Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Oscar Nominations have come in

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Sunday, February 22nd is Oscar Night, but this morning was Nomination Morning! I never even knew there was such an 'unveiling' until I was in graduate school and a colleague became excited about it. Well, the internet told me it took place this morning, so here's the nominees and my thoughts. Of course, you'll have to keep in mind that I'm not the biggest fan of the type of movies that get nominated, so my commentary is not like most you'll read, I'm sure.

Best Motion Picture of the Year :
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Frost/Nixon
- Milk
- The Reader
- Slumdog Millionaire
Well, seeing as how I haven't seen any of these, it's a difficult call. I want to see three out of five (Frost/Nixon just isn't an interest to me, and I haven't heard of The Reader), but haven't. It does, however, make me want to try harder ton convince Jonathan to see Benjamin Button with me.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role :
- Richard Jenkins for The Visitor
- Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon
- Sean Penn for Milk
- Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler
Again, haven't seen any of these. But, I'm a Brad Pitt fan, and I'll root for him (almost) any day. Sean Penn will be my back-up. :)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role :
- Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
- Angelina Jolie for Changeling
- Melissa Leo for Frozen River
- Meryl Streep for Doubt
- Kate Winslet for The Reader
Well, I promise I've been to the movies this year, but it wasn't to see any of these, either. In fact, this is the first I've even heard of The Reader, I believe. I love me some Anne Hathaway, but she's not that good of an actress, so I'll hold out for Meryl Streep, because while I haven't seen the film, I know the role.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role :
- Josh Brolin for Milk
- Robert Downey, Jr. for Tropic Thunder
- Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt
- Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
- Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road
Okay, finally something I've seen. But, as much as I've been a Heath Ledger fan since 10 Things I Hate About You, I think he's been getting waaay too much publicity about his posthumous nominations. That doesn't mean I don't think he deserves an Oscar... I thought his performance was wonderful in the role of the Joker, but I won't be upset if it goes to Josh Brolin instead.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role :
- Amy Adams for Doubt
- Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Viola Davis for Doubt
- Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler
More movies I haven't seen. And I haven't even heard of Henson other than in passing. I will be voting against Penelope Cruz, because I don't like her, plus the film she was nominated for had some awful trailers. I'm also not a Marisa Tomei fan that many others are, so I'll go with Amy Adams.

Best Achievement in Directing :
- Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
- Stephen Daldry for The Reader
- David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon
- Gus Van Sant for Milk
I'm not the best judge of a director, so I won't even pretend. I hardly ever pay attention to who directs what, and people don't seem to understand my lack of concern in that area. But, I've not heard of any of these directors, and I haven't seen any of the movies. I'll go with David Fincher, for the simple reason that I've read about how difficult of a project Benjamin Button has been, and how different people have been trying to do it for years.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen :
- Frozen River (Courtney Hunt)
- Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh)
- In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
- Milk (Dustin Lance Black)
- WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, Peter Docter, Jim Reardon)
Really? WALL-E was nominated for best writing? There's a lot of silence in that film... and a lot of robot-speak. I don't know that I have any other comments, as I don't know three of the five in this category. So, Milk it is, although I have a striking suspicion that the writing can't be all that good...

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published :
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Roth, Robin Swicord)
- Doubt (John Patrick Shanley)
- Frost/Nixon (Peter Morgan)
- The Reader (David Hare)
- Slumdog Millionaire (Simon Beaufoy)
I'm going to go with Doubt, because it's a well-written play. LoL, silly circumstances, I know.

Best Achievement in Cinematography :
- Changeling
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- The Reader
- Slumdog Millionaire
Here's the thing about cinematography. I am the first to walk out of a movie and discuss how poor it was in said movie. I frequently point out wonderful cincematography in television shows. But verrry rarely do I take the time to recognize great cinematography in a film. And, as I can't possibly compare these films (having only seen Dark Knight),I'll go with Changeling, based on the trailer.

Best Achievement in Editing
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Frost/Nixon
- Milk
- Slumdog Millionaire
Eh. I don't think that Editing is a category in which any old bozo can have an educated opinion. I've only taken one film class, and editing was not given much lecture time. So any answer that I might give would be unfounded, and because of that I will refrain from making any guesses. I welcome your thoughts on ways of looking at the award category.

