Sunday, 22 February 2009

Where I Am Felix To The Academy's Oscar

Tonight is the night when we feeble schlubs get to dip our toes in the lake of glamour that is the Academy Awards, staring in disbelief at the staggering beauty of our betters. I say this without sarcasm, as I am powerless to resist it. The award period is like my Christmas (with the summer season of robots, monsters, superheroes and explosions being my extended birthday). This year, though, has been particularly frustrating, as the likely winners seem more predictable than ever. It's obvious that, by now, Slumdog Millionaire is going to win most awards. That frustrates me enough as I'm on record as hating the damnable thing, but also because it has robbed us of some speculation fun. Last year I might have had a terrible time picking winners, but it was a lot more fun guessing.

Before revealing my picks (can you bear the suspense?), first the results of our poll to find out the most popular longshot Oscar winner from this year's nominations. It was pretty clear who was the favourite.

  • Kung Fu Panda (Animated Feature Film) - 6 (50%)
  • Martin McDonagh (Original Screenplay - In Bruges) - 3 (25%)
  • Richard Jenkins (Actor- The Visitor) - 2 (16%)
  • Melissa Leo (Actress - Frozen River) - 1 (8%)
  • Michael Shannon (Supporting Actor - Revolutionary Road) - 0 (0%)
  • Viola Davis (Supporting Actress - Doubt) - 0 (0%)
  • Gus Van Sant (Director - Milk) - 0 (0%)
  • Thomas Newman (Soundtrack - Wall*E) - 0 (0%)
  • Peter Morgan (Adapted Screenplay - Frost/Nixon) - 0 (0%)
  • Wally Pfister (Cinematography - The Dark Knight) - 0 (0%)
  • The Baader Meinhof Complex (Foreign Language Film) - 0 (0%)
  • Milk (Picture) - 0 (0%)
  • Iron Man (Visual Effects) - 0 (0%)
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Makeup) - 0 (0%)
  • The Dark Knight (Sound Editing) - 0 (0%)
  • Wanted (Sound Mixing) - 0 (0%)

  • Kung Fu Panda's win in this most insignificant of polls warms my heart. KFP has been damned with faint praise since its release ("It's surprisingly good for a Dreamworks movie!" "It's a lot of fun, but it's not profound like the Pixar film!" etc.), though that didn't stop it sweeping the board at the Annies, recently. Recently I rewatched Wall*E, hoping I would like it more second time around, but sadly no. As usual, I offer the usual caveats. It's beautiful, it's got a lot of incredible ideas and imagery, and the sound design is stunning, but the second half is flat, and Wall*E spends far too much of the movie falling over or having things land on him. In Kung Fu Panda the slapstick has a purpose (Po's clumsiness is the source of his kung fu strengths, as his unpredictability makes him unstoppable), whereas in Wall*E it's more like punctuation at the end of scenes, something I have a real problem with. The analogy I ended up with was that Kung Fu Panda was a Buster Keaton movie (it's all about the story and the spectacle), and Wall*E was a Charlie Chaplin movie (convinced of its own importance, and deeply unfunny). Keaton beats Chaplin any day of the week. Sorry, Pixar.

    The votes for Martin McDonagh, Richard Jenkins (who had a really good year with great work in Burn After Reading and Step Brothers as well), and Melissa Leo were cool too, but the latter two are in categories that seem decided already. Martin McDonagh has a better chance, as his category of Best Original Screenplay is kinda weak, but even so, In Bruges was too filthy and odd to win votes from the staid Academy members. Shame. No one else got a single vote. Maybe I chose badly, or maybe readers of this blog haven't seen the movies I picked. No matter. Thanks to everyone who participated.

    And now, my picks for this year. Except for a couple of categories, it was a no-brainer. Even if the Weinsteins have been trying to turn people against Slumdog, it's just not going to happen. To be honest, I may have hated Slumdog, but I might hate The Reader more. Not only is it of questionable value as a comment on post-Nazi German guilt (I think these comments and these reviews sum up my feelings far better than I could express), it's also a really stupid and pompous movie, filled with wall-to-wall cliches and laughable dialogue. David Hare and Stephen Daldry should hang their heads in shame. The list of nominees seems even worse now that I've seen that fucking appalling exercise in static worthiness. And so, I think the Oscars will, should, and can't (due to stupidity) go to the following...

