Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscar Predictions!

The Academy Awards are this weekend, ladies and gentleman! The good news is that George Clooney is no longer with Sarah Larson, so I won't have to see her in a dress made from a wall tapestry this year. I kid, I kid.

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
- 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
The Reader
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.'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.


  1. I agree with you in most places, for sure. I almost feel bad for PSH because he was SO GOOD in Doubt, but obviously Ledger was amazing. And you could argue writing a movie with "mostly robot noises" makes WALL-E an even better screenplay -- it's called Best Screenplay, not Best Dialogue, remember. I really thought Frost/Nixon was the best movie of the year, but I think I'm biased, it was such a smart movie. While Slumdog Millionaire was really, really good... it required some ridiculous leaps of faith in what was supposed to be a semi-realistic story. (How is the main character alone in a train station, not being bothered by anyone, when he's the most famous person in the country? They stalked him going in, and not going out!)

    I'll argue on behalf of the Reader one more time, because I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. It's not that we're supposed to feel bad for her because she can't read -- they make a point to dispell that in the end when Fiennes goes to visit the survivor. She doesn't give a shit that Hanna couldn't read, still doesn't, never will. It's that HE feels bad for her while at the same time being ashamed of her while at the same time punishing her. It's a burden he carries his whole life that's the central issue, because what has he done wrong? It's not like in the movie there's much redemption for her. She learns to read yeah, but she still spends her whole life in jail. It's more an allegory for the entire Holocaust -- people standing around doing nothing or doing the wrong thing because they're told, or scared, or in Hanna's case, illiterate. Is being a Nazi guard any worse than being any human being who knew the Holocaust was going on and did nothing? It's about German guilt.
    Sorry for the long comment, great post!

  2. Emily - I love your comments! Comment as lon as you want!! :D

    Yes, Phillip Seymour Hoffman was certainly amazing in Doubt - he's a great actor, one of the best!

    That would be my argument about Wall-E, as well. I think it certainly SHOULD win (as I wrote) but I'm not sure if Academy voters will feel the same way. I think the story, the noises, the everything in that movie is original and brilliant. Truly.

    Frost/Nixon was infinitely smart and definitely deserves to be tops - but, I think Slumdog takes it. I think Slumdog was more original and that's what I prefer to Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon - F/N was nearly a cinematic homage to filmmakers in the 60s and 70s - I liked recognizing certain shots, but Slumdog made me feel like I was racing right along with the characters.

    Slumdog was surely supposed to be *somewhat* realistic, but not wholly. I mean, this is the business of film - every movie save for perhaps a straight documentary requires a "suspension of disbelief" (yes, even Frost/Nixon has its falsities). And Boyle is a master of hyper-realism. You can recognize it - but at the same time, it's not quite right. Like his previous works Trainspotting and Sunshine, I think he tries to stick to that. And I haven't seen a movie or tv show that *hasn't* made me ask a logistical question.

    Ah, the Reader. Yes, there isn't much redemption for her - but I don't believe it's very punishing, either. To me, it seemed like the director/writer wants you to pity her because she can't read. Apparently parts were even cut out of the script that would include a flashback to the fire and her reading about the Holocaust in prison - parts that were cut out because the people behind the movie didn't want viewers to reject sympathy for her. I understand the movie centers on German guilt and that if you or me were in the same position we might have done the same thing, or stood by and said nothing, etc. - but, I don't think the allegory worked. I think I could see the film *trying* to do that, but I was not moved or completely convinced. The storytelling was stilted and I didn't understand why some scenes were even relevant to any theme included. But, I shall have my opnion, and you shall have your own. Today, I will be the Siskel to your Ebert. (AHAHAHA I AM A NERD.)

  3. I think people have clung-on to Slumdog because it's a feel good in a feel bad year. Normally, we might not love movies so tightly rapped up in a bow -- in fact that's sort of what's missing from the other nominees, isn't it? There's no redemption in the Reader, no REAL punishment for Nixon, Milk is assasinated -- murdered goes free, Benjamin Button dies young and confused -- but Slumdog, true love conquers all! We might gag in another year, but we sigh contentedly now. Sigh.
    BTW, I love Ebert too -- agree to disagree on the Reader! Though I can agree that any underhandedness to swing Hanna as more of a sympathetic character was undoubtedly 100% to get Kate Winslet an Oscar. Oscars don't like bad guys -- we'll hope that doesn't hold true for Heath!

  4. I was surprised that Kate was not nominated for Revolutionary Road. She was amazing in that movie. I also think it should have been nominated for best picture and best director.

    I have not seen The Reader but friends of mine who have basically told me the same thing you just said.

    Heath will and should win. There is not doubt his performance was the best of the year in any film. I remember when I first heard he was cast as the joker I thought it was a horrible choice. Boy was I wrong! It's a shame we won't get the chance to see what he could have done.

  5. Emily -

    What's wrong with feel good movies? There's always one at the Oscars, though they tend to go for dramas. I don't think that Slumdog will win just because it's "feel-good" and it's *this* year.

    The Oscars notoriously always go with "dramas" which tend to revolve around tragedy and whatnot. Which, Slumdog does to a certain degree, just not as dismally as the other nominees. But past winners have done the same. I mean, it's no "Chicago" (which I hated, and won the Best Picture prize a few years ago). I don't think whether it ends nicely or badly makes it a bad movie or a good movie inherently. It take a whole movie.

