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Tag: Oscars

Oscar Night Predictions on February 9, 2020

“1917” film’s cast and director Sam Mendes in Chicago at the AMC Theater on December 10, 2019.

My favorite picture of the year, if anyone cares, for sheer enjoyment, was “Ford v. Ferrari.” It doesn’t have a chance for anything but the sound editing and potentially some visual effects.

So, here are my picks, based on having seen almost all of the films. (I do admit that I have not seen “Little Women” or Antonio Banderas’ nominated role in “Power and Glory.”
Let’s see how these come out:
Supporting Actor – Brad Pitt
MakeUp and Hairstyling: Bombshell
Costume Design: Little Women
Documentary Feature: For Sama (the favorite is said to be “American Factory,” which I saw last night. I think that the life-and-death nature of “For Sama,” filmed behind ennemy lines in Syria, was so riveting that, despite its technical issues, I voted for it.
Sound Editing: Ford v. Ferrari.
Here are my current picks: Brad Pitt for Actor in a Supporting Role
Maeup and Hairstyling; Bombshell (for transforming Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly)
Costume Design: Little Women
Documentary Feature: For Sama (I know that American Factory is the favorite, but For Sama was so powerful in its depiction of medicine in Syria behind enemy lines.)
Sound Editing: Ford v. Ferrari
Sound Mixing: Ford v. Ferrari
Production Design: 1917
International Feature: Parasite (could be the Best Picture for a big upset)
Actress in a Supporting Role: Laura Dern
Amimated Short Film: Hair Love
Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 4
Visual Effects: 1917
Film Editing: Ford v. Ferrari
Documentary Short Subject: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If you’re a girl)
Live Action Short Film: The Neighbors’ Window
Adapted Screenplay: Little Women
Original Screenplay: Marriage Story
Cinematography: 1917
Original Score: 1917
Original Song: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again”
Director: Sam Mendes
Actor in a Leading Role: Joaquin Phoemix
Actress in a Leading Role: Renee Zellweger
Best Picture: 1917 (* Well aware that “Parasite” may knock it off)

82nd Academy Awards Honors “The Hurt Locker”

The 82nd Academy Awards were broadcast to millions on Sunday, March 7, 2010, and history was made. The first woman won the Best Director Award, Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” and the Best Picture of the Year was an upset: “The Hurt Locker,” a little-seen film about bomb defusers, starring Jeremy Renner.

“Avatar” won 3 Oscars, when all was said and done, one for Visual Effects, one for Cinematography and one for Art Direction. “The Hurt Locker,” meanwhile, raked in the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow), Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Mixing.

After those two gorillas in the jungle, the numbers dropped off rapidly: only “Crazy Heart” (with 2) and “Crazy Heart” and “Precious” with 2 apiece challenged for awards this night.

The evening opened with a lame song-and-dance number by Neil Patrick Harris, who had actually been good in this role on an earlier awards show. Neil Patrick Harris sang a song whose message whose message was “No One Wants to Do It Alone.” This is true, and is probably why Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin shared hosting duties for the 82nd annual Oscars. I was disappointed in their performance, as they are both so funny and quick-witted, individually, but their scripted stuff was somewhat weak…although not as weak as Kathy Ireland’s red carpet interviewing. None of the people doing the red carpet interviews this year impressed, least of all Kathy, Sherry from “The View” or the editor of “People” magazine (I think). I never thought I’d say it, but give us back Joan and Melissa Rivers. Army Archerd just died, so he’s definitely out. What about somebody like Mario Lopez or Joan Hart or, really, just about anybody but this trio.

The winners this night were as follows:

Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker”

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (first woman director to win)

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges (for “Crazy Heart”)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:  Mo’Nique in “Precious”

Best Animated Feature Film:  “Up”

Best Original Screenplay:  “The Hurt Locker” by Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay:  “Precious”, Geoffrey Fletcher

Best Foreign Language Film:  “The Secret in Their eyes” (Argentina)

Best Original Score:  “Up” (Michael Giacchino)

Best Original Song:  “The Weary King” from “Crazy Heart

Best Art Direction:  “Avatar”

Best Cinematography:  “Avatar” by Mario Fiore

Best Costume Design:  “The Young Victoria” (Sandy Powell)

Best Documentary Feature:  “The Cove”

Best Documentary Short Subject:  “Music by Prudence”

Best Film Editing:  “The Hurt Locker” (Bob Murawksi and Chris Innis)

Best Makeup:  “Star Trek”

Best Animated Short Film:  “Logarama” (French, 16 mins.)

