Sunday, February 22, 2009
a few riiiight under the wire pre-oscar night thoughts
Truth be told, The Academy Awards are the ONLY awards show I give a damn about, and even if I don't see as many new release movies as I'd like to, I try to at least make a point of seeing all the five Best Picture Noms before the actual awards are dispersed.  It was tight this year, but after braving a mini snow storm to catch Frost/Nixon yesterday, I met my goal.  And even if the Academy hasn't seen fit to consult my opinion on the matter, here's a few thoughts all the same.

Firstly, I'm happy to say that I genuinely enjoyed all five of the Best Picture nominees this year, which isn't always the case.  Of course, I have my favorites and there's one or two that I'd be disappointed see see win, but all five were truly great, highly watchable movies, and each brought something unique to the table.

But with that said, my favorite of the bunch, and the movie I'd most like to see win Best Picture, is:

Slumdog Millionaire
I know this is hardly a unique choice - "Slumdog" appears to be the clear favorite to win going in - but there's a reason for that; Slumdog Millionaire is a glittering jewel of a movie that has a little bit of everything. It's a fairy tale, a story of redemption, a study in social injustice, and even a Bollywood-style musical.  I know there's been some critical backlash against this movie - some don't like the dance number at the end, others are upset at Boyle's depiction of India, and many complain that the story is too unrealistic - but to all those complaints I cry foul.  To criticize the ending or the film's realism is to miss the point: "Slumdog" may depict some gritty and all-too-real truths, but at its core it's a fairy tale, and a magnificent one at that.  

And so even if I'm happily expecting to see "Slumdog" win, the movie that wins a very close second place position in my heart is: 

I ADORED Milk.  Truth be told, I might even be happier if it took the award since it was such a beautiful movie, yet a bit of an underdog.   I put this movie off for a bit because I was worried that a movie that ends in a political assassination would be too sad for my delicate sensibilities, but after seeing it I realized my concerns were unfounded.  Milk's life may have ended tragically, however his story is inspiring and the movie was incredibly warm and uplifting, despite the ending. Furthermore, even if Milk's story is over thirty years old, it's probably the most timely, most important film of the bunch.  Milk is such a inspiring story of social activism that a thought kept nagging at me while I watched:  if this movie had been released BEFORE the vote on Prop 8, would the result have been different?  I can't help but think that it may.   

An addendum - I know that Mickey Rourke is probably going to win for Best Actor, but I really don't want him to.  He did a fine job in The Wrestler, but I couldn't help but feel as if he was playing himself more than anything.  Sean Penn, however, was Harvey Milk, and so even if my feelings regarding Penn are often mixed, I would be very, very happy to see him win the award instead.

Next is the nominee that the critics love to hate: 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I will admit that this is the most flawed of all the nominees; however, I will not apologize for the extent to which I enjoyed it.  Yes, it's a bit like Forrest Gump and Titanic in the sense that it's the big Hollywood epic that's probably the most overrated piece of the bunch. However, I would argue that it's a much better film than either of the aforementioned movies.  Even still, I will acquiesce that "Button" was 30 minutes too long, adding the references to Hurricane Katrina was a sticky choice, and the viewer was asked to suspend his disbelief a bit too much at the end.  Still, it's a very enjoyable movie.  This doesn't change the fact that I'd hate to see it win.

The movie that's the most stereotypically "Oscar-ish" film?

The Reader

Don't misunderstand me, The Reader is a wonderful film; however, Holocaust pieces are in danger of becoming an Academy Award cliche, no?  The Reader is a thought-provoking film that's beautifully shot and perfectly acted, yet something about it left me cold.  I suppose that's par for the course when one considers the subject matter (we're being asked to sympathize with Nazis?!?), but it's largely the reason that this was one of my least favorite films of the bunch.  I'm glad I saw The Reader, but I don't feel compelled to see it again.  

As a side note, Kate Winslet will probably win Best Actress for her performance in The Reader, which is just fine by me.  She's consistently amazing.

And last but not least:

If I had to pick, I suppose Frost/Nixon would be my least favorite of the five films nominated, although that's hardly meant to imply that I didn't enjoy it.  If Sean Penn weren't nominated for Best Actor, then I would be pulling for Frank Fangella, as his Nixon was pitch-perfect.  For that matter, Michael Sheen was excellent as Frost, even if I'd never heard of Sheen before.  Ultimately, Frost/Nixon's biggest asset was in its performances, and since the other films had some pretty knockout performances as well, it's hard for me to throw too much love Frost/Nixon's way.

So there you have it.  Please file any questions or complains in the space below.



Blogger Abs said...

I gather that you've never seen The Queen. Michael Sheen was lovely in that movie--it's weird, because it's not like he WAS Tony Blair, or even that he reminds me of Tony Blair. But his portrayal was so organic that you sort of forget what you do envision Tony Blair as and just accept Sheen.

Post a Comment

<< Home