The 81st Annual Academy Awards
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Review by: Larry Thomas
Tonight is the one time of year when cinephiles all around the globe are united in their passion for all things Oscar. The 81st annual Academy Awards are being handed out, and no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same. Every year, the producers of the show promise it will be better. Every year, the audience hopes it will be better. And maybe one of these days, it will be better. Will tonight be that night? We won’t know until it’s over. The renaissance man of movies and Broadway, Hugh Jackman, is the host, instead of a TV personality or comedian. While it’s really hard to top the antics of Billy Crystal, who may have been the best Oscar host ever, the Academy keeps looking for someone to fill those shoes.
No doubt you have your list of nominees at hand, ready to mark your choices. Here’s how it may shape up tonight:
Best Documentary Feature – The nominees are The Betrayal, Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden, Man on Wire, and Trouble the Water. If there’s any justice, Man on Wire will win. This riveting and engaging look at audacious daredevil Philipe Petit was on my ten-best list for 2008.
Best Foreign Language Feature – The nominees are The Baader Meinhoff Complex, The Class, Departures, Revanche, and Waltz with Bashir. All but the first one have been shown in limited release in the US, but considering the Golden Globe win of Waltz with Bashir, it should take the Oscar as well. It’s not every day you get to see an animated film from Israel about the Middle East conflict. It probably should have been nominated for Best Animated Feature, but likely would not have won in that category.
Best Animated Feature – The nominees are Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, and Wall-E. Most will bet the farm on Wall-E, which seems reasonably safe, although Kung Fu Panda has won a couple of the major animation awards from other groups. Still, my vote goes to Wall-E.
Best Original Score – The nominees are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Defiance, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, and Wall-E. Since Slumdog will likely be the big winner tonight, chalk up this one for its list of statues.
Best Director – The nominees are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, and Slumdog Millionaire. No contest here…it’ll be Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire.
Best Supporting Actress – The nominees are Amy Adams, Penelope Cruz, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, and Marisa Tomei. There are no clear-cut front-runners in this category, so I’m rooting for Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She was terrific in Pedro Almodovar’s Volver, so maybe this will be the make-good for being ignored in that film.
Best Supporting Actor – The nominees are Josh Brolin, Robert Downey Jr., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, and Michael Shannon. This is the only absolute sure thing tonight…Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Batman fans are still grousing that their favorite film was pretty much given short shrift by the Academy, but Ledger’s creepy performance that reinvented the character is well-worth the win.
Best Actress – The nominees are Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, Meryl Streep, and Kate Winslet. Many feel that Meryl Streep will win again for Doubt, but it’s also time that Kate Winslet gets a chance to walk away with the little bald guy. You can flip a coin on this one, but I would vote for Winslet in The Reader.
Best Actor – The nominees are Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, and Mickey Rourke. Tonight’s Oscar should go to Mickey Rourke, for the best comeback since John Travolta starred in Pulp Fiction. His Golden Globe win last month will assist in, although it won’t guarantee, his victory.
Best Picture – The nominees are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, and Slumdog Millionaire. Since the Academy almost always rewards films that are related to the Holocaust, one might think The Reader to be a shoo-in. Not likely, since it was a difficult film, and especially since Slumdog Millionaire was a big winner at the Golden Globes, and in many other circles.
There you have it. Keep your list and check it against the winners as we all watch the 81st Annual Academy Awards tonight at 8 pm on ABC-TV.