Friday, January 30, 2009

Oscar Diversion--An Open Letter

An Open Letter to the Person(s) Responsible for Katie Holmes Presenting Outstanding Male Actor in a Leading Role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards,

Hello, there. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to stumble randomly upon my blog. I will be as brief as possible and I hope in no way to offend in any way. I could be talking to any number of people--the producers of the SAG Awards, the President of SAG, the team that represents Ms. Holmes, or possibly even Mr. Cruise. Most likely, this is best addressed to some combination of the above, give or take people/associations I haven't even thought of in my limited, Hollywood-outsider scope.
I guess my first question would be why? Why was Katie Holmes presenting Best Actor at the Screen Actors Guild's High Holy Night? My inquiries are not random or arbitrary. I will support them plainly and dispassionately with fact. Fair enough?
The presenters of the other acting awards were as follows:

Best Supporting Actess: Greg Kinnear, an Academy Award nominated screen actor, co-recipient of the Best Ensemble Prize for Little Miss Sunshine in 2006 and star of three major motion picture releases from 2008.

Best Supporting Actor: Kristin Scott Thomas, star of 2008's critically acclaimed I've Loved You So Long. Three time SAG award nominated actress, and co-recipient for 2001's Best Ensemble Prize for Gosford Park. She is also Academy Award nominated for her performance in The English Patient and now moves seamlessly between french and english language performances.

Best Leading Actor: Ralph Fiennes. Nominated at SAG for his performance in Bernard and Doris. Also nominated for his performance in The English Patient (for which he received an Oscar nomination). Oscar nominated for Schindler's List and the star of four major motion pictures in 2008--The Hurt Locker, The Reader, The Duchess and In Bruges.

---This is misleading and implies a high esteem, which I don't automatically grant to awards citation. But I'm mainly focusing on contributions to the world of film and acting in general.

Finally, we arrive at Ms. Holmes. Her only contribution to the world of film in 2008 was the critical and commercial failure that was Mad Money. Prior to that, she last appeared in a film in 2005. Two actually. The clever Thank You For Smoking and the stepping stone that was Batman Begins. But the world has moved beyond both of these films in more ways than one. Their respective directors, Jason Reitman and Christopher Nolan, will surely be remembered, but for films other than these. Oh, I almost forgot. She starred on a few episodes of "Eli Stone" in 2008. So that's one feature film, and a guest stint on a now cancelled ABC dramedy.

When choosing the presenters of the other acting awards, some thought was obviously given about what contribution these thesps have made to the world of acting. Kristin Scott Thomas, Ralph Fiennes and Greg Kinnear are three performers about whom my opinion varies greatly, but I get it. And I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I don't get Katie Holmes being included on this list. It's very much a case of "one of these things is not like the other." Why was she allowed to do this? Is it because she's married to Tom Cruise? It makes about as much sense to me as having, say, Rita Wilson present. She's an actress too (I think). And hey, she's also married to a more famous actor named Tom! But that would be strange. It would make people say "huh?" Why? Because Rita Wilson didn't DO anything last year except be Tom Hanks's wife. With the exception of the aforementioned Mad Money, the same can be said about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise respectively. Why is she being rewarded for being married to Tom Cruise? Is it because she's America's sweetheart? Because I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but she isn't. Katie Holmes is actually an anomaly on that front, in that she was a middling former television actress, struggling to transition into film when she married mega-mega-mega star Tom Cruise...and it made her career WORSE. Strange, no? It's a bizarre equation--a math proof that only Will Hunting himself could solve. But I digress.

In summation, Katie Holmes is not a fine actor, she doesn't work often (especially when comparing her to the other presenters) and (unless I'm really misreading the climate of, well...America) is not well-liked by any stretch of the imagination. The most interesting thing she has done, both in and out of the world of cinema is marrying Tom Cruise and bearing him a child. I say this not to be mean, but to genuinely raise a question. Why was Katie Holmes chosen as a presenter at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and what do we need to brace ourselves for in the future? I will understand if you are reluctant to answer.

Yours Truly,

The Pretentious Know it All

Thursday, January 29, 2009

SAG Reactions

I know I'm a bit late, but here are my general feelings about the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which took place on Sunday evening. There really isn't much to say, honestly. Very little has changed, as it relates to the general Oscar race. (An aside: I also failed to comment on the BAFTA nominations which came out a while back. It's not because I was lazy or had nothing to say about them. It's mostly because the BAFTA nominations were so utterly horrendous that I'm going to be Pollyanna and just pretend that the BAFTAs aren't happening this year. And that's the last you'll hear me say about them. Aside over)

Best Ensemble: Slumdog Millionaire
Are you shocked? I wasn't. I don't know why people were. Yes, Milk was the most deserving of the five nominees, but since when does that translate to actual winner? Certainly not this year. I've been saying (if only to myself) that if the Screen Actors Guild was myopic enough to nominate Slumdog's ensemble, a win is not out of the question, if not likely. This, combined with the Producers Guild win only cements the film's frontrunner status. And my whole "whatever keeps Benjamin Button from winning" stance that I've adopted is totally working like a charm. Even I'm singing "Jai ho!" and I didn't even love the movie. It's all about outlook, people.

Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet - The Reader
So, she officially has "the big 3" (BFCA, Globe and now SAG). What will happen at Oscar, where she's nominated for the same performance, but in lead? Will they let her go away empty-handed? What of this category? Is Cruz really the frontrunner? Anything is possible in this category unless you're deserving, in a great movie and your last name is Dewitt (I will NEVER stop harping on that).

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Seriously, does this category even require commentary at this point? It's kind of funny in that the one person who I might have seen taking Ledger down (Dev Patel) isn't even nominated. I am hearing rumblings of a Robert Downey Jr. surge. All I have to say about that scenario is this: Mickey Rourke AND Robert Downey Jr. backstage together. God help us all. Someone's getting drunkenly punched in the face and you know it's going to be poor Kate Winset.

