The Film Snob’s Oscar Picks

February 19, 2009

Average Joe and I did a radio show discussing the Oscars about a month ago, but now that I have seen a few more of the movies and reflected a bit more on the performances, I want to re-examine my Oscar picks.

Score
I don’t understand how the score for Revolutionary Road was not nominated–I simply cannot comprehend it. That score was the best I ever remember hearing–it was like one of the characters–I really loved it.

Should Win: Revolutionary Road
Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Animated Film
Here’s where the Academy is going to err–Wall-E is going to be the obvious winner even though it was only the 4th best animated film of the year. No other animated film has a chance. I just don’t understand the fascination.

Should Win: Kung Fu Panda
Will Win: Wall-Epenelope-cruz2

Actress in a Supporting Role
How did Amy Adams get nominated? She was surrounded by three overpowering performances and she seemed to be as much of an observer as I was. Don’t get me wrong, her performance was fine–the film couldn’t have handled another emotional performance–so in Doubt she played the role she needed to, but there was nothing about it that was Oscar worthy. Viola Davis from Doubt turned in a strong performance, but was she on the screen long enough to win an Oscar? Even if it is in a supporting role. Taraji Henson, from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, was really good–but not great—with no memorable line or scene to anchor her performance. Maria Tomei did fine work, really played her character beautifully, but after giving her an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny there is no way she gets another one–there’s just no way. Plus, getting nude in an Oscar role is Kate Winslett’s thing–Tomei can’t just take that. It’s about time that Penelopee Cruz gets the on-screen recognition she deserves–and this role was perfect for her–Woody Allen has a way of writing a perfect role for his leading female actors.

Should Win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Will Win: Viola Davis, Doubt

Actor in a Supporting Role
It is a shame that Michael Shannon from Revolutionary Road won’t win an Oscar this year–because really his performance was shannon-rrbreathtaking. That’s one of the best supporting roles I have ever seen; unfortunately, it came in a year when Heath Ledger turned in a perfect performance in The Dark Knight. The Academy should just go ahead and give Shannon the 2010 Oscar–because he doesn’t deserve to go home empty handed. I don’t really care for Robert Downey Jr., but he has done some fine work in his career–Tropic Thunder was not one of those performances. It’s kind of ironic–the old adage is that if you play an ugly character, an old character, a gay character–any stretch from your reality, well–that’s worthy of an Oscar nod. In this movie Downey’s character pretends to be a black character and he gets a nomination–it’s like he was daring the Academy not to nominate him.

Should Win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Will Win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Actress in a Leading Role
It’s not going to be Jolie and it’s not going to be Hathaway–let’s just clear that up. When I saw Doubt I thought Streep was a shoe-in for another Oscar. However, I’m beginning to wonder if she played too great a role. There’s a possibility that her character was so emotional and had so many outbursts that it is hindering her chances–like her role was too perfect. Melissa Leo and Kate Winslet both turned in great performances as well. I almost think that Winslet might be a little hindered because she is always so great. To me, there is nothing that separates her performance here from the ones in Revolutionary Road or Little Children. Leo is a real darkhorse, Frozen River is not nominated in any other category–yet, her performance was every bit as good as Streep’s or Winslet’s. To me, this category is the biggest toss up of the night. I guess for me, Streep terrified me with her portrayal of Sister Aloysius–so I’ll give here the nod.

Should Win: Maryl Streep, Doubt
Will Win: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Actor in a Leading Role:
Richard Jenkins. There, I mentioned him. Pitt was good in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but his role just wasn’t thewrestler_1008_18962621_0_0_7023130_300demanding enough to compete. I think he played Benjamin exactly right–which is why he is nominated, but a win is out of the question. I’m going to say this now–and Average Joe will be all over me–Micky Rourke was overrated in The Wrestler. There, I said it. I didn’t think he stretched his acting limits or reached deep down for anything. It seemed like he played an alteration of himself–so yeah, the role was perfect for him–I just wasn’t overly impressed by his acting skills. I think people are so impressed that he’s alive and able to act, without considering whether or not he’s on the same caliber with the other nominees. My guy, Frank Langella, won’t win it. I thought he did a terrific job in a tough role. When someone as famous as Richard Nixon is portrayed, everyone is comparing the actor to the real thing. It’s unfair–but Langella did a great job with it.

