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The Oscars 2009: Predictions/Thoughts

Fork and Screen Well, as expected, yesterday’s Best Pic­ture Show­case was AWESOME. My mom and I had a great time and Grant joined us for the first two films.

Because they moved the Show­case to a larger audi­to­rium, there was a prob­lem get­ting the first film (Milk) ready to show on time, so they had to switch it with The Reader instead (and we watched Milk sec­ond). This actu­ally worked out quite well because Grant had no inter­est see­ing The Reader and prob­a­bly would have left after Milk. As it turned out, The Reader was fan­tas­tic and Grant is really glad he stayed.

The Reader was a real sur­prise. I had wanted to avoid it because it seemed trite and overly praised, and frankly, seemed as if it would bore me. Far from it. The film asks really inter­est­ing ques­tions about guilt, com­plic­ity, love and for­give­ness. The idea of moral­ity as opposed to the sys­tem of law was jux­ta­posed against a just post-WWII Ger­many, where in the decades just after the war, the coun­try was still strug­gling to deal with the Holo­caust and each individual’s com­plic­ity in the sys­tem. To be clear, it’s not a Holo­caust film — it goes far beyond that — but that was the per­fect back­drop for this type of film, as it fit so well with the over­all message.

Kate Winslet was astound­ing and David Kross who plays a young Ralph Fiennes (and looks so much like he could actu­ally BE a young Ralph Fiennes that the cast­ing direc­tor should totally win some seri­ous awards) was phe­nom­e­nal, espe­cially for such a young actor. Kate’s per­for­mance was nuanced and stoic and sold more on her expres­sions and her eyes rather than the words that she spoke. Really, really excellent.

Of the five, The Reader was the most thought-provoking in a sense; if I needed to write an aca­d­e­mic essay or a jour­nal sub­mis­sion on a nom­i­nee, I’d choose The Reader because there was so much tex­tual com­plex­ity. Like almost every other film nom­i­nated for Best Pic­ture, it was an adap­ta­tion, and while I haven’t read the book, I know want to.

Milk, was unsur­pris­ingly excel­lent. One of my all-time favorite doc­u­men­taries is The Times of Har­vey Milk and Milk is essen­tially a dra­matic reen­act­ment of that story, with some addi­tional back­ground details of Harvey’s love life and more on his inter­ac­tions with Dan White. Hav­ing watched the doc­u­men­tary so many times (I think I dis­cov­ered it on IFC or Sun­dance a few months before the 25th Anniver­sary DVD was released, the first home video release of the doc if I recall cor­rectly), I was famil­iar with the play­ers and the story, so I can’t really judge how well the film fleshed out some peo­ple and some char­ac­ters — but I think it did a good job, as my mother, who has never seen the doc (I showed it to Grant last sum­mer), really enjoyed it and was riv­eted by the story.

Gus Van Sant is still dead to me because of the Psy­cho fiasco, that said — this came as close as any­thing to absolv­ing him from that great­est of cin­e­matic sins.

Sean Penn has received the bulk of the act­ing buzz around the film, but I really think Josh Brolin was the real stand­out. Obvi­ously, Har­vey IS the film — and Penn’s per­for­mance is both excel­lent and exact­ing. The voice, the affec­ta­tions and man­ner­isms were spot on with the real guy. That said, Josh Brolin’s beyond eerie trans­for­ma­tion into a spit­ting image of the real Dan White was what took me aback when I first saw the trailer for Milk last year (I regret we weren’t able to see it when it was in the­aters — so much was going on at the end of the year though) and it was an incred­i­ble per­for­mance by an actor that has really come out of nowhere in the last two years (first No Coun­try for Old Men, now Milk and W.) to tran­si­tion from “son of a famous guy” to a really stand-out actor in his own right.

James Franco was really impres­sive, and Emille Hirsch, who I can­not stand was also quite good. The film felt authen­tic and the mix­ture of the real home movies from the ‘70s with the recre­ated clips were just awe­some. End­ing with the actual footage of the can­dle­light vigil across San Fan­cisco from Novem­ber, 1978 was the per­fect, per­fect touch. That imagery was the most haunt­ing and mem­o­rable part of the doc­u­men­tary and it was a per­fect way to end the film.

The Curi­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton was an exer­cise in prov­ing me to NEVER DOUBT DAVID FINCHER. Now, I love me some David Fincher, LOVE, but I let the “it’s three hours and bor­ing and blah blah blah” bull­shit turn me off the movie. Again, fuck­ing excel­lent. The pac­ing was great, the cin­e­matog­ra­phy was superb and although I think it is going to get shut-out of every­thing big, if it doesn’t win Best Makeup, there’s a fuck­ing problem.

Cate Blanchett who I nor­mally can’t stand was excel­lent. Brad Pitt was great and the sup­port­ing cast of char­ac­ters was equally won­der­ful. Now, I’ve heard a lot of For­rest Gump com­par­isons, but that’s an insult to Fincher, et. al. Zemekis is a direc­tor, Fincher is an auteur. there’s a dif­fer­ence in skill, in tal­ent and in scope. The lessons of love and loss and to quote Pony Boy by way of Frost, “noth­ing gold ever stay­ing,” were really remarkable.

It was so dif­fer­ent from a typ­i­cal Fincher film, both in sub­stance and even in style. His char­ac­ter­is­tic cin­e­matog­ra­phy flour­ishes were there, but the color palette was more expan­sive and lush — and not just dark.

It was really, really solid and while I don’t want to see it again imme­di­ately, I’ll totally watch it when the DVD is released with Grant.

Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire is the big pick to win, and for good rea­son. It is dif­fer­ent, it is touch­ing, it is uplift­ing — it’s just a great movie. The film has the full range of emo­tions, and none feel forced — and the fact that Danny Boyle directed such a film is astound­ing. The actors were amaz­ing, espe­cially for peo­ple so young. The child actors espe­cially were just amaz­ing. And the girl who plays Latika — what a phe­nom­e­nal beauty. Like, she’s the Angelina Jolie/Vivien Leigh/Grace Kel­ley kind of beauty — like totally trans­fix­ing and perfect.

I don’t want to say too much because although the story has com­plex­i­ties and is cer­tainly not shal­low, even going into the premise ruins a cer­tain ele­ment of the flow. You know how the film is going to end as soon as it starts (the title tells you), but the jour­ney to get there is great. And the music fuck­ing rocks.

Frost/Nixon was bet­ter than I had expected, but I still think The Dark Knight, The Wrestler or a host of other films could have claimed its spot for Best Pic­ture and Best Direc­tor and Best Adapted Screen­play nods. I read the play, and the film played bet­ter than the stage direc­tions read. My only real crit­i­cism in a sense is that Nixon came off as tragic, sym­pa­thetic and human. And that’s fine, but I don’t think that was really the inten­tion of the play or the film. Frost/Nixon suc­ceeded where Oliver Stone’s Nixon utterly failed.

Part of that is because they got the right actor to play Nixon. Noth­ing against Sir Anthony Hop­kins, but he was just a hor­ri­ble choice for Stone’s film. But Nixon comes across as sym­pa­thetic, and I don’t know how I feel about that. The man did so much harm in the name of power, author­ity and win­ning a polit­i­cal game. Until George W. Bush, he was the most cor­rupt of all our Pres­i­dents. I don’t really like feel­ing sym­pa­thetic towards him, espe­cially after the plethora of Nixon books I’ve read over the years. I’ve read so many books, lis­tened to many of the tapes, watched doc­u­men­taries — it was odd that this film, which isn’t sub­stan­tively very strong, would make me uncom­fort­able in see­ing the guy as human.

OK — so Pre­dic­tions:

Best Actress

Kate Winslet

Best Actor

I want Mickey Rourke to get it, I think he deserves it — and though Sean Penn has a cer­tain advan­tage, I think the raw­ness of Mickey’s per­for­mance out­weighs the accu­racy of Sean’s Method perfection.

Best Sup­port­ing Actor

Heath Ledger will surely be the third posthu­mous Oscar win­ner. I’m not sure how I feel about that. He was bril­liant in Dark Knight, but I’d like to see Josh Brolin win.

Best Sup­port­ing Actress

It’s a toss-up between Amy Adams and Viola Davis for Doubt. Still, Marissa Tomei Pene­lope Cruz have a chance, toss-up.

Best Orig­i­nal Screenplay

WALL-E should get this. I hope it does.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Slum­dog Millionaire

Best Direc­tor

I’ll say Danny Boyle, but I’m unsure — David Fincher might pull it out.

Best Pic­ture

Slum­dog Millionaire

Woo — I’m done!

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8 people have left comments

Lisa - Gravatar

Lisa said:

Great review. i’ve been cram­ming all the best pic­ture flicks since 4am last night. need­less to say, i hope makeup can cover up these mas­sive bags. :S i’m going to be talk­ing Oscars all night so I’ll save my pre­dic­tions to the show. I’d love it if you could come chat. after all you are film_girl :D

Posted on: February 22, 2009 at 6:00 pmQuote this Comment
Brian Parks - Gravatar

Brian Parks said:

Come on now. Heath com­pletely dis­ap­peared into that role. His was the best per­for­mance I have seen in the past 2 year.

Posted on: February 22, 2009 at 6:04 pmQuote this Comment
Mike Gon­za­lez - Gravatar

Mike Gon­za­lez said:

Great post. Agree about most of your thoughts, though I’m not ure I love Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire for best pic­ture. I think it’s going to win, but maybe not my per­sonal choice.

Also, I think you meant “Latika”, not “Zamika”. I agree, Freida Pinto is aston­ish­ingly pretty.

Posted on: February 22, 2009 at 6:08 pmQuote this Comment
Dharm - Gravatar

Dharm said:

Wasn’t going to write a com­ment, but then read­ing the “Com­ment Guide­lines” forced me to give it a shot! I have never seen such a detailed com­ment guide­lines, many times i won­der whether a href will work or not. I think this will qual­ify as Off-topic, but not inap­pro­pri­ate. U won’t have to delete my ass tho.

Btw, your Oscar pre­dic­tions were on the tar­get mostly. Well done.

Ok, test­ing ,

One sug­ges­tion tho: the com­ments are way below the con­tent due to right col­umn length. You might want to bring com­ments inside the div id="column-left" from the cur­rent div id="main-lower-content"

Posted on: February 23, 2009 at 6:29 amQuote this Comment
Michael - Gravatar

Michael said:

Although I’m not a huge fan of dra­matic movies (unless you count action thrillers as dra­mas!), your post actu­ally made me inter­ested in see­ing a few of last night’s best pic­ture nom­i­na­tions. Great post.

And are you proud of your picks this morn­ing? You should be… Great accuracy!

MJT

Posted on: February 23, 2009 at 9:27 amQuote this Comment
Chris Coyier - Gravatar

Chris Coyier said:

Dang you did pretty good girl. I think Rourke should have got­ten it too.

Posted on: February 25, 2009 at 12:06 pmQuote this Comment
Mike Doe - Gravatar

Mike Doe said:

Christina, fan­tas­tic job as always! I’m a lit­tle late to the Oscars party, but I always love when you put on your @filmgirl hat and go into movie critic mode. :)

Posted on: March 8, 2009 at 1:49 pmQuote this Comment
w4onecom - Gravatar

w4onecom said:

nice info :D

Posted on: March 8, 2009 at 7:31 pmQuote this Comment