by Marc Glassman
You can love it or hate it — or maybe feel both simultaneously — but there’s no doubt that the Oscars are upon us. Millions of viewers worldwide will be watching the results of America’s biggest vote since Obama this Sunday night. It may not be democracy — but it is fascinating.
They’ll be seeing a new host, hunky Aussie star Hugh Jackman, most famous for playing the Wolverine in the X-Men series. Jackman can sing, dance and act but can he handle the pressure of hosting the Oscars? He’s done well at the Tony Awards but, quite frankly, that’s the Little Leagues compared to the Oscars. Barbara Walters has pronounced him “nervous” already. Will he be a mess on Sunday or rise up like a superhero?
Good question, eh mate? So is the truly all-consuming one: what will the actresses wear? Every year, some women commit fashion crimes while others sail though, looking beautiful and dignified. In an informal poll, several young women of my acquaintance (I told you it was informal) think Anne Hathaway is the likely “fashion crime” winner for 2009. Certainly Marisa Tomei may also wear something shocking — but that might be method acting after her appearance in The Wrestler. Most likely to look great if she bothers to show up: Penelope Cruz.
Producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark claim that they’ll be “throwing surprises” at Jackman during the Oscars. I doubt they can match the crazy ‘70s when a fake “Indian” princess “accepted” Marlon Brando’s Oscar for The Godfather in order to make a political speech, nor the spectacle a few years later when someone “streaked” the ceremony.
Events are more sober now, but who knows? Maybe Condon and Marks can bring some levity back to the Oscars. One thing I hope they do — stop the clock watching. Why the insane rush to finish the show? Personally, I don’t mind seeing the nominated songs performed or hearing winners in less fancied categories like Animated or Documentary Short and Sound Editing thank their relatives and friends.
My favourite moment in recent Oscar history was when Randy Newman won for best song after losing 15 times. The Susan Lucci of Hollywood composers was just getting into his acceptance speech when the orchestra began to play the Oscar theme song, a signal that Newman was running out of time. Unflappable, Newman looked squarely into the pit and said to the musicians, “if you want to play for me again, you’ll stop right now and let me finish my speech.” And they did. Turns out “Short People” do have a reason to live in this world.
So let’s hope for the spontaneous on Sunday night. After all, a number of surprising things could happen. Slumdog Millionaire, the India indie, may push down a slew of barriers and sweep Oscars for Best Picture, Directing, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and more. Or Milk could score big in many of the key categories instead of Millionaire. Hey, Melissa Leo could be named Best Actress and Richard Jenkins Best Actor and wouldn’t that be a kick?
One thing’s for sure. With Dark Knight and Benjamin Button underwhelming the Academy’s nominators, this is clearly the Year of the Upset. And given the State of the World and the state of the economy, what could be more appropriate?
Download the Oscar ballot at http://www.oscar.com/nominees/?pn=nominees
and play along with The New Classical 96.3 FM’s film reviewer, Marc Glassman.
As I’m on a Randy Newmanesque streak, I expect that many of you will beat me. But that’s part of the fun.
And as the Oscar winners so often claim, “it’s just nice to be nominated.”
So, folks: let’s play Oscar!
Actor, Leading: Mickey Rourke
In a better world, Richard Jenkins wonderfully judged performance as a professor learning about the real world in The Visitor would be a winner, but we’re not there yet. It comes down to Mickey Rourke’s performance as a fighting man on the skids in The Wrestler versus Sean Penn’s incisive portrayal as doomed gay politician Harvey Milk in Milk. I think Penn is the better actor of the two but the Academy will go with the sentimental “comeback” choice, Mickey Rourke. The winnah and new Champ!
Actor, Supporting: Heath Ledger
If Heath Ledger’s sublimely subversive performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight doesn’t win, there’s no justice in the world. Mind you, Ledger’s tragic death calls the notion of “justice” into question. But he’ll emerge as a posthumous winner.
Actress, Leading: Anne Hathaway
This is a great list of thespians — Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Melissa Leo, Angelina Jolie. Heck, Cate Blanchett wasn’t even nominated for Benjamin Button. But Anne Hathaway made one of those career-changing moves playing the out of control sister in Rachel Getting Married. Previously bland, now she’s riveting. Will it last? No one knows now but Hathaway deserves this year’s Oscar.
