The Thinking Man's Take On: The Oscars

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The scene: An actor stands at a podium, clutching a shiny figurine, beaming with joy.He has just seen the toils of his life’s labor of love come to fruition in the form of the highest honor.Years of slaving away on hot sets, sleeping in cramped trailers, and signing strangers bosom’s has finally paid off. He has won the MTV Movie Award for Best Onscreen Kiss.

Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait for that pinnacle of award shows until the summer months, forced to settle for some guy named Oscar’s picks for big film awards. C’est la vie (French for “that’s the vie”).

I can never remember if the Oscars are the award show where that lady with the skeletal face and her daughter ooh and ahh over celebrities, asking them “Who are you wearing” and other questions that don’t make grammatical sense in English.But I’m pretty sure they are.In the past, I haven’t paid too much attention to them – sure I was psyched when Denzel won for Training Day in ‘0r, pumped for the Coen brothers’ Fargo win, and excited when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won everything except Best Animated Short in ’04, but I wasn’t excited about the Oscars.

But this year, for one of the first times in a long time, I’m excited about the Oscars.I attribute my excitement to three things:

1.Great music is nominated.Sure, the academy left off Bruce Springsteen (Jersey Pride!), recent Golden Globe winner for “The Wrestler”, but they showed remarkable hipness with nods to M.I.A., A.R. Rahman, and Peter Gabriel.

2.Stellar films are in the running, and for the first time in a long time, I’ve actually seen most of them.

3.I’m excitable.

Now, I’m not going to claim that I am the most exited person on the planet about these Oscars.That honor goes to this guy.Nor am I the most knowledgeable (again, this guy).But I do write a column on a pretty great music blog where the readers know a thing or two about good flicks.So without further ado, my predictions for the 2009 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Academy Awards of Merit for films released in the calendar year of 2008, better known as Los Oscars.It’s hefty as it is, so I cut out a couple of the tech categories where I make predictions via my dartboard.  I hope you don't mind.

Best Lead Actor:Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Sean Penn is a couple years too late to really push the edge of the envelope, although his portrayal of openly gay politician Harvey Milk is stupendous.He really lives up to a lively character, and plays him endearingly well.He comes up against a brick wall (literally) in Mickey Rourke.I always used to confuse Mickey Rourke with Mickey Rooney.This is one of the worst mistakes you can make, especially when followed with the words “Yeah, tell Mickey Rourke to come over here and I’ll fight him myself!”Anyhow, Rourke rides momentum coming into the Oscars, and he’ll win.Frank Langella will sit in his seat and look disapproving, Brad Pitt will sit in his seat looking beautiful.

Best Supporting Actor:Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey Jr (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)

Prediction: If Heath Ledger doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, The Oscars will be booed off stage.Rioting will ensue.And whoever does win will frantically try to shout at the microphone that they’re giving the award away.In reality, he’ll win, there will be an awesome standing ovation for what was legitimately a phenomenal performance, and lots of critics will make the “Want to know how I got these (O)scars” pun.

Best Lead Actress: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Automatic Disqualification for Angelina Jolie, under Amendment VII, Section 4, Part B: “No actress having played or thought about playing a character by the name of Tomb Raider shall win an Oscar for Best Lead Actress”.Fun Fact - Meryl Streep uses Oscars as doorstops.This one’s between Hathaway and Winslet, but Hathaway will take it since Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV On The Radio, is in Rachel Getting Married, and everything he touches turns to gold.

Supporting Actress:Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button), Marissa Tomei (The Wrestler)

Note to Marissa Tomei – only one comeback actor/actress per film, please.Penelope Cruz was so good in VCB that she should win this one.I couldn’t tell whether she was really good at acting crazy, or actually is completely insane.If she was acting, she deserves recognition.If she’s that crazy, she deserves something shiny.

Animated Feature Film:Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E

Inside the Nomination Room:“OK, Wall-E’s gonna win this one, but that movie with Jack Black playing the fat panda was actually pretty good, so that deserves a nomination.Anyone else know any nominated movies?Anyone?No, Ratatouille was last year…c’mon, we need at least 3 movies in this category to make it look legitimate.Fine, we’ll write down Bolt.  What’s next?”

Art Direction:Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road

I’m not sure who actually gets this award?Is it different than directing?I mean, presumably.If not, I could see The Dark Knight winning this one, to make Christopher Nolan feel better about the Best Picture snub.Otherwise maybe the Duchess.I haven’t seen it, but it sounds arsty-fartsy.

Cinematography:Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

This is the fun part, where I pick Slumdog Millionaire to win a category and Luis disagrees because he didn’t like the movie.But tough cookies, because the cinematography of Slumdog was breathtaking.Granted, filming against the backdrop of India is like taking pictures of Scarlett Johanson – no matter how bad the artist is, the end product will look really good.

