22 January 2009

Oscar Nominations

The nominations for the 81st Academy Awards came out today and it looks like the surprises are few and far between. Because this year's list is so heavily dependent on those sneaky films that opened in New York and L.A. at the tail end of December, I haven't had a chance to see much of the competition. Hopefully, through wider releases, creative theater hunting, and. . .um. . .other means, I will be able to rectify that before the award show itself. Here are the major award categories:


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Slumdog Millionaire

The Reader



Of these films, the only two I've seen are Curious Case and Slumdog Millionaire. I can't say I'm surprised at the nominations, but I am disappointed. Curious Case leads the Oscar nominations this year with 13 nods, and I can't hide my irritation. This is the third collaboration between director David Fincher and Brad Pitt (following Seven and Fight Club) and it is, in my opinion, the least of the three. I went into the movie expecting to be blown away, and left feeling as though I had just watched leftover Forrest Gump. It's not a bad movie, but--much like I felt with previous nominees (and winners) Crash and Gladiator--it just isn't Oscar worthy. Slumdog Millionaire is closer to the mark and I have no problem with it being up for Best Picture, but it just didn't hit that extra high note to become something really special. Of these five, I would say Milk is the only one I'm moderately surprised to see up there.


Richard Jenkins in The Visitor

Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn in Milk

Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Only one I've seen is Pitt in Curious Case, and I think I've made my feelings known there. Although, to be fair, I could more easily digest an Oscar win for him than for the movie as a whole. Haven't seen The Wrestler yet, but Rourke is my sentimental favorite. It would be nice to see Langella finally be recognized as the acting god that he is, as well.


Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married

Angelina Jolie in The Changeling

Melissa Leo in Frozen River

Meryl Streep in Doubt

Kate Winslet in The Reader

I've seen The Changeling and Doubt out of these nominations. While I liked Changeling (and would have preferred to see it garner a Best Picture nom than Curious Case), something struck me as slightly off about Jolie's performance. I thought she was much better in last year's Daniel Pearl drama, A Mighty Heart. From her Golden Globe win, I would expect Kate Winslet to be the favorite here.

The Best Director category follows the Best Picture category line for line, with Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), and Gus Van Sant (Milk).

The Best Animated Feature category this year--as usual--simply serves as an excuse to give Pixar another award. Kung Fu Panda and Bolt seem singularly unlikely to take the statue, while I thought Wall-E was Pixar's best offering since Finding Nemo.

In my next post, I'll take a look at some of the least deserving Best Picture winners throughout history, and I'll also tell you some of the movies I thought would have been more deserving of Benjamin Button's Best Picture nomination this year.