We interrupt this blog…

Sunday, 22 February, 2009

Obligatory Oscars post in advance of tonight. My (belated) thoughts on the nominations and which films I’d like to see take something home. Yes, this is still a blog about attempts at writerliness, I’ve just got nowhere else to post this.

Half my fun with the Oscars has to do with the show itself, the circus, not the results, but there are still a lot of people I’m rooting for and a lot of awards I’m really interested in, as well as a few people I would have liked to see get nominations. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
* Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
* Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”
* Sean Penn in “Milk”
* Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
* Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”
Langella is great in ‘Frost/Nixon’ but I wasn’t nuts about the film. Loved Sean Penn in ‘Milk’ and Mickey Rourke in ‘The Wrestler’. Will try to check ‘The Visitor’ out at some point, really like Richard Jenkins. Pitt is good in ‘Benjamin Button’ but by most accounts Michael Fassbender for ‘Hunger’ and Benicio Del Toro for ‘Che’ also deserved recognition. (Criminally I haven’t seen either of those films yet.) Though maybe Pitt’s nod makes up for the absurd general snub of ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ last year.
I’ll be rooting for Mickey Rourke, like most of the rest of the world, because he’s pretty damn special in a great movie and I really want to see him on that stage. Penn’s been there, done that. I suppose I couldn’t begrudge Langella a win.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
* Josh Brolin in “Milk”
* Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”
* Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt”
* Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
* Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road”
I get a bit annoyed at suggestions that Ledger is only on the list because he died and was a wonderful actor and that’s ultimately what the award will be for. Even if that was the Academy’s reasoning, he was absolutely phenomenal in ‘The Dark Knight’, which is also an all-around great film, and deserves the Oscar.
Seymour Hoffman’s film is the only one I haven’t seen but I’ve no doubt (sorry) that he deserves his nom, and I love him in general. I really enjoyed everyone else’s performances: Michael Shannon helped haul ‘Revolutionary Road’ out of mediocrity; Josh Brolin is always great and wonderful in ‘Milk’; and I’m loving the simple fact that Downey Jr is on the list for that performance, even though the whole thing was totally silly.
I might have dropped Rob in favour of Jeffrey Donovan in ‘Changeling’ or Brendan Gleeson in ‘In Bruges’, or indeed Ralph Fiennes in any of his films this last year.
Rooting for Heath Ledger.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
* Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”
* Angelina Jolie in “Changeling”
* Melissa Leo in “Frozen River”
* Meryl Streep in “Doubt”
* Kate Winslet in “The Reader”
This is a weird one. Winslet is very good in ‘The Reader’ and maybe she deserves it for her body of work but Angelina Jolie is amazing in ‘Changeling’. Amazing. And all this “Winslet Winslet Winslet” talk has me hoping for a surprise of some kind. Not that I wouldn’t be pleased for her if she got the thing.
Again, haven’t seen ‘Doubt’ but it’s Meryl Streep, so… of course. Love her. I somehow managed to miss ‘Rachel Getting Married’ and am still really annoyed with myself as I’m pretty sure I’d have loved the film. Haven’t even heard of ‘Frozen River’ but hey, maybe I’ll hunt it out if it’s released here.
I also really liked Frances McDormand in ‘Miss Pettigrew’ and Sally Hawkins in ‘Happy Go Lucky’ this year.
Rooting for Angelina Jolie, or Meryl Streep, just because she’s awesome, but pretty sure Kate will get it.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
* Amy Adams in “Doubt”
* Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
* Viola Davis in “Doubt”
* Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
* Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”
‘Doubt’ really is the film for performances, huh? Again, can’t really comment. Absolutely loved Penelope Cruz in ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, special stuff, and both Henson and Tomei are great in their films.
This last year I also really liked Amy Ryan in ‘Changeling’, though she’s hardly in it, Frances McDormand in ‘Burn After Reading’ and Tilda Swinton in both ‘Burn After Reading’ and ‘Benjamin Button’.
Not really rooting for anyone. Maybe Penelope Cruz but would love to see any of these actors up there.

Brief note on Cate Blanchett, who was her usual brilliant self in ‘Benjamin Button’ and could fit in either category. I suppose if you’re going to give Winslet a nomination for the ‘full’ actress rather than ‘Supporting’ then that’s where Blanchett would have gone. Maybe it’s nice to have a bit of a change. There’s no way in hell Cate’s had her last nomination so I can live with her not getting one this year for what was nevertheless a great performance.