Best Achievement in Art Direction :
- Changeling
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- The Duchess
- Revolutionary Road
I love this category. And I loved it for the first time last year, as I was taking a course in the history of architecture and decor. I look forward to seeing the nomination clips in this category on Oscar night, and until then will stand by Revolutionary Road, based on the commercials I saw on television.

Best Achievement in Costume Design :
- Australia (Catherine Martin)
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Jacqueline West)
- The Duchess (Michael O'Connor)
- Milk (Danny Glicker)
- Revolutionary Road (Albert Wolsky)
Here's a category in which I feel I could give a great hypothesis, had I seen the films. Costume history is one of my favorite things. I'm wavering between making uneducated guesses on Duchess or Australia... maybe I'll try to see them and make a choice later.

Best Achievement in Makeup :
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
I'd love to hand this right over to Benjamin Button, but as I've only seen the trailers, I can't. While I'd never believe it was Heath Ledger under the makeup of the Joker, I have a feeling that believably aging people will trump that. And Hellboy, well, he just looks like Darth Maul, redone. Benjamin Button it is.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score :
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat)
- Defiance (James Newton Howard)
- Milk (Danny Elfman)
- Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman)
- WALL-E (Thomas Newman)
Here we go again. I saw and loved WALL-E, but I am not willing to give it a music award. Based on plot summary, I'd go with Benjamin Button or Slumdog Millionaire, because either storyline could be greatly enhanced with a killer score. I'm going with Slumdog, on a hunch.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song :
- Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahrman, Gulzar ("Jai Ho")
- Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman, Maya Arulpragasam ("O Saya")
- Wall-E - Peter Gabriel, Thomas Newton ("Down to Earth")
No songs stuck out to me in WALL-E, so I'll go with one of the Slumdog songs. Based on title alone, I choose "Jai Ho." Yeah, I know I could do much better if I listed to the nominees. And maybe I will, but I feel like extra research will taint my opinion without actually listening to the songs in the contexts of the films.

Best Achievement in Sound :
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Wanted
Wanted? Really? I don't really know who nominated that. But you know, there's a reason why I'm in Northern California, LoL. It's difficult for an overall movie's sound to blow me away, and while I can say that overall, I enjoyed WALL-E's sound, I don't know if it's Academy Award-winning. Dark Knight gives me no reason to vote in his direction, and I have yet to see the remaining two candidates (which might actually make this the category in which I've seen the most nominees, LoL), I'll give it to Benjamin Button, which has some nice sound in the trailers alone.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing :
- The Dark Knight
- Iron Man
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Wanted
Sound, sound editing, no difference to me. Why? Because I'm not really sure what makes them different, and I don't know anything about how a person might judge sound editing. So again, I will abstain from voting in this category.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects :
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- The Dark Knight
- Iron Man
I'll say that Iron Man will trump Dark Knight, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Benjamin Button will top Iron Man.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year :
- Bolt
- Kung Fu Panda
Now here's a category that I can fully evaluate, as I've seen all three films. Kung Fu Panda was awful, and it makes me sad inside that so many people enjoyed it. WALL-E was good. Bolt was good. I loved the characters in Bolt, but the storyline in WALL-E kicks Bolt's behind. Bolt has the downfall of having Miley Cyrus voice Penny, but WALL-E suffers in its own way. Still, I'll say that WALL-E will probably take the cake, and probably deserves every last piece of it, too.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year :
- Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (Germany)
- Entre les murs (France)
- Revanche (Austria)
- Okuribito (Japan)
- Vals Im Bashir (Israel)
I don't really do foreign films. Every one I've seen (with subtitles), I've hated. And I'm talking films like Pan's Labyrinth and Amelie, both of which ended up being loved by so many. Yeah, I can't stop hating them. And that's all there is to say about that.

Best Documentary, Features :
- The Betrayal - Nerakhoon
- Encounters at the End of the World
- The Garden
- Man on Wire
- Trouble the Water
I enjoy documentaries, but since I no longer live in Tallahassee, the land of limited-release and documentaries abound (well, compared to the other four cities I've lived in), I haven't seen any lately. Man on Wire sounds interesting. ;)

Best Documentary, Short Subjects :
- The Conscience of Nhem En
- The Final Inch
- Smile Pinki
- The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306
see response to previous category, but switch Man on Wire with Conscience.