Best Live Action Short Film:  “The New Tenants”

Best Sound Editing:  “The Hurt Locker”

Best Sound Mixing:  “The Hurt Locker”

Best Visual Effects:  “Avatar”

Sandra Bullock’s acceptance speech was the most affecting of the night, for me, as she said, “To that trailblazer who allowed me to have this extraordinary opportunity—and to my lover, Meryl Streep.” Sandra also referenced a time when George Clooney had thrown her into a swimming pool and almost choked up during her acceptance speech. I also enjoyed Mo’Nique pointing out that, at least in her case, the award was truly given for the performance. I agree with that, having seen all the nominated performances, but it didn’t hurt any that Oprah got behind the film Big Time, so that somewhat contradicts Mo’Nique’s comment that politics was not a factor in her win. (She also shared TMI during her Barbara Walters interview, telling the world that she does not shave her legs and has an open marriage with her spouse.)

The evening ended on as always-hurried note, with the dynamic duo of Steve Martin and Alec Baldin signing off very quickly.

Most of the winners were not a surprise, with Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock and Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique winning, as expected.

Ten Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Who Would They Be?

What if there were 10 nominees for Best Supporting Actress this year, as is the case for Best Film of the Year this year, rather than just five? Who would those 10 nominees be?

First, let’s consider the 5 that Academy members have already nominated:

1) Anna Kendrick for “Up in the Air.”

2) Vera Farmiga for “Up in the Air.”

3) Maggie Gyllenhaal for “Crazy Heart”

4) Mo’Nique for “Precious”

5) Penelope Cruz for “Nine

Let’s consider, for a moment, the current official nominees and their chances. I have not seen Penelope Cruz in “Nine,” but I watched a Charlie Rose roundtable discussion of the film in which critics from both coasts described the movie as a mess. It seems obvious that the two fine actresses nominated for “Up in the Air” are likely to cancel each other out. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s movie, “Crazy Heart” has not been distributed nationwide until recently, so few have seen it. It is also not that “showy” a role, nor is she onscreen that long. Mo’Nique, who has Oprah pulling for her, is a virtual lock on this award, from the performances I’ve seen (4 out of 5). In a moment I’ll return to the actual nominees and tell you why I feel they are as deserving as the additional five I’ve been asked to pick.

The others that I would recommend to the Academy as good or better than the current crop of nominees would include these fine actresses, and my reasons for recommending their performances this year:

6) Samantha Morton in “The Messenger”- Samantha Morton (5/13/77) has been nominated for two Oscars previously, once for “In America” in 2002 for her role as Sarah, who has lost a child, and again for “Minority Report” with her role as Agatha, one of the future-telling floating mystics in the pool whom Tom Cruise consults. She has also had roles as Hazel in 2008’s “Synecdoche, New York,” a puzzling film by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. In “The Messenger” Samantha plays Olivia Pitterson, the wife of a soldier killed in Iraq. Her co-star in the film, Ben Foster (as Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery) talked about how excited he was to be starring opposite an actress of Samantha Morton’s caliber when he appeared with the film at the Chicago Film Festival. At the time, said Foster, Morton had just given birth and was often busy nursing her newborn child when not onscreen. Samantha Morton is a serious, fearless actress who has earned an Oscar nomination, more than nominees #1 and #2, above.

7) Sigourney Weaver in “Avatar” – Weaver (8/8/49) has been nominated for 3 Oscars during a long career. (She turned 60 in August).  In 1987 she came to fame as Ripley in “Aliens,” for which she was nominated as Best Actress. In 1999, she was nominated for her part in the film “Working Girl.” In 1989, her last nomination, she was nominated for playing Dian Fossey in “Gorillas in the Mist.” Weaver has also earned plaudits, including Saturn and BAFTA awards for her roles in “Alien Resurrection” in 1997, “The Ice Storm,” and “Galaxy Quest,” a 2000 spoof of her “Alien” roles that won her a Saturn award. Surely an actress who has been doing good work this long deserves a nomination more than an actress whose only previous leading roles were in the teen vampire movies “New Moon” and “Twilight”? This year’s role of Dr. Augustine in “Avatar,” the best-selling movie ever, would seem to be as worthy as Anna Kendrick’s or Vera Farmiga’s, and she has paid her dues much more than either of those decades-younger actresses.