Should Win: Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Will Win: Sean Penn, Milk

Director

Ron Howard is going to be penalized because Frost/Nixon comes from the stage–it’s unfair, but there is some sense that some of the direction was already done by the time Howard arrived. David Fincher is the director who impressed me the most. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was an extraordinarily difficult story to tell–it came from nothing more than a short story and he, along with others, developed it into a full, lengthy screenplay. I realize that a lot of this credit goes to the screenwriters, but Fincher’s direction was just right. He used considerable restraint at times, preventing Pitt and Blanchett from overacting–which would have been easy to do, given the situation.

Should Win: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Will Win: David Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire20081224-034649-pic-210628898_r350x200

Best Picture
I’ve got to tell you, I’m not in love with any of this year’s nominees. Milk seemed too cookie-cutter for the subject matter, Slumdog Millionaire–which might be my favorite of the bunch, lacked a certain deepness that I think the winner of this category should have, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fell flat in some areas (although Benjamen gave one hell of a speech). I think Milk is going to take home an Oscar and I’ll tell you why–Hollywood is unapologetically liberal–and with Crash upsetting Brokeback Mountin a few years ago, I think Milk claiming best picture makes just the statement they want it too. Not to mention that it’s a better movie than Brokeback Mountain. After seeing the movie, Slumdog Millionaire was my favorite, but after giving it some time and some thought, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button really grew on me. It had a life romanticism about it–it had love and loss, it was thoughtful and beautiful-plus the great speech, which earns major points with me.

Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Will Win: Milk

February 22 Note:

Apparently Slumdog Millionaire is a sure thing to take home the Oscar for best picture so disregard my Milk pick. What’s more is that I have been thinking more and more about Slumdog—and I would have to say that I did like it a hair more then Benjamin Button. The two are very close, but after a few days of reflection–I have to proclaim that Slumdog is the best film of the year (at least of those that were nominated).

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Doubt Review

January 1, 2009

Reviewed by: The Film Snob

Synopsis: The Bronx is home to a Catholic elementary school run by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). When she suspects an improper relationship between Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a student, she begins a personal crusade to destroy the priest.

Review: I am not Catholic, but I would gladly attend Father Flynn’s service. He gives two big sermons in the movie, each of which is ridiculously engaging. It’s nice to see Hoffman play the good guy for once, he is so damn good portraying the bad guy, it’s hard not to learn to hate him. Look at his recent track record, The Savages, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, Capote, 25th Hour, Happiness–even Empire Falls–he doesn’t play the most attractive characters, and he plays them so well–it’s hard

No doubt, Streep deserves her 3rd Oscar

No doubt, Streep deserves her 3rd Oscar

to like the guy. But in Doubt he finally plays a genuine human being—this is the guy you actually root for. And, as usual, he plays the part beautifully. If nothing else, he has a whole plethora of memorable quotes, which goes a long way for me.

However, the real star of the show is Meryl Streep. She was absolutely chilling–she is my hands down favorite to take the Oscar for best lead actress. She does so much with her body language, she would have turned in a spectacular performance without uttering a spoken word. However, Streep does speak and she does so with so much power you may want to hide under your seat.

Although there are some questions about the character of Father Flynn in this film, it is not hard to decipher who the protagonist is–that is because you will HATE Sister Aloysius. She is a strict disciplinarian who is always watching, always thinking, always, judging. There is a great scene that shows Father Flynn having dinner with his religious superiors–all the while the the whole lot of them are cutting up and having a good time; in sharp contrast the next frame shows the controlled nun’s dinner of Sister Aloysius. Nothing in this movie contrasts the two characters as much as this scene and it serves as a bit of foreshadowing of things to come.

The film takes place in 1964, times are changing and Sister Aloysius feels as though she is losing her grip, rather the world is losing its grip on morality. She makes it her personal mission to do everything in her power to ensure that no misdeed is done within the confides of her school. Father Flynn is much more progressive and has the respect of school, something the Sister lacks. It’s an interesting relationship between the two–you see the Sister initially respecting the order of the church, but comes to feel morally superior to the Father, amongst others.

Amy Adams also turns in a solid, understated performance. I barely recognized her in the role. She serves as our measuring stick between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn. The audience looks to Sister James (Adams) to determine where truth lies in the tussle between her two superiors.

What you will not get from this movie is clarity, as the movie’s title suggests. It is more about the actions of the characters– more so than who is right, who is wrong, who is moral, who is corrupt.

Rating: 8.4

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of strong language and heavy performances, this is a great film for you. I recommend that you see it in the theatre, there’s just something about Streep on the big screen that makes her charachter all the more horrific. I can’t imagine that this would be something you would want to watch repedeatedly, but worth going to the theatre just to see Streep and Hoffman exhange their heavyweight blows.