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81st Annual Academy Awards Poster

81st Annual Academy Awards - Oscar Picks by Reviews by Matthew

Ahh, wonderful. I've just set myself with some Oscar nominated scores to listen to while I type. I hope it helps, we’ll see Sunday. A fun list to pick from this year, and decent movies overall. I really felt challenged in more spots than I care to, but hey, we love the challenge, right? Anyway, I’ve got nothing to say about the movies in general last year, I just don’t feel like going over it again this year so let’s cut to the chase, get to the picks, and to the “Oscar’s At A Glance” at the end of this write up for those who just want to bottom line.
Enjoy the show.


Oscars at a glance How many will I get Correct ? Totals - 15 out of 19 picked
Category -m-'s Picks The Oscar goes to
Best Picture – Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director – Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire."
Best Actor – Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) Sean Penn, "Milk."
Best Actress – Kate Winslet (The Reader) Kate Winslet, "The Reader."
Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight."
Best Supporting Actress – Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
Best Animated Picture - WALL-E WALL-E
Best Screenplany (Original) – Milk Dustin Lance Black, "Milk."
Best Screenplay (Adapted) – Slumdog Millionaire Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."
Best Cinematography – Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionaire
Best Art Direction – The Duchess The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Costume Design – The Duchess The Duchess
Best Makeup – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Film Editing – Slumdog Millionaire Slumdog Millionair
Best Original Score – Slumdog Millionaire "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman.
Best Original Song – Jai Ho (Slumdog Millionaire) Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar.
Best Sound Mixing– WALL-E Slumdog Millionaire
Best Sound Effects Editing – Slumdog Millionaire The Dark Knight
Best Visual Effects – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Foreign Language Film - No pick  
Best Documentary (Feature) - No pick  
Best Documentary (Short Subject) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Animation) – No pick  
Best Short Film (Live Action) – No pick  

PICTURE – Let's get the ball rolling by ousting the rest and saving the sure bet. Benjamin Button is too bloated and lengthy for it's subject matter, The Reader, while a good film, simply doesn't have the emotional punch of the "horribly beautiful" English film. Milk, has the goods, but will never be Brokeback Mountain. See, Milk is the safe "Gay" bet. It's a activist film about the overcoming of great odds by an oppressed sub-sect of American society. Oscar loves this, eats it up, and if they do this year, then Oscar gets itself it's 2nd gay-pride hate crime from me. Frost/Nixon, really knocked my boots off. The acting was staggering, I mean I couldn't look away, but that's not gonna hold up against the "feel-good" winner this year. Slumdog Millionaire takes the 20 million Rupies and the Oscar Gold.

DIRECTOR – This year, each nominated film is mirrored in the Best Director category. So it stands to reason that the win will mirror as well. Kudos to Danny Boyle, he actually earned all of his awards this year.

ACTOR – Wow, it comes down to chops this year, for me. I like Richard Jenkins but I do not understand this nomination. So, on to Brad Pitt, who's nomination I understand but simply can't support this year. Sean Penn is great as Harvey Milk, as interesting and fun as the real life man, but I'm holding back and so will the Academy; Mystic River wasn't so long ago, thanks for the memories Sean. The actual battle, and I do mean "Battle" comes down to Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) and Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon). Mickey's the favorite, with the comeback (so to speak) turn as an aging wrestler. Emotion and empathy run deep for his character but in the trenches, Frank Langella as Richard Nixon is absolutely mesmerizing. I didn't want the man to shut up. I was as moved as the characters in the film by his very presence. Frank Langella was THAT good, so I'm picking against the grain. Sorry Mickey.

ACTRESS – Oh, why so serious? The Actress catergories are gonna be murder this year. I have to take Angelina Jolie and Melissa Leo out at the gate Why because I didn't see the movies and neither actress has the 'Umphf' behind them that the rest do (No offense to Brad Pitt who may Umphf quite well, I don't know). Of the remaining 3: 1) Meryl Streep, when is she ever bad? No, I didn't see Mama Mia, but who can count her out? 2) Anne Hathaway, whose produced star turns over the last few years has built her credibility up enough to not only deserve this nomination, but the win. I didn't get to see the film and that's what keeps her in the race. The real tough spot is 3) Kate Winslet. An honored actress and a deserving winner. I just don't think this film is her best work (Like Russell Crowe winning for Gladiator, No, he should have won for A Beautiful Mind). But she deserves an Oscar and she's always competing against herself in movies,
Christ the woman won 2 Golden Globes this years for different movies. Alright, alright, give Kate the damn Oscar.

SUPPORTING ACTOR – It's an honor just to be nominated, it's a bigger honor to lose to Heath Ledger as the Joker.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Drat! This category's a bitch. If I have to write anyone out, it has to be Amy Adams this year. Details follow. Because Marisa Tomei has a better shot this year. I don't begrudge Marisa in any way, she's a great actress, but it feels that because of her win in 1992 (for My Cousin Vinnie) it feels like the Academy nominates her to justify the win. It maybe only me who feels that way, but Evan Rachel Wood did so much more, with less, in The Wrestler this year. Ugh! Moving on, I really want to see Taraji P Henson win for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, she was my absolute favorite in this film and she grounded the movie so well throughout the first third of the film. Good luck to her but I don't think the Academy will select her overall. What they might do is select Viola Davis, who's emotional performance in Doubt is simply astonishing. I was a speechless as Meryl Streep's character and my heart is with Viola for the
win. But picking the Oscar's isn't about going with your heart as much as it is about going with the Academy's Head. And my head is telling me that "Crazy" is the Supporting Actor/Actress motif this year. That being said, my apologizes to the other ladies but Oscar goes nutty and gives the gold to Penelope Cruz. Who was wonderfully crazy in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Not enough for my vote but I'm not in the Academy.

