Monday, January 26, 2009


I'm an optimist. I keep hoping that these little gold bludgeons (in Jim Carrey's phrase: the Lord of All Knick-knacks) will finally go to the right, most deserving person. It seldom happens. This year, it seems less likely to happen than usual. After last year's entirely predictable triumph of the dullasdishwater NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN over the far tastier THERE WILL BE BLOOD, SWEENEY TODD and ZODIAC, and after the previous few years' senseless recognition of MILLION DOLLAR BABY and CRASH and others (THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING being the sole deserving winner in some time) I can finally say that I just don't give a damn anymore.

Aw, fuck. Who am I kidding? Surely not you. I do care. I care deeply. I love this stuff. This hideous award show horror. I do love to bitch and moan and complain about who wins and who loses and who wasn't nominated and what were they thinking and well what can you expect from the people who've given Clint Eastwood two Oscars for Best Director and Brad Pitt nominated for Best Actor Oh my GOD and ha ha they shut out THE DARK KNIGHT and Christopher Nolan so there might be some hope after all. Nothing provokes a good solid rant like the OSCARS.

So here we go, nominations rants.

Best motion picture of the year
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
“The Reader”
“Slumdog Millionaire”

I've only seen three of the nominees: BENJAMIN BOREDOM, MILK and SLUMDOG. Well. It looks like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE will win. One of Roscoe's Oscar Theories: Each Oscar Is A Reaction To Last Year's, which this year means that an easy piece of feelgood sentimentality (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) will follow last year's easy piece of feelbad sentimentality (NO COUNTRY). I'm not entirely counting out BENJAMIN BOREDOM, as it does have a lot of what Oscar Seems To Like: epic storytelling, thwarted lovestory, big stars, no appreciable content but a clearly stated (more or less) message about something or other, and it does seem to inspire tears in those easily inspired that way. It comes down to this: will they want to give the Best Picture Oscar to a piece of relentless fluff about slumkids in Mumbai? How's that going to look in future Oscar montages? I can't see it going to FROST/NIXON or THE READER, because they've just gotten zero serious consideration from anyone anywhere. MILK would also seem to have a lot of Oscar bait (big true story, martyred leader, big cast, easily digested Big Message) but there's that pesky Gay Angle that will probably keep it from winning the big prize. Going by another Roscoe's Oscar Theories (the most useless of the nominees usually wins) I'll go with SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, with BENJAMIN BOREDOM a possible surprise. I'm not entirely counting out MILK, though, darker horses have won, and it might be a handy response to Prop. 8.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”
Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn in “Milk”
Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”

Well, who can say. I'd guess Mickey Rourke, based on all the hype, but I think there may be a significant population who just can't bring themselves to check off the box next to Mickey Rourke for an Oscar. I haven't seen the performance, largely because I just can't bring myself to look at that hideously disfigured face for the better part of two hours. I'd like to see Penn win, myself, but I don't think it is terribly likely. After all, Penn plays a gay man who actually seems to be possessed of some measurable levels of testosterone, and that never goes over big with Oscar voters who like their gay performances to be as queeny/girly/femmy as possible: Hurt in SPIDER WOMAN and Hoffman's CAPOTE. Ugh. Pitt. My non-nominated choice: Colin Farrell for his funny and moving turn in IN BRUGES.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt”
Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road”

I'd say give it to Josh Brolin, who actually had an actual supporting role, rather than Ledger who should be in the Best Actor category for what was for all intents and purposes the lead in that DARK KNIGHT thing. But Ledger will probably win, there's just no way to deny the brilliance of his work as the Joker, try as some might. I'd have liked to have seen Ralph Fiennes nominated for his total scary loon performance in IN BRUGES.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie in “Changeling”
Melissa Leo in “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep in “Doubt”
Kate Winslet in “The Reader”

Don't know, don't care, haven't seen any of them, and without the sublime Sally Hawkins from HAPPY-GO-LUCKY it doesn't matter a damn. Toss it to Winslet, she's long overdue, and it would continue the Oscar tradition of honoring the Right Actor for the Wrong Role.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in “Doubt”
Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis in “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”

As long as it doesn't go to Taraji P. Henson, they can give it to the janitor for all I care. I'm betting it will go to Viola Davis in DOUBT, for what it is worth.