Best animated feature film of the year
* “Bolt”
* “Kung Fu Panda”
* “WALL-E”
Not sure what else came out this year. Perfectly happy for WALL-E to win this one.

Achievement in art direction
* “Changeling”, Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
* “The Dark Knight”, Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
* “The Duchess”, Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
* “Revolutionary Road”, Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt
All gorgeous-looking films. Perhaps a slight preference for Benjamin Button or Changeling to take it.

Achievement in cinematography
* “Changeling”, Tom Stern
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Claudio Miranda
* “The Dark Knight”, Wally Pfister
* “The Reader”, Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
* “Slumdog Millionaire”, Anthony Dod Mantle
In my inexpert opinion, Stern, Miranda, Pfister and Mantle all did stellar work. Not that Menges/Deakins failed, mind you! I just don’t remember ‘The Reader’ standing out to me, shooting-wise. My slight preference is Tom Stern for Changeling but it’s tough to choose.

Achievement in costume design
* “Australia”, Catherine Martin
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Jacqueline West
* “The Duchess”, Michael O’Connor
* “Milk”, Danny Glicker
* “Revolutionary Road”, Albert Wolsky
Give it to Michael O’Connor! I was pleasantly surprised by The Duchess and the costuming on the thing was exceptional. Only one I haven’t seen is ‘Australia’. Suspect this might go to ‘Benjamin Button’.

Achievement in directing
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, David Fincher
* “Frost/Nixon”, Ron Howard
* “Milk”, Gus Van Sant
* “The Reader”, Stephen Daldry
* “Slumdog Millionaire”, Danny Boyle
NO CLINT EASTWOOD??? That was my reaction. It’s still my reaction. Ridiculous. I’d drop the ‘blah’ Howard and Daldry and insert Eastwood and Darren Aronofsky for ‘The Wrestler’, or even blimming Christopher Nolan for ‘The Dark Knight’.
Would be thrilled for Danny Boyle to win this though, that would be all kinds of awesome. If Eastwood was in there I’d probably still be rooting for Danny.

Best documentary feature
* “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)”
* “Encounters at the End of the World”
* “The Garden”
* “Man on Wire”
* “Trouble the Water”
Documentaries haven’t been big with me this year. The only one of the list I’ve seen is Man on Wire, which I really enjoyed, so I’m sort of hoping that takes it, but to be honest I’ve been lazy and can’t really make an informed choice. Bloody loved ‘Shine a Light’ this year. Surely each of the other four on the list can’t have been as good?

Best documentary short subject
* “The Conscience of Nhem En”
* “The Final Inch”
* “Smile Pinki”
* “The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306”
No idea. I’ll wait to see what the subject matter is and pick my favourite that way! Even though I would never do that for features. Good subject does not equal good film. Part of the reason I didn’t fall quite as hard for ‘Slumdog’ as many others.

Achievement in film editing
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
* “The Dark Knight”, Lee Smith
* “Frost/Nixon”, Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
* “Milk”, Elliot Graham
* “Slumdog Millionaire”, Chris Dickens
Although I didn’t love ‘Frost/Nixon’ – it was a fine film, I just didn’t think it was great – it was beautifully edited. I think Slumdog has to take this though. Dickens’ work raises that film up. Wouldn’t begrudge anyone a win here. Could well go to ‘Benjamin Button’, I s’pose?

Best foreign language film of the year
* “The Baader Meinhof Complex” – Germany
* “The Class” – France
* “Departures” – Japan
* “Revanche” – Austria
* “Waltz with Bashir” – Israel
Can’t wait to see ‘The Class’, that looks excellent. Meant to catch ‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ but missed it somehow. Hoping for Waltz with Bashir but don’t have strong feelings about this one.

Achievement in makeup
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Greg Cannom
* “The Dark Knight”, John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
* “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”, Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz
Not sure how this can go anywhere other than to ‘Benjamin Button’ but wouldn’t mind a Dark Knight or ‘Hellboy’ surprise.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Alexandre Desplat
* “Defiance”, James Newton Howard
* “Milk”, Danny Elfman
* “Slumdog Millionaire”, A.R. Rahman
* “WALL-E”, Thomas Newman
As big a James Newton Howard fan as I am, I didn’t fall in love with the ‘Defiance’ score. Slumdog score was wicked so that’s my pick. Wouldn’t mind Desplat or Elfman taking it but the ‘Slumdog’ music was awesome. (Listening on Spotify as I type!)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
* “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E”
* “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire”
* “O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire”
Either of the Slumdog tracks, please.