8) Amy Adams in “Julie and Julia,” opposite Meryl Streep, was criticized in the role, for reasons that seemed bogus, to me. As Julie Powell, the young girl who decides to make every single recipe in the Julie Child cookbook, she did a good job…at least as good as Maggie Gyllenhaal’s role in “Crazy Heart.” In addition, Adams has been on a hot streak. She co-starred (again, with Streep) in “Doubt” as Sister James in 2008 and had a role in 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War” as Bonnie Bach. She also appeared as Giselle in 2007’s “Enchanted” and as Brenda Strong in 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can” with Leonardo DeCaprio.

9) Natalie Portman (6/9/81) played Grace Cahill in this year’s “Brothers.” She was the stay-at-home wife of 2 small daughters, left behind on the home front as her husband, Toby Maguire went to war. Jake Gyllenhaal plays toby’s brother in the film. For reasons that can be attributed to post traumatic stress disorder, Toby’s character becomes convinced that his brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) has had a relationship with his wife (Natalie Portman) while he was off fighting in the war. Ultimately, Toby has a classic Oscar-worthy meltdown. Natalie, who has previously played roles as varied as the lead in “V for Vendetta” (2005) and in 2 “Star Wars” episodes, must project strength for her children’s sake and the stand-by-your-man attitude of a good woman who truly loves her troubled husband. Natalie did a great job, and her previous role as Alice in “Closer”, Sam in “Garden State,” Sara in “Cold Mountain” and in the film “Anywhere But Here” are just a few of the wonderful performances she has provided audiences with, prior to this year’s overlooked film, “Brothers.”

10) The 10th spot as a nominee for “Best Supporting Actress” should go to one of two female supporting performances from the film “Precious.” The unknown actress Paula Patton, portraying Ms. Rain, the teacher who helps Precious discover her potential, is one possibility, but far more intriguing would be Mariah Carey, who eschewed all make-up and fancy wardrobe for her role as the social worker, Mrs. Weiss. At first, watching the film, you can hardly believe this is the same Mariah Carey whose plunging cleavage recently graced the Golden Globes. Carey’s debut film, “Glitter,” was an unmitigated disaster. Director Lee Daniels made sure that Mariah (and, for that matter, rocker Lenny Kravitz in a small role as a male nurse) really inhabited roles that are the antithesis of their normal rock star images. Carey was recognized for the good job she did as the disgusted social worker who can hardly believe the self-serving, narcissistic rantings of Mo’Nique as Precious’ mother. Not only did Carey win a Palm Springs Award for Breakthrough Performance Award for her part, but she also won a Capri (Hollywood) role for Best Supporting Actress. In addition, she was nominated (as part of the ensemble) for awards by the Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association, the Screen Actors’ Guild (cast nomination), the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association Best Acting Ensemble award, the Boston Society for Best Ensemble Award and was nominate for a Black Reel award.

If I ruled the Oscars and there were 10 nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category (rather than simply 5), these would have been my nominees. (And, no, I haven’t totally forgotten about Betty White’s turn as Ryan Reynolds’ grandmother in “The Proposal.”)

The Best Films of the Years 2000 – 2009

I’ve gone back to the year 2000 and attempted to highlight the Best Films of the Decade, with the decade starting in 2000. [This means, of course, that I’m one year short of 10 years of films, since 2010 has just begun.]

The criterion, for me, in listing my Best Films was whether I enjoyed them the most at the theater. Sometimes, the most heavily promoted films are not really that enjoyable. There are some “Best Picture of the Year” nominees that leave you completely cold after you have spent time watching them, so much so that you wonder, “How did THAT get nominated as Best ________________?” (Fill in the blank here). You may appreciate the achievement of a film like, for instance, “The Queen,” but did you really enjoy it that much, acting expertise aside?

Also, will this film hold up over the years? There are some films that were “hot” movies of that year, but the year was so weak that to name them as the “best” is simply to acknowledge that they were the best of a not-so-banner year.

I am not a huge fan of animated films, but some made my list. I like humor, but it should be somewhat witty, avoid formulaic situations, and not be so lowbrow that every vehicle in the parking lot is a truck with a gun rack, a rebel flag and a NASCAR sticker on view.