SCREENPLAY ORIGINAL – There's only 2 movies that stand out this year. Happy Go Lucky and Milk. Both seem to be on the "feel good" side, Happy Go Lucky being just that and Milk being the happy-go-successful film with 8 Oscar nominations. Oscar's safe bet is to give it to Milk. Honor the film, the subject matter, etc. Very well written, Milk deserves to be recognized.

SCREENPLAY ADAPTED – I would think this was an interesting category this year but I'm too solid in my choice. The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are lacking in certain respects, overall. Doubt has only been nominated for acting awards and the acting of Frost/Nixon got it nominated in the Picture and Director categories, however, did any of you see Slumdog Millionaire? If so, how many of you now see the book it was based on, everywhere? Slumdog's a shoe-in.

PRODUCTION DESIGN / ART DIRECTION – Art Direction is simply the world of the film. While The Changeling, Revolutionary Road, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button offer grand re-creations of earlier America, the sets and design of The Dark Knight are far more interesting but still sadly modern. None of the 4 really stand out above any other. What does stand out is the lush and lavish style of The Duchess. What one would give to run through the halls and courtyards of this film screaming, "You Damn Dirty Apes!"

CINEMATOGRAPHY – I think this is an easy win for Slumdog Millionaire. Simply put, no single film has ever made a slum (or life in it) look so beautiful. And, Yes, I saw City of God.

FILM EDITING – Oh man, this is a great category this year. The easy out's for me are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Dark Knight. They can't compare to the reel footage intercut with both Milk and Frost/Nixon. The, intercuts alone in these two films are staggering and bring so much to the story, especially in Milk, it's simply fantastic editing. However I have to go with the wonderful time jumps of Slumdog Millionaire. The edits are integral to the story itself, and they come off so well, as to sell the "Feel Good" film and this year's Best picture winner. Who can argue with that?

COSTUME – What a lack luster catergory this year. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, and even Australia fall into a less-than interesting 1950's style American Suit drab. Milk, has retro 70's flair to puke over, big collars, big glasses, and faded jeans. The clear and defining frontrunner here is The Duchess. The British period piece is easily the most interesting and lavish of the costume contestants and since The Dark Knight was not nominated for putting Heath Ledger in a Candy Striper outfit, The Duchess wins.

MAKEUP – Makeup shouldn't be so hard. People are used to Hellboy's bigger than life makeup and The Dark Knight used mostly CG, except for the Joker's face, so I'm going to roll with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, who, the whole film long, dealt with the makeup designs for the aging (in both directions) characters.

ORIGINAL SCORE –Oh boy, last year seemed much easier, with that dratted typewriter as an instrument in Atonement. No such luck this year and there's a good group to choose from. Really, it seems to me that these all could be winners. And a long, drawn out diatribe about the contestants and their kudos seems just that: long and drawn out. Suffice it to say I'm pulling away from James Newton Howard (Defiance) and Thomas Newman (WALL-E) simply because it's harder to pull away from Danny Elfman (Milk), and the front runner Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). In the end, I have to go with A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire). Why? Because it's the most varied and colorful of the nominees. There something about it that sets it apart. The Indian influences alone give it as much of a chance as the typewriter did in Atonement. And Latika's Theme is so damned beautiful. Think that's going on my iPod.

ORIGINAL SONG – Did you hear that the 3 nominated songs will be preformed as a medley this year? Each garnering about 90 seconds apiece. What? That's what I said. It's so bad, that when Peter Gabriel (who's nominated for Down To Earth from WALL-E) was told he'd only have 65 seconds to perform his song, he dropped out of performing at the ceremony. I don't blame him. See I want to see the whole Bollywood production for this year's winner: Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire. The train station dance off at the end of the film was a great coda to the movie. This award will have them dancing the night away or at least 90 seconds of it anyway.

SOUND MIXING – If you have the opportunity to watch the film WALL-E, watch the special feature: "Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds from the sound up". It's amazing to see how Academy Award winner, Ben Burtt (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) pieced together the sound of this entire film. So much so that Ben is given the acting credit for WALL-E itself. Slumdog Millionaire is the only other film in this category that has a chance but I'm hoping the Academy will give credit where credit is due...WALL-Eeeee.

SOUND EDITING – While I'd like to pick WALL-E in this category as well, I'm constantly nagged by the abundance of sounds in Slumdog Millionaire. The city life alone of Mumbai is so full of sound, this movie is simply an editing wonder. It's a great film all around and I just can't let it go in this category. Sorry to the rest. Slumdog gets another Oscar prize.

VISUAL EFFECTS – For visual effects, I'm thinking along the same lines as Makeup. We, as moviegoers, are used to the cg effects of such fare as Iron Man and The Dark Knight. What's most impressive, this year, is how they made Brad Pitt look, short, old, and incredibly young again. It's a Brad Pitt, "looks"-fest in the Visual category this year. Next year, it's all Avatar, but that's next year.

ANIMATED FEATURE - Bolt can't compare to the Dreamworks hit Kung Fu Panda. And although that's won a few major awards, Kung Fu Panda really can't compare to the wonderfully crafted and inspired WALL-E. Give the robot another trinket for his chest of treasures.


Turn Down The Lights, Turn Up The Sound.

Matthew Gilbert © 1999-2017 All Rights Reserved

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