Achievement in directing
Ron Howard -- FROST/NIXON
Gus Van Sant -- MILK
Stephen Daldry -- THE READER

It will probably go to Boyle, I guess. I'd say the most worthy of the batch that I've seen is Van Sant's work on MILK. Oscar-winner Danny Boyle. Hmmmm. Doesn't really roll off the tongue, does it?

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

Couldn't care less. Probably SLUMDOG. Whatever.

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

Probably on balance the strongest single category. Who'd a thunk. I'd like to see IN BRUGES win, but it isn't terribly likely. I'd be down with MILK or WALL-E or HAPPY-GO-LUCKY winning, but I think they'll probably give it to MILK as a consolation prize for not giving it one of the big prizes.

And there you have it. I'll watch the show, I guess, but it just all seems to pre-determined now. SLUMDOG seems to be just cleaning up all over the place, like NO COUNTRY did last year. There's nothing really in the way of suspense.

And here's a gratuitous piece of anti-BENJAMIN BUTTONery:


Anonymous said...

Don't totally discount "The Reader," especially since you haven't seen it yet. I think Winslet will and deserves to win (and sweet jeezus please please please do NOT give it to Meryl Streep for her cartoon witch/nun in "Doubt" who makes Elvira Gulch look like Mother Teresa). But what about the astounding performance from that gorgeous 17-year-old German boy (David Kross) who really is the male lead in "The Reader?" A HUGE oversight. And Roger Deakins' cinematography is absolutely sublime but will probably not win ("Dark Knight").

I'm with you all the way on "In Bruges." Why didn't they release it in, say November, when people would have paid attention to it? There should at least be a special award for Colin Firth's eyebrows.

Also, another one you haven't seen: I am going to call Best Actor for Frank Langella for "Frost/Nixon." As I was watching it, there was one scene where I actually, spontaneously said out loud, "There's the Oscar." As wonderful as Sean Penn is, this is the kind of big, gloriously over-the-top (i.e. Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood") performance that Oscar loves. But then you do have your point about bucking the trend from the previous year: it may be too close to Day-Lewis' kind of performance to repeat it this year (in which case Penn gets it).

I am not keeping up enough with Hollywood politics these days to know if "Milk" has a chance as Best Picture, partially as Prop. 8 backlash. I'd like to think so.

I hated every miserable second of "Slumdog Millionaire" and am praying that it will get shut out of the major categories. Most Annoying Hand-Held Camerawork? Worst Soundtrack?

I have now seen four of the five Best Picture nominees, and am holding off - out of fear and loathing - for "B. Button." But it's on my pile of "to be watched next" stuff.

Also on that stack is "Vicky Cristina Barceona," as I hear Penelope Cruz gives an award-worthy performance. Again, PLEASE do not give it to the simpering little bitch in "Doubt."

But we can't always get what we want, and the Oscars usually seem designed to make us as angry as possible. Here's one for you: What would be the reaction if, repeating the atrocity of a few years back, Philip Seymour Hoffman steals the Oscar from Heath Ledger, as happened when a Truman Capote impersonator won over Ennis Del Mar?

Anonymous said...

P. S. The ONLY reason to see "Doubt" is for Viola Davis, who gets about 5 minutes of screen time, but uses it to perfection. She could very well deservedly win (I am about to watch "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" in about two minutes).

Roscoe said...

And who are you, stranger?

Anonymous said...

I am but a fellow traveller who dallies but toils not in the land of cinema.

Penélope Cruz is absolutely luscious in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Rarely has the camera loved someone so much and so well in our time. But it's not an award-worthy performance (as with most Allen films, the entire cast should get an ensemble award). There is much to love here. Something about shooting in Spain seems to have revivified Allen and erased his cynicism and replaced it with a sensuality that drips from every frame. If Spain is really anything like it comes across in this film, I am going there as soon as possible. A cinematic trifle, but one to love for what it is, and uniformly terrific performances across the board: Javier Bardem, Patricia Clarkson, Cruz, and even Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall.

Roscoe said...

No no no. A name, you tease.

Anonymous said...

They call me naughty Lola, the wisest girl on earth.

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