While acknowledging that Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy represented a huge achievement, the films were not as faithful to the books as purists would have liked, and, quite frankly, I was pretty bored throughout. (I looked down the row and my sister-in-law was asleep, although she later denied this.) The same is true of all the Harry Potter movies, for me. And, more recently, the “Twilight” films, representing, as they do, a teen phenomenon, are going to fall into the same category.

Some years were, of course, better than others, and that is why many Honorable Mention(s) follow some of the Ten Best lists. Other years have no Honorable Mentions at all. I’m not trying to suggest that your list of the Ten Best Movies of the Decade (to date) will match mine, but at least you’ll have a referent point for (maybe) picking a few from the past 9 years that you night have missed.  I should also note that the films are listed in no particular order.

Enjoy!


Best Films of 2000:

“High Fidelity”

“Traffic”

“Memento”

“Almost Famous”

“Cast Away”

“Erin Brockovich”

“Gladiator”

“Wonder Boys”

“Frequency”

“Meet the Parents”/”Galaxy Quest”

Best Films of 2001:

“A Beautiful Mind”

“Lord of the Rings”

“Mulholland Drive”

“Black Hawk Down”

“A.I.”

“Training Day”

“Monster’s Ball”

“In the Bedroom”

“Bully”

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”

Best Films of 2002:

“About A Boy”

“About Schmidt”

“Adaptation”

“Bourne Identity”

“Bowling for Columbine”

“Minority Report”

“The Pianist”

“Signs”

“Rabbit-proof Fence”

“Spider-Man 2”

Best Films of 2003:

“The Fog of War” (documentary)

“Mystic River”

“Cold Mountain”

“In America”

“Seabiscuit”

“City of God”

“Monster”

“House of Sand and Fog”

“Under the Tuscan Sun”

“Pieces of April”

(*Honorable mention to “Finding Nemo,” “Master & Commander,” “Thirteen,” “The Cooler,” “Bad Santa,” “Lost in Translation,” “The Last Samurai,” “Calendar Girls,” “Love, Actually.”)

Best Films of 2004:

“The Aviator”

“Hotel Rwanda”

“Million Dollar Baby”

“Ray”

“Closer”

“Fahrenheit 9/11”

“Sideways”

“Spanglish”

“The Sea inside”

“Collateral”

(*Honorable mention to “The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Notebook,” “Mean Girls,” “Super Size Me”)

Best Films of 2005:

“Capote”

“Brokeback Mountain”

“A History of Violence”

“Crash”

“Syriana”

“Batman Begins”

“Cinderella Man”

“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”

“Good Night, and Good Luck”

“Walk the Line”

(*Honorable mention to “King Kong,” “Jarhead,” “Match Point,” “Transamerica,” “North Country,” “March of the Penguins” and “Munich.”)

Best Films of 2006:

“Last King of Scotland”

“The Departed”

“Little Miss Sunshine”

“Pan’s Labyrinth”

“United 93”

“Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima”

“Casino Royale”

“Dreamgirls”

“Bobby”

“Thank You for Smoking”

(*Honorable mention to “V for Vendetta,” “Blood Diamond,”  “Cars,” “Monster House,” “An Inconvenient Truth” (documentary), “The Queen,” “Babel,”
”Hollywoodland,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing” (documentary), “Who Killed the Electric Car” (documentary), “Children of Men,” “Little Children,” “A Scanner Darkly”)

Best Films of 2007:

“Michael Clayton”

“No Country for Old Men”

“Away from Her”

“Juno”

“In the Valley of Elah”

“Eastern Promises”

“American Gangster’

“Knocked Up”

“Charlie Wilson’s War”

“The Bourne Ultimatum”

(*Honorable Mention:  “The Savages,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Waitress,” “Atonement,” “La Vie En Rose,” “The Diving Bell & the Butterfly,” “Elizabeth, the Golden Age.”)

Best Films of 2008:

“The Reader”

“Batman: The Dark Knight”

“Iron Man”

“Gran Torino”

“Slumdog Millionaire”

“Milk”

“The Wrestler”

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

“Doubt”

“Zodiac”

(*Honorable Mention:  “Burn After Reading,” “In Bruges,” “Frozen River,” “The Visitor,” “Tropic Thunder,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Bourne Ultimatum,” “The Bucket List.”

