#73 - Oscar's World

Dedicated To

Andrew Wyeth
1917 - 2009

Added 2/19/9

Welcome back, boys and girls. I’ve got a bunch of new stuff in the works but instead of reviews this time out, by popular demand (no, seriously) I’m going to stick my neck out a little bit and give you my Oscar predictions for the year.

Yes, I watch the Academy telecast every year, which always leads people to assume I actually care about the outcome. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, I’m always a little bit surprised when people do seem to take these awards seriously. These folks seem to think that the Oscars are indeed arbiters of taste and firmly establish the winner’s place in cinema history. Um…no. The fact that some truly great movies like Lawrence Of Arabia and The Godfather have won Best Picture are exceptions, not rules. Believe me, nobody thinks Shakespeare In Love was really the best movie released in 1998. And I’ve seen Best Picture winner Cimarron. Unless the only other pictures released in 1930 were snuff films showing puppies and kittens drowned en masse, there had to have been better movies out there. So before you get all bent out of shape because Christopher Nolan was snubbed for directing The Dark Knight this year, console yourself with the knowledge that Alfred Hitchcock won exactly zee-row Oscars for directing.

So why bother watching? Well, it gives us all something non-controversial to argue about that’s marginally more intelligent than American Idol, for a start. Beyond that, it can be interesting to play armchair quarterback and figure out why the members of the Academy voted the way they did. Plus, the awards really do mean something to the people up for them and it can be fun to see underdog winners take the stage. It’s even vindicating when a deserving frontrunner like Martin Scorsese finally wins. So will I be watching the Oscars this year? Naturally. Will Slumdog Millionaire suddenly leap higher in my estimation if it wins Best Picture? Nope.

Be advised, I’ve won an Oscar pool exactly once in my life. So you ain’t talkin’ to Nostradamus here. Use me as a guide at your own risk. But hey, if you do follow my advice and you win, how about a little consideration for your old buddy Jahnke, huh?

Best Picture: Button vs. Nixon vs. Milk vs. Reader vs. Slumdog
I still haven’t seen four of the five nominees but Slumdog Millionaire seems like a safe bet at this point. It also just so happens to be the one I’ve seen. I enjoyed it well enough although I’m not certain I agree with the heaps of praise that have been lavished upon it. As for the others…I don’t have much interest in Benjamin Button or The Reader. I would like to see both Frost/Nixon and Milk but I don’t believe that whatever pleasures I’ll receive from those films will be significantly diminished by seeing them at home. Slumdog Millionaire, on the other hand, is a movie that benefits from being seen in a theatre with an appreciative audience.

Best Actor: Jenkins vs. Langella vs. Penn vs. Pitt vs. Rourke
Richard Jenkins doesn’t stand a chance in this category, which is a real shame since The Visitor is a marvelous, understated movie and Jenkins gives a performance of quiet authority deserving of accolades. Both Frank Langella and Brad Pitt seem like longshots and the Academy usually reserves its big upsets for the supporting categories. That leaves Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke. I’m going with Mickey Rourke despite the fact that the Academy tends to like its Comeback Kids to carry themselves with a bit more dignity than Rourke is probably capable of showing.

Best Actress: Hathaway vs. Jolie vs. Leo vs. Streep vs. Winslet
Kate Winslet is probably the safest bet in this category, although a win for The Reader would be a blatant case of the Academy saying, “You don’t have an Oscar yet? Really? Sorry, we thought you won one years ago. Here y’go. Our mistake.” And yes, the Academy does behave like that but this seems a little obvious even by their standards. So I’m going to bet that Winslet becomes the female Peter O’Toole (eight nominations, zero wins) and Meryl Streep takes home a third statue this year.

Best Supporting Actor: Brolin vs. Downey vs. Hoffman vs. Ledger vs. Shannon
The members of the Academy will vote for Heath Ledger and at this point, they probably don’t even remember why or what movie he was in.

Best Supporting Actress: Adams vs. Cruz vs. Davis vs. Henson vs. Tomei
This is a tough call. I think Viola Davis has an excellent chance of winning but I’m going to place my money on Penelope Cruz. Do not underestimate Woody Allen’s ability to steer women toward Best Supporting Actress Oscars.