Best motion picture of the year
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
* “Frost/Nixon”
* “Milk”
* “The Reader”
* “Slumdog Millionaire”
How are ‘The Reader’ and ‘Frost/Nixon’ better films than ‘Changeling’? HOW? Idiotic.
Well anyway, I guess I can’t give it to anything but ‘Slumdog’, can I? Well… er… I kind of adored Benjamin Button! I know, I know, but I did. I thought it was funny and gorgeous and moving and just plain magic. ‘Slumdog’ meanwhile, however wonderfully brutal and heart-rending it was at times, however amazing the kids were and exceptional some of the production was, however joyful and interesting, the story just wasn’t that strong and the reliance on the Millionaire format became dull, never mind the blatant errors regarding that. I’m all for artistic licence but when you rely that heavily on a TV show’s format and ask us to really invest in it as absolutely key to the integrity of the story, you back yourself into a corner and kind of have to be accurate, and they weren’t.
‘Benjamin Button’ was expertly crafted. ‘Slumdog’ wasn’t. I’m loathe to side with the Hollywood bucks over the fairytale production that could have gone straight to DVD and is now at the Oscars, but I kind of have to. Having said all that, I’d be very happy for ‘Slumdog’ to win, whatever, I really enjoyed it and don’t actually mind that much, but ‘Benjamin Button’ is the superior film.
Obviously it can’t be ‘The Reader’ or ‘Frost/Nixon’, both of which I enjoyed but neither of which is close to Best Picture of 2008. ‘Milk’ was excellent, I’d kind of love it if that won, but it won’t. What else did I enjoy this year? Not Best Picture contenders but really liked ‘Son of Rambow’, ‘In Search of a Midnight Kiss’, ‘In Bruges’, ‘The Dark Knight’…

Best animated short film
No blimming idea. Whatever the Pixar one is, probably, though maybe it’d be nice for something more independent to win.

Best live action short film
* “Auf der Strecke (On the Line)” – Germany
* “Manon on the Asphalt” – France
* “New Boy” – Ireland
* “The Pig” – Denmark
* “Spielzeugland (Toyland)” – Germany
Saw all of these at a screening yesterday and I really hope New Boy, based on a Roddy Doyle short story, wins it. I cried. And they got primary school spot on. Funnier, more genuine, smarter and more moving than most features and all in about twelve minutes.
Really liked the main character in ‘On the Line’ and thought some of ‘Toyland’ was great. As long as it’s not the pretentious ‘Manon…’.

Achievement in sound editing
* “The Dark Knight”, Richard King
* “Iron Man”, Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
* “Slumdog Millionaire”, Tom Sayers
* “WALL-E”, Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
* “Wanted”, Wylie Stateman
Give it to Iron Man! Or The Dark Knight!

Achievement in sound mixing
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
* “The Dark Knight”
* “Slumdog Millionaire”
* “WALL-E”
* “Wanted”
I don’t really know what I’m talking about here. I remember some very cool-sounding sounds in The Dark Knight and I love the film so that’s my pick.

Achievement in visual effects
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
* “The Dark Knight”
* “Iron Man”
All great examples. I genuinely don’t care. Maybe an Iron Man shock would be most fun, though.

Adapted screenplay
* “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
* “Doubt”, Written by John Patrick Shanley
* “Frost/Nixon”, Screenplay by Peter Morgan
* “The Reader”, Screenplay by David Hare
* “Slumdog Millionaire”, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
Hmm, well, having had a go at the weakness and inaccuracies in the ‘Slumdog’ story I can’t quite give it to Beaufoy, however great I think most of his script is. Maybe this is one for ‘Doubt’, but I haven’t seen it so can’t judge! Genuinely confused about this one. Maybe The Reader? I haven’t read the book but family/friends who have say the film echoes it beautifully without being chained to it.

Original screenplay
* “Frozen River”, Written by Courtney Hunt
* “Happy-Go-Lucky”, Written by Mike Leigh
* “In Bruges”, Written by Martin McDonagh
* “Milk”, Written by Dustin Lance Black
* “WALL-E”, Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon. Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
COME ON IN BRUGES!!! Or ‘Happy Go Lucky’, that’d be fun too. No. ‘In Bruges’. COME ON, McDONAGH! Ha. Really, really rooting for ‘In Bruges’.

– – – – –

Okay. Well they were some of my caffeinated thoughts. By no means a proper run down of my year in film, just random thoughts a couple of hours before the awards kick off. And aren’t the Oscars all about the dresses anyway?


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