    Best Picture:

    Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
    Should Win: Milk
    Should've Been Nominated: The Dark Knight / Rachel Getting Married / The Wrestler

    I may have had some reservations about Milk, but it's far and away the best movie of a really poor bunch, and by an order of magnitude in the case of Slumdog and The Reader. The snubs for the three films I have listed truly grate on me. I've said it before, and I'll say it again; this is the worst nominations list I can remember, which is another thing that has robbed me of my enthusiasm.

    Best Director:

    Will Win: Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
    Should Win: David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Should've Been Nominated: Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight / Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married

    An easy pick, though I chose Fincher as the Should Win as there was so much work done on Benjamin Button that I thought he edged it over Van Sant, who also did excellent work on Milk (though, as I've said before I would have liked a bit more unconventionality in it). None of this matters, though. Boyle will win it for the worst film of his career. Yuk.

    Best Actor:

    Will Win: Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
    Should Win: Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
    Should've Been Nominated: Robert Downey Jr. - Iron Man

    This has to happen. If someone else won it would be the biggest upset of the night. And by upset, I mean, I would turn off the TV and not bother watching to the end. Come on, Mickey!

    Best Actress:

    Will Win: Kate Winslet – The Reader
    Should Win: Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
    Should've Been Nominated: Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road / Julianne Moore - Blindness

    I love Winslet and think she's one of the great actors of our time (seriously), but for The Reader? Nuh-uh. She's good in it, but that movie deserves no reward. Having her nominated for that and not the far superior (and not despicable) Revolutionary Road is testament to the efficacy of the Weinstein's strong-arming tactics, but that's little consolation to us. I'd love for Anne Hathaway to win instead, just to rob the Weinstein's of their little victory, but that would also rob Winslet, who has deserved Academy recognition for about ten years at least.

    Best Supporting Actor:

    Will Win: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
    Should Win: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
    Should've Been Nominated: Aaron Eckhart - The Dark Knight / Bill Irwin - Rachel Getting Married

    Another no-brainer. And deservedly so.

    Best Supporting Actress:

    Will Win: Pen̩lope Cruz РVicky Cristina Barcelona
    Should Win: Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler
    Should've Been Nominated: Rosemarie DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married

    I would have plumped for someone else in this category, but Tomei isn't winning (even though the Academy might like to legitimise her Vinny award), and Cruz will get it for losing out on a justified award for Volver.

    Best Original Screenplay:

    Will Win: Milk - Dustin Lance Black
    Should Win: In Bruges - Martin McDonagh
    Should've Been Nominated: The Wrestler - Robert D. Seigel

    See above for my feelings on this. Milk wasn't a bad screenplay, but it was pretty unimaginative, and filled with clunky exposition. Seigel's work on The Wrestler, on the other hand, was feather-light. It would have been nice for a former Onion employee to get a nod.

    Best Adapted Screenplay:

    Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire - Simon Beaufoy
    Should Win: Frost/Nixon - Peter Morgan
    Should've Been Nominated: The Dark Knight - Christopher Nolan / Jonathan Nolan / David Goyer

    A particularly weak field. Beaufoy's script is shockingly poor, a stream of one-dimensional characters, contrivance, phony uplift, and childish humour. That said, David Hare's adaptation of Bernard Schlink's novel is equally vapid. I would love for them both to lose to Peter Morgan, even if his screenplay was also loaded with some silly Cliff Notes-style exposition to help the viewer along (though the amount of contextual information in that film has to go somewhere if it's going to be less than fifteen hours long).

    Best Animated Feature:

    Will Win: WALL-E – Andrew Stanton
    Should Win: Kung Fu Panda – Mark Osborne and John Stevenson
    Should've Been Nominated: Fear(s) of the Dark - Various

    I've not even seen Fear(s) of the Dark, but it sounds great, and it would be fun to see Charles Burns getting a nomination (read Black Hole; it's awesome). That would have meant Bolt misses out, which is a shame, as it's a lot of fun, and the nomination is a nice present to Disney Animation, which has had a difficult couple of years.

    Best Foreign Language Film:

    Will Win: The Class (France) in French - Laurent Cantet
    Should Win: Waltz with Bashir (Israel) in Hebrew - Ari Folman
    Should've Been Nominated: Gomorrah (Italy) - Matteo Girrone

    I suspect The Class will win as much for its quality as for not being the far more controversial Waltz With Bashir. I've not yet seen The Class, and it might be amazing, but I can vouch for the incredible Bashir, a film that moved me to horrible tears. I just can't see something that bleak winning an Oscar. Though it would ruin my spread, I'm hoping for a Bashir win here.

