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Film

Frank J. Avella’s
Film Column

Oscar Ire

Written by Frank J. Avella

Opposite Photo:
Maryl Streep in Doubt


 

Each year, as soon as the Oscar nominations are announced, there is the inevitable outcry by many of injustice. We all enjoy Academy-bashing since the subjectivity involved in selecting ‘the best’ in any field is pretty silly and ridiculous. But it does keep things competitive and, dare I say, fun; especially in the life of a cinephile. AND it continues dialogue about film: what will stand the test of time (There Will Be Blood)? What will be laughed at for even being considered for Best Picture (Little Miss Sunshine)… oops! There I go throwing in my own subjectivity! We all want to be experts. We all feel more qualified than the Academy. But the truth is, even the most studied of film scholars will disagree on whether Slumdog Millionare is a better film than Milk or Revolutionary Road or The Dark Knight. Heck, my favorite film last year was Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Does the fact that AMPAS completely snubbed it in ALL categories make me feel it’s any less a masterwork? No. Not at all. It makes me angry. And anger is good. I felt outrage. And that’s good, too.

This year three omissions seem have elicited the most feelings of outrage and shock. (with apologies to Leonardo DiCaprio who should be upset…)

There is no reason why The Dark Knight should not be among the Best Picture contenders. It’s a pretty sad move the on the Academy's part. AMPAS managed to nominate Knight for eight Oscars yet no best pic, director or screenplay nods (echoes of 2006’s much more deserved snub of Dreamgirls). So many theories have been discussed as to why the revisionist Batman film received little love, but the real question is how the hell did The Reader squeak in? If any film was slated to steal a Best Pic nom, you’d think it would have been Doubt or Revolutionary Road or Wall-E.


The Reader

Truth to be told, I was grinning when The Reader made it into the elite 5 simply because it’s a good film and the selection shook things up—in a good way. I don’t care how it got there (Harvey Weinstein is not the Lord himself, he’s just a great showman and promoter). Many argue that The Reader is the typical type of holocaust film that gets the Academy's attention. Firstly, anyone who calls it a “holocaust film” either didn’t bother to see it, or if they did, were too stupid to get it. And I don’t see The Reader as typical Academy fare, but what is ‘typical Academy fare’ anymore? It used to be epic costume films or social dramas and yet The Departed and No Country for Old Men, prove that AMPAS has broken their own mold when it comes to what is defined as “Oscar-bait.”

The second lunatic snub was Bruce Springsteen for his extraordinary and poignant title song, “The Wrestler.” I won’t go into too much detail here because the music branch of the Academy is a big joke and they have continuously overlooked amazing work and awarded crap, so Springsteen is in great company. Enough said.


Revolutionary Road

The single most egregious omission (many believe and I concur) is Kate Winslet’s searing performance in Revolutionary Road. The Academy decided that her performance in The Reader was not only Lead, but better. The actual explanation for how this happened seems shrouded in mystery. The nominating rules are questionable as to how this blunder could occur. The rules state that the Lead and Supporting categories are to be tabulated simultaneously and, well, take a look at the rules for yourself:

http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/rules/rule06.html

Now, in rule 5, what the hell is a “preferential tabulation process”???

AMPAS needs to clarify exactly how this works and why. It sounds to me like Winslet could have gotten more votes (in the weighed number one spot) for Supporting Actress for The Reader, but because she also appeared in the Lead category and got more votes FIRST, that she was disqualified for Supporting, placed in Lead, thereby destroying any chances of her Revolutionary Road turn to be considered. Incredibly unfair.

This brings up another ridiculous rule AMPAS has.

Every other branch of the Academy allows artists to be able to compete with themselves: writers (Oliver Stone in 1986); directors (Steven Soderbergh in 2000); composers (John Williams in 1993); cinematographers; art directors…every other branch but the acting branch. Why? Is there any logical reason why, for instance, Leonardo DiCaprio should not have been nominated for both Blood Diamond and The Departed other than the fact that his Departed performance was so much better…but oops, the Academy nommed him for Blood, didn’t they?

And why doesn’t AMPAS decide where to place each performance (Lead or Supporting) BEFORE the ballots go out? The Hollywood Foreign Press do. So does SAG. This would prevent further colossal fuckups. There should be a blue ribbon panel that decides category placement. (Christ, they have one for everything else!)


Kate Winslet in The Reader

There was also much brouhaha over whether Winslet belonged in Lead or Support for The Reader. I feel arguments could be made for both. But, tell me, why didn’t anyone challenge Philip Seymour Hoffman’s outrageous placement in the Supporting category?? If anyone really believes his role in Doubt was Supporting, please tell me! Who was he Supporting? If Meryl is Lead then so is Hoffman!

Again, these debates could go on forever and the bottom line is that it’s become standard to campaign for an actor in one category because they have a better chance of winning in said category OR if they have two outstanding performances that should both be recognized then they are pushed for both.