Best Actor: Sean Penn - Milk
I still say that the Oscar will ultimately go to Rourke. I would love to see Penn win for Milk, but unless I'm missing something, he's not well-liked enough to overcome the obvious hurdle that is already having won fairly recently (albeit for an inferior performance--isn't that how it always goes?).

Best Actress: Meryl Streep - Doubt
Man, this woman can light up a room with her speeches! Almost makes you forget how spotty her performance in Doubt was (compared to her other work, I mean). This remains a tight race between Streep and Winslet (who was not competing in this category with her Oscar nominated performance), with Hathaway as a long range spoiler. I wouldn't be surprised to hear either of those three names called on Oscar night, but I think Winslet will ultimately prevail. It feels like time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Oscar Nominations--More Extensive Thoughts pt. 2

What Do the Nominations Mean for the Major Categories?

Best Picture: Nothing, honestly. People are going to say that "the fact that The Reader got all these nominations shows love/support for it/ blah blah blah/ it's a threat for the win." I can already see it coming and it frankly bores the shit out of me. Not because I'm particularly against The Reader winning, but because Slumdog is too big to lose at this point. There is a category where all of this outpouring for The Reader is going to help, but it isn't here. Slumdog Millionaire is winning best picture...which I'm for, insomuch as it keeps presumptive runner-up, Benjamin Button from stealing the prize. Ew, watch it win now too.

Best Director: I know I said Gus Van Sant was winning this, but that was wishful thinking. It's going to be Danny Boyle, unless the Directors Guild throws a real curveball. Wouldn't it be fun if the DGA pulled an Apollo 13 and gave it to Christopher Nolan?

Best Actress: Directly following the nominations, I commented that Kate Winslet is going to have a harder time winning here. Now that I really think about it, she might actually have an easier time. It's still wide-open. Really, the only person I can't see winning is Angelina Jolie. The fact that Melissa Leo landed a nod here means she's got people who are really going to bat for this performance (and Frozen River has a screenplay nod too, don't forget). No one seems to be rallying for Meryl (only one big award so far and she's tied with Hathaway). I could see Hathaway winning before Meryl, honestly. And now that I've had time to ponder, I think that this win would be bad for Hathaway. I'm conflicted. But ultimately, I think Winslet will prevail. People want to see her win an Oscar. Plus, the Academy clearly likes The Reader. She's the only nominee in this category from a best picture nominee. Consider this: 1995, 1969, 1932 and 1931. Those are the only four years EVER when none of the four acting winners came from best picture nominees, and considering they only had two acting categories towards the beginning, that's a pretty meaningful statistic. In supporting actress this year, the only one from a BP Nominee is Taraji P. Henson. Then there's supporting, where Josh Brolin is the only one repping a BP nominee. And Ledger's winning there, so it's all moot. In best actor, Sean Penn could feasibly win (but I don't think he will). That leaves Winslet in lead. Overdue, one nomination this year for them to focus on, and no one's excited about anything else. Is it time?

Best Actor: With Clint not nominated, this remains a two-man race between Rourke and Penn. I think Rourke will prevail, and not because he won the Globe. I predicted him to lose the Globe and I still thought he was going to win the Oscar. As much as I love Penn and this performance, he simply isn't likeable to win two Oscars so close together. He's Rourke's saving grace. The only actor who's less likeable than him, though I thought Penn and Rourke both gave crowd-pleasing speeches at the BFCA and Globes, respectively.

Best Supporting Actress: Now that Winslet is out, I think that this paves the way for a shocker in this category. Penelope Cruz becomes the defacto frontrunner, but I don't think she'll win. The lack of screenplay attention for Woody (who is a normally a mainstay in that category) shows that love for Vicky Cristina Barcelona might be cooling. I liked this performance, but I'm now officially pulling for Viola Davis. First, because I liked Davis's performance better than Cruz's and second, I think that it will be easier for Cruz to be back here again than it will Davis.

Best Supporting Actor: Michael Shannon! I'm probably the only person screaming that, since everyone seems to hate that performance except me. I just love him so much and that may be clouding me. I want to go back in time and give him a nomination for Bug, but this is good too and it's moot. Because Ledger is going to win anyway...right?

Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for Milk. It's the surest way to ensure that the beloved film (did you hear the whoops and cheers when Gus Van Sant's name was called?) doesn't go home empty-handed, since Sean Penn isn't a sure thing according to me.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire was always winning here.

The Oscar Nominations--More Extensive Thoughts pt. 1

Now that I've had a day or so to marinate on yesterday morning's Oscar nods, I can finally give my thoughts about what went down. First of all, I'm not nearly as angry as most bloggers, who seem fuming mad that The Dark Knight failed to get a best picture nomination, and are blaming any and everyone (more on that later) for the perceived slight. I did terribly in my predictions, mostly due to wishful thinking. I was right and wrong about the best picture race. Right that the Academy would venture outside of the the preordained five (Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire), but wrong about which film would get the boot and for which film. I was sure it would be Frost/Nixon for WALL-E, but instead it was The Dark Knight for The Reader. Strange, but not so strange (more on that later as well).

