February 23rd, 2009


Steven A. Taylor's Academy Awards Brouhaha (The Curious Case Of Slumdog Milk/Nixon) Round Up

Halfway into the broadcast, I was smoking everyone. I had something insane, like 10 out of the first 15 correct. Going down the line, I had:

Original Screenplay - Milk
Art Direction - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (BB)
Cinematography - Slumdog Millionaire
Makeup - BB
Visual Effects - BB
Animated Feature - Wall-E (second easiest pick of the night)
Animated Short Film - La Maison en Petits Cubes
Documentary Feature - Man On Wire (third easiest pick of the night)
Documentary Short - Smile Pinki
Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger (number 1 easiest pick of the night)

And then Will Smith took the stage. He was there to hand out four awards, and my night promptly went from frontrunner to a downhill slide the likes of which have never been seen.

He did provide me with my Visual Effects trophy, but then he went through the two Sound catagories (mixing and editing, how they are different I have no idea), along with straight up Film Editing and my night was done. I was subsequently swept in the music catagories along with three of the remaining four Major Catagories (Actor, Actress, Director, Picture) before I took a consolation prize in Slumdog Millionaire at the very end.

11 out of 24. I absolutely demolished Nate's total of 6, but still, Damn You Very Much, Academy!

But, let's recap my picks nevertheless.

I should've went with my chest ... I mean gut, and voted for The Reader in adapted screenplay. Hell, I didn't know at the time there would be this severe backlash against Benjamin Button! Of course, though, when in doubt, vote for boobs.

As for Original Screenplay, booyah. I was totally 100% all over this except for the fact that it DID manage to win something in a major catagory. But I digress, this is the portion where hitmakers are sired, and this writer could very well see glory one day. In 10 years, people will know the name ... guy who wrote the Milk screenplay.

You know, I had a feeling that I'd lose that Supporting Actress pick, mostly because I couldn't think of a good-enough reason to vote against Penelope Cruz. This is where my judgment got clouded in the Leading Actress catagory. I went with talent over beauty here and beauty over talent there. Penelope has been on a rocket toward winning an Oscar for the last half dozen years or so, starring in a number of well-regarded indie flicks and generating astounding reviews. Should've seen this coming (and from what I understand, I should've seen this movie ... I LOVE sexy romps!).

I'm not going to come on here and speculate about whether Heath Ledger would've won if he were still alive today. I do wonder if the Academy would've been cheeky enough to give Robert Downey Jr. the nod for Tropic Thunder. I can't help but be certain that he'll get his eventually, but I'll be damned if it's for that Jaime Foxx movie that's coming out.

Leading Actress, as I said before, was the one I bonered the most. The more I listened to the critics in the weeks leading up to last night, the more I was convinced this was Kate Winslet by twenty lengths. Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep never had a chance, and Melissa Leo was the definite dark horse, but by far the no-shot champion was Anne Hathaway. The most disconcerting thing I think I've heard in a long time was the fact that she co-starred with the absolutely dreadful Kate Hudson in that Bride Wars movie. You can't leave Academy voters with that kind of a bad taste going into the big show. I said it before and I'll say it again: when in doubt, vote for boobs. God love Oprah, she totally nailed it.

And by God, I was ROBBED in the Leading Actor catagory! Well, I guess Mickey Rourke was a little robbed, but dad gum it, that was MY pick! I own that catagory! Oh how the Golden Globes deceived me! Oh how the Academy stole this from me!

But then again, what the hell. Sean Penn is one of the top three actors going today. Right up there with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr. You can't deny the man his due, you just can't.

By the end of the night - demoralized by the previous hour and a half of constant losing - I was effectively and thoroughly sick and tired of Slumdog Millioniare. It's going to take a few months of not thinking about how this movie screwed me before I'm able to watch it with an open mind. It seems to me that the trend - after criticism some years ago - is to give the Best Director award to the guy who directed the Best Picture. This is an understandable way to run a railroad, but it sure as shit takes all the drama out of the end of the show. Slumdog Millionaire has been riding down the side of a mountain, plowing over everything in its path for the last two months straight. For the most part, people get tired of overhyped movies (Benjamin Button, we're looking at you), but if you look at it objectively, this was a slam dunk.

Movies based on stage plays tend to lose more often than not, so Frost/Nixon was out. BB, as I said before, was forced down everyone's throats as Movie Of The Year before it was even released. Factor that in, along with the schmaltz factor and the Too Long factor and you've got yourself a losing formula. Milk was out mostly because it's a Gus Van Sant film, which probably means it has a lot of flaws, as a renegade indie film director will generally have. Plus, while he's well-regarded in the industry, he's far from being in the Top Tier.

Slumdog had just the right amount of positive reviews, just enough hype, and started building its momentum at the right time. Plus, it's foreign yet familiar (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), it's funny yet at heart a love story, and most importantly it's feel-good. Let's face it, there's a lot to be depressed about right now. A tanking economy, stocks in the toilet, jobs being lost at a frightful rate. And last year's winner - No Country For Old Men - definitely set the tone for the ominous year ahead.

Today, this year, it's all about being optimistic. New president, new regime, people want to be hopeful. They want to leave a movie theater feeling warm down in their cockles. Slumdog Millionaire, from all that I've heard, does just that and then some.

I imagine when all is said and done and I've gotten around to watching the 2008 class of films, I'll probably find Frost/Nixon to be my favorite, with Milk being the most impactful and The Reader being the biggest pleasant surprise (also can't forget to see The Visitor, which I hear is VERY underrated). I imagine Doubt, Rachel Getting Married, The Wrestler, and Frozen River will all be very good too, and I probably won't hate Benjamin Button as much as everyone else does because it still has David Fincher and he still rocks.

That's all for now. Let's all go to the movies, let's all go to the movies, let's all go to the movies, and get ourselves some snacks.