    And "True Love Conquers All" ? I wouldn't say that was the moral of that story - it was a journey to finding unrequited love or, the one good thing amidst all the tragedy of his childhood. And maybe it's me, but I still think Wall-E was incredible, happy ending and all.

    I just don't think happy, tightly wrapped up endings are necessarily "wrong." They can be good (Juno, Little Miss Sunshine - 2 past best picture nominees in recent years), they can be bad...just as open-ended movies can be good or bad. Some people gag at these happy endings, but they're well made, and I can't fault a happy ending, because ya know, happy endings actually do exist, and I can believe in them just as much as I believe in things that don't have nicely wrapped up endings.

    I just think this year, against these nominees, Slumdog was the best movie of the bunch as a whole - ending and all that led up to it. :)

    Oh, but Oscars LOVE bad guys in Best Supporting roles - last year Javier Bardem in No Country, and my favourite Oscar winning role ever, Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects. YAY Heath :) Hahaha.

    I'm stoked. We should watch together, Emily, and also have a "she said, she said" film criticism column in a newspaper. I'm talking MAJOR newspaper, here. hahahaha :)

  6. Ginny - Yes, Kate really deserves it for Revolutionary Road! See The Reader if you wish - some people liked it! ha. :)

  7. Yes! Let's do it. Of course, we agree most of the time!

  8. i agree with you on almost all accounts. i think the nominees in almost all of the categories are strong this year, as there were some pretty fabulous films! the review you posted RE: the reader is DEAD on - after walking out of the movie, the only things that were running through my mind were a) did Stephen Daldry really have to show kate winslet and the boy having sex for that much of the movie? and b) wait, did Stephen Daldry just invoke sympathy for a character (who murdered innocent people) on the basis that she was ILLITERATE (as if that's some sort of excuse)?! i can't say i hated the movie, as it definitely kept me guessing at different points, but i would be disappointed if it went home with the top prize.

    for me, the toughest category to call this year is best actor. i thought that each performance was unbelievable. (With the exception of Richard Jenkins - i didn't see The Visitor either.) i thought that Mr. Rourke was as epic in The Wrestler as everyone else thinks he was, but there's a part of me that would love to see the oscar go to Sean Penn or Frank Langella. Sean Penn made Milk for me (along with Emile Hirsch, who I'm keeping my eye on for more than just his looks). Frank Langella's performance was probably my favorite of the year... I went into the theatre with low expectations and came out mesmorized. Langella's performance portrayed a softer, more endearing side of Nixon; I thought he delivered every line flawlessly. with that said, I think this is Mickey Rourke's year, which is fine by me.

    In the best song category, I was hoping that Springsteen's work for The Wrestler would be nominated, as it already snagged the Golden Globe, but alas, no nod! I think Slumdog's "Jai Ho" anthem will scoop that award right up.

    I'm crossing my fingers that Slumdog takes home best picture. It's rare to find a movie that can make you cry out of sadness and then happiness (or maybe I just cry during every morning - whatever.) I couldn't stop smiling after leaving the theatre; the effect the movie has on it's viewers is hypnotizing. I'm thrilled that it's gotten so much recognition.

    A+ post, Ms. Parker! I loved hearing your thoughts, and I look forward to discussing the winners with you come Monday :)

    the little

  9. I'm sorry, I can't really take any of your picks seriously since you didn't nominate Steve Coogan or Hamlet 2 at all. Best movie of the year: just ask your fiance.

  10. I just saw Slumdog Millionaire for the first time yesterday afternoon and LOVED it. It's the only Best Picture nominee I saw this year (I know, SHAME ON ME), but now I biased-ly want it to win everything, haha.

  11. Great reading Jessica. Every year I pick my winners and see how close I am to the so-called experts!! I'm google eyed with the amount of movie watching I've done lately! I've seen all the main films that are nominated so here are my rough predictions!!

    Best Actor - Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
    Best Supporting Actor - Josh Brolin (Milk)
    Best Actress - Kate Winslet (The Reader)
    Best Supporting Actress - Viola Davis (Doubt)
    Best Documentary - Man On A Wire
    Foreign language Film - The Baader Meinhof Complex
    Best Film - Slumdog Millionaire

    There you go!!

  12. Seriously, I can't take the Oscars seriously since they didn't nominate Gran Torino, which is undoubtedly the best picture of the year in my opinion.

    It's so obvious that the painfully overrated "Slumdog Millionaire" will sweep the awards and the underdog Mickey O'Rourke will get best actor. I won't find out til tomorrow, since

    I'll be at home watching Battelstar Galactica. Hell, the credits of that show are more interesting that interminable last half hour of "Slumdog."

    Then again Im just a professional critic, so what do I know?

  13. Lauren Hilary - Oh, how I adore your comments! Wish we could watch together - also, I think Springsteen was also passed over for his Wrestler song. So damn good.

    Jonah - we simply have differing film opinions.

    Nicole - I know! it's so good! I don't think it's overhyped at all!

    Greenfingers - thanks for your input! Glad to see your choices - I heard Man on a Wire is really great!

  14. Well, at least we agree on the Boss—and he did win a Golden Globe for "The Wrestler" at least.

    Sometimes I hate the fact that you're so much more mature than me despite the fact I'm, like, thirty years older than you. Someday I will get you to stoop down to my level. Be prepared.