Thursday, February 12, 2009


So everyone has their pick for The Oscars. This is my first stab at boring you senseless with my drivel; as if you care about what I have to say about an over bloated industry that, for the most part, deserves to be ignored. So why do I even care? Because like all art forms, sometimes things stand out that must be acknowledged.
I’ve been an avid Oscar watcher for quite the amount of years. I have seen it where Best Movie meant “Movie you will forget after 2 years”. Meaning that the movie that won would go on to obscurity while the other nominees (usually one that makes people really talk about it and the craft itself) will go on to cult status or an entry into our cultural lexicon.
I am glad to see that change in the last few years. What we’re seeing is indeed quality over quantity. I read an essay by Roger Ebert about how audiences are not tuning in as they once was. One theory is that The Academy is made of newer, younger more indie minded stock and their selections are not the big money makers as they were in the past. Fine. Good I say. I grow weary of the super blown epic. Lacey (my fiancĂ©) wanted to see Australia and I reluctantly went. Were this the normal group they would’ve chosen this borefest. The same people that decided, somehow, that Gladiator was deserving of a Best Picture nod. I love Ridley but that was soooo not his best. Same group that chose Scent of a Woman to be nominated as Best Picture.
I also find it interesting that as each year goes by, it seems like The Academy Awards are being televised sooner and sooner to make sure that we have seen all those nominated. I remember March being the Oscar month and by that time most of the films nominated have left the theaters. I wish this were a good marketing ploy but as I write this, He’s Just Not That Into You is the number one movie in America. I weep for my country. It’s going to get to the point where as they announce the nominations, the winners will be given their statuettes ten minutes after.
Anyway, despite all my years of watching The Oscars I too fall into that OK let’s get on with it feeling for “lesser” nominations, but it takes a village it is said and so it does for a film as well. So let’s get on with it. I am going to go over the 7 major contenders.

Best Supporting Actor
Really. Is there a choice? Is there a possibility of a dark horse? If you know who does not win, then by all means, allow Public Enemy’s track “Burn, Hollywood, Burn” play in the background as it does.

Best Supporting Actress
Sometimes I feel like Bill Murray when on SNL News segment when he says he didn’t get the Best Supporting categories. I hope I’ve somewhat been able to figure it out.
I would go with Viola Davis, Doubt. She pulls this astonishing feat where she acts, face to face, with one of the masters, Meryl Streep. Not only that, but her performance is one of those pivotal scenes that reveal something of dire importance. But she doesn’t overdo it. It is done with the subtlety of a woman who knows exactly what needs to said and done for the betterment of her character’s son, and no more. You hang on to every word and watch her every move. You expect her to collapse under the weight of the burden of what she knows and what she really wants to convey, but keeps herself in stressed check.
Amy Brown could be the upset here and interestingly enough from the same movie. The way she plays her young nun in conflict is not overwrought, but enough innocence with world knowledge to maintain a quiet confusion that keeps you wondering what’s going on in her head. Marissa Tomei would be my next choice after that.

Best Actress
Problem here is that I have not seen Rachael Getting Married or Frozen River. So could I make a good guess here? I can try with what I know. I loved The Reader but Winslet really shined in Revolutionary road. Streep was just magnificently cold in Doubt and because of that I am going to have to go with her. I know she is classic Hollywood, old school and she has hers already. But she is a constant nominee because she is a constant talent (and yes I am ignoring Mamma Mia).

Best Actor
Wow, this one is tough because I am almost equally torn between Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk in Milk, Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler and Frank Langella as possibly the best Richard Nixon EVER in Frost/ Nixon. But when thinking it over I am going to have to go with Sean Penn. Mickey was absolutely stunning and I really felt the pain in his character. I just sat in awe as this man just revealed himself scene by scene, but Penn wasn’t acting so much as he was creating a living embodiment. This wasn’t just a tribute but a show of respect for a person who deserves to be remembered. Nixon does too but for different reasons. Rourke would be a very close second with Langella a closer third.

Best Director
Danny Boyle. Really. Is there anyone else on this list that completely elevated the art of cinema more than this British madman. (Does anyone else find it kinda scary that he looks like a reserved Quentin Tarantino?) What he did in Slumdog Millionaire is nothing short of breathtaking, down to the creative way he placed the subtitles. Which leads us to…

Best Movie
Is it any surprise that I too will choose Slumdog Millionaire? This movie was a joy to behold, to watch, to feel and that’s what makes this movie so damn good. You feel it. You feel the characters and you feel the pains of being in the slums of India. You feel the true love of these characters as they are tested throughout their lives. It’s beautiful in color, sound and scope. It moved me deeply and stirred my heart. You cheesily root for our hero and you know you’re doing it and yet you let this gem do it. Only one other movie moved me to my core this year.

Ok so those are the categories that are normally discussed. So why do I say seven? Here’s why.

Best Animated Feature Film
I hate this category. Sure, at first I thought it was cool that The Academy finally got the clue that yes; animated movies can be and have been as powerful in storytelling and emotive power as the live action. But with this category, it slights the animated movies that do indeed move us to a ghetto. It treats the animated art form as a child’s toy; as a red headed stepchild if you will. “What?” The Academy would say. “Wasn’t nominating Beauty and the Beast enough?” No we said. So the category was created when The Academy was shouted at for snubbing Aladdin. And what we’ve seen over the years is more or less a condescending attitude towards the form. The proverbial bone tossed just to say “See, we acknowledge your, umm, talents.”
If I had my way, Bolt and Kung Fu Panda would not be on that list. I did enjoy Kung Fu Panda very much (well I do have this thing about pandas) and Bolt was entertaining. But Wall-E and Waltz With Bashir are what makes movie going not time killers but events. They both qualify to be at the coveted adult’s table. They have very moving storylines. They both have amazing characters, though Waltz is a documentary.
In fact if there be an Animated category, Waltz would be there and not the other Academy Ghetto, Best Foreign Film. Wall-E should be in place of The Reader.
So with that my pick for Best Animated blah blah is Wall-E. What moved me about this film was how it did not look down on its audience. It treated us as intelligent beings that could use our heads to figure things out. Case in point: no dialog for the first third of this movie. Second case: a very sharp criticism of our destructive, wasteful nature. But the surprise of this movie is that beautiful, quirky romance between Wall-E and EVE. Imaginative, well written, a marvel to look at, this is what movie making is about. This is now my favorite Pixar movie and like how Disney used to be, I very eagerly look forward to seeing a new Pixar movie when they come out.
I am also looking forward to The Academy treating movies such as Wall-E like Wall-E treats us; as adults. I can dream.

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