The Good:
  • The Academy avoids category fraud and gives Kate Winslet her nomination for the better performance in the right category. Good on them for having a conscience. Though, Joe Reid over at Low Resolution has an interesting/genius theory on what might have happened there. Basically, the rules for acting nods state that a person can't be nominated for more than one performance in the same category, nor can they be nominated for the same performance in two different categories. Joe thinks that Kate actually qualified for 3 nominations. Two in lead (for The Reader and Revolutionary Road) and one in supporting (for The Reader). But she can only be nominated once in lead, so if The Reader got more votes, then there goes Revolutionary Road AND there goes her supporting nod. Plausible, n'est pas? It also explains the Amy Adams nomination, if one of the five only got in because Kate got the boot on rules and semantics.
  • Dev Patel is rightly passed over for an acting nomination. He seems like a nice kid and this nomination would have caused a backlash for him of monumental proportions. Maybe he can show some range his next time at bat and really earn it.
  • Clint snubbed for Gran Torino. This makes the best actor race that much easier to read.
  • Melissa Leo and Richard Jenkins. Score two for the little guys and early release dates.
  • Milk and its eight nominations. It's one more step to inclusiveness among awards voting bodies and a great one at that. Even though it's biopic fare (their favorite genre) AND a great film, Milk never seemed like a sure enough thing and we all know why.

The Bad:
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is our nominations leader. Brad Pitt coasts to an easy nomination here for his most vacant, inexpressive work to date. I've made my feelings about this movie known ad nauseum, and I won't get started because I'll never stop. Blech.
  • Bruce Springsteen passed up for his great song in The Wrestler. Are you fucking kidding me?
  • The Academy not thinking outside the box. This best picture shortlist contains too films from my top ten (shh...I'm not telling till I post) but it still shows a lack of imagination as far as genre goes. A nod for The Dark Knight, WALL-E or even The Wrestler would have gone a long way to fix this. Even though this best picture lineup isn't totally embarrassing (save maybe Benjamin Button), on paper you do have an epic, a Holocaust (semi at least) film, two political biopics and a picaresque coming-of-age tale. Not exactly ground-breaking.
  • Rosemarie Dewitt snubbed, though we saw that coming. Less forgivable is the snub for Jenny Lumet's screenplay for Rachel Getting Married. I have no words. And speaking of which...
  • Amy Adams. I love her and I even liked her in Doubt more than I've indicated, but this nomination feels very placeholder-y. A couple of years ago, when she was less famous, I could have gotten behind this nomination, but it's not like she needs these kind of throwaway nods to help her land better roles at this point. And not in place of more deserving candidates. Step it up, Amy.
  • Lastly, homophobia rearing its ugly head. A lot of aggression and anger is being directed towards Milk, of all things, from people who are angry at The Dark Knight snub.
Commence Rant--The anger being directed at Milk, kind of freaks me out/confuses me, honestly. Firstly, even with the Globe snub, Milk was always going to be here. So it's certainly not taking The Dark Knight's place. A very conservative former classmate of mine who is angry about TDK snub said that they nominated Milk simply because the Academy can't have people think they're homophobic...Have you ever heard such a middle America assessment of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences? Besides Milk, they have fully embraced only one other gay-themed film before, which was the awards leader going into AMPAS, and lost ONLY at the AMPAS. The only reason gay-themed movies get so much press when they're recognized by Awards bodies is because it so rarely ever happens, even with the good ones. So it sounds to me like the Academy can't let people think they're too homo-accepting. And that's the LAST I'll say on this ridiculous matter. --Rant over.

Things I don't know how to feel about:
  • The Reader. I liked it better than The Dark Knight, but I almost wish I could strip if of its nomination for best picture since it's getting a lot of undue hatred. Also, I wonder if this nomination is due to the Academy actually viewing and liking this divisive film, or if it's because of Harvey Weinstein, back in form with his offensively aggressive Oscar campaigns. I don't know, which is why I'm not sure how to feel about this one.
  • Taraji P. Henson. Love her and she was the best part of Benjamin Button, which really isn't saying much. This nomination will do great things for her career, but I don't know that I want her here in place of Dewitt or Hiam Abbas, or Lena Olin, or even one of the Synecdoche girls. But I'm glad to see her get some recognition at least.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Pretentious Film Awards--Top Ten (10-6)

I would first like to give special mention to:
The Dark Knight
A Girl Cut in Two
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

These are three films I enjoyed immensely, and if it were a top thirteen list, they'd be on it. But thirteen is an ugly number. I just wanted to recognize these films, which were each singular achievements, despite very different goals (obviously). And yes, this does mean that I liked The Reader better than The Dark Knight. Sorry, blogosphere.

And now without further ado...

10. (dir. Thomas McCarthy)
How do you follow-up a landmark achievement like 2003's poignant, introspective The Station Agent? You do it again. This film hit me on all levels. As a tale of friendship and the symbiotic nature of need in its first and second act, and as a frustrating indictment of immigration policy and a system that ensnares the unlucky. Jenkins harrowing and now Academy Award nominated lead performance carries the weight of this film, which never feels preachy, overblown or obvious. Beautiful and profound.

9. (dir. Kelly Reichardt)
This tale of a girl and her dog is more than meets the eye. Ushered and elevated by Michelle Williams subtle, heartbreaking and affecting lead performance, this is one of the year's best. Yes, it is a tale of a woman and her dog, but it is also a harrowing look at about 72 hours adrift in the seemingly endless sea that is middle America, with no way out. Wendy is trapped. Lucy is her only companion, something fate and mercy won't even allow her. And in the end, Wendy makes a choice. Right or wrong, it is a choice that will break your heart, if you have one. It broke mine (and I prefer cats, for the record).

