OSCAR FRONT-RUNNERS (AND WHO SHOULD BE)
These are not Oscar predictions, those will be coming a week from today, on Oscar day. This is just a review of who is expected to win, and who should be.
Front-Runner: Slumdog Millionaire
This film has really captured a moment, it seems. At once thought to be released straight to DVD, it hit the festival circuit, and now its really the only substantial pick to win the coveted Best Picture award. It's a searing but sweet film, and has been heralded as the feel-good movie of 2008.
What should be: Milk
Gus Van Sant's film about Harvey Milk is incredibly endearing without being sentimental, it's totally unapologetic about its homosexual characters, but never becomes exploitative, and most of all, its lead by a performance from one of the most iconic actors of the past twenty years. One of the better biopics in a long while.
Front-Runner: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle is more of a lock to win then the movie itself. His anarchic filmmaking style has produced some pretty harrowing pictures, so who knew it would fit so well with the sweet story of Slumdog. After winning the Golden Globe and the DGA, this is a foregone conclusion.
Who Should Be: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
This year's Best Director shortlist was truly uninspired: no Jonathan Demme for Rachel Getting Married and more importantly no Chris Nolan for The Dark Knight. Boyle simply has NO competition here, and is the most deserving of the pack.
BEST LEADING ACTOR
Front-Runner: Sean Penn, Milk
I was watching I Am Sam the other day, and realized that if the Academy is willing to nominate him for that film, than the myth that "Sean Penn is too chilly for awards" is really a fabrication. Luckily, in Milk Penn is at the top of his game, with career-defining work. When a good percentage of the voters are residents of post Prop. 8 California, it's hard not to think Penn is not the favorite.
Who Should Be: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Just a wondrous fusing of player and part, with a killer comeback story to boot. Even while attending every awards gala looking like a Rastafarian space alien, Rourke has been able to latch onto the sympathies of the people, and that is solely because his performance in The Wrestler is so incredible. He'll never get a role like this again.
BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Front-Runner: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Really, I think this category is pretty wide open. Anne Hathaway is a beloved young starlet, Meryl Streep is, well, Meryl Streep, and everybody seems to think Melissa Leo should win. I give the edge to Winslet because everybody seems to be rallying behind her this year. She's been around a long time, and has collected quite a few nominations in her day, this could finally be the correnation many want for her career.
Who Should Be: Melissa Leo, Frozen River
A great performance from a great film. Leo's struggling single mom, Ray Eddy, is a tribute to rough times many are facing today. Does she partake in a little illegal activity? Yeah, but for her family. Leo has a face that can express a thousand emotions, and to see her up against such heavy-hitters as Streep and Winslet, it's hard to even give her a chance. Watch out for the upset.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Front-Runner: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
This has been obvious for a while, now. I don't think I really have to explain why.
Who Should Be: Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Calm down, calm down. Out of the five nominations, Ledger is the best, but I've always seen him as the film's lead. So, for argument's sake, I'll say Downey Jr., whose hilarious performance in Tropic Thunder not only makes you laugh, but completely destroys the vanity of Hollywood actors everywhere. A wonderful comic turn.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Front-Runner: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Actually, this is really a toss-up between Cruz and Viola Davis from Doubt, with neither of the two really edging out into front-runner status. I'll go with Cruz simply because she's a much bigger name in Hollywood, and also because of the "Woody Allen factor"; the guy is lucky when it comes to this category (remember what he did for Mira Sorvino).
Who Should Be: Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Another category where the nominations were sub-par--none of the ladies from Rachel Getting Married or Synecdoche, New York? Out of this group, I'd vote for Tomei. Though its not necessarily chalenging turf for her, she brings out the best in this lowly character. Playing a stripper in love with damaging pro-wrestler, the emotions and physicality of the performance are so transparent.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Front-Runner: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
These nominations were the most pleasant, kind of mish-mash of some very good screenplays. Alas, though, Black's script is the only one nominated for a film that is up for major awards. Milk is a big player, but this is probably the movie's only lock of the night.
Who Should Be: Andrew Stanton, WALL-E
It's the best movie of the year, by far. No animated film has ever won an Oscar for screenwriting, and I don't really see WALL-E bucking the trend. It's good to see it nominated, but I think many feel that Best Animated Feature is enough for this film.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Front-Runner: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
The guy who wrote The Full Monty is now the front-runner for an Oscar. Cyclical, I guess. I'm not sure I really care for ANY of the screenplays nominated in this category, but at least Beaufoy's is pretty endearing. It's winning more to stack up Slumdog's awards, not necessarily because of merit.
