Wednesday, February 18, 2009


DJG on OSCARS 2008 (predicted winners have a * next to them)

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
*Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Mickey Rourke IS Randy “The Ram” Robinson. He literally absorbed “The Wrestler” role and went to deep and dark places to wrestle with his own demons. This is beyond brutally honest acting. I’ve seen it twice and haven’t had it off my mind since seeing it the first time in late November. I’m convinced “The Ram” is one of the all-time greatest performances in cinema. I’ve yet to see “Milk” and I’ve heard nothing but high remarks on Sean Penn’s latest nomination. A second Oscar would cement Penn as his generation’s finest actor. However, it’s Rourke’s story that is really inspiring and touching the masses right now. He was once carrying to torch to stardom in the ‘80s and then became the buzz of controversy and failure, even dropped out of acting for a stint at boxing, but now he’s back on the top rope. Let’s hope he can stay there and from what I’ve seen he’s willing to stay disciplined and work hard because he’s seen the rock bottom. With or without an Oscar, Rourke is a winner and back as he has proven his chops once again and gained the trust and respect of his Hollywood peers who at one-time didn’t want anything to do with him. And if he doesn’t win, it will be because of that.

I’ve yet to see “Frost/Nixon”, but again I’ve heard some incredible things about Frank Langella’s performance as Richard Nixon. If there is a dark horse in the Best Actor race, it is probably Langella. And the Academy has a pretty solid track record at handing out statues to aging, proven veterans. Richard Jenkins pulled of a fantastic, strong and subtle performance in “The Visitor”. I think his nomination is more of a welcome to the club and I’m sure he’ll be getting some more coming his way. I’m just excited that “The Visitor” received a nomination so more people will take an interest in it. It was one of the most overlooked films of 2008. I’ve seen “The Curious Case of Bejamin Button” and enjoyed it and Brad Pitt’s performance greatly. A lot of people are finding his nomination in this department a waste as he was either buried behind makeup and effects or his own pretty looks. I disagree and found his Benjamin Button very charming and absorbed, especially in the curious eyes, which tell everything. I think that Brad Pitt gets a bad “pretty boy” wrap. Come on people the guy has proven he can act and always tackles challenging and unique roles. I do think he’s the most unlikely candidate to win on Oscar Sunday, but his nomination is well-deserved and he’ll be back again and again.


Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
*Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Heath Ledger has got this one in the bag, and not just because he passed away a little over a year ago. He deserves it because he was the best and most impacting this year. Although, I’m not a fan at all of this new Batman franchise, Ledger is astonishing as The Joker and reached new heights within the character. His acting as well went to new heights and I can’t help but dwell on the “what might have beens” with his life and career stopped so young, so abruptly. I really hope this award goes to his young daughter as a reminder of a father she will barely known beyond a few years with him and a handful of films. Fan boys and praising critics are upset over the loss of love for “The Dark Knight” at the Oscars, but Matilda’s loss is the biggest tragedy of all.

I’m extremely excited that Robert Downey, Jr. received a nomination for his amazing back ‘n’ forth transformations as an over-zealous blue-eyed blonde haired Australian actor playing a loud and proud black man in the bizarrely bombastic war comedy “Tropic Thunder”. It’s even more exciting to see the usually stuffy Academy hand out a rare nomination for a stupid-awesome comedy. But, Downey, Jr. is a gifted actor and has consistently churned out gold performances in every film genre. I knew while watching “Tropic Thunder” that he was one of the highlights of the year. I look for many more nominations to come. I’ve yet to see “Milk”, “Doubt” and “Revolutionary Road”, so I can’t really say what position Josh Brolin, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Michael Shannon all hold in the Best Supporting Actor race, though I’m pretty positive that they, and Downey, Jr., will all be second fiddle to Heath Ledger.


Performance by an actress in a leading role

Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal)
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
*Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)

Best Actress is usually a given at the Academy Awards, though I don’t really know about that this year. I’ve yet to see any of the pictures with respective nominations in this category, but I understand that all are incredibly acted. I also heard some controversy over the fact that Kate Winslet’s performance in “The Reader” is more of a supporting role. Whether that is so or not, I’m pretty sure she’ll walk away with an Oscar after going home empty five times before. And if she doesn’t win, I’m sure she’ll be back just as many times as Meryl Streep has.


Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
*Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Best Supporting Actress is a category that is always hardest for me to place a bet on. I’ve only seen two of the performances, Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”, and Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Tomei is fantastic, but has won before and I think she would be the last one picked here as over half of her performance in “The Wrestler” was done in the nude as a stripper. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (har har). Henson is great too in “Button”, and this nomination will be a springboard to some more great work for her blossoming career. I think this race right now is between Amay Adams and Penelope Cruz. Both turn heads left and right and are quickly becoming two of the finer actresses these days. I think it will go to Cruz (even though I don’t think anybody saw Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) since she didn’t win it for what might be her greatest accomplishment, “Volver.”


Best animated feature film of the year

"Bolt" (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard
*"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton

OK, first of all why doesn’t this category have a full five nominees? Second, “Bolt”, why even bother showing up? Although, I personally thought that “Wall-E” lost something in its second half and felt more like it was taking cheap shots at tackling current “green” topics and human beings, there is still no contest in the Best Animated category, especially when Pixar is involved. Even though I think that I have a better, more cohesive way to end “Wall-E”, but what the heck do I know?


Achievement in art direction

"Changeling" (Universal) Art Direction: James J. Murakami / Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
*"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt
Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Art Direction: Nathan Crowley / Set Decoration: Peter Lando
"The Duchess" (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films) Art Direction: Michael Carlin / Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
"Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) Art Direction: Kristi Zea / Set Decoration: Debra Schutt

I think that “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” has this one nailed. What a beautiful looking movie and the seams between reality and computer generated imagery was flawless. I tend to get a little annoyed when films like “The Duchess” are consistently nominated. Yes, they are exquisitely executed, but there are already a large amount of existing examples of the period in film and in literature. I think that the luscious “Hell Boy” was overlooked in this category, but it might show up later on…


Achievement in cinematography

"Changeling" (Universal) Tom Stern
*"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Claudio Miranda
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Wally Pfister
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Anthony Dod Mantle

I initially hailed “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with this award, but after seeing “Slumdog Millionaire” a second time, and being stunned and choked up a second time at the fresh visual elements alone, I feel it’s no longer an underdog…in this or any category of the night. One movie I recall producing a stunning look and feel was Spike Lee’s very overlooked “Miracle at St. Anna”.


Achievement in costume design

"Australia" (20th Century Fox) Catherine Martin
*"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Jacqueline West
"The Duchess" (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films) Michael O'Connor
"Milk" (Focus Features) Danny Glicker
"Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) Albert Wolsky

I think that everybody hated “Australia” but me and my wife. It’s great to see it awarded with a nomination in costume design. I think that “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” might take this one home too. More than likely this will be another consolation Oscar for it since it probably won’t win any of the big ones.


Achievement in directing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) David Fincher
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Ron Howard
"Milk" (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
*"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle

Originally I thought that David Fincher would finally get an Oscar, but I’m all for Danny Boyle now. It must have been hectic to pull off a film like “Slumdog Millionaire” and he did it very well. I think that Boyle is the new Steven Spielberg and it’s exciting to see his audience expand to a Spielbergian size. It’s great to get a nomination for Gus Van Sant, but he’ll be back. Same with Ron Howard and Stephen Daldry.


Best documentary feature

"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)" (Cinema Guild) A Pandinlao Films Production / Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
*"Encounters at the End of the World" (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment) A Creative Differences Production / Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
"The Garden" / A Black Valley Films Production Scott Hamilton Kennedy
"Man on Wire" (Magnolia Pictures) A Wall to Wall Production / James Marsh and Simon Chinn
"Trouble the Water" (Zeitgeist Films) An Elsewhere Films Production / Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

Even though I’m fairly positive that “Man on Wire” is going to win the always tough Best Documentary, I’m voting for Werner Herzog’s fantastic “Encounters at the End of the World.” Herzog went to Antarctica inspired to shoot nature, but found equal, if not more, fascination in the people who have all migrated to McMurdoch Station. “Man on Wire” follows the insanity that surrounded the tight rope high wire act between the World Trade Center back in the late ‘70s. It’s great, but I think that Herzog’s is better and he has consistently been cranking out amazing, innovative work since the ‘70s. What’s even more fascinating to me than both movies and their subject matter, is that “Man on Wire” seems like a film that Herzog would have made on the spot the day it happened. “Trouble the Water” could be a dark horse in this category as it’s about New Orleans/Katrina.


Best documentary short subject

"The Conscience of Nhem En" / A Farallon Films Production / Steven Okazaki
*"The Final Inch" / A Vermilion Films Production / Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
"Smile Pinki" / A Principe Production / Megan Mylan
"The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306" / A Rock Paper Scissors Production / Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nominated Best Documentary Short. I’m going on instinct with “The Final Inch.”