Did anyone challenge Jami Foxx being nominated for Supporting Actor for Collateral and Lead Actor for Ray? Was his performance in the former really a Supporting one? Could self-professed film experts like Robert Osborne be a bit misogynistic or anti-anyone-who-isn’t American when they go after Winslet and leave the boys alone? Perhaps I go too far, perhaps not far enough.

It’s an odd thing to say, but on so many levels, this year, the Globes got it right. Winslet got shafted by AMPAS and the only way for them to make it up to her is to award her Best Actress.

Deep breath!

Now that my tirade is over, here are my predictions for who I believe will win on February 22nd:



Slumdog Millionaire

Best motion picture of the year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Can anything stop the Slumdog supertrain at this point? I highly doubt it. It’s a wonderful and welcome tonic to these hard economic times. And it’s won virtually everything. One could argue that Brokeback had also won most every major precursor and was poised to win the biggie. But Crash was gaining serious momentum and the surprise did not come out of left field. I don’t think any film has that upset momentum. Had Harvey Weinstein had more time and money, erhaps The Reader could have pulled it off, but I feel if there’s any upset it will be a film that is quietly beloved: Milk.

Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire
Potential Spoiler: Milk

Best Animated feature film of the year
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
WALL-E

Prediction: WALL-E
Potential Spoiler: None


Milk

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

It’s Penn vs. Rourke right down to the wire. One of the best performance of the decade vs. the comeback of the decade. How to decide?

Prediction: Sean Penn
Potential Spoiler: Mickey Rourke




Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

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

This is a no brainer. Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise.

Prediction: Heath Ledger
Potential Spoiler: None

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

When I predicted months ago that Kate Winslet would finally win her Oscar, I was referring to her performance in Revolutionary Road! But with six nominations under her belt, how can she lose? Easily if Meryl fans decide a 26 year dry spell is long enough for the greatest living actress to go without another Oscar. And don’t count out Anne Hathaway who could be this year’s Adrien Brody.

Prediction: Kate Winslet (because I must)
Potential Spoiler: Meryl Streep

 


Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

 

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

This has proven to be the wildcard race where anything can happen and, often, does. By not nominating Winslet, AMPAS created a true horse race. Cruz seems to have the edge, but I have a 1992 feeling where the least-likely of the five may just pull the biggest upset of the night. Look out for Amy Adams!

Prediction: Penelope Cruz
Potential Spoiler: Amy Adams

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

Prediction: Danny Boyle
Potential Spoiler: None

Adapted screenplay
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
Doubt by John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan
The Reader by David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire by Simon Beaufoy

Prediction: Simon Beaufoy
Potential Spoiler: David Hare

Original screenplay
Frozen River by Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky by Mike Leigh
In Bruges by Martin McDonagh
Milk by Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter

Prediction: Dustin Lance Black
Potential Spoilers: Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter

Achievement in cinematography
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Not jumping on the Slumdog bandwagon here.

Prediction: The Reader
Potential Spoiler: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Achievement in art direction
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

This one’s Button’s to lose.

Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Potential Spoiler: The Dark Knight

Achievement in costume design
Australia
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Milk
Revolutionary Road

This category is not as easy as one might think. Button may do a tech sweep but the pomp and pretentiousness of Australia and The Duchess are not to be ignored.

Prediction: Australia
Potential Spoiler: The Duchess

Achievement in film editing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire
Potential Spoiler: The Dark Knight


Waltz With Bashir

Best foreign language film of the year
The Baader Meinhof Complex Germany
The Class France
Departures Japan
Revanche Austria
Waltz with Bashir Israel

Prediction: Waltz with Bashir
Potential Spoiler: The Class

Original score
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Defiance
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E

Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire
Potential Spoiler: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Original song
“Down to Earth” from WALL-E Music by Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire Music & Lyric by A.R. Rahman & Maya Arulpragasam

Prediction: “Jai Ho”
Potential Spoiler: None

Achievement in makeup
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Potential Spoiler: The Dark Knight

Achievement in sound editing
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E
Wanted

Prediction: The Dark Knight
Potential Spoiler: Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in sound mixing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E
Wanted

Prediction: The Dark Knight
Potential Spoiler: Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in visual effects
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Potential Spoiler: The Dark Knight


Best documentary feature
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

Prediction: Man on Wire
Potential Spoiler: Trouble the Water

Best documentary short subject
The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

Prediction: The Conscience of Nhem En
Potential Spoiler: The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

Best animated short film
La Maison en Petits Cubes
Lavatory - Lovestory
Oktapodi
Presto
This Way Up

Prediction: La Maison en Petits Cubes
Potential Spoiler: Presto


Best live action short film
Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
Manon on the Asphalt
New Boy
The Pig
Spielzeugland (Toyland)


Prediction: Spielzeugland (Toyland)
Potential Spoiler: Auf der Strecke (On the Line)

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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