(dir. Stephen Daldry)
It will forever be remembered as the film that stole the best picture slot from The Dark Knight. It will likely be hated by some for that reason, but if you're looking for a film that challenges, I recommend this one. I admire it for its valiant efforts to introduce nuance, romance and humanity into a genre that is often stripped of at least one (if not all) of these qualities. Kate Winslet plays Hanna Schmitz, a former Auschwitz guard whose past is hidden, with a visceral intensity and longing. David Kross is appropriately doe-eyed as the young boy who has an affair with her, and heartbreakingly jaded as the young adult who witnesses her trial for Nazi war crimes. But this film is not about what it's about. It's not about what people tell you it's about. I'm so tired of hearing it being referred to as a "Holocaust movie" because it isn't, and it's emotional center draws not from emotions tied to the Holocaust. It's not an easy film. It's prickly and divisive, like Hanna herself. And in the end, the mystery is only half-revealed. There are still questions. You are still haunted as you leave the theater. And it evokes many emotions, one of which is sadness, yes. The film's beauty lies in its ability to understand and navigate these complex characters. The themes of guilt and guilty by association are universal, but so is love. Michael and Hanna know that.

7. (dir. Mike Leigh)

"Mike Leigh has created another piece of cinema that puts complex women on display in full force...Everyone has someone in their life like Poppy, and if you don't, you're probably her. Perpetually cheerful, always trying to put the best face on everything. I will preface everything by saying that Sally Hawkins truly gives one of the year's best performances. That she was able to stop me from hating this character is a testament to her power. Imagine this character, as played by say Cameron Diaz, directed by Nancy Myers. Actually don't. I just went to a really horrible place." (Read my full review of Happy-Go-Lucky here).

6. (dir. Charlie Kaufman)
The year's most divisive film. Beautiful, misanthropic and often tragic. It also has Philip Seymour Hoffman (don't let that detract you--he actually works here). My cup runneth over with great actors and performances in this tale of a playwright who is consumed by his work. Charlie Kaufman directs this tragicomedy with aplomb, never missteping. He is firing on all cylinders here, and although the concept is strange and sometimes off-putting in execution, Kaufman commits and never strays from his vision. Whether that is good or bad is up to you. Whichever you choose informs your view of the film. Here he is--Kaufman in full force. The world needs its Caden Cotards and Kaufman might be one of them.

Coming soon...the rest of my top ten list and a few tech awards for the 1st Annual (Knock on Wood) Pretentious Film Awards.

The Pretentious Film Awards--Best Ensemble Cast

The Nominees are...

Burn After Reading:
George Clooney, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt, , John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, JK Simmons, Tilda Swinton


Josh Brolin, Joseph Cross, Victor Garber, Lucas Grabeel, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Sean Penn, Allison Pill

Rachel Getting Married

Tunde Adebimpe, Anna Deveare Smith, Rosemarie Dewitt, Anisa George, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Debra Winger, Mather Zickel

Synecdoche, New York

Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dianne Wiest, Michelle Williams

The Visitor

Hiam Abbas, Danai Jekesai Gurira, Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman

Oscar Nominations

81st Academy Award Nominations--More Extensive Commentary to Follow

Best Picture

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Milk has the earliest release date of these films, with a Nov. 21st release. So this will only encourage the December backloading that occurs with release dates. At the same time, I'm happy to see two films from my personal top ten list (Milk and The Reader...I will post later today) make the shortlist. It makes me care about it that much more, I guess...This year is still boring. And I guess The Dark Knight really is John McCain.

Best Director

David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant - Milk
Steven Daldry - The Reader
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

Steven Daldry is 3/3. Good on him. And, hey two gay directors nominated in the same year for two good films.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

No Clint Eastwood. That makes me smile.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader

The Academy rejects Winslet's bid for supporting and nominates her here for the better performance. And that makes it all the more difficult for her to win.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Thank God it's not Dev Patel...

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

This Amy Adams nomination irks me beyond belief, but worst things have happened. Now that Kate Winslet's out, it's pretty much down to Cruz and Davis for the win, right?

Best Original Screenplay

Courtney Hunt - Frozen River
Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh - In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Andrew Stanton - Wall•E

No Rachel Getting Married, which makes me furious. But good nominations for the most part. Dustin Lance Black is winning anyway, so it's all moot.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Eric Roth - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
David Hare - The Reader
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire

This is the only category where I scored 5/5. Go me?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Worst Movie Posters of 2008

I decided that before I announce my list of Top Ten films of 08, I would go a bit light. Before I get to the top ten posters that I loved, for various reasons (even if I didn't love or even see the films). But before I post that list, I want to give a special citation to the five worst movie posters of 2008.

5. Smart People
Here's a tip to the designer of this poster. When the film being advertised is a heldover theatrical release, one might want to design a poster that doesn't positively scream "ABC Family Original Movie." Even if (or especially when) the film itself screams that...

4. Changeling
Makes no apologies about telling us what we're here to see, which is not the worst thing in the world, I suppose...but good God. Why is her head so damn big? She looks less like she wants to find her son and more like she wants to eat him. Strange.

3. Transporter 3
It makes this list because it looks EXACTLY like all the other Transporter posters. Like, no effort at all here. I guess the graphic designer figures if nobody else cares about the Transporter series, why should she/he? Sound reasoning.

2. The Love Guru
Completely overestimates Mike Myers ability to get asses in movie seats by putting his mug large, front and center (seriously, what was even the last successful live action Mike Myers movie?) Plus..."his karma is huge?" Whether you look at it as culturally insensitive, or merely an attempt at a double-entendre, that doesn't even make any fucking sense, does it?

1. What Happens in Vegas
Okay, so perhaps I'm biased because I hate movies like this. This poster is actually everything a poster for movie like this should be. What bothers me is the way they simply but "Cameron and Ashton." No last names. Like they're my friends. Like they're people I should want to spend ninety minutes with. Plus, the way he's pointing at her mid headshake, as if to say "This girl, I tell you..." And Cameron is doing the whole "Sexy(?)" smolder gaze, which I'm sure she thinks makes her look fun and sassy, but really makes her look like a drunk sorority chick. And that may be what this film calls for, but she's doing it on the Gangs of New York poster as well, so that says everything I need to know about her. I just wish Hollwyood would realize that they're both completely disposable prats (her moreso than him, admittedly). Seriously, if I were to compile a gendered list of people in Hollywood who I couldn't care less about, Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher might only be beat by Valerie Bertinelli and French Stewart, respectively.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Final Oscar Predictions--Gulp

In the sidebar are my final Academy Award predictions before the big announcement this Thursday. Below is my analysis of the big categories (plus screenplay, if you don't consider that a "Big" category). Yikes. Here we go.


