I may have been a tad harsh towards the Academy Awards the other day. Now that we're in the home stretch, the one week countdown has begun, I'm beginning to feel the symptoms of Oscar fever. You see, what those tricksters over at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences do is, rather than announce which films deserve awards for achievement, they select a number of movies for each category and then make us wait several weeks until the winners are declared. Thus, an aura of suspense is established. I have once again fallen prey.
Of course, Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” So I will maintain my position regarding the sedative qualities of the show itself (although I am intrigued to see what Hugh Jackman has to offer as a host; an interesting hire, to be sure). But I'm a sucker for the competition itself, and every time I glance over the list of nominees I feel the urge to grab a pen and start filling out my Oscar pool ballot. This year, for the first time, I'm going with the heart instead of the head. Though I have had considerable success anticipating who will win in the past, it makes me feel dirty when I have to put a check mark next to a movie like Gladiator just for the sake of winning a few dollars. In order to clear my conscience, I'm focusing this time on the pictures and performers I want to win... (for the full list of nominees, click here)
Best Motion Picture of the Year
I know that SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE will take the trophy, and that's alright by me, but I can't ignore my appreciation for Gus Van Sant's bold and significant film.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
FRANK LANGELLA (FROST/NIXON)
Sadly, I have not seen THE VISITOR or THE WRESTLER, so I don't have all the evidence I need to make a super informed decision. Sean Penn was great, but I prefer the subtlety of Langella this time 'round.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role KATE WINSLET (THE READER) Actually, I think she should win for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Her performance in that film, however, was snubbed. Not to worry. Her work in the nominated title is also spectacular.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
HEATH LEDGER (THE DARK KNIGHT)
Posthumous awards always depress me a bit. Is Michelle Williams still single?
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
PENELOPE CRUZ (VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA)
I'm not her biggest fan, but she was good in VCB. Plus, I tend to lean towards anything Woody Allen.
Best Achievement in Directing
DANNY BOYLE (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE)
What a wonderfully envisioned and beautifully crafted film.
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
MARTIN McDONAGH (IN BRUGES)
I haven't seen HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, and I hear it's really good. When done right, though, dark comedy is my favorite genre, and In Bruges is spot on.
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
SIMON BEAUFOY (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE)
This may be one of those rare cases in which the movie is as good as or even better than the book.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
ANTHONY DOD MANTLE (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE)
There's tough competition in this category. As I mentioned before, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is a worthy adversary, and THE CHANGELING and The Dark Knight certainly hold their own. The Reader is a bit weak in comparison, but by no means shabby. The camera work and lighting in Slumdog just seems a little bit more ambitious, and it's flashy without being distracting. The technical work in this film really invigorates the narrative.
Best Achievement in Costume Design JACQUELINE WEST (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON)
Although Costume Design is not the most exciting category of the evening, it is one that I feel quite passionate about this year. Button's sprawling scope, a story that spans several decades, poses a particular challenge, and every visual element, including the clothing, is authentically detailed.
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
JOHN NELSON, BEN SNOW, DANIEL SUDICK, SHANE MAHAN (IRON MAN)
If what I've heard is true, the elderly Benjamin Button is brought to us via motion capture technology and computer animation. He looks so real it blows my mind. But the transitions between practical effects and CGI in Iron Man seemed flawless to me, and it's not often that a summer release is able to deceive my eyes.
Best Animated Feature
I know I railed against this movie in a previous post, but there's no denying that its sophisticated animation out trumps the competition. Still, I would like to live in a world where a greater variety of animated films are made to challenge the notion that Pixar is next to godliness. Was RATATOUILLE really better than PERSEPOLIS?
Obviously I have left out a few categories, partially because no one gives a rip about Best Achievement in Sound Editing and/or Makeup, but also because I have (unfortunately) not seen a one of the Foreign Language films that are nominated. As for the ones I have committed to, well, I might be a tad reluctant to wager money on my selections, but I can rest a bit easier this year knowing that I have been true to myself (and the nominees that really should win).