Best Films of 2009:

“Up in the Air”

“The Hurt Locker”

“The Informant”

“Up”

“500 Days of Summer”

“Precious”

“Red Cliff”

“Avatar”

“Brothers”

“The Messenger”

(*Honorable Mention to “Star Trek,” “The Hangover,” “2012,” “Public Enemies,” “I Love You, Man,” and “Jennifer’s Body”)

Thoughts on February 22nd’s Oscar Night

oscarsJust a few thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards of Sunday, February 22nd.

Back on February 2nd, I predicted a win for “Slumdog Millionaire” as Best Picture, citing its “Rocky” factor. That prediction has turned out to be true, and “Slumdog”, by my unofficial count,  carried off 9 awards, total, with the next biggest vote-getter being “Benjamin Button” with a mere 3.

Most of the winners were as had been anticipated, although Mickey Rourke lost in his bid for Best Actor, losing out to Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk. This was very disappointing to those of us who root for the underdog and, in “Rocky”-like fashion, would have liked to have seen Mickey make it all the way back to the top in this role that was tailor-made for him. Still, “you’ve come a long way, baby,” and one can only hope that he continues to be cast in roles that let him show the talent he undeniably possess. Whether any of them will ever again be as strong as this Darren Aronofsky film is a good question, but I hope Mickey “lives well and prospers.”

I was pleased to see Kate Winslet win for Best Actress, and it was a thrill to see the likes of Sophia Loren, looking stunning in a diamond choker and a svelte gown (along with Halle Berry and other previous Oscar winners for Best Actress) salute the nominees. That stylistic change-up was a welcome bit of theater, as was the lack of a long, boring speech by the outgoing President of the Academy, who merely stood and waved.

“Slumdog” could not be stopped in the major categories, carrying off Best Picture, Best Director for Danny Boyle, best adapted screenplay, best song (“Jai Ho”), best film editing, best cinematography, best original score and best sound mixing. Only “Benjamin Button” and “Milk” (with 2) earned multiple awards thereafter, with “Benjamin Button” snagging awards for art direction, makeup, and visual effects, all of which it richly deserved.  Sean Penn’s win as Harvey Milk gave “Milk” one of the 5 major awards, and it also won for best original screenplay. It also came as no surprise that “Wall-E” was named the best animated feature, competing against “Bolt” and “Kung-Fu Panda.”

For me, the tribute to Heath Ledger that was provided by posthumously awarding him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was touching, as it brought Heath’s entire family to the podium to give some very heartfelt and grateful comments. I do have this question, however: where was Heath’s picture during the tribute to those in the Academy who died during the past year, like Charlton Heston, Van  Johnson, Paul Newman and Sydney Pollack?

Best Supporting Actress was snagged by Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” I had read that she was a favorite, but I was secretly rooting for Marisa Tomei of “The Wrestler.” (Any actress who can play almost her entire part in a G-string and pasties and look that good and do that well deserves to win!)

In the Foreign Language Film category, I rooted for “Revanche,” an Austrian film I saw at the Chicago Film Festival. It was an engrossing story with a complicated plot, and I was sorry that it lost to “Departure.”

Other random comments on the night’s festivities: Why did Jessica Biel wear a dress with a huge bow on it that completely hid her gorgeous figure? And what was up (or out) with Sarah Jessica Parker’s falling-out-of-her-dress cleavage situation? Best presenter of the night? Ben Stiller, who did a lethal riff on Joaquin Phoenix’s recent appearance on David Letterman, complete with mountain man beard, chewing gum, and a genuinely out-of-it demeanor. The other light-hearted moment that all of us at home enjoyed was Kate Winslet telling her father to whistle to let her know where, in the gigantic auditorium, he was seated, which he promptly did.

All-in-all, Hugh Jackman did “okay” in a musical performance that teamed him with Beyonce, although I would have given anything to see Billy Crystal in one of his funny parody songs, instead, and the show seemed to move along more swiftly than in some recent years. The two songs from “Slumdog Millionaire” nominated for Best Song (“Jai Ho,” which won, and “O Sayo,” which did not), allowed for some lavish Bollywood song-and-dance numbers, and the Jackman/Knowles collaboration was  Busby Berkeley Redux.

“Man on Wire” won for Best Documentary. While the view from the top (this was the Frenchman who walked the wire between the World Trade Center towers) was fantastic, the film seemed overlong and really boring, to me. However, the acceptance antics of the aerial artist responsible rivaled Jack Palance’s one-armed push-ups, as he even did a little magic disappearing coin trick while at the podium.