Best Picture

Academy members will vote with their heart over their head. Yes, despite what some may tell you, they do love being told to vote for. But in a preferential ballot system that weights number one and two placements higher, there are bound to be some surprises, even though precursors seem to be screaming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire. However, on my aforementioned logic, I just don't see a scenario where Frost/Nixon gets nominated here. Call me crazy, but I see a lot of nominations for it everywhere, not a whole lot of wins. A film like Milk is vulnerable, but it has its passionate, rabid fanbase. Do you see Frost/Nixon pulling in a lot of #1 and #2 placements in the year of the universally loved Slumdog Millionaire and the people's favorite The Dark Knight? I certainly don't. There's no precedent for me to predict WALL-E here, but if I don't predict it and it gets nominated, I'll kick myself. That "Best Animated Film" category is like a wasteland that often prevents some great films from best picture consideration. But I wager that anyone who puts WALL-E on their ballot is putting it at #1 or #2, so it sneaks in.

Final Prediction:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button*
The Dark Knight++
Slumdog Millionaire*

Runner Up: Frost/Nixon (obviously)
If I had a Ballot: Do you even have to ask? Rachel Getting Married.

Best Director

If Frost/Nixon misses a picture nomination (which I think it will), then I don't think it will get a director nod. But that fifth spot won't go to Andrew Stanton, I don't think. The Wrestler has been steadily gaining steam, and with Mickey Rourke's Golden Globe win turning best actor into a genuine two-man race, I think this is a place where it could unexpectedly pop-up. Other than that, I think we're looking at Fincher, Nolan, Van Sant and Boyle.

David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button*
Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight+
Gus Van Sant - Milk*
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire*
Darren Aronofsky - The Wrestler++

Runner Up:
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
If I Had a Ballot: Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married

Best Actor

I've decided to play reverse wishful thinking and say that it's very plausible that Clint Eastwood could sneak in here here for Gran Torino. The film is a money-maker, and he's Hollywood royalty. I hope it doesn't happen...yikes. It would screw up the race in such monumental ways, because even if he barely gets in here, he has a serious chance of winning. Langella, Penn and Rourke are locks. The fifth spot is down to Jenkins and Pitt, with my beloved Leonardo DiCaprio as a long range spoiler. Jenkins, I wager, is pulling down a lot of high placement. Those who like that performance like it a lot, whereas there's Pitt, who has coasted through precursor season on a performance that people seem lukewarm about. Does anyone seriously think his work in Benjamin Button is among the best of the year? And Dev Patel could very well pull a Keisha Castle-Hughes and pop up in lead, but let's just not talk about that. Please.

Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino++
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor+
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon*
Sean Penn - Milk*
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler*

Runner Up:
Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino
If I Had a Ballot:
David Kross - The Reader

Best Actress

This race seems to be firming up somewhat, but not too much, since Winslet's double win at the Golden Globes. Though I wouldn't be SHOCKED to see her miss here for Revolutionary Road, statistically speaking, no best actress drama winner at the Globes has ever failed to get a best actress nomination here. So, that means she's in...right? She could still get snubbed. The Reader and the lead/supporting placement could still screw her in the end. There are those in the Academy who will want to make an honest woman of her and nominate her here for The Reader (and why shouldn't they? It's a lead performance and a better performance). And with Hathaway and Streep as virtual locks, that leaves two spots. Support for Kristin Scott Thomas has all but dissipated, even in the wake of her BAFTA nod. She could still get nominated, but remember back in the summer when people were talking about her possibly winning for this performance? How things have changed. Then there's Angelina Jolie for Changeling. I know I said that I thought Sally Hawkins and Melissa Leo would both get in, but Jolie is looking more likely to me now, especially having seen Changeling. It's the type of performance that gets nominated, and since I'm predicting a miss for Pitt, they need a reason to have Brangelina on teh red carpet. No one with Sally Hawkins's haul of critical awards has ever been left off the ballot, so I'm guessing she gets in here. The BAFTA snub hurts considerably, but being snubbed by her home country didn't stop Keira Knightley for sneaking in, deservedly, in 2005. That leaves off Leo, who, even in the wake of a SAG nomination, seems to be cooling off considerably. Sorry, Melissa. You know I was rooting for you.

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married+
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky+
Angelina Jolie - Changeling++
Meryl Streep - Doubt*
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road++

Runner Up:
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
If I Had a Ballot: Michelle Williams - Wendy and Lucy or Melissa Leo for Frozen River are both on my ballot.

Best Supporting Actor

This has been a hard category to read, oustide of Heath's obvious ascension into full on movie-star legend, which will be cemented when he wins the posthumous Oscar. From there, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr, who have both showed consistently in the precursors. (An aside: Regarding Hoffman, I will say this. I know I said he was better than I expected in Doubt, but that doesn't equal nomination. And certainly not here, for this lead performance. The Academy needs to promptly and respectfully get off Hoffman's dick. It's lazy, it's unintelligent and it's easy. Think outside the box, people. Aside over) Josh Brolin has been spottier as far as precursor support, most notably in the lack of Golden Globe nomination. I suspect that was probably due to a lack of support for Milk in general by the HFPA, so I'm guessing he's in too. That leaves one spot available, which is being fought out for between Dev Patel and James Franco, probably in that order. There's been rumblings of Michael Shannon ever since his lone Satellite nomination, and even Eddie Marsan for Happy-Go-Lucky. Both performances are on my personal ballot, but frankly, it's insane. There's really no precedent to suggest a nomination for Shannon is possible. If Dicaprio can't even land a nod for Revolutionary Road, what hope does Shannon have? Marsan is beyond wishful thinking. It pains me to say that the nod will go to Dev Patel. He's everyone's sweetheart. The boy knows how to work a room, and "adorable" is pretty much consensus at this point. I'd even go as far as to say his nomination is more assured than Abigail Breslin's in 2006.