    Best Animated Short:

    Will Win: This Way Up - Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

    As I've not seen anything in this category, I don't feel right commenting on what should or shouldn't have been nominated, but I will make this prediction, based on my super-scientific method of picking the one I've heard of (this short was profiled in the Times this week). Besides, it looks pretty cool.

    Best Art Direction:

    Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo
    Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo
    Should've Been Nominated: Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Stephen Scott

    The wide-range of time periods for this movie, and the amount of work in replicating them, ensures this win. Either that or The Duchess will win for Removal of Contemporary Items From Stately Homes. Yawn.

    Best Cinematography:

    Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Claudio Miranda
    Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Claudio Miranda
    Should've Been Nominated: The Spiderwick Chronicles - Caleb Deschanel / The Fall - Colin Watkinson

    It was ravishing! How can it lose? It won't win anything not in the non-technical categories, so this is a sure thing (he said with obnoxious over-confidence).

    Best Costume Design:

    Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Jacqueline West
    Should Win: Milk – Danny Glicker
    Should've Been Nominated: The Fall - Eiko Ishioka

    As in the previous category, an egregious snub for The Fall. I know the movie wasn't seen by many people, but even just looking at the trailer should be enough of a showreel to get some attention. It was one of the most beautiful movies ever made, and no one noticed. I'd feel sorry for the director, for which this was a work of great personal significance, but I imagine worldly things do not matter to the mighty... TARSEM!

    Best Documentary Feature:

    Will Win: Trouble the Water
    Should Win: Man on Wire
    Should've Been Nominated: Standard Operating Procedure

    Boy, I was looking forward to watching Trouble The Water on More4 this week, but our Sky+ record function has gone kerflooey, so that's not happening any time soon. I would think that will win over Man On Wire due to the subject matter, no matter how good it is (I hear it's wonderful, but I wouldn't know). Maybe I'm being too cynical. I'll happily eat my words later, if necessary.

    Best Documentary Short:

    Will Win: The Conscience of Nhem En – Steven Okazaki

    As with the animation short, I've not seen any of the nominees in this category, so I won't insult everyone here, and will plump for this nominee as I have heard of it as well.

    Best Film Editing:

    Will Win: The Dark Knight – Lee Smith
    Should Win: The Dark Knight – Lee Smith
    Should've Been Nominated: Speed Racer - Roger Barton, Zach Staenberg

    There is an awful error in The Dark Knight, during the Batpod sequence, where Batman shoots a glass door, drives through a building, shoots another glass door, and then is back in the building even though it should have driven out. GAH! It drives me crazy every time I watch it. Even so, the editors do an amazing job of cutting a big complex movie down to a manageable size (it should have been a lot longer).

    Best Live Action Short:

    Will Win: On the Line (Auf der Strecke)

    Here is where my foolproof method for selecting the hard-to-find nominees fails. I've not heard anything about any of these movies. ::sigh:: Sorry, short film filmmakers. I'm going for On The Line as it's the top of the list. Oy, that's some crappy motivation.

    Best Makeup:

    Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Greg Cannom
    Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Greg Cannom

    I didn't select a film that should have been nominated, as I think they picked the best three films of the year, though I will say I suspect Tropic Thunder didn't get picked for Robert Downey Jr.'s blackface makeup as the Kodak theatre would explode from the white liberal confusion over it. I think Ben Stiller et al have a good defense when they say that the character of Kirk Lazarus is a lampoon of actorly pretension, and it's a hilarious turn, but I really don't think we're ready to be handing out awards for that kind of divisive and explosive makeup just yet.

    Best Original Score:

    Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Alexandre Desplat
    Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Alexandre Desplat
    Should've Been Nominated: The Dark Knight - Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard

    Doesn't it seem ironic now that The Dark Knight's ineligibility caused so much fuss, and all for nothing? Repeated viewings have shown how complex, unorthodox, and stirring that soundtrack is. The eventual snub is deeply frustrating. And why did I choose Desplat's soundtrack over A.R. Rahman? Because Desplat is super-awesome and I just don't want Slumdog to keep winning things. Please?!

