Sunday, February 22, 2009


We're officially on break, and now that I'm fortified with groceries and books and the streets are fortified with snow, I will expect a productive week of work and baking. And blogging, including last weekend's graduate student conference we held, but I'm afraid there's something more pressing: OSCARS!

Yes, every year I get over my anger at whatever they've done, and refocus it on the awards. But this year, I'm having a hard time mustering up my usual energy since the year has been lacking in great movies, and the awards are even more middling. For best picture, we have 2 films that were good (Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire) but ultimately simple in their strengths and quite problematic. Button takes an awfully long time to get going, and when it does, it's really just a tender love story. Slumdog is a love fantasy whose visual slickness undermines any deeper threads it so desperately tries to carry. And both are hampered by a conceit that proves distracting. Frost/Nixon is fine, but never really engaging. The Reader somehow does the miraculous by making sex and the Holocaust numbingly dull. And Milk is the only thing approaching great, a brilliant biopic that zips along with energy and emotion, occasionally coasting on standard, glossy biopic mode, but occasionally inspiring some truly great filmmaking (not to mention perfect performances). Too bad they missed yet another opportunity to recognize Pixar's brilliance, or a truly excellent blockbuster hit (The Dark Knight), not to mention the smaller films (Happy Go Lucky, Rachel Getting Married, The Visitor).

But whatever, we know it's in the bag for Slumdog. Ugh.

Acting, I'd love to see Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, or Richard Jenkins take it. Jenkins is sadly out of the running, but my heart is pulling for Mickey's honestly moving portrayal of an ex-wrestler.

Actress still enrages me for leaving out the best performance of the year (the irrepressibly vivacious Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky), and while I love Kate Winslet, this movie was so bad (even if she's great). Especially because Meryl (always a hoot!), Anne Hathaway, and Melissa Leo (amazing work here- Frozen River is highly recommended) are all better. But alas, Kate wins for the one she shouldn't.

Supporting actor is Heath's make-up for the one he should have gotten in Brokeback Mountain. Well done.

Supporting Actress is where I know I should go for Penelope Cruz, but my gut says Viola Davis will win. Like Kate, it's for the wrong film, but she deserves it.

Otherwise, expect an evening of Slumdomination (except the sound categories I think, which will go to The Dark Knight), with Benjamin Button getting the effects and art direction, Milk gets a screenplay win, Man on Wire gets the well-deserved documentary, Waltz with Bashir gets the foreign film, and WALL-E gets the animated feature. And Duchess gets the costume award, because it's fancy.

I also saw the short films this year, and I loved La Maison en Petit Cubes, which I think has a shot. And I loved almost all the live actions. Two rules compete here: holocaust vs. cute kid. I'm going with cute kid (New Boy), though the film Manon sur le bitume is the best thing I've seen this year. 15 minutes of ravishing details akin to Amelie or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, utter perfection.

I'l post a best-of-the-year list in a bit after I get to see Waltz with Bashir and The Class here (so slow!). In the mean time, enjoy the Oscars. I know I will.


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