Josh Brolin - Milk+
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder+
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight*
Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire+
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt+

Runner Up:
James Franco - Milk
If I Had a Ballot: Bill Irwin - Rachel Getting Married

Best Supporting Actress

This category is so incredibly volatile. We know it's Cruz, Davis and (probably) Winslet. And that's a big probably, because Winslet could very well end up getting screwed out of one (or both) of her preordained nominations due to category confusion. If she gets in for supporting, I think that is where she's more likely to win. But honestly, trying to discuss anything regarding Winslet and Oscar possibilities PRIOR to the nominations will only result in headache, at this point. I think Tomei will get in here for her turn in The Wrestler, which I'm fine with, even if I'm not hugely enthusiastic about this particular performance. A, I love her. And B, it's so much preferable to Amy Adams in Doubt or Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Amy Adams does feel solid, after Globe, SAG and BAFTA attention. But I just...I pray she doesn't get nominated for this particular performance. No film has ever gotten four acting nods without a corresponding best picture nod, so I think that leaves Amy to sit this race out. If enough people saw Rachel Getting Married to nominate Anne Hathaway, I don't see how there won't be at least enough people putting Rosemarie Dewitt on their ballot for her to sneak in. It's a longshot, but I have a hunch. The SAG snub is the most troubling of all. So, in the end, I think the five names we'll hear on nomination morning are:

Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona*
Viola Davis - Doubt*
Rosemarie Dewitt - Rachel Getting Married++
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler+
Kate Winslet - The Reader+

Runner Up:
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
If I Had a Ballot: Hiam Abbas - The Visitor

Best Original Screenplay

I think Dustin Lance Black is going to win this in a cakewalk for Milk, but let's talk about the nominees anyway. Where Rachel Getting Married seemed like a sure thing (how does the writers branch see this movie and not respond?) but after the WGA snub...I dunno. It's definitely shaky for Ms. Lumet. Thomas McCarthy, who did get a WGA nod for seems like an unlikely transfer. And I think WALL-E is definitely in play, even with the lack of WGA support. Robert D. Siegel did get a WGA nod for The Wrestler, which is promising. And since I'm predicting Aronofsky as a surprise nominee for best director, I say the screenplay gets in as well.

Dustin Lance Black - Milk*
Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married++
Woody Allen - Vicky Cristina Barcelona+
Andrew Stanton - WALL-E++
Robert D. Siegel - The Wrestler++

Runner Up: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen - Burn After Reading (let's all just ignore how much it drags and stumbles in the second half.)
If I Had a Ballot: This lineup looks pretty good, honestly.

Best Adapted Screenplay

I so don't care about this category because...yawn. I just don't. I pray that The Reader gets honored here. It really is an underrated movie, even though it'd likely get in over The Dark Knight and not The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Here's my prediction:

Eric Roth - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
David Hare - The Reader
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire

Runner Up: The Dark Knight (0bviously)
If I Had a Ballot: Let the Right One In

There we have it. Let's see how I do come Thursday morning. Oh, nacht mare...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Pretentious Film Awards, Best Director

And the gifted auteurs are...

Tomas A
lfredson - Let the Right One In
Expertly cr
afts one of the best vampire movies I've ever seen.

Gus Van
Sant - Milk
Takes what could have been standard biopic fare, and turns Dustin Lance Black's screenplay into one of his best/most accessible films in years.

Jonathan Demme -
Rachel Getting Married
At once a veritable celebration of music and life as it is a requiem for a family in crisis, all guided under his expert hand. He's returned to form here.

Andrew Stanton -
For using restraint, subtlety and nuance in a medium that doesn't often allow it. Kudos.

Darren Aronofsky -
The Wrestler
Restrained, subdued and personal, even during the wrestling sequences. It always feels intimate, painful and real.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oscar Diversion--Ann Coulter on "The View" (or Ann Coulter in general, for that matter)

I find myself fascinated by Ann Coulter. I can't quite help it. She's insane, many of the arguments she make absolutely fall apart under any sort of microscope and she's just...wrong. But she is fascinating, holds steadfast to her beliefs. Even more baffling than Ann Coulter herself is the liberal media's (I can't believe I just typed the words "liberal media") complete inability to handle her, as made evident by her appearance on "The View." This makes me angry because I disagree with Ann Coulter on most everything, simply on principle, but the ladies on "The View," particularly Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, have put me in the awkward position of having to defend her, which really upsets me. In her new book "Guilty," Coulter talks about (among many other things) the issue of single motherhood and illegitimacy and how it plays a role in rearing criminals. In fact she states (correctly) that if you take the issue of illegitimacy out of the equation, the black and white crime rates are almost the same. Do I agree with Ann Coulter? No, but this is something to consider. There are many things in this video that they can argue with her on. Like her point that Hollywood promotes single motherhood (and single fatherhood is never uplifted). That's bullshit. You can go back as far as "Kramer vs. Kramer" or as recently as "The Pursuit of Happyness" to find examples of uplifting single fatherhood. Because men are never expected to be primary caregivers, they are uplifted and canonized, whereas women are chastised for being whores and chasing the fathers out of the home. It's an obvious double-standard, but one that's very pervasive and ingrained in our cultural ethos. Yet, none of the women could raise that point, or any intelligent point to combat Ann Coulter. The most salient points raised came from (believe it or not) Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who asked Coulter why she doesn't scorn the fathers who are absent instead of the mothers who are raising the children. Sherri Shepherd had a rare moment of non-retardation when she asked Coulter about birth control, and whether Coulter was simply pointing out all of these statistics, rather than offering up contraception or prevention as a solution. Well done, Sherri.

