Another Movie Guy?: Why the Academy Is Full of It

Welcome to “Another Movie Guy?”! I normally review recent new releases, and then mention similar movies worth checking out. Thursday morning, however, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released its nominations for the 81st Annual Academy Awards. And as usual, their nominations have spectacular missteps as well as glaring omissions. Looking at the major awards, here a brief outline of the Academy fucked up this year:

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

As I have noted earlier, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button isn’t very good. The movie has a fundamentally flawed premise that undermines any potential emotional payoff. And as others have noted, the movie is too similar to Forrest Gump. Doubt, Revolutionary Road, WALL*E, The Dark Knight, The Wrestler, and Rachel Getting Married are all better choices. Truth be told, I have yet to see The Reader, but I trust Svetlana’s judgment on this one. I have no issue with the other three nominees.

Prediction: Slumdog Millionare. After two years of dark crime dramas, it seems fitting that an unusual crowd pleaser would take the top prize.

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins for The Visitor (2007/I)
Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon (2008)
Sean Penn for Milk (2008)
Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Mickey Rourke
for The Wrestler (2008)

You’ll notice a similar theme here. Brad Pitt just couldn’t pull the character off, and the less said about his performance, the better. His work in Burn After Reading is far superior. The most logical substitution is Leonardo DiCaprio for his work in Revolutionary Road, but there other, more inspired choices. Robert Downey Jr. is flawless in Ironman, and Colin Farrell has a great performance in In Bruges. I’m happy to see Richard Jenkins get a nod.

Prediction: Mickey Rourke. Sean Penn’s performance is more nuanced, but he’s already won Best Actor, and Rourke’s comeback performance is the kind of thing the Academy eats up.

Like Sean Penn, Angelina Jolie gets a nomination for crying over her lost child in a Clint Eastwood movie. Bo-ring. Kristin Scott Thomas has a wonderfully understated performance in I’ve Loved You For So Long, and is a better choice. Has anyone seen Frozen River?

Prediction: Kate Winslet. She’s been nominated so many times that her trophy essentially functions as a gold watch. That being said, Anne Hathaway gives the superior performance.

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin for Milk (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder (2008)
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt (2008/I)
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008)
Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road (2008)

These are all great choices. I’m especially pleased to see Michael Shannon and Robert Downey Jr. get a nomination. That being said, Phillip Seymour Hoffman could spend an entire movie napping and the Academy would still adore him. They love that sad sack of shit.

Prediction: Heath Ledger. Duh.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams for Doubt (2008/I)
Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Viola Davis for Doubt (2008/I)
Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler (2008)

In retrospect, Henson does a Sally Field impression. The last thing we need is another nurturing old soul who sees the good in her unusual child. Though she was already nominated, I really like Amy Adams in Ms. Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Rosemarie DeWitt is both phenomenal and overlooked in Rachel Getting Married. A more exciting/bizarre choice is Lina Leanderrson in Let the Right One In, but creepy young vampires have never been popular.

Prediction: Viola Davis. Her performance is brief but perfect – exactly what a supporting performance should be.

Best Director
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Stephen Daldry for The Reader (2008)
David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon (2008)
Gus Van Sant for Milk (2008)

Christopher Nolan did an astounding job with The Dark Knight. He could easily substitute Ron Howard, who was merely competent. Brawny actions sequences require more directorial skill than a play adaptation. Van Sant and Boyle are both solid picks.

Prediction: Danny Boyle. Best Picture and Best Director regularly go hand-in-hand.

Some final thoughts:
– With a few exceptions, the nominees are pretty boring.
WALL*E is a lock for Best Animated Feature. Book it. Done.
– Either In Bruges or Milk should win Best Original Screenplay.
– Despite many technical nominations, The Dark Knight really got the shaft.
– Best Documentary has some interesting choices. I preferred Encounters at the End of the World over Man on Wire, but something tells me that the Katrina doc Trouble the Water will win the prize.
– If Eric Roth wins best adapted screenplay, I’m going to be fucking pissed.

That’s it for this special edition of “Another Movie Guy?”! You can view the complete list of nominations here. Anything I missed? Feel free to angrily disagree below.