Unlike the US whereby most of the Oscar nominated movies or those with high buzz for Oscar glory are out before the awards ceremony, Singapore doesn’t get to see all these talked-about Oscar films in time to make comparison for Oscar day. There are even cases whereby smaller films have not been screened even or available in DVD. Thus, the pre-Oscar analysis here is done well by watching whatever is available and relying on the analysis Oscar-watchers, pundits or experts (or whatever you call them). Let’s hope this will be an insightful guide to the 2009 Oscars.
Best Picture/Best Achievement in Directing
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Stephen Daldry (The Reader)
David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon)
Gus van Sant (Milk)
2009 is one of the years whereby all the Best Achievement in Directing nominees actually matches up to the Best Picture nominees. Some of them are first time nominees (Boyle and Fincher) and are joined by previous nominees (Daldry and van Sant). Howard has bagged Oscar gold a few years earlier. My call for this category is Boyle for the feel good and well-paced Slumdog, for getting the best of the child actors – and not turning the movie into a Bollywood song and dance flick! I would say Fincher is close behind for his stunning vision in directing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from the use of effects and make up. Fincher made a film that is very difficult to realise and he deserve points for that.
One gripe is that Christopher Nolan who directed The Dark Knight being left out of the directing race. The Dark Knight was definitely one of the best well-paced with in-depth character studies, and the director manages to wring out of Heath Ledger and the other star studded cast excellent performances. Nolan deserves to be nominated for reinventing the Batman franchise.
My bets are on Slumdog for best film, even though I don’t quite agree with it being a best picture. Slumdog is similar to TCCBB in the sense it is a fantasy, a little whimsical and a feel good movie. Slumdog benefits from having an exotic setting to it – the slums in India – remember the time everyone was so enthralled by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Furthermore, Slumdog benefits by a more in-depth portrayal of the protagonist than over TCCBB and a tighter pace than the latter. But the visuals in TCCBB are far more stunning than Slumdog, and its far more Hollywood glitz might edge out Slumdog in the last minute. But the deserving winner is probably Milk which holds a theme relevant in today’s world – equal rights, change. But I would say Milk scores in its overall depth as a movie that makes a resounding note after viewing – but its homosexual themes and roots may not go to well with conservative voters.
Best Achievement in Directing
Who Will Win: Danny Boyle
Who Should Win: Danny Boyle
Dark Horse: David Fincher
Overlooked: Christopher Nolan
Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: Milk
Dark Horse: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Overlooked: The Dark Knight (this was one of the best films in 2008 – it transcended the comic book movie genre and humanised the characters)
Best Actress (Leading Role)
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
Angelina Jolie (The Changeling)
Melissa Leo (Frozen River)
Meryl Streep (Doubt)
Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Streep and Winslet are one of the most prolific actresses working today. It’s really great to see them competing together in the same category. It’s a pity Cate Blanchett was overlooked for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button even though she delivered the most emotional part of the performance in the film. It will be fun to see these current day three talented actresses fighting for the golden statuette. I can’t comment on Leo’s performance because I did not get to see her movie. I caught The Changeling and I think Jolie should be happy with the nomination – it vindicates the fact that she is bad actress, or that she could carry only femme fatale or Lara Croft like roles. This nomination is a good make up to the snub she received last year and her partner Brad Pitt is also nominated for Best Actor (Leading). I believe the race is between Streep (nominated for 14 times, won 2, but had not won an Oscar for more than 10 years) and Winslet (nominated for 6 times, won nothing). It’s about time that the talented Winslet gets rewarded for her efforts in The Reader, although a lot of Oscar watchers preferred her other stellar performance in Revolutionary Road. Winslet is billed as lead in The Reader, but her role seems to blur the lines between supporting and leading with her screen time not as much as the other nominees. Furthermore, the movie is not centred on her character so this may lessen her chances of netting the coveted gold. Talking about time, perhaps it’s about time Streep gets her dues after amassing 14 nominations, but gone without a win for a long time. Streep delivers an unforgettable and forceful performance of a nun full of conviction and certainty of the guilt of a co-worker that it’s hard to forget. She is equally matched with Winslet. This would mean that Hathaway could come in for a steal if the votes get split somehow. But from the looks of it, it is Kate’s to lose.
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet
Who Should Win: Kate Winslet
Dark Horse: Anne Hathaway
Overlooked: Cate Blanchett
Best Actor (Supporting Role)
Josh Brolin (Milk)
Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Michael Shannon (The Reader)
The winner is quite clear in this category. Ledger for portraying one of the most chilling and psychotic villains in cinema – The Joker in The Dark Knight. It is one of the most memorable performances of 2008 and perhaps all time for a baddy role. There might be severe outrage if he doesn’t nail this award. Downey Jr. was hilarious as a white man trying to portray a black guy. The comic timing of the character was perfect. It is probably one of the more memorable performances in this year’s mix. Brolin brings to his character a right mix of quiet anger, resentment, haplesness as his world starts unravel around him. Brolin has probably a good shot at winning the gold too. Hoffman too manages to hold his old against Streep in Doubt but he seems too much of a lead than supporting. My final call is still on Ledger.
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger
Who Should Win: Heath Ledger
Dark Horse: Josh Brolin
Overlooked: James Franco