All-in-all, with a few questions like the Heath Ledger one posed above, a fairly good Oscar night. Barbara Walters did her usual pre-show interviews, and most choices seemed logical to me, with one exception: why did Barbara interview the Jonas Brothers? Since when are the Jonas Brothers movie stars? With no songs in any of the nominated films, and no reason (other than the desire to attract younger viewers) to be sitting on Barbara’s couch, I found that insertion into the pre-Oscar interview program to be as puzzling as the omission of Heath Ledger from the tribute to those who died during the last year.

Slumdog Millionaire Trumps the Others as “Rocky” Throwback at the Oscars

slumdog_millionaire

I’ve finally seen “The Reader,” and it is a wonderful film. It will not win the Best Picture award, in all likelihood, but it is a wonderfully layered film that treats many topics, has many messages, and delivers those messages with layer upon layer of meaning.

The lead performance by Kate Winslet as Hanna Schmitz makes her the one to beat for Best Actress at this year’s Academy Awards on February 22nd. Winslet has had quite a year, also appearing opposite Leonardo DeCaprio in “Revolutionary Road.”

Before discussing “The Reader” at greater length in another article, I want to make a prediction regarding the Best Picture nominees. Since the awards ceremony itself does not take place until February 22nd and today is only the first of February, you will have over 3 weeks with which to disagree (or agree) with me.

This is my preliminary prediction: “Slumdog Millionaire” will win the Oscar. It will win because it is a “feel good” film in the tradition of “Rocky” and, with the country in the shape it is in right now, a “feel good” film will trump a downer every time. Nearly all the other nominated films have sad endings.

I don’t wish to reveal the specific downbeat ending(s) of the four other films, but it is well documented that “Milk” is the story of the November 27, 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in San Francisco.

“Benjamin Button,” starring Brad Pitt, based loosely on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, is about a man who ages backwards. “Benjamin Button” has the next-best shot at an Oscar, but it is far more likely that the film will be showered with well-deserved technical awards and ignored for the biggest prize of the night.

“Frost and Nixon” is the film adaptation of the Broadway play. Hardly light entertainment. Ron Howard’s addition of vintage film footage to the serious topic of Nixon’s Watergate guilt adds to the power of the play, just as the archival footage from   a previous Academy-Award winning documentary dealing with Harvey Milk’s assassination enriches the film “Milk.”

Another reason that “Slumdog Millionaire” will have the Academy behind it is that we will want to demonstrate to the world what an enlightened country we are and how open we are to honoring films focusing on non-American culture(s). To honor “Slumdog Millionaire’s” depiction of India’s slums will scream, “Look at us! We’re enlightened! We’re an equal opportunity film appreciation country.” This won’t be the first time we’ve honored Great Britain’s film talent (Director Danny Boyle). The Brits have made a steady practice of carrying off our top film award(s) for years, but it will be an acknowledgement to the world that we are well aware of the upsurge in the film industries of other countries.

It isn’t as though other countries haven’t had their very own thriving film industries. They have had, for years. Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden…and, of course, India’s Bollywood, just to name a few.

What will happen at this year’s Oscars in regards to the selection of the Best Picture will be, in a small way, a microcosm of what is and has been happening to the United States in so many areas, whether it is the steel industry, the automobile industry, the manufacture of clothing, the manufacture of running shoes and electronic goods, or any of a dozen industries that have tip-toed quietly away to thrive in other lands. Whether it is China, North Korea, Russia or some other less-well-known power, my prediction is that “Slumdog Millionaire’s” message of triumph over adversity and hope will trump the sad message(s) of murder, suicide, corruption at the highest levels of power, or lovers doomed by fate that the other films proclaim. (And it hasn’t escaped my attention that the DGA…Directors’ Guild of America…has selected Danny Boyle as their winner.)

This is the year that the United States elected Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States, rejecting the last 8 years of our long national nightmare and expressing our desire for hope and change.

Why should the choice of this year’s Oscar be any different or strike a dissonant chord in the message of harmony the United States has chosen for its new path in 2009?