Actress, Supporting: Taraji P. Henson
Again, some superb performers. Penelope Cruz is sublime as a crazy, sexy artist in Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona but the Academy won’t see things that way; they won’t get the humour and self-parody in her portrayal. This is the Year of Obama, so let’s go with Henson, a fine character actor playing a feisty, old-fashioned African-American woman, who becomes Benjamin Button’s true Mama.
Animated Feature: WALL-E
Brilliantly structured, with an environmental message and not without a sense of humour, WALL-E is the best Disney/Pixar film in years. Nothing else comes close — except for Waltz with Bashir which wasn’t even nominated in the Animated Feature category.
Art Direction: The Dark Knight
Great art direction, of course, but you can say that for all the nominees. The only choices here are: Slumdog Millionaire for a sweep (unlikely in this category), Benjamin Button or The Dark Knight. This is the flashiest of the three.
Cinematography: The Dark Knight
Wally Pfister shot the previous Batman movie, The Prestige and Insomnia. He’s due for the spotlight.
Costume Design: The Duchess
It would be nice if Australia won so that Hugh Jackman could help the winner pick up the Oscar. After all, the Aussie star can bench press 300 pounds. But it won’t happen. Scrawny clotheshorse Keira Knightley could help Michael O’ Connor grab the award — but she’ll be too busy partying. Bet her Academy dress is great, too — assuming she bothers to show up.
Documentary Feature: Trouble the Water
Wouldn’t it be great if Werner Herzog won for Encounters at the End of the World? His acceptance speech would be marvelous. No doubt he’d denounce the Academy (in his brilliantly upsetting German accent) for a slew of elitist crimes against humanity. File that thought under “F” for “Fantasy.”
Nope. In the Year of Obama, the humanist Katrina doc Trouble the Water will be an emotional winner.
Documentary Short: The Balcony
Again, in the year of Obama, a chance to reflect back on a martyred hero, Martin Luther King.
diting: Benjamin Button
Angus Wall edited Zodiac and Big Love and not much else, but…this shaggy dog story with many location shoots looks like a wonderfully edited piece. And Angus would like to thank Mark Baxter, who also hauls in an Oscar for, essentially, his first film.
Foreign Language Films: The Class
Two great nominees: Waltz with Bashir, a sensitive look back at the traumatic events that Israelis and Lebanese experienced during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. A far safer choice, and quite good, is The Class (Enter les murs), a near-documentary account of a French school teacher’s experience running a class filled with culturally and religiously different individuals.
Makeup: The Dark Knight
The makeup for The Joker would be enough to put Dark Knight over the top. Close second: Brad Pitt’s makeup in Button.
Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire
A.R. Rahman is a genius. ‘Nuff said.
Original Song: Jai Ho
See above. Mr. Rahman’s theme song for Slumdog is a true winner.
Best Picture: Milk
I’m not going for the Slumdog sweep. Milk is a beautifully rendered look at the rise and fall of an iconic gay politician in the ‘70s. It’s moving and wonderfully acted not just by Penn but the whole cast. This is a film that will appeal to Hollywood’s liberal heart.
Short Film, Animated: Presto
Magic from Pixar.
Short Film, Live Action: The Pig
Beautifully acted and genuinely original Danish tale about mortality and whimsy.
Sound Editing: WALL-E
This is sound editing at its best; the reason why WALL-E works so well.
Sound Mixing: WALL-E
Visual Effects: Benjamin Button
Battles at sea, snow falling on a Russian street, contemporary dance in Paris, New Orleans for nearly a century — and above all, someone named Benjamin Button. Magic.
Screenplay, Adapted: Benjamin Button
There may be resentment that Eric Roth remade Forrest Gump in this script. Hope not. It’s a major achievement. The ultimate “shaggy dog” story — and it improves on Scott Fitzgerald’s original tale.
Screenplay, Original: WALL-E
Wonderfully original treatment of a dystopian ecological tale. This is a great story, told so well that there’s no dialogue for minutes on end. Could win a Samuel Beckett award.