Monday, March 2, 2009

The 81st Academy Awards

Well, it's been a week-- I've gone through the five stages of grief, finally acceptance-- I can now remove the 2008 movie year from my memory. Thankfully!

PICTURE: Slumdog Millionaire
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
ACTOR: Sean Penn, Milk (link to speech)
ACTRESS: Kate Winslet, The Reader (link to speech)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (link to speech)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Milk- Dustin Lance Black (link to speech)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Slumdog Millionaire- Simon Beaufoy
FOREIGN FILM: Damages (Japan)
ANIMATED SHORT FEATURE: La Maison en Petits Cubes
ART DIRECTION: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- Donald Graham Burt & Victor Solfo
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Slumdog Millionaire- Anthony Dod Mantle
COSTUME DESIGN: The Duchess- Michael O'Connor
FILM EDITING: Slumdog Millionaire- Chris Dickens
ORIGINAL SCORE: Slumdog Millionaire- A.R. Rahman
ORIGINAL SONG: "Jai-Ho," Slumdog Millionaire
SOUND MIXING: Slumdog Millionaire
SOUND EDITING: The Dark Knight
MAKE-UP: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
VISUAL EFFECTS: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

And that's the end of that one-- and Slumdog brought home 8 of a possible 9 Oscars, as expected. I got over the fact that the film would sweep despite my reservations about it a long time ago-- no point in dwelling on it anymore-- time to prove my right eventually (RIGHT?) On a prediction standpoint I did pretty well (expecting the Slumdog sweep) missing out on Actor and sound editing only. On the Sean Penn point-- he'd been running neck and neck with Mickey Rourke all season-- so that doesn't really count-- and well either way the winner was completely worthy-- Penn's win is still one of the best of decade. And when the biggest surprise is in a sound category, you know it's a lame year.

Not that the whole show was a loss, and a bit more watched than last year (13% up, a modest, but good thing)-- Hugh Jackman proved a terrific showman (link to his opening number), playfully mocking the films and bringing back a little song and dance. Somebody should give him a musical (and for that matter give one to Anne Hathaway too, for her nicely showtuney gamemanship in the Frost/Nixon section.) It just would have been nice if they'd bother to use more of Jackman's movie star charisma (didn't he just disappear after that?) Also, the theme of announcing the categories in the way films get made (from script to production to post-production) kinda worked. It especially would have worked if most movies seemed to be made that way nowadays (just an aside!) Also bring back Steve Martin and Tina Fey, the best presenters of the night (let them host possibly?)

What didn't work was the a strange acting categories by having announed by five previous winners-- it's felt too crowded up there, and more than a bit self-congratulatory in the bad way, not in the sublime way it can be at the Oscars. The musically numbers aside from the opening sucked too (but that goes back to the whole problem of the Oscars continuing to nominate crappy songs-- I've gone off on that one too much as well...) But the numbers about musical numbers with the scrappy kids of High School Musical and Mamma Mia!!

What may stick with me the most are the speeches from the expected winners-- the Man on Wire guy doing magic (beautiful-- more people should have fun with it.) Sean Penn getting political (surprise, surprise), but also astute (his observation about how hard he makes it for everyone to like him had me stitches) and politically incorrect ("commie, homo-loving son-of-a-guns" has to become a trademark expression from now on.) Kate Winslet whistling to her father was the cutest moment-- I'll just pretend in my mind the great Kate won for Eternal Sunshine instead, and Dustin Lance Black's heartfelt speech was the most intelligently optimistic of the night. I heart!

Good Bye 2008, now be better 2009!

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