Costume Design: Australia, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Duchess, Milk, Revolutionary Road

Has there ever been a bigger Oscar pot-shot failure than Australia?I feel like that movie was completely made to win Oscars for Baz Luhrmann, and it completely missed the mark. But Hugh Jackman is hosting, so maybe he’ll get some pity points.Also, isn’t it a little unfair for films like The Duchess to be in the best costume category?It’s like when Shakespeare in Love won – OF COURSE THEY HAD GOOD COSTUMES, THEY WERE IN A PLAY.I think Benjamin Button should win for this, if only because it was nominated for like 27 awards and isn’t gonna win many.

Directing:David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Gus Van Sant (Milk), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

This is a tough one.My gut says Danny Boyle for Slumdog, but I think that’s just the Chicken Tikka Masala I had for dinner.Look for a curveball here, and a big win for Gus Van Sant, art-house director who shaped Milk beautifully.

Documentary Feature:The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden, Man On Wire, Trouble The Water

If you haven’t seen Man On Wire, go see it now.Hands down one of the coolest and most inspirational films I have ever seen.Doesn’t feel like a documentary, doesn’t feel like a true story, and contains some shots that will completely take your breath away.Although “Nerakhoon” sounds like some Star Wars planet, it will be destroyed by the Death Star that is Man On Wire.

Documentary Short:The Conscience of Nhem En, The Final Inch, Smile Pinki, The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306

This is the only category that I haven’t seen a single one of the films.Smile Pinki wins on style points.

Film Editing:The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire

Here’s another one that Slumdog should win.The Dark Knight had some great editing, but was also full of some pretty herky-jerky fight scenes that were a little too hard to follow for my tastes.Again riding the wave of a great Mumbai backdrop, Slumdog is the final answer.Ha, get it?Like final answer from Who Wants to Be a…nevermind.

Make-Up:The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy – “Quantity, not quality”

The Dark Knight – “Make-up on one dude, masks on all the others”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – “Finally, we won a damn award”

Music (Score):The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Defiance, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E

Aha!Music!On a Music Blog!Score is a tough one, since it encompasses all of the music across a film, often a pretty wide variety of quality.I have a hard time seeing A.R. Rahman, the so called “Timbaland of India” not winning this one – his score for Slumdog was bumping throughout and really meshed well with the film.Throw in some M.I.A. and a knock-down-drag-out dance scene at the end of the film to “Jai Ho” and I think Slumdog seals the deal.

Music (Song):Peter Gabriel – Down To Earth, A.R. Rahman – Jai Ho, M.I.A. – O…Saya

This is perhaps the toughest category.Because I really really really love all three of these songs.“Down To Earth” is a great song from a rock legend, a perfectly uplifting end to a perfectly uplifting movie.Without this song, the end of Wall-E is anti-climactic.It tells you how to feel, and it does it well.The aforementioned “Jai Ho” is another brilliant tune, though, and represents a new flavor for the Oscars.Could we see another Three 6 Mafia or Eminem infusion with a bollywood-inspired track?And who can ignore M.I.A., the artist behind on of the most monstrous songs of the year - “Paper Planes”, also featured in Slumdog, and this beautiful track “O…Saya”.All three of these songs are worth many listens, but in the end I see this award going to Sir Gabriel.

Writing (Original Screenlay):Frozen River, Happy-Go-Lucky, In Bruges, Milk, Wall-E

I’m going to be honest.Even after watching In Bruges, I’m still not positive that Colin Farrel’s lines were in English.As for Wall-E, 15 minutes of dialogue and 85 minutes of gorgeous animation does not a “Screenplay” make.Happy-Go-Lucky sounds like a rip-off brand of Lucky Charms.Which leaves Milk and Frozen River.I haven’t seen Frozen River, although the previews looked great.So by default I’m going to give this one to Milk, a great film that came up against some tough competition at this years Oscars.5 years ago, Milk cleans up all the major awards.This year, it gets best Writing.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

Wheeeee!Another win for Slumdog Millionaire!A great adaptation of Q&A, an apparently even better book.

Best Picture: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

And finally, one more predicted victory for Slumdog Millionaire, which will take home the Oscar for Best Picture.Love it (everyone) or not (Luis) it’s a great film that won over a lot of people.I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and would see it again in a heartbeat.Slumdog, FTW.

Now go, learned youth, and partake of cinematic enjoyment!You have until February 22nd to watch all of these movies and form your own highly biased opinions!

Bruce Springsteen - The Wrestler

Chris Barth is a guest-blogger here at Pretty Much Amazing.  You can read his daily entries at his blog,The Stu Reid Experiment.He’ll be winning the pool at dickiepicks.com this year.