This year I'm making predictions, because GUESS WHAT? I've seen all five Best Picture nominees! I feel quite accomplished - in past years, I never felt like I could fully throw in my opinion because I hadn't seen every film. Now, there are a couple of acting nominees I haven't seen (Frozen River, The Visitor), but I'll take my chances with my predictions, which I list leading up to the big acting and film awards. So below I list the nominees, and what I think the Academy voters WILL vote to win, and which nominees I personally think SHOULD win.
Kung Fun Panda
WALL-E - should win, will win
I was hoping against hope that Wall-E would actually be nominated for Best Picture, but it was a stretch to believe that out of the Academy. And I have no doubt it will win in this category, because, um, it was definitely one of the best if not THE best film of last year.
[Sidenote: I haven't seen any of the foreign language nominees, forgive me.]
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
David Hare - The Reader
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire - should win, will win
There are some serious contenders here in Doubt and Frost/Nixon, as they are both triumphant theater-to-film scripts. And weaving F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story into a lengthy movie was certainly a feat; the main attraction of that movie is the script. However, I have to give the edge to Slumdog Millionaire for a script that turns every which way and ran me through a gamut of emotions. The tv-show backdrop in contrast to the sometimes harrowing tale of the main character impressed me. It was hard to choose which way the Academy would go, but I think Slumdog will rise above.
Courtney Hunt - Frozen River
Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin - In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black - Milk - will win, should win
Andrew Stanton - WALL-E - should win (couldn't choose!)
Another tough one - I was really hoping to see Frozen River before this Sunday because I was intrigued by one of the only female screenplay nominees. However, it probably won't happen. I'm not sure if the In Bruges Golden Globe win will matter here, but I'd put my bets on Milk, which had one of the most honest scripts for a bio-pic that I've witnessed (I tend to despise biographical films because they have a habit of exalting and praising their subjects with "life rewrites" that are completely false - see: The Hurricane). I would certainly vote for Wall-E, because the idea is completely original - but I don't think enough Academy voters will consider a movie with a majority of robot sounds to be worthy enough.
Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - should win
Viola Davis - Doubt - will win
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler
There's so much good in this category! It was really hard for me to choose between Adams, Cruz, and Davis. While good, I don't think Taraji P. Henson's role as Button's mother was completely Oscar-worthy. Tomei was also good, and I like her, but I don't think she stacks up to the other three performances. I think Cruz should win because she thoroughly immerses herself into this emotional tornado of a character; but even though she's "crazy" she's not unlikable - she's not a stereotype of a scorned lover. She's intelligent, brazen, loving, and yes, totally and completely gorgeous. She made Scarlett Johanssen's presence, [non-existent] acting abilities, AND looks pale in comparison. But the voters? My guess is they'll go with the one-scene emotional brevity of Davis' turn in Doubt. It's a turning point in the film, and Davis is mesmerizing in it.
Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight - should win, will win
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road
I don't think The Dark Knight would be AS great as it is without Heath Ledger's Joker. It would still be great for the rest of the performances, the directing, the sound, the scripts, etc. - but Ledger is the ultimate center of the film. The other actors are all worthy in this category (even RDJ, whom you know I love - but just his nomination is a win in my book!). Brolin and Hoffman, especially. But The Joker wouldn't be The Joker without Ledger; he was intense and funny, but not farcical. And to remember all of his other work from Brokeback Mountain to even 10 Things I Hate About You - they all differ, and The Dark Knight displays his abilities at his best...and this year, The Best.
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt - should win
Kate Winslet - The Reader - will win
I'll say it again: I love Kate, but she was better in Revolutionary Road. However, is there anybody doubting her win? Speaking of - is there any better actress these days than Meryl Streep? She can do anything, and she does it well. She was in the crapshoot that is Mamma Mia last year - but she was sunny and bright and lovely; and then she was in Doubt where she is cold, bitter, and dominating. Her every move, enunciation, and eye-stare is part of the character. Of course, she's had her wins - Kate hasn't. And neither has Anne Hathaway, but, she's got time to prove herself. Kate has certainly deserved an Oscar in past nominations (for Eternal Sunshine, Sense & Sensibility, etc.) - and this role is more of a Supporting Actress role, anyway. I'll cheer her on, but hers was certainly not the Best Actress performance of this year for The Reader.
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk - should win
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler - will win
This may be the toughest call of the night. Rourke has already garnered a lot of awards going into this; he was certainly great and everybody loves a comeback. However, I'm realizing as I write this up that Milk really was one of my favourite movies in the race, and a large part of that was Sean Penn's performance. It may be the best of his long, illustrious career (no matter what I hear of him in "real life"). I, personally, would give it to Penn. Maybe the Academy will, too, but Rourke's generated some serious steam from this role. I think Pitt's been WAY better in other roles, and I haven't seen Jenkins' performance. Langella also gave a tremendous turn as Richard Nixon - I believe it's easy to make a caricature of that man, and he portrayed him quite realistically. I honestly can't think of a Nixon portrayal better than his. I'm excited to see where the Academy goes with this category!