Best Short Film, Animated :
- La Maison en Petits Cubes
- Ubornaya istoriya - lyubovnaya istoriya
- Oktapodi
- Presto
- This Way Up
Last year was the first time I paid attention to this category, and our satellite dish afforded us the opportunity to watch several of the nominees. This year, not the case. I'll give it to This Way Up, as it is the most humorous title.

Best Short Film, Live Action :
- Auf der Strecke
- Manon sur le bitume
- New Boy
- Grisen
- Spielzeugland
As we reach the end of the ballot, I've got nothing left. No ideas, no thoughts, no seemingly meaningless ways of choosing a film to support. So, completely on the fact it has a 'z' and a 'g,' I go with Spielzegeugland.

And there we have it! I've cast my votes, what are yours??
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Anonymous said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that "a colleague" is actually "Aaron"......or maybe me, since I'm a nut for this too. :)

The Reader is also nominated for Best Picture. I haven't seen it yet, but out of the other nominated movies I have seen Milk, Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt, Rachel Getting Married, The Dark Knight, Wall-E, Iron Man, and Kung Fu Panda. Before Oscar night I still want to see [at least] Frost/Nixon, The Reader, The Wrestler, and The Visitor (so many The's!).

Editing is a tricky category, but this is what I think about it. Good editing assists with the pace of a movie - it shouldn't feel like it drags, either within a single scene or in the movie as a whole - and you should feel like the timing of the cuts between film shots come naturally instead of being too abrupt.

I found a dvd explaining the importance of editing, and I like this explanation:

"...Kathy Bates narrates this whirlwind history of the art punctuated by dozens of scenes to illustrate the effect of film editing in heightening reality and making a visceral impact on the filmgoer. In fact, the profession seems to be run on "a gut feeling" whether it's clipping a few frames, or 20 minutes of the final act (which we learn happened with Lenny). James Cameron illustrates the importance of a frame as we see a scene from Terminator 2 with 1 frame out 24 missing (24 frames representing one second of film). Or as Quentin Tarantino states, "musicians have notes, editors have frames." It's fascinating to see how editing--the process of assembling the film after it's been shot--can save films, make performances better, and become the ultimate jigsaw puzzle."

I've typed a lot. :) I'll post my own predictions soon.

- Katie

Kyle M. said...

I agree with you, for the most part, on Ledger's posthumous publicity. I thought he did a fine job in the 'The Dark Knight,' but I wasn't convinced he had a chance until I saw an interview with Michael Caine, whose praise for Ledger's performance was immense--when an actor like that endorses you, you know you've done something right.

I really think 'Benjamin Button' is going to sweep all its categories this year--it really was a wonderful film. Tell the husband he'd be daft not to see it, as it's definitely not a chick flick. :)

I hope Wall-E wins everything it's nominated for! LOVED that one!

As for the screenwriting nomination for the latter--I think the absence of dialogue can be evidence of superior screenwriting, actually; it takes a great deal to create a meaningful impression on an audience without (or without many) words. Consider 2001: A Space Odyssey--that was 2.5 hours long and had only about 45 minutes of actual dialogue, yet think of how fascinating and terrifying it was.

Comprehensive list! I agree with most of your pics, with the notable exception that I hope Hathaway beats Streep, as I'm pretty smitten with the former. :)

Amy K. Bredemeyer said...

LoL, yep, I was referring to Aaron. His passion for the Academy Awards intrigues me. Thanks for catching the error in 'Best Picture,' I went in and fixed it. Now that I live in California, I imagine movies will become a bigger deal, especially since I'm a stone's throw from Palo Alto and the independent films shown near Stanford. Great thoughts on editing, those are definitely some points I had not put together in relation to that category.

We almost went to see Benjamin Button yesterday, but got stuff done at home instead. I haven't seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I can't really relate the non-dialogue to that of WALL-E. I loved Hathaway in her earlier roles... particularly that TV show 'Get Real' that I don't think even lasted a whole season.