Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Oscars

The Academy Awards have always been about politics and creating a narrative; The Departed was far from being the best picture of '06, but hey, Scorsese needed an Oscar. So here are my attempts to (second-)guess this year's winners.

Best Picture - The momentum is on Slumdog Millionaire's side, but I'm betting the farm (and a beer) on Milk. The 2005 snubbing of Brokeback Mountain was a minor scandal, and Hollywood is going to want to make amends with the gay community, who are especially wounded now after the passage of Proposition 8 (which might not have happened if this movie had come out before the election). This would be the third Best Picture in a row where the main character dies in the end, and maybe the Academy has learned its lesson about fighting a wave of goodwill and publicity, but in the end these things come down to internecine politics, and Milk is the safe choice. How far has America come when we can say that about a film depicting the rise and assassination of a gay icon?

Lead Actor - Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler - Because no one thought Mickey Rourke would be great again. This will be the climax of his comeback, with which the movie itself is inextricably linked.

Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight - Because he will never be great again (leaving aside the unfinished shooting of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus) Plus, he should have gotten it for Brokeback, and he really did do a damned terrifying Joker.

Lead Actress - Kate Winslet, The Reader - Because she's never won, despite multiple nominations, of which she will remind you, at length.

Supporting Actress - Not really sure what to make of this one, but Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one I've heard most about, so I'll chalk this up to quality, for once.

Animated Film - WALL-E. No animated movie has gotten this much love in a long time, and there's no reason for the Academy to differ.

From here it becomes more of a crapshoot, with biases towards films with a higher profile. I think Benjamin Button is going to take a lot of the technical categories for making Brad Pit old-young, and if they're going to upset the Slumdog momentum, they're going to probably do it by chipping some of the smaller awards away while still acknowledging its overall greatness. That way they can still make Milk look like a surprise upset at the end.

If Slumdog sweeps all of its early nominations, though, then like Return of the King it will have Best Picture in the bag (except ROTK was also political, since they waited until the Lord of the Rings trilogy was over before showering it with love).

Art Direction - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Cinematography - Slumdog Millionaire
Costume Design - The Duchess
Directing - Slumdog Millionaire
Documentary - Man on Wire (it pulls off the trick of making us feel good about the twin towers by telling the story of an equally marvelous feat)
Short Documentary - The Conscience of Nhem En
Editing - Slumdog Millionaire
Foreign Language - Waltz with Bashir (this had a pretty high profile in London, but like all the others on the list, I never heard about it here)
Makeup - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (a no-brainer, though it was nice to see Hellboy II included)
Original Score - Slumdog Millionaire (I hear Benjamin Button is most deserving, though)
Original Song -"O Saya" from Slumdog Millionaire
Animated Short - Lavatory - Lovestory
Live Action Short - New Boy"
Sound Editing - The Dark Knight (remember that frayed, one-note Joker theme?)
Sound Mixing - The Dark Knight
Visual Effects - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog Millionaire
Original screenplay - Milk

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