I would have expected the typical angry sidestepping of issues from Behar, but surprisingly, not from Whoopi. I'm kind of disappointed. Ann Coulter is someone who is full of hate, vitriol and shaky facts. She's also not nearly as clever or funny as she thinks she is, and she's not great at turning a phrase. If you're mildly intelligent, taking her down a peg shouldn't be too difficult as evidenced by her interview with a Canadian (woot) journalist, who figuratively bitchslapped her when she tried to argue that Canada sent troops to Vietnam (which they didn't, for the record). But then I forgot, if one is looking for intelligent discourse, one ought not look to the show created by the "legendary journalist" who asks what kind of tree you'd be, and is softer than a plush toy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Golden Globe Winners and Thoughts

The Golden Globes actually held some surprises last night, like Winslet walking away with two trophies!
  • Best Picture, Drama: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Picture, Comedy Musical: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Actor, Drama: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
  • Best Actress, Drama: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
  • Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
  • Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
  • Best Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy: Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir
  • Best Animated Feature: WALL·E
  • Best Actor, Musical/Comedy: Colin Farrell
  • Best Actress, Musical/Comedy: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Best Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millonaire
  • Best Original Song: Bruce Springsteen, The Wrestler
I scored 10/14, but missing Rourke for Penn, Winslet for Hathaway, Farrell for Hoffman and Rahman for Desplat.

What does this mean for Oscar?

Best Picture: Slumdog wins here, as expected and predicted. It's going to win best picture. The last film to win best score, adapted screenplay, picture and director at the Globes was The Last Emperor. It's too big to lose.

Best Actress: First, let's talk about Sally Hawkins. This win really changes nothing. The Oscar ballots are due tomorrow and this win was going to either her and Streep (a performance that was never going to get a nomination anyway). It's up to fate now whether Hawkins makes it in. Winslet's double win (in supporting and lead) has morphed this race into an utter free-for-all. Chaos is reigning! Can Winslet repeat that the Oscars and win both supporting and lead? That'd be interesting. Consider that if Winslet wins both acting statues at the Oscars, and Ledger wins supporting, there will only be two actors in the press room. Just a pointless aside. This is officially a threeway race between Hathaway, Streep and Winslet for the win. And at this point, if you ask me whose least likely to win between them, I'm going to say Streep. She got two Globe nominations and won zero. Kate won both. True, Streep has the BFCA, but she's tied with Hathaway. And Hathaway has the National Board of Review. That's two big surprise wins for Hathaway. Also, any doubt as to whether Winslet's going to get nominated for best actress is pretty much squelched due to those pesky Globe statistics. No winner for best actress drama has EVER failed to land a best actress nod. Remember last year when people were like "Atonement is going to be the first film in a long time to be a Globe winner for best drama that doesn't get a best picture nod?" The ballots may be due today, but those Globe statistics always mean something, n'est pas?

Best Actor: Sean Penn vs. Mickey Rourke. It's on. I still say that Rourke ultimately wins the Oscar.

Best Supporting Actor: The Ledger steamroll continues.

Best Supporting Actress: If Kate wins supporting at SAG, and loses lead, she'll be looking like more and more of a sure bet in this category. Cruz is her chief competition, with Davis having a very outside chance.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Golden Globe Predictions

Golden Globe Nominations

Best Film - Drama

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Reader
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Slumdog Millionaire
Predicted Winner: Initially, I would have said Benjamin Button takes this. It's so the HFPA's style (big, epic, pretty). HFPA has been breaking with the Oscars in the best picture category for some time, but I'm guessing that the steamroll/international flavor of Slumdog Millionaire will be too difficult for them to pass up. I've been really hard on Slumdog of late. It's overrated, yes, but still a good movie. Also, if it keeps the even more overrated and uneven Benjamin Button from winning best picture, then I say hooray.

Spoiler: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Best Film - Musical or Comedy

  • Burn After Reading
  • Happy-Go-Lucky
  • In Bruges
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Predicted Winner: Vicky Cristina Barcelona takes this, I think. Though any of these five are believable winners. It's a very wide open category.

Spoiler: Burn After Reading. The didn't give the Coens best picture last year. Penance?

Best Actor - Drama

  • Leonardo DiCaprio - Revolutionary Road
  • Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn - Milk
  • Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Predicted Winner: I still say Sean Penn wins here, as I predicted initially. But that doesn't mean he'll win the Oscar. Crowe swept most of the precursors in 2001 and they still gave it to Denzel Washington. Being a previous winner always makes it difficult, unless your last name is Swank. I'm just glad that best actor seems to be between two great performances (Penn vs. Rourke).

Spoiler: Mickey Rourke

Best Actor - Musical or Comedy

  • Javier Bardem - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Colin Farrell - In Bruges
  • James Franco - Pineapple Express
  • Brendan Gleeson - In Bruges
  • Dustin Hoffman - Last Chance Harvey
Predicted Winner: Dustin Hoffman, though will they really let In Bruges go home empty-handed? Clearly, they like it alot.

Spoiler: Colin Farrell

Best Actress - Drama

  • Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie - Changeling
  • Meryl Streep - Doubt
  • Kristin Scott Thomas - I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime)
  • Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
Predicted Winner: I'll kick myself if I don't predict Anne Hathaway and she ends up winning, so that's what I'm going to do. Streep is obviously the logical choice, but she has six Golden Globes. I don't get this whole "they won't let Streep go home empty-handed" business. The spoiler, I believe is...