Achievement in film editing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Lee Smith
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
"Milk" (Focus Features) Elliot Graham
*"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Chris Dickens

Yep, another win for “Slumdog Millionaire.” Though, I’m hearing some great things about the splicing of archival/stock footage into “Milk”, “Slumdog” visually blew me away.


Best foreign language film of the year

"The Baader Meinhof Complex" A Constantin Film Production - Germany
"The Class" (Sony Pictures Classics) A Haut et Court Production - France
"Departures" (Regent Releasing) A Departures Film Partners Production - Japan
"Revanche" (Janus Films) A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production - Austria
*"Waltz with Bashir" (Sony Pictures Classics) A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production – Israel

I want to see “Waltz with Bashir” soooooooo bad. It looks amazing and inventive as it combines many types of animation tricks to one man’s story of war. I haven’t seen any of the other nominees, but per usual I’ll probably be catching them as the year goes by.


Achievement in makeup

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Greg Cannom
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O'Sullivan
*"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (Universal) Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

My heart has me voting for the luscious candy meets fruit stand environment of “Hell Boy II” on this one, but my head is telling me “The Curious Case of Benjaming Button”. However, will there be a dark horse knight on this one? Just maybe…for Heath’s streaked makeup sake.


Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Alexandre Desplat
"Defiance" (Paramount Vantage) James Newton Howard
"Milk" (Focus Features) Danny Elfman
*"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) A.R. Rahman
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman

“Slumdog Millionaire” has this one as the music is fresh, at least to American audiences. Woah, Danny Elfman is nominated for “Milk”? Awesome. But, heck…I’m still voting for Jonny Greenwood’s “There Will Be Blood” score that didn’t make the cut last year! At least he recently received a Grammy nomination for it.


Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

"Down to Earth" from "WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
Lyric by Peter Gabriel
"Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Gulzar
*"O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

It's no secret that I’m still voting for Bruce Springsteen in this category

The Original Song category is one that has been frustrating me for years. At least a film/songwriter now can’t be nominated for more than two songs now, unlike the past couple of years where “Dream Girls” and “Ella Enchanted” each took up three out of four spots. And why must the number of nominees be up for grabs from anywhere from three to five? I think there are plenty of material in this category to have it be plump at five nominations. Oh well…Maybe I’m just still completely bummed/flabbergasted that Bruce Springsteen was ousted on this one. Fresh off a Golden Globe win for his beautiful capping track for “The Wrestler”, he was considered a favorite to walk away with a second Academy Award. Oh well, hopefully Mickey Rourke will say something about it when he accepts his Best Actor award. I won’t be sore though, as the song is still a gorgeous, bitter-sweet tribute to Rourke and his “Ram”. We’ll get ‘em next time Boss.

I do think that Composer A.R. Rahman will get another Oscar for his collaboration on “O Saya” with M.I.A. on “Slumdog Millionaire”. What an incredible song and its use in the film when the children are running through the slums of India is one of the best three-to-four minutes I’ve spent at the movies. Tt’s simply amazing.


Best motion picture of the year

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) / A Kennedy/Marshall Production Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) / A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production / Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
"Milk" (Focus Features) / A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production / Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) / A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH
Production Nominees to be determined
*"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) / A Celador Films Production / Christian Colson, Producer

After seeing “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” back in early December, I thought that it was the type of picture that the Academy looks for in their Best category. It’s got the epic and topical and emotional stamps on it that audiences love. But, it seems that every other critic and movie-goer is ganging up on it. I don’t understand it and wish that people could just sit back and enjoy a good film without all the fuss. I think it’s a great movie and one that reminds of my I started loving movie magic in the first place as a child. As if “Fight Club” ten years ago wasn’t enough proof, David Fincher has now proven to everybody that he is a master director who can seam the ground between reality and fantasy so seamlessly. But, this is “Slumdog” time. Even after seeing it twice I’m not convinced it’s a Best Picture, but it’s still a really great movie and very deserving of Best honors. It’s a different Best Picture for the Academy and certainly America. I’m kinda excited for it. I still want to see “Frost/Nixon”, “Milk” and “The Reader”, which I’m sure the rest of America is still wondering what in the heck those last two movies even are. “The Reader” especially, as it seemed to come out of nowhere. I just might get to that one this weekend...


