With the Academy Awards only a day away, I’ve decided to get my ass in gear and make some picks. To save time (and spare agony from the reader) I’ve decided to only touch base on some of the major awards.
Off we go!
OSCAR PICKS 2009
Richard Jenkins for The Visitor; He admitted himself he has no chance at winning, and he is right. My love always goes out to ‘Six Feet Under’ alum though!
Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon; Had Frost/Nixon come out a few years earlier or even later, hands down Frank Langella would take away the Oscar. He doesn’t just play Richard Nixon, he IS Richard Nixon. It was by far one of the best performances of the year, without a doubt.
Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; When talking about the Oscars, I repeatedly forget that Brad Pitt is nominated. It’s not that he didn’t do a great job, you just never associate Pitt with Oscar worthy performances. (With the exception of 12 Monkeys.) I think people are more concerned with his celebrity than the films he makes.
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler; When I watched Milk, I thought, “There’s my Best Actor pick.” That was until I saw The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke, who I had only seen previously in Sin City and Domino, blew me away. And even that’s an understatement. Darren Aronofsky and Rourke create these moments of silence and sadness that are beyond moving. When in the ring, Rourke makes you feel every crunched bone, every hit, every pained breath. When he’s simply working part-time behind a deli counter or sitting at an under-attended autograph signing – you can literally feel the pain oozing out of this man. This movie broke my heart and made me cry like a kid with a scraped knee. I haven’t been affected by a movie such as this in a long time and would love to see Rourke walk away with the award.
Sean Penn for Milk; So what if he has a reputation of being a Sour Puss? When he comes out with a new movie, you know he’s going to act the HELL out of his role. And ‘Milk’ does not disappoint. Penn gives another FANTASTIC performance (with an equally great supporting cast) exuding perseverance, passion, vulnerability and humanity. Gay or straight, this is a movie about triumphing over obstacles and making a difference for the benefit of others, that everyone can relate to.
PREDICTION : MICKEY ROURKE / THE WRESTLER
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin for Milk; I had a dream about Josh Brolin the other night and apparently we were married. What I love about Brolin is that he never really went away. He was totally dreamy as Brandon Walsh in The Goonies but then kind of fell into a string of duds. Mimic, The Mod Squad and Hollow Man to name a few. It wasn’t until his turn as Dr. Willliam Block in 2007’s Planet Terror that people began to take notice again. No Country For Old Men, American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, W. – the man is on fire! In Milk, Brolin plays brilliantly as Dan White, the uber-conservative man elected to the San Fransico Board of Supervisors at the same time as Harvey Milk. Although majority of viewers know the inevitable outcome, we can’t help but feel compassion for White, feeling helpless watching the man’s downward spiral. Brolin plays the difficult role to perfection and greatly deserves the award. And let it be known, that if the opportunity presented itself, yes, I would bone Josh Brolin.
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight; I know alot of people who didn’t enjoy this movie. (ALAN.) But what can’t be denied is Ledger’s brilliant performance as The Joker. Look as hard as you want but there is NO trace of Ledger in that movie, only The Joker. Who can you write about it that hasn’t been written? Did Ledger’s death contribute to The Dark Knight’s success? Absolutely. I’m sure a large chunk of viewers just went to watch the role that possibly led Ledger to madness. Every moment he’s on-screen, he embodies an ‘agent of chaos.’ Batman and The Joker need eachother – simple as that. (So Christopher Nolan better retire him or he’ll have to report to me.) Ledger’s performance creeps me out, gives me chills and makes me sad everytime I watch it. Everyone knows he’s the shoe in for this award.
Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder; When hearing of this nomination, I literally did the John Bender Breakfast Club fist pump into the air. Those who know me well, know that I could speak of Robert Downey Jr. for days on end and never tire. That being said, this seems more of a fluff nomination than anything. Yes, I think his performance of Kirk Lazarus warrants awards and nominations, I just don’t want him to get his lil’ heart broken. (And when it does, I will be there to comfort him) My parents were angry with me after I made them watch Tropic Thunder. They just “didn’t get it.” But I guess we all know why I did.
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt; For the longest time, I only knew him from Twister. (“It’s the Suck Zone!”) It wasn’t until The Big Lebowski (and every other movie he’s done following) where I thought, “Alright, this guy can ACT.” In Doubt, Hoffman plays Father Flynn, a priest who is suspected of molesting a student at the school he runs. While the movie as a whole was okay, the moments where Hoffman was shouting his innocence, I actually believed that he was a priest defending himself. While I don’t think he’ll win in 2009, I think that Hoffman’s Capote statuette will soon have a sibling in the coming years.
Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road; He may not have a lot of screen time, but Michael Shannon “brings it.” He gives a remarkable performance as John Givings, a mathematician who has been hospitalized for insanity. His greatest achievement as Givings in cutting to the truths that no one else daresay. I didn’t feel as though he was insane, sadly just a man who is too honest for his time.
PREDICTION : HEATH LEDGER / THE DARK KNIGHT
Melissa Leo for Frozen River; The entire movie, I believed Melissa Leo to be a desperate dollar-store cashier taking on a challenge that could ultimately end in disaster. Her entire face reads as if she actually has a gambling addicted husband, lives in a mangy trailer park and who makes a deal with the woman who tried to steal her car. It would be great for another underdog win (ie – Hilary Swank / Boys Don’t Cry) but I’m afraid she’s the smallest fish in the pond this year.
Angelina Jolie for The Changeling; Jolie and her lips spend almost 3 hours shouting, “That is not my son!” or some variation of it. I enjoy Clint Eastwood’s movies but sadly I felt this one could have ended long before it did. I’m very hit or miss with Jolie. She picks great roles such as Gia or Girl, Interrupted, but then does something like Original Sin. (Where we’re subjected to staring at Antonio Banderas’s ass for 2 hours!) Here she plays Christine Collins, a single mother in the 50’s who’s son is kidnapped while she is working late one evening. When the LAPD bring back the boy they claim to be her son, all hell breaks loose. When she challenges the police, they call her crazy and lock her up. I didn’t find this very dramatic or gripping, and would like to replace Jolie’s nomination for Sally Hawkins of Happy Go Lucky.
Meryl Streep for Doubt; I hate the douches who say, “Well, it wouldn’t be the Oscars without Meryl Streep!” Streep is overrated, period. It seems as though when the Academy can’t find anyone else to nominate, they always fall back on Streep. (Music of the Heart, really?) That being said, she gives a good performance in Doubt as the head of a Bronx Catholic school who suspects a new priest of having an inappropriate relationship with one of her students. Streep plays a great hard-ass, but her get-up in the movie somehow reminded me of Mother Goose.
Kate Winslet for The Reader; She will win. And if she doesn’t, I will boycott the Oscars for years to come. Winslet plays Hanna Schmitz, a woman convicted of unspeakable crimes committed in the name of Hitler. I could watch Kate Winslet for hours and never bore. She is the best actress of her generation and she deserves that damn award! Be this the Morgan Freeman case of giving her a “Career Oscar” rather than basing it off of this performance. She’s done stronger, but gosh darn, this is her year!
Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married; Here Hathaway plays Kym, a former model / recovering drug addict released from rehab for a weekend to attend her sisters wedding. Kym is a walking disaster, but a disaster you feel compassion for. She opens up old wounds and issues with such honesty and self-loathing that it’s hard not to sympathize for her. Hathaway is a bloody triumph in this film who has taken the biggest career leap forward. She plays Kym with such realism and remorse that it breaks your heart to even hear her speak. There’s a brilliant scene of a rehearsal dinner, where Kym gives a speech that is so painfully awkward and devastating that I bet you not to squirm. I would love to see her win, but alas this is Winslet’s year.
PREDICTION: KATE WINSLET / THE READER
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; I was surprised to hear of this nomination, because the performance doesn’t really have a lasting effect on the viewer. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good performance, she just didn’t really do anything. Unless you count taking care of a man-baby and eventually wearing a grey haired wig and prosthetic teeth as something. Henson (who played a knocked up hooker in Hustle & Flow) plays Queenie, the nursing home attendee, and Pitt’s surrogate mother who pops up periodically throughout David Fincher’s lovely, haunting 3 hour fairy-tale. Take it or leave it.
Viola Davis for Doubt; Oprah wanted this role, and I’m elated she didn’t get it because I don’t think I’d been able to watch. Viola Davis is only in two scenes but when she is present, she is blazing. She plays Mrs.Miller, the mother of a boy who may have been the victim of abuse by a priest at his school. She gives a touching performance, but unfortunately it’s not enough to garner her an Oscar.
Amy Adams for Doubt; My love Natalie Portman passed on this role, and probably for the best. Adams (or “The Hot Girl” from Season 1 of The Office) plays Sister James, a naive nun who sparks the debate over whether the priest did-or-didn’t abuse one of her students. Adams is mousy, sorrowful and gives a strong performance next to Mother Goose…um…Meryl Streep.
Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona; She’s a firecracker this one! Cruz plays the suicidal egomaniac Maria Elena who is still wound into a relationship with her ex-husband. Woody Allen let Cruz and cast mate Javier Bardem riff their own Spanish dialogue and it definitely played to her advantage. She is so completely uncompromising and fierce that she steals every scene she’s in. Woody Allen has a string of actresses taking home the gold in his movies, and I think this may be another.
Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler; While alot of us were expecting to see Tomei’s ass (being a stripper and all) we were not expecting to see several shots of Mickey Rourke’s ass. That is neither here nor there. Tomei brings us Cassidy / Pam, the middle-aged stripper who has taken a liking to Randy “The Ram.” While she is very tenacious, there is always a hint of despair behind her bold gaze. Tomei might have gained critics after her upset win at the 1992 Oscars (she won in the same category for My Cousin Vinny) – this performance proves that her win wasn’t a fluke.
PREDICTION: PENELOPE CRUZ / VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Gus Van Sant for Milk; One word; Poignant. With an outstanding cast including Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin, Van Sant more or less guides his actors through a cultural crusade. Van Sant had reportedly worked on a Harvey Milk project for almost 15 years, and his meticulous ambition payed off.
David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; I love this man. But of course I’m biased, seeing as how Se7en is in my Top 5 movies of all-time. Fincher is sublimely ambitious taking us on a journey in the life of a man who ages backwards. Fincher doesn’t try to play up mush or semtimenalty, but exhibits the brutal honesty of life – it just doesn’t last.
Stephen Daldry for The Reader; Daldry takes a best-selling book dealing with weighty issues and humbly tries to make it personal. The movie as a whole kind of fumbles around, but it’s the actors that really shine. Regret, sorrow, grief – Daldry pulls emotions from his talented cast at every turn. The direction and movie are admirable, but I think this will be Daldry’s third loss at the Oscars.
Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon; Basically just rephrasing my Frost/Nixon review – Ron Howard is a damn fine director. Here he guides us through a story of two stubborn men just trying to stay in the game and make names for themselves. Howard weaves suspense, vulnerability and drama into a finely crafted film that stays with you even after it’s over.
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire; Just as the Cohen Brothers deserved it last year and Scorcese the year before – this year belongs to Danny Boyle. He is a master of flooding the audience with emotion. It doesn’t matter if those emotions are of despair or hope – they come at you a mile a minute and there’s no stopping them. Boyle crafts scenes that make you grin from ear to ear and devastate you the next. The film is beautiful, wonderful, awesome. Yes, the guy who directed The Beach is going to win an Oscar.
PREDICTION: DANNY BOYLE / SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Just a side note – where the HELL is Darren Aronofsky’s nomination for The Wrestler?
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Wall-E; Just give the robot the Oscar now so he can keep it next to his lighter collection. Only Pixar could create a movie so heartbreaking and sensational. It’s a love story viewers believe and I can’t wait for Wall-E’s acceptance speech.
Kung-Fu Panda; While this movie had it’s moments, it mostly seemed like “lets get major celebrities to voice our characters, just because we can!” Jack Black as Po the Panda is sweet and awkward, but not as much as Wall-E.
Bolt; I think this movie would have been better had it not starred Miley Cyrus or John Travolta. (Bravo to the James Lipton casting though!) Bolt was enjoyable, but it was really a hamster that stole the show. Again, it doesn’t stand a chance next to Wall-E.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Yes, we’ve all heard the comparisons to Forrest Gump – but this is a movie that stands on it’s own. The incredible special effects whisk you away into a world you’d love to get lost in. The film is esthetically beautiful and has a constant trickling of melancholy running throughout. There are a few moments that are dull, but the actors manage to maintain poise and excellence. David Fincher has done a fine job, and it certainly a contender for Best Picture.
Frost/Nixon; I loved this movie, but I don’t think it stands a chance against it competitors. With a year including Milk and Slumdog Millionaire – Ron Howard’s film of Richard Nixon and David Frost’s televised interviews falls beneath the radar. Quite a compelling, wonderfully crafted film – its just not strong enough to take home the prize.
Slumdog Millionaire; This years “little movie that could” a-la Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. All we want is for this down on his luck 18 year-old boy win some money and save his soul mate. This movie is completely inspiring and showcases a brood of new talent making their mark on Hollywood. Danny Boyle and company constructed a joyous, triumphant movie that can be watched over and over and over. It’s captivating and draws you in for a ride that I DARE YOU NOT TO ENJOY!
Milk; A film such as Milk has the potential to cross the line into becoming pretentious (Paging CRASH!) – but it never does. What it does do, is tell the story of a man who was determined. Determined to make a difference in not only in his life, but those around him. Milk displays a phenomenally talented cast in one of my favorite movies of the year.
The Reader; If I had my way – The Wrestler would swap with The Reader for a nomination here. The Wrestler is a fantastic movie whereas The Reader showcases fantastic performances. It’s a gorgeous movie, but I don’t think it belongs with the others.
PREDICTION: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
There you have it.
Feedback is always appreciated – for I’d love to hear your picks!
Stay tuned for an Academy Awards recap following tomorrow nights broadcast.