Best Director: Boyle vs. Daldry vs. Fincher vs. Howard vs. Van Sant
Danny Boyle will likely win this but what’s interesting about this category to me is that it lines up perfectly with the Best Picture nominees. There’s usually one poor slob whose movie gets put up for the big prize but gets shut out of the directing category. It seems like Reader director Stephen Daldry should have been that slob this year. Is Daldry related to somebody at Price Waterhouse or something? Every feature he’s made to date has nabbed him a best director nom. I’ve seen The Hours and Billy Elliot…he’s not THAT great. I’m just sayin’…

Best Original Screenplay: River vs. Happy vs. Bruges vs. Milk vs. WALL-E
This is traditionally the category used to reward the Quentin Tarantinos and Diablo Codys of the world. Therefore, it should go to Martin McDonagh for In Bruges. But that movie doesn’t have enough of a buzz to it (which is a shame, ‘cause it’s pretty brilliant) so the Oscar goes to Dustin Lance Black for Milk.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Button vs. Doubt vs. Nixon vs. Reader vs. Slumdog
Simon Beaufoy, another Brit, will win for Slumdog Millionaire. And they said colonialism was dead.

Best Cinematography: Changeling vs. Button vs. Knight vs. Reader vs. Slumdog
Slumdog has a shot here too but I’m going with Wally Pfister for The Dark Knight.

Best Editing: Button vs. Knight vs. Nixon vs. Milk vs. Slumdog
The fractured timeline of Slumdog Millionaire gives Chris Dickens the edge here.

Best Art Direction: Changeling vs. Button vs. Knight vs. Duchess vs. Revolutionary
I’m going with Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo for Benjamin Button, just because it seems like it ought to win something.

Best Costume Design: Australia vs. Button vs. Duchess vs. Milk vs. Revolutionary
No freakin’ clue on this one so I’ll pick Michael O’Connor for The Duchess since it’s the only big opulent period piece in the running.

Best Makeup: Benjamin Button vs. The Dark Knight vs. Hellboy
First off, despite my lack of interest in Benjamin Button, I would buy a comic book with the above title in a heartbeat. As for the category, old age makeup seems to trump monsters here more often than not so I’ll say Greg Cannom for Benjamin Button.

Best Original Score: Button vs. Defiance vs. Milk vs. Slumdog vs. WALL-E
A.R. Rahman’s score for Slumdog Millionaire will likely win although voters may not know where the score stops and the songs begin.

Best Original Song: Slumdog vs. Slumdog vs. WALL-E
Assuming voters can figure out that Jai Ho is the production number song in Slumdog Millionaire, it’ll win. And don't even get me started on Bruce Springsteen's conspicuous absence...

Best Sound: Button vs. Knight vs. Slumdog vs. WALL-E vs. Wanted
Best Sound Editing: Knight vs. Iron vs. Slumdog vs. WALL-E vs. Wanted
I’m going with WALL-E for both of these and I’d better be right.

Best Visual Effects: Benjamin Button vs. The Dark Knight vs. Iron Man
I’m guessing the team from Benjamin Button will take this one although the fact that I’ve heard a wide range of opinions on these effects makes me want to hedge my bets. Oh, and I'd buy that comic book, too.

Best Animated Film: Bolt vs. Kung Fu Panda vs. WALL-E
This had better damn well go to WALL-E.

Best Foreign Language Film: Complex vs. Class vs. Departures vs. Revanche vs. Bashir
My gut instinct says this will go to Waltz With Bashir but I wouldn’t be surprised if The Class snuck in and nabbed it instead.

Best Documentary Feature: Betrayal vs. Encounters vs. Garden vs. Wire vs. Water
Another tough one. I’d love to see Werner Herzog win an Oscar for Encounters At The End Of The World (or just about anything, for that matter) but Man On Wire has dominated these awards. Nevertheless, I think I’ll go with the relative dark horse here and pick Trouble The Water.

Best Documentary Short: Conscience vs. Inch vs. Pinki vs. Witness
Best Animated Short: Maison vs. Lavatory vs. Oktapodi vs. Presto vs. Way
Best Live-Action Short: Strecke vs. Asphalt vs. Boy vs. Pig vs. Spielzeugland
Like everybody else, I won’t even know what most of these are about until we see clips from them just before the awards are handed out. So total shots in the dark…Documentary: The Witness - From The Balcony Of Room 306. Animated: Presto (which at least I’ve seen). Live Action: Spielzeugland.

That’ll do it for this week. I’ll be back sometime next week for an Oscar post-mortem (or autopsy, depending on how deathly the show is), some reviews of recent theatrical releases and the introduction of a brand new feature here at the Electric Theatre! Stay tuned…wait, that’s Bill’s line. I meant to say…

Your pal,