Best animated short film

"La Maison en Petits Cubes" / A Robot Communications Production / Kunio Kato
"Lavatory - Lovestory" A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production / Konstantin Bronzit
"Oktapodi" (Talantis Films) A Gobelins, L'école de l'image Production / Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
*"Presto" (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production / Doug Sweetland
"This Way Up" / A Nexus Production / Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

I’ve only seen “Presto” as in typical Pixar fashion, it was the short film before “Wall-E”. I thought it was cute, but not nearly as great as everybody else thought. I think I need to see it again. I’m sure it will win an Oscar.


Best live action short film

"Auf der Strecke (On the Line)" (Hamburg Shortfilmagency) / An Academy of Media Arts Cologne Production Reto Caffi
"Manon on the Asphalt" (La Luna Productions) / A La Luna Production / Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
"New Boy" (Network Ireland Television) / A Zanzibar Films Production / Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
*"The Pig" / An M & M Production / Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
"Spielzeugland (Toyland)" / A Mephisto Film Production / Jochen Alexander Freydank

I’m selecting “The Pig” for Best Live Action Short simply because it’s called “The Pig”. I’ve been to a screening of Academy Award nominated shorts before (two years ago) and they are incredible for how well-tailored and enjoyable they are. I really wish there was a better way for these to be distributed to a wider audience before the Oscars take place.


Achievement in sound editing

*"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Richard King
"Iron Man" (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Tom Sayers
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
"Wanted" (Universal) Wylie Stateman

If “The Dark Knight” takes home another Oscar besides Supporting Actor, it will be in the sound department. I’m sure audiophiles could tell me, but I’m pretty stupid with differentiating sound editing and sound mixing. I didn’t like “The Dark Knight”, but I did admire the sound on it. It will either win for this category or the next.


Achievement in sound mixing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
*"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
"Wanted" (Universal) Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

I think it’s incredibly awesome that the Academy nominated “Wanted” twice for sound, actually the now Academy Award nominated “Wanted”, for Achievement in Sound Mixing. I love stupid-awesome action flicks and “Wanted” definitely fits the bill. It has some nice sound in it too. But, if “The Dark Knight” doesn’t get some brownie Oscars in this category, I think that “Wall-E” will. I do remember my ears perking up many times and in awe of how well everything sounded in an animated world (well, in-between weeping of course).


Achievement in visual effects

*"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim
Webber and Paul Franklin
"Iron Man" (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

I think that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" has this one for sure. The visual effects are a WOW-WOW! But, I'm tickled that "Iron Man" got a nod as the effects are really impressive and subtle in that one!


Adapted screenplay

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Screenplay by Eric Roth
Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
"Doubt" (Miramax) Written by John Patrick Shanley
*"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Morgan
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Hare
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

This category can be tricky. I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and the movie is in its own big ball park from the book. Both work fine for me, but I’m not sure if the movie is worthy of being called an adaptation and I wouldn’t mind seeing a version that is more true to Fitzgerald’s vision. “Doubt” is a play turn screenplay, so I’m not sure on that one either. I think this one could come down to “Frost/Nixon”, “The Reader” and “Slumdog Millionaire”. “Slumdog” is the forefront for all the big awards and it might just grab this one too for the heck of it, but I’m almost thinking that they Academy will opt for “Frost/Nixon” and maybe give it to “The Reader”. I’ll stick with my gut on “Frost/Nixon” as this could be the only category it has the best chance of winning.


Original screenplay

"Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Courtney Hunt
"Happy-Go-Lucky" (Miramax) Written by Mike Leigh
"In Bruges" (Focus Features) Written by Martin McDonagh
"Milk" (Focus Features) Written by Dustin Lance Black
*"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon / Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Original Screenplay is typically a category that is locked-down months before nominations are even handed out. Remember last year when Diablo Cody pretty much won it when the first time writer submitted her screenplay and it never went through the typical Hollywood mill of multiple drafts? Yep, one time only. I’m not positive who will come out on top in this heat. I’m a big fan of the hiding out hit men on the search for redemption “In Bruges” and watching it mid-last year I knew it was something special. Though, I think it will be overlooked here. The only other nominee I’ve seen in this category is “Wall-E” and I have a hunch that it will be celebrated for more than just Best Animated Feature. I previously mentioned that I didn’t think the second half was as great or strong as everybody else is salivating over, but I think it will win this category. Are we positive that Al Gore won’t win another award for this one, even though he isn’t attached to it at all?




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