80th Academy Awards Held Sunday, February 24th

oscars.jpg “No Country for Old Man” picked up the Oscar for Best Picture at the 80th Academy Awards ceremony, held at the Kodak Center in Los Angeles, California, on Sunday, February 24th. In addition to Best Picture, the story of psychopathic killer Anton Chagar (Javier Bardem), with able assists from Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin, garnered a Best Supporting Actor statuette for Javier Bardem, the first Spaniard to be nominated for Best Actor. The Best Director Ocar went to Coen Brothers Joel and Ethan (“Fargo,” “The Big Lebowsky”) for “No Country for Old Men” and the film also picked up the best adapted screenplay Oscar, to lead with 4 wins as the night’s biggest winner.

For quite some time early in the evening, Matt Damon’s film “The Bourne Ultimatum” was the leader of the pack, with 3 Oscars in more minor categories (Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing), but it was ultimately (pun intended) eclipsed by “No Country’s” brutal tale of murder and money in the desert.

Two awards apiece were given to “There Will Be Blood,” one of them the big one of Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot). The intense actor has been nominated four times and has won twice. “There Will Be Blood,” a tale of oil drilling, greed and violence, also won for Best Cinematography, for Robert Elswit.

Another film that garnered two Oscars was “La Vie en Rose,” which won the Best Actress award for Marion Cotillard, portraying French chanteuse Edith Piaf. “La Vie en Rose” also won the Oscar for Best Make-up. Cotillard’s win was an upset over the favorite, Julie Christie for “Away from Her.” Cotillard seemed overcome with emotion as she thanked the audience, saying, “There is angels in this city” (Los Angeles).

Best Supporting Actress was Tilda Swinton, who won for her role in “Michael Clayton,” which was largely shut out after earning among the most nominations (along with “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood”).

Other winners were:

Documentary Feature “Taxi to the Dark Side,” about the war-time death of a cab driver.

Documentary Short “Freeheld,” which dealt with a gay couple’s rights to inherit when one dies.

Animated Feature winner was the crowd favorite “Ratatouille.”

Best Foreign Language Film was “The Counterfeiters” from Austria.

Best Original Screenplay winner was Diablo Cody for “Juno,” her first script.

Best Visual Effects winner went to “The Golden Compass.”

Best Animated Short Film went to “Peter & the Wolf.”

Best Live Action Short Film went to “Le Mozart des Pickpockets” (“The Mozart of Pickpockets”).

Best Art Direction award went to “Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” another film that was largely shut out after securing multiple nominations.

Best Costume Design went to “Elizabeth: the Golden Age,” which was one of the areas where “Sweeney Todd,” along with “Atonement” had been favored. “Atonement” did, however, win in the area of Best Original Score for Dario Marianelli.

Best Original Song went to “Once” from “Falling Slowly,” but the entire music category had been criticized prior to the night’s ceremony for failing to represent contemporary music when both Eddie Vedder (“Pearl Jam”) for “Into the Wild” and Radiohead’s lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood (the score for “There Will Be Blood”) were not recognized for their work, nor was the music from “Juno,” which has been among the best-selling CD’s nationwide since the film’s release.

Host Jon Stewart performed host ceremonies with some occasional zingers, after announcing, “This is it, this is it, this is the big one,” as the ceremony kicked off at 7:30 p.m. CDT.

Commenting on the violent subject matter of “There Will Be Blood,” “Atonement,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Stewart said, “Thank God for teen pregnancy,” a reference to the final nominated film, “Juno.” Stewart also got in a good zinger when, in commenting on the make-up nomination for “Norbit,” he said, “Too often the Academy ignores movies that weren’t any good.” He compared Javier Bardem’s hairstyle in “No Country for Old Men” to a combination of the horribleness of Hannibel Lecter with Dorothy Hamill’s wedge haircut.

Fashion notes: the gorgeous gowns were back, with most of the crowd (especially the nominees) looking very “Hollywood.” I had problems with the outfit that Rebecca Miller (Daniel Day Lewis’ partner and Arthur Miller’s daughter) selected, a black dress with red bows on the shoulders and large big fake medallions, a truly hideous combination. However, to give equal time to her escort’s strange attire, wearing two gold loop earrings was probably an equivalent fashion “faux pas.” The opinion expressed here is strictly my own and does not reflect Mr. Blackwell’s Worst Dressed List…although it eventually may.

On the gorgeous side, Cameron Diaz shone in a pale pink number and Penelope Cruz looked equally lovely in a black dress. The female interviewer on the red carpet, herself, had on one of the most satisfactory gowns of the evening, with a fetching shoulder strap treatment

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