Spoiler: Kate Winslet, who has NEVER won a Globe (can you believe that?) And the HFPA clearly liked Revolutionary Road a lot more than everyone else did. She could very well win.

Best Actress - Musical or Comedy

  • Rebecca Hall - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Frances McDormand - Burn After Reading
  • Meryl Streep - Mamma Mia!
  • Emma Thompson - Last Chance Harvey
Predicted Winner: Sally Hawkins should take this. The HFPA is not stupid enough to give it to Streep (knock on wood).

Spoiler: Streep, anyhow.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Tom Cruise - Tropic Thunder
  • Robert Downey, Jr. - Tropic Thunder
  • Ralph Fiennes - The Duchess
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
  • Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Predicted Winner: Heath Ledger. The end.

Spoiler: With Josh Brolin out of this race, is there really a spoiler here?

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams - Doubt
  • Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis - Doubt
  • Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler
  • Kate Winslet - The Reader
Predicted Winner: Kate Winslet. This is an easy place for them to reward her. I think BFCA indicated the beginnings of a sweep.

Spoiler: Believe it or not, it's not Cruz. Viola Davis.

Best Director
  • Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
  • Stephen Daldry - The Reader
  • David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
  • Sam Mendes - Revolutionary Road
Predicted Winner: Danny Boyle.

Spoiler: David Fincher

Best Screenplay
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Eric Roth
  • Doubt - John Patrick Shanley
  • Frost/Nixon - Peter Morgan
  • The Reader - David Hare
  • Slumdog Millionaire - Simon Beaufoy
Predicted Winner: This is a good place to reward Slumdog Millionaire.

Spoiler: None

Best Foreign Language Film

  • The Baader Meinhof Complex (Der Baader Meinhof Komplex) • Germany
  • Everlasting Moments (Maria Larssons eviga √∂gonblick) • Denmark/Sweden
  • Gomorrah (Gomorra) • Italy
  • I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) • France
  • Waltz with Bashir (Vals im Bashir) • Israel
Predicted Winner: Waltz with Bashir

Best Animated Film
  • Bolt
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • WALL-E
Predicted Winner: I'm not going to dignify this with a prediction.

Best Original Score

  • "Changeling" - Clint Eastwood
  • "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" - Alexandre Desplat
  • "Defiance" - James Newton Howard
  • "Frost/Nixon" - Hans Zimmer
  • "Slumdog Millionaire" - A. R. Rahman
Predicted Winner: Alexandre Desplat

Best Original Song

  • "I Thought I Lost You" - Bolt
  • "Once in a Lifetime" - Cadillac Records
  • "Gran Torino" - Gran Torino
  • "Down to Earth" - WALL-E
  • "The Wrestler" - The Wrestler
Predicted Winner: God, anyone but Clint Eastwood. I say The Wrestler takes this.

Pretentious Film Awards--Screenplays

The great scribes are...

Best Original Screenplay

Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky
Great character study from one of our greatest scribes. It still makes me vomit that A.O. Scott compared Mike Leigh to Clint Eastwood.

Dustin Lance Black -
After impressive television work on Big Love and Six Feet Under, Black puts forth one of this year's best original screenplays. Great standout biopic.

Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married
Like Sofia Coppola, Lumet proves that Hollywood royalty comes more talented in the form of women. This screenplay is delightfully intricate and specific. Nothing is random. Nothing is without purpose.

Charlie Kaufman - Synecdoche, New York
Proves, once again, that he is one of the singular voices in American screenwriting today with another wildly original tragicomedy.

Andrew Stanton - WALL-E
For his understated minimalism and daring to think outside the very tightly coiled Disney box. The payoff was considerable, wouldn't you agree?

Runners-Up: Robert D. Siegel - The Wrestler (I really wanted to include him, but this was a hallmark year for original screenplays), Woody Allen - Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Claude Chabrol - A Girl Cut in Two, Kelly Reichardt - Wendy and Lucy, Thomas McCarthy - The Visitor

Best Adapted Screenplay

Christopher and Jonathan Nolan - The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is not without its problems on second viewing (pacing, editing, etc). But the screenplay here is a vast improvement on the hints of greatness in Batman Begins.

John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Tightly and cleverly adapted from his own play. The direction may be shaky at times, but Shanley's writing is mostly tight and serviceable. He's the real star during the final Hoffman/Streep showdown.

John Ajvide Lindqvist - Let the Right One In
Turns this tale of vampires not into a horror film, but a sad melancholy story of despair and alienation. He gets that vampires would more than likely be incredibly sad creatures.

David Hare - The Reader
Adapted with skill and finesse from Bernhard Schlink's novel of the same name. Tight, economic, yet completely non-reliant on cheap, easy sentiment or emotion. Hare and Daldry, a force to be reckoned with.

Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire

Almost didn't make this list. If only for the last line of the movie, spelled across the screen "It was written." But this is a very tight screenplay the serves the narrative well. (Does it seem like I've been hard on Slumdog?)

Runner Up: Only one. Justin Haythe - Revolutionary Road. I want to clarify that the further away I get from Benjamin Button, the more I dislike it. Every aspect. And that starts with Eric Roth's screenplay, so he is nowhere near this list.

Oscar Diversion--The Women of Big Love

Every Friday, I'll be posting something that is a welcome distraction from all of this Oscar hoopla (especially since the race is getting so...zzzzz). I'm getting so swept up in Awards Season madness (as I often do) that I've yet to celebrate the fact that my love, "Big Love" will soon be returning to the HBO airwaves! Here's a celebration of a series that gathers together some of my favorite actors into one place for some of the most compelling storytelling this side of Altman. It may seem like it's about Bill Henrickson, but this show is all about the women. I hereby salute the women of "Big Love."