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant - Milk
Stephen Daldry - The Reader
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire - should win, will win
UGH - if I could only replace Daldry with Christopher Nolan. UGH. Or even Sam Mendes. Those two directors (of The Dark Knight and Revolutionary Road, respectively) deserve a nomination more than Daldry for his choppy, inconsistent, and rather un-fascinating directing. All the other nominees had something interesting in their directing - I really love this category. I think the clear winner is Boyle, because he was able to keep a clear narrative through all the jumps in the story. It was pulsing and energetic and colorful and sometimes bleak - it was innovative, and I think Boyle likes taking risks. They paid off here. Fincher is always good, but Seven, Fight Club, and maybe even Zodiac, were better-directed than Button - he didn't take too many risks here, but that was necessary, given the story. Van Sant would be my runner-up to Boyle, as I loved the way he directed Milk, and I think it's best yet - certainly better than his last nomination for Good Will Hunting. Howard's safe and elegant, and always films with much reverence for his subjects - I liked Van Sant's more honed and up-front approach to directing a bio-pic.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire - should win, will win
Ah, the biggest prize of the night. I can't back The Reader or The Curious Case... being included here. I think you can guess as to which two films I would put in their stead. Actually, three. But, anyway - it's quite anticlimactic this year, as it tends to be, and I think Slumdog's got it. The latest Entertainment Weekly had an article saying that the only thing that could upset Slumdog is The Reader. That would be a travesty. I'd obviously also be happy with a Milk win...though I'll still think of Best Picture as Wall-E.
And now, please allow me to bring up The Reader again, because until yesterday, I hadn't even read any reviews for the film. And while my favourite critic, Roger Ebert, gave it a favorable review, I had to disagree! And you, readers, can disagree with me as well - I would never think any less of you. I respect everyone's opinion. I never read reviews until after I've seen the movie (I'd rather not be skewed in my views going into it) and knowing The Reader got nominated, I thought I'd come upon mostly favorable writing. I was actually looking up reviews to enlighten myself, like - did I miss something? Is this actually a good movie? And while Ebert argues to a certain extent, it couldn't convince me of its greatness, and I found that it actually got very mixed reviews.
Here are some parts of other articles that I quite agree with about The Reader -
I have no idea why The Reader is even nominated. Oh wait...that's right: Harvey Weinstein. It's a nice enough story, but I can think of numerous films that should have been nominated before The Reader. What's troubling is -- if you believe the Entertainment Weekly article -- this is the only movie that has a chance to beat Slumdog Millionaire due to Weinstein's campaigning! Kate Winslet's performance in The Reader is far from the best performance of 2008. It's not even her best performance of 2008! She was far superior for her role in Revolutionary Road. Let alone Meryl Streep for Doubt or Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married -- a movie I did not particularly care for.
- Will Leicht (Deadspin)
From the same article, different critic:
But The Reader is so much worse: I think it's the worst film to be nominated since Crash. ...it's endlessly pandering and slothful. Are we really supposed to care that she can't read? SHE WORKED IN A NAZI DEATH CAMP. I think pretty much everything else pales. I love how, when the film first came out, there were some rumblings about the kid being underaged (and naked throughout half the film). That's the least of this movie's problems. The Reader is the reason the Oscars have lost so much relevance, and the reason so few will watch this year. For good reason.
- Mike Ryan (Starpulse) - both the above from this article.
And below, is a quote from an article entitled, "Don't give an Oscar to The Reader," from Slate written by Ron Rosenbaum. He wrote a book entitled "Explaining Hitler," so you know what he focused on in the film. I more focused on the crap directing, editing, and secondary storyline of the boy's journey to manhood through sexual affair and subsequent pathetic actions. Still, I agree about this -
You had to be deaf, dumb, and blind, not merely illiterate, to miss what Kate Winslet's character seems to have missed (while serving as a guard at Auschwitz!). You'd have to be exceedingly stupid. As dumb as the Oscar voters who nominated The Reader because it was a "Holocaust film."
But that's what The Reader is about: the supposedly difficult struggle with this slowly dawning postwar awareness. As Cynthia Ozick put it in her essay: "After the war, when she is brought to trial, the narrator ['Michael Berg'] acknowledges that she is guilty of despicable crimes—but he also believes that her illiteracy must mitigate her guilt. Had she been able to read, she would have been a factory worker, not an agent of murder. Her crimes are illiteracy's accident. Illiteracy is her exculpation."
Indeed, so much is made of the deep, deep exculpatory shame of illiteracy—despite the fact that burning 300 people to death doesn't require reading skills—that some worshipful accounts of the novel (by those who buy into its ludicrous premise, perhaps because it's been declared "classic" and "profound") actually seem to affirm that illiteracy is something more to be ashamed of than participating in mass murder. From the Barnes & Noble Web site summary of the novel: "Michael recognizes his former lover on the stand, accused of a hideous crime. And as he watches Hanna refuse to defend herself against the charges, Michael gradually realizes that she may be guarding a secret more shameful than murder." Yes, more shameful than murder!
And now, I shall close the book on that subject. Both articles, while I don't agree with everything in them (I liked Crash!), are good reads.
FINALLY - (seriously, thank you for reading!!) - what do you think? Who do you want to win? I'd love to hear from others. Comment! E-mail me! This is basically my favourite topic ever, duh. (Okay, I will try to keep the "duhs" to a minimum to sound more irreverent while discussing award-winning films in the future.) On Sunday, I'll be watching - for the red carpet, for the winners, for the losers, and for Hugh Jackman...of course.