    Best Original Song:

    Will Win: "Down to Earth" from WALL-E – Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman (music), Peter Gabriel (lyrics)
    Should Win: "Down to Earth" from WALL-E – Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman (music), Peter Gabriel (lyrics)
    Should've Been Nominated: "The Wrestler" from The Wrestler - Bruce Springsteen

    This category is utter bullshit this year. I can understand Slumdog and Wall*E getting a nomination each, but leaving out Springsteen makes absolutely no sense. It's good news for Peter Gabriel, though. Slumdog should, again, win, but I suspect (as does Richard Corliss in his picks) that the Slumdog vote will be split, leaving Gabriel free and clear to win.

    Best Sound Editing:

    Will Win: WALL-E – Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
    Should Win: WALL-E – Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
    Should've Been Nominated: Speed Racer - Dane A. Davis, Mike Chock, Drew Yerys

    Big no-brainer. Burtt's work is the main reason Wall*E works at all.

    Best Sound Mixing:

    Will Win: The Dark Knight – Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
    Should Win: The Dark Knight – Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
    Should've Been Nominated: Speed Racer - Felix Andriessens, Christian Wegner

    The Dark Knight is the big action film of the year. This is the way this kind of voting goes.

    Best Visual Effects:

    Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
    Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
    Should've Been Nominated: Speed Racer - John Gaeta

    The last no-brainer, though I'm still upset with the FX voters for yet again snubbing John Gaeta's work. The same thing happened with the two Matrix sequels. No matter what you think of those films, the effects were ground-breaking and beautiful. Who has this guy pissed off in the FX community to keep getting snubbed like this? I'd put Speed Racer above the competent Iron Man work any day of the week.

    And that's that. Sorry for going on at such great length. After tonight I hope to stop thinking about this for at least eight months. Getting annoyed by something so trivial is exhausting.


    thechauffeur said...

    You must really, REALLY hate Slumdog now. I'm bummed I opposed popular opinion and threw away my vote on Taraji. I still can't believe The Academy passed up the chance to continue its history of awarding stereotypes. Of course, then Cuba Gooding Jr. showed up and bucking tradition suddenly made sense. I blame him for fucking up my spread.

    I guess Sean Penn turned out to be the dark horse. It felt like the air had been sucked out of the room when Mickey lost. I would have turned off the television had I been alone. As it was, describing the subsequent mood as equal parts homicidal, funereal and WTF would be accurate.

    Admiral Neck said...

    Fucking Slumdog! Ah well, I'm beginning to think I hate The Reader more, as it was unfeasibly boring, delightfully silly, and morally objectionable to such an extent I'm surprised it's not being picketed across the planet, whereas Slumdog is just overrated, annoying, ineptly made, shoddily written, and hollow. Also, by the end of the night I had warmed to Danny Boyle's smile. As much as Slumdog pisses me off, I couldn't really hate on the guy. It was obviously the best night of his life. The silly little leprechaun man.

    When Mickey lost, there was this huge buzz of cognitive dissonance from everyone in the room, as it had all seemed so certain and then it was yanked away. It was like thinking there is one step left at the top of the stairs, and you have that moment of WTF! when your foot plummets.

    As I've said elsewhere, I really loved Penn in Milk, so it wasn't so bad, but I really wanted to hear Mickey's Oscar speech. Would he eulogise Eric Roberts again? Would he cry upon mentioning his chihuahua? It would have justified the long, long wait.

    So anyway, the Academy can now feel better about itself for giving Crash Best Picture instead of Brokeback Mountain (not to mention the lesser, but still significant, crime of giving Penn an Oscar for screaming a lot in Mystic River, when he should have won for Dead Man Walking).

    There was one winner we can all agree on. Hugh "Triple Threat" Jackman! What a guy. And so handsome! His opening number was terrific. His second number? Not so much. And then he disappeared. That was a little confusing.

    thechauffeur said...

    I agree that The Reader is much worse in everyway than Slumdog, but I can't co-sign the Penn love for Milk. His performance was little more than a fey-off between him and his co-stars, save James Franco who was terrific, as he was in everything last year. Perhaps, in a less competent field or just against Brad Pitt, Penn would have been deserving of the Oscar, but Frank Langella and Richard Jenkins were also robbed. Of course, YMMV.

    Wendi said...

    I think the biggest crime was not giving any of the sound awards to "Wall-E". The movie didn't have any dialogue until halfway in!

    Did everyone forget about "The Fall"? You're absolutely right, the costuming and look of it was magnificent. I wish it had been recognized.