Who Should Be: Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Adapting his own stage play, Morgan does a great job at weilding a script that molds to well-known people into the pawns that express what the movie is trying to say. A wonderful job.
Front-Runner: Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire
Again, another notch on the Slumdogmania belt. I could see Wally Pfister as a contender here, as well as eight time nominee Roger Deakins (how has he not won!?), but in the end anything having to do with Slumdog should be considered the most likely.
Who Should Be: Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I know I've been harsh on this film, but even I can't deny that Miranda's beautiful cinematography is the highlight of the movie.
Front-Runner: Chris Deakins, Slumdog Millionaire
Slumdog should keep racking up awards in the technical categories, I think. Deakins won the American Cinema Editors award, which is really the only precursor for this category.
Who Should Be: Chris Deakins, Slumdog Millionaire
One of the best aspects of Slumdog is its great rhythm, and Deakins certainly has the most to do with that. Certainly, it has the most cuts, and that should count for something.
BEST ART DIRECTION
Front-Runner: Donald Graham Burt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
It's harder to decipher a front-runner in categories where Slumdog isn't nominated, but I have to believe that Benjamin Button's thirteen nominations has to mean its a front-runner in at least one category.
Who Should Be: Nathan Crowley, The Dark Knight
Creating Gotham City has never been done as exquisitely. It is frequently made to look like a goofy make shift of the comic book. Here, its made into a modern dystopia.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Front-Runner: Michael O'Conner, The Duchess
It's strange when a movie is a front-runner in a category without having success in essentially any other category. That being said, O'Conner seems like the most heralded costumer from 2008.
Who Should Be: Michael O'Conner, The Duchess
There are a lot of things within The Duchess that are pretty well-defined, and the costumes are no different. An attention to detail and a pursuit of perfection combine to make perfectly-bloomed dresses and stuffy male wear.
Front-Runner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
They made Brad Pitt look like he was ninety years old and like he was sixteen. Pretty impressive stuff, and certainly the most self-aware.
What Should Be: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
I feel Benjamin Button has more to do with CGI than actual make-up, so that being said, I think Hellboy 2's collection of creatures and monsters are the most deserving of the group.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Front-Runner: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
I don't find anything partricularly memorable about this score, but alas, it's from Slumdog Millionaire which means that it has taken a step ahead of all other competetors.
Who Should Be: Thomas Newman, WALL-E
This score is almost as magical as the film itself. Combining various genres and tones, the music has a life of its own. Sure, the movie has many songs, particularly from Hello Dolly! but its the Newman music that stays with you the most.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Front-Runner: A.R. Rahman, "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire
It could really be either of the two songs from Slumdog Millionaire, I just picked "Jai Ho" because I remember it.
What Should Be: Peter Gabriel, "Down To Earth" from WALL-E
When they decided not to nominate Bruce Springsteen's beautiful song from The Wrestler it became slim pickens. I'll endore Peter Gabriel's WALL-E song, though. A sweet, catchy tune that adds to the films wonderful denoument.
BEST SOUND MIXING/EDITING (these usually go to the same movie)
I have no idea what I'm talking about when I talk about sound, so I'll say Wanted only because it seemed like a surprise to see the action film nominated for anything.
What Should Be: WALL-E
I just like that movie.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Front-Runner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Old wrinkly babies, shrimp boats in war battle; this visual effects team had a lot to do. The Academy sometimes equates "the most" with "the best".
What Should Be: Iron Man
The best action film of 2008 if the criteria is pure exhilaration. You can't discount how the effects effected the film's breezy pace.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Front-Runner: Waltz With Bashir (Israel)
The Israeli film swept the awards in the Israel movie honors, but it has had an equal sweep at the foreign film awards here in America.
What Should Be: N/A
None of the films nominated have yet reached my area. Well, to be honest, Waltz With Bashir played for about a week, and I wasn't able to catch it.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Front-Runner: Man On Wire
The movie was lauded by most who saw it as a wondrous cinematic experience, and won nearly every award it could leading up to now.
What Should Be: Man On Wire
Werner Herzog's Encounters At The End of the World was what An Inconvenient Truth wanted to be, but I can't deny the power behind Man On Wire. An astonishing picture about vanity and beautiful performance art.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Like most years, the Best Animated Feature category is a one-film race. I admire the point of this category, but what it does is give the Academy an excuse to ignore animated films, hoping this can make up for it all.
What Whould Be: WALL-E
The best film of 2008. If it doesn't win, expect a one-man riot by me.