting to, we honor you. It’s called the Johnny Depp Corollary. So what happened here? I guess his head-to-toe legit work in Tropic Thunder stole him votes.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
- Anne Hathaway, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
- Angelina Jolie, CHANGELING
- Melissa Leo, FROZEN RIVER
- Meryl Streep, DOUBT
- Kate Winslet, THE READER
Overall Thoughts: Quite the list of boofy brunies. I’ll assume Angelina was nominated because Brad was nominated, and the Academy wanted to drum up ratings for their red carpet show. Meryl hasn’t finished digesting the scenery from Doubt. Melissa Leo is the token Cotillard nominee, and a dangerous sleeper (cause, for the Acting Oscars, with a list of stars, when in doubt vote unknown. See: Brody, Adrien). The race boils down to Hathaway vs. Winslet. After the double Golden Globes win, you think the Academy is really going to deny Kate? Again? And again and again and again?
Biggest Surprise: Angelina Jolie. Cause who even liked Changeling? And who thought her perf was better than the one she gave in A Mighty Heart last year (which wasn’t nominated). Also, it was a showy, overdone, movie trailer performance. The Sean Penn Special. I WANT MY SON BACK! IS DAT MY DADER IN DERE? Same thing.
Biggest Snub: Cate Blanchett. She’s the Oscar nominee gold standard. The Judi Dench special. She breathes, we nominate. Them’s the rules. So where is she? She was every inch Brad’s equal in Ben Button. Her face was the poster! I guess Angie’s big head poster was just more intriguing.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Josh Brolin, MILK
- Robert Downey Jr., TROPIC THUNDER
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, DOUBT
- Heath Ledger, THE DARK KNIGHT
- Michael Shannon, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
Overall Thoughts: What an AMAZING list of guys and performances. I don’t think anyone is missing. And it’s the EXACT list I wanted. I’d be fine with any of these guys winning, save PSH (he got this nod more for his indicative child-rapey face, then for his acting skill. It’s not hard to look understated and good when Meryl is literally gnawing the scenery around you). And I’d be thrilled if RoDoJu or Mike Shans won. But they won’t, cause we’re in the final leg of the Heath Ledger Memorial Tour. No offense to the dead, but we realize The Joker is the EASIEST part to play that there is, right? This isn’t news to anyone, yes?
Biggest Surprise: Michael Shannon. I will say these words and you will believe me: Michael Shannon gave the best performance by a supporting actor in any movie released last year. Period. When you walk into a scene and hijack it from Kate, Leo and Kathy Bates, that’s a win. Shannon won every minute, second, heartbeat and blink he was onscreen. I am stunned he was recognized, dancing on the walls for the nod, and sighing in frustration that Heath is going to steal this from him.
Biggest Snub: None. (Though I would have been pleased to see Tom Cruise get some love for his work in Tropic Thunder. My rule of thumb is this: Tom Cruise ignores his Scientology brethren, dons a fat suit, drops mega F-bombs and dances to Flo Rida in a movie, you give him an Oscar nomination. Period.)
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Amy Adams, DOUBT
- Penelope Cruz, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
- Viola Davis, DOUBT
- Taraji P. Henson, BEN BUTTON
- Marisa Tomei, THE WRESTLER
Overall Thoughts: Always my favorite race of any year, due to it’s complete and utter unpredictability. I like all of these nominees and LOVE that none of them is the clear winner. As it always is. You can’t take your eyes off of Viola Davis for her ten minutes in Doubt (even when snot is grossly falling down her face). Amy Adams brought joy and beautiful confusion as a naïve Nun in Doubt. Taraji was sweet like only someone named Taraji can be. The Tomei redefined her legacy. And, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Penelope Cruz, who is still box office poison, and STILL can’t speak a word of English, was great (and will win).
Biggest Surprise: Marisa Tomei. Maybe the Academy is retroactively firming up Tomei’s career to make her My Cousin Vinny win seem less strange. Maybe it’s an apology for ignoring her breathless (nude) work in last year’s Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Or maybe they thought she just deserved it for convincing us that she could look at Mickey Rourke and be sexually attracted. I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m just glad the Tomei is here.
Biggest Snub: Beyonce, Cadillac Records. It would have killed the Academy to give her the J-Hud nod? She would have performed Single Ladies for free! And Halo, too, maybe. C’mon, that’s worth letting Amy Adams wait an another year.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- FROZEN RIVER
- IN BRUGES
Overall Thoughts: What an odd, uninteresting list of bound words. Not even cinephiles can say they saw both Frozen River and Happy-Go-Lucky. And can someone please explain In Bruges to me like I’m a fourth grader. How can we know it was a good screenplay when you could only understand every eighth word Colin Farrell said? That movie could have been about Nazi Ghosts and I wouldn’t have known it. Milk? Sure, I guess. But how do you not give it to Wall-E? With it’s stunning, silent first act and lead characters who can’t speak?
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- BEN BUTTON
- THE READER
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Overall Thoughts: Why does this feel like a list of Tony Award Nominees? Ben Button was too divergent from its source material, and the movie had nothing to say that Forrest Gump didn’t cover (better) 15 years ago. Doubt already won the Pulitzer Prize; it needs to win an Oscar, too? Frost/Nixon had its glory on The Great White Way, as well. The Reader is a Tuesday Morning 1st period history lecture from Mr. White. Which leaves us with Slumdog Millionaire, who somehow found inspiration and beauty in an Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (without the help of Regis!). Slumdog for the win, and that’s my final answer.
Here are my early predictions: Slumdog, Rourke, Winslet, Ledger, Penelope Cruz’s impenetrable accent, Wall-E and Slumdog once again
Can’t wait to see how Hugh Jackman’s biceps fair hosting the Oscars. Should be a buff, boofy show!
Tell me what you all thought of the nominations by leaving a comment. Did your favorite films get recognized? Was your favorite actor snubbed? Let me know…