Monday, February 2, 2009

The Ones Oscar Didn't Choose

I apologize in advance for pointed rants about this one. Here are the
most painful snubs for me to bear this was a doozy.

The Fall for Art Direction and Costume Design
While the film itself wasn't the greatest (though Lee Pace nails his part of a morphine crazed Hollywood stuntman), the visual quality of the film was a real beaut. Director Tarsem created a crazy, dizzy world that was a phenomenal artistic achievement. Showy for sure, but why not go all out. The Academy unfortunately preferred the muted tones of Changeling and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button instead.

Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler for Direction
In a filmography that includes depressing anarchic snapshots of life like Pi and Requiem For a Dream, The Wrestler is certainly the most humanistic of his work-- also the most heartbreaking. In what could have been a generic tale of redemption in someone else's hands becomes a quietly revelatory and moving piece of art. Mickey Rourke's incredible comeback performance got a nomination (deservedly), but what of man who staged it. The Academy has yet to acknowledge Mr. Aronofsky personally, but then again they never paid attention to David Fincher (an equally unflinching, detailed director) until he sucumbed to typical Oscar catnip.

James Franco
in Milk (or Pineapple Express)
What a year did Mr. Franco have- two wonderfully unexpected performances, and yet despite a Golden Globe comedy nod (for Pineapple) and Critics Choice nomination (for Milk), he mostly got the shaft. This is not unexpected necessarily, but still not right in my book. Not only did he expand his career with these marvelous turns, but surprised with his great sense of ease for
comedy. The warmth exhibited in these two movies makes me forget the last couple of years of forgettable movies. And yet, especially this year where best supporting actor was a mixed bag.

Jonathon Demme, Rachel Getting Married for Direction
In the 1980s before Mr. Demme has one an Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs, he was honing his craft on small comedy-dramas like Married to the Mob, Something Wild, Swing Shift and Melvin and Howard. On first observation they might have appeared smallish, but they were all memorable humanistic stories with a free floating structure and a fine sense or character-- as well as luminous showcases for actresses like Michelle Pfieffer, Melanie Griffith, and Mary Steenburgen. It's been a long time since Demme has made a film so intimate and felt before, and that's part of what makes Rachel Getting Married such a remarkable thing-- his returned with one of most joyous ventures yet, again with a fine showcases for one of the best ensembles of the year, but of course Ron Howard broke new ground too. (Didn't he?)

Vicky Christina Barcelona for Original Screenplay
C'mon Academy members! True Original Screenplay was pretty strong this year (a rarity), but this one is a lot better than In Bruges. You've never had a problem honoring Woody Allen in the past, but when the master comes up with something worthy, but deny him. Sure he probably wouldn't show up (Woody has notoriously rejected the Academy salivation in the past), but he's an American treasure, and this was one of strongest films in years.

Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married
As I am delighted Anne Hathaway got nominated for her terrific performance, I'm still confounded how DeWitt got so shamefully overlooked this entire season. Most of the thrill of Rachel Getting Married is the complex volley between DeWitt and Hathaway-- both actresses
coaxed such deeply felt everything from each other. There's anger and shouting (great for Oscar clips), but also warmth and silliness. And the great thing about is how authentic it all felt. It's great for Hathaway, but wheres the love for Rachel herself.

WALL-E for Picture
I knew it wasn't going to happen, but I wish to dream in a perfectly idealized world for a second, where a film as powerful and entertaining and popular as this one could for some dasterdly reason get a birth to top award. Beauty and the Beast is the only animated film to do so, and I believe it's time for day! The unfortunate thing is that I know the love for this one will out last the Academy support of middling films like Frost/Nixon and The Reader, as evident by there hideous box office-- even being nominated hasn't made anybody want to see them. HA!

Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler," for Original Song
This one was just plain wrong. What's the deal with the Song category this year-- three nominations (two for Slumdog, one for WALL-E) and no love for The Boss. It's a crime-- this one is actually a great song by itself, but it's also a deeply felt song perfectly insynch with the beautiful film it's set against. Yes, Bruce has an Oscar already (for "Streets of Philadelphia" from Philadelphia, 1993), but that's never bothered them before-- during the early 90s the Disney teams won every year for a while. This is a plain travesty. The song was eligible, what no one listened? I thought the new song rules implemented in the last year were meant to eliminated multiple songs for one film, was supposed to make the field stronger, not weaker. What? Why? Boo! Shameful! Then again the Academy is again notorious for making bad decisions in the music categories (last years painful omisision of Jonny Greenwood's amazing score in There Will Be Blood brings to mind.)

The Dark Knight for Picture
And the most painful one, but of course. This one is just appalling on all levels. For a film of such widespread support everywhere else--those eight other nominations indicate it's broad Academy appeal, but to miss out on the big one to middlebrow nonsense that no one will bother to remember tomorrow is an outright travesty. It's not just that I personally found The Dark Knight to be a great movie (which I do), but the fact that this was a big (HUGE) film adored almost universally for the second it opened to record breaking box office. Forget about the comic book nerds-- critics loved it, the general public spent hard earned cash on it several times (even during these recession days), the film nerds loved it, the elitist film nerds loved it. And what's wrong with breaking the mold for this Godfather, Part II of superhero flicks. The real pain may come on Oscar night itself, when the ratings plummet to there worst on record. I'll be watching, because it's in my blood, but I won't blame the ones that tune out, for the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have clearly already tuned out to the very obvious pleas of movie fans everywhere.

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