Now that I've had to time to ponder the Oscar nominations instead of debating whether or not I'm going to continue watching Lost or not after the grave irritations last night, I've decided to express my thoughts on the whole shebang. The biggest upset, as many others have concurred, is the Academy's snub of Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky, easily the finest performance of all the Best Actress hopefuls and one of the few that actually carried the film. What's worse is that it looks like Angelina Jolie in Changeling was the substitute, which only leads me to imagine they thought it would be cute to see both Brad Pitt and Jolie nominated in the same year, despite both being undeserving. At least Pitt was forgettable; Jolie, on the other hand, was sort of a disaster, though working in Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry-in-red-lipstick mode, I suppose it wasn't solely her fault. If the Academy was going for "cute" factor, wouldn't it have been more appealing to nominate Heath Ledger's ex-wife Michelle Williams for Wendy & Lucy? And, if we want "cute" to turn into "dead sexy," how about delivering that Oscar to Penélope Cruz, especially considering she'll be handed the award by her co-star and beau Javier Bardem, who won last year for No Country for Old Men? It'll be just like the Adrien Brody/Halle Berry kiss, only without Adrien Brody and Halle Berry!
For the first time in a long, long while, the foreign language category wasn't a total sham, which proves that, even if Gomorrah was overlooked, the new policy for the category might actually be working in the favor of people who know good cinema. We'll have to hold our our applause until the award is officially given out as the winner is often tough to predict. Waltz with Bashir is the obvious frontrunner, but you know I'm rooting for The Class, which was my favorite film of 2008. I wouldn't be too sad if Revanche took home the trophy either though I suspect the film might be too dark and without pressing social interest to the voters. I've read excellent things about Japan's Departures, so it looks like The Baader Meinhof Complex is the "one of these things is not like the other," garnering pretty terrible reviews around Europe and among those in the US who've actually seen it.
No Revolutionary Road? Thank Christ! Michael Shannon was the only thing salvagable in that mess, and even though the Oscar voters can't resist a Kate Winslet weepie, they chose The Reader over Revolutionary Road. I still haven't seen The Reader, but how could it be worse than Road? How?
Best Picture and Director nominees lining up is always a total bore, even if it's clear that the guy whose film isn't up for best picture won't ever win (see David Lynch, Julian Schnabel)... but this gets me to ol' Benjamin Button. While you know I was pleased that Revolutionary Road was the big shut-out of the year (or maybe The Dark Knight, depending on who you ask), Benjamin Button probably should have been. It's the second-least-interesting film Fincher has directed (hello Panic Room!), and the fact that it bares more than just a passing resemblance to one of the shittiest Best Picture winners of the 90s doesn't help this cause. Pitt's boring, Blanchett's miscast and for such a strange premise for a film and from a director as good as Fincher, it doesn't take a lot of risks. I guess risk-taking isn't a favorite pasttime of the Academy.
If Woody Allen was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Match Point, there's no discernable reason why Vicky Cristina Barcelona was missing from this year's list. It's his most vibrant and winning film in years, but I've spoken enough about my affinity with the film. However, it wasn't competition that kept it away; only one of the Best Picture dullards was based on an "original screenplay," even though it's a "biopic." So where was Woody?
I'm still a bit miffed that Dear Zachary wasn't even shortlisted for the documentaries, but as usual, the doc nominations were the most assure of the whole list. I'll be happy to see Man on Wire take the fall (fuck, I didn't even realize the pun when I was typing that), particularly if it's for Werner Herzog, who received his first nomination for Encounters at the End of the World after being brutally overlooked for Grizzly Man.
With such a weak year for "respectable" Hollywood cinema, 2008 should have been the year "independent" and foreign cinema stormed the podium. The Class, Gomorrah, Waltz with Bashir, Let the Right One In, Tell No One and A Christmas Tale could have easily (or maybe not) emerged as nominees in the directing or screenwriting categories, but no dice. I often forget that the Oscars are just a way for Hollywood to pass along HJs to one another, because if that weren't the case, each of these films should have made some showing if only to prove to Hollywood that we aren't buying what they're (usually) selling.
No Clint Eastwood? It's about time.
So here's the point where I make my early predictions. I'm pretty sure that the director/picture wins will be split, though I can't decide precisely how. Milk and Slumdog Millionaire look like the big picks as Hollywood loves to be "political," and Milk is considerably more deserving than Brokeback Mountain (even if Mountain losing did allow for the worst film in Academy history to take the top prize). As for Actress, I can't even entertain the possibility of Jolie winning or I might lose that Qdoba burrito I just ate. Winslet is probably your best bet as she's still got that empty place on her mantle. Mickey Rourke is the likely frontrunner for the Actor race, although, other than Pitt, I was impressed with all the contenders. There'll be speculation up till Oscar night as to whether Heath Ledger will receive his tribute or not, even though I thought he should have won for Mountain. My night will be crushed if Cruz leaves empty-handed.
As last year was the first time I've ever seen all of the films nominated in the big categories (Picture, Director, Actors, Actresses, Screeplays, Animated Film), it'll be a lot easier this year to repeat that, as I only have to see Frozen River, Doubt, The Reader, Bolt and Kung-fu Panda. The likelihood that I'll catch The Baader Meinhof Complex or Departures before Oscar night is slim. Anyway, we'll see how pissed we all get come 22 March.