So the Academy Award nominations are now finally out and there were some surprises and even greater disappointments. Here are the comparisons between my predictions and the actual nominations as well as my personal reactions to the latter by category. The titles and/or names that differ between my predictions and the actual nominations are noted in red. For the five that I did not predict: Best Foreign Language Film, Feature Documentary, Documentary Short, Live Action Short Film and Animated Short Film, I have simply listed the actual nominees in the end.
Predicted: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight; Frost/Nixon; Milk; Slumdog Millionaire.
Actual: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Frost/Nixon; Milk; The Reader; Slumdog Millionaire.
I did not predict the Academy to get past their bias against animated films to nominate the best film of the year, Pixar’s WALL·E but I thought they would at least honor a distinguished summer blockbuster for the first time with The Dark Knight. I was wrong and very disappointed. When is the Academy going to wake up and get over their recurrent condescension towards great summer entertainments? Do they think that movies like Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins and now The Dark Knight are not worthy because they create pyrotechnic fury on top of a strong beating heart and manage to become accessible to mass audiences? Well, I think the low ceremony viewership within the last few years might go even lower because of this unfair snub (except to perhaps watch the tribute to Heath Ledger who is sure to win Supporting Actor).
Passing over that movie, the Academy caved into their inclination towards Holocaust-themed movies and gave a nod to The Reader. The nod may also partly be a sentimental vote for the movie’s late producers, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (interestingly, as of now, they are still yet determining the actual people to nominate). Milk and Frost/Nixon, of course, got in as the political issue films, as did the Oscar®-friendly The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the likely frontrunner, Slumdog Millionaire. Seriously though, considering how stellar Pixar movies have been getting lately, I think the Academy should think about explicitly changing this Best Picture to Best Live Action Picture if they are going to continue ignoring animated films for general competition.
Actual: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire; Stephen Daldry, The Reader; David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon; Gus Van Sant, Milk.
The nominated movies are the same as Best Picture here and so my complaints from Best Picture spill over here more or less. Or maybe they are actually a little stronger because Christopher Nolan has had such a consistent track of efficiently directing good to great, small to big films and he really should have gotten recognition for pouring his visionary artistic and commercial sensibilities with The Dark Knight. That is more than you can say for David Fincher who, even though I predicted it, should not be nominated over Nolan for a technically superb but emotionally hollow film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And I guess the Academy really loves nominating Stephen Daldry because he is 3/3 including his past films from Billy Elliot and The Hours. Well, at least it is nice that directors of usually “smaller” gems like Danny Boyle and Gus Van Sant are up there. It would have been really something if, besides Nolan, the Academy had shown some reach to nominate Darren Aronofsky for The Wrestler.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Predicted: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.
Actual: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.
No surprises here, even if I thought Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road should have been nominated over Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Sean Penn is deservedly up here, too, again for giving a performance unlike any other he has given, which the Academy always loves. But it is really the work of Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella and, of course, Mickey Rourke that turns this into the underdog category that I will be paying closest attention to.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Predicted: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet,
Actual: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet, The Reader.
Despite that I still do not like the fact that Anne Hathaway was nominated over Sally Hawkins or Kristin Scott-Thomas (even though I saw it coming as the Academy always tries to boost at least one young actress’ career with a nomination), this is a category for which I am happier with the actual lineup as opposed to my predicted one. Kate Winslet indeed gave a leading performance in The Reader and since the performance she gave in The Reader was more memorable than the one she delivered in
One humorous footnote: There was an episode in the TV series, Extras (starring Ricky Gervais) in which Winslet played herself and was starring in a Holocaust movie within the show because she felt that it was the only way she could finally get the Oscar® she badly wants. I wonder if she will make a reference to that in her speech if she wins.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Predicted: Josh Brolin, Milk; Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder; Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight; Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire.
Actual: Josh Brolin, Milk; Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder; Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight; Michael Shannon,
Somehow I feel I should have seen this coming. The supporting categories tend to throw in their curveball by choosing a small, scene-stealing performance and there was no one who fit the bill more than Michael Shannon in
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Predicted: Amy Adams, Doubt; Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Viola
Actual: Amy Adams, Doubt; Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Viola Davis, Doubt; Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler;
It looks like Kate Winslet’s appropriate vacating left room open for Taraji P. Henson to sneak in for her surrogate motherly role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It also might leave Penelope Cruz as the front-runner, although I really would like to see the attention shift to some of the other performers who play greater emotional notes. As expected, there are two nominations from Doubt for two performances from Amy Adams and Viola Davis that could not be more different. Marisa Tomei’s role was also crucial to the power and meaning of The Wrestler so it is nice to see the Academy saw that.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Predicted: Dustin Lance Black, Milk; Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Tom McCarthy, The Visitor; Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon, WALL·E; Robert D. Siegel, The Wrestler.
Actual: Courtney Hunt, Frozen River; Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky; Martin McDonagh, In Bruges; Dustin Lance Black, Milk; Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon, WALL·E.
This is the category that was most wide open and I did not do so well in predicting. I am a little bummed that the strength of Mickey Rourke’s or Richard Jenkins’ performances has strayed the attention away from how great the screenplays for The Wrestler and The Visitor were to respectively give them such memorable roles. But at least the Academy chose to nominate far worthier nominees than Woody Allen such as first-time writers, Courtney Hunt for Frozen River and Martin McDonagh for In Bruges. Of course, WALL-E had to get a nomination here and a screenplay honor almost always goes hand in hand with the Best Picture nod for Milk.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Predicted: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; John Patrick Shanley, Doubt; Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon; David Hare, The Reader; Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire.
Actual: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; John Patrick Shanley, Doubt; Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon; David Hare, The Reader; Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire.
No left-field nominations here, although I almost guessed that The Dark Knight might sneak in here, too, but then decided at the last minute they would go for the period novel adaptation, The Reader. Four of the five nominees are also Best Picture nominees so no surprises that they received screenplay nominations, too (although, of course, almost no one expected The Reader to turn up so big). I would have been happy and relieved to be wrong in my prediction of Eric Roth and Robin Swicord getting recognized for their screenplay, which was the core problem with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Predicted: Kung Fu Panda; WALL·E; Waltz with Bashir.
Actual: Bolt; Kung Fu Panda; WALL·E.
This year was a particularly good year for animation, although this category would have been even stronger with the inclusion of Waltz with Bashir, which is really a very close second to WALL·E. I should have suspected that they would think the Best Foreign Language category would suffice. In any case, this one has a triple-lock padded door for WALL·E to enter the winner circle and no one else, I would say.
BEST FILM EDITING
Predicted: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Lee Smith, The Dark Knight; Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill, Frost/Nixon; Elliot Graham, Milk; Chris Dickens, Slumdog Millionaire.
Actual: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Lee Smith, The Dark Knight; Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill, Frost/Nixon; Elliot Graham, Milk; Chris Dickens, Slumdog Millionaire.
Actual: Tom Stern, Changeling; Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight; Chris Menges and Roger Deakins, The Reader; Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Predicted: Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight; Danny Elfman, Milk; A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire; Thomas Newman, WALL·E.
Actual: Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, James Newton Howard, Defiance; Danny Elfman, Milk; Thomas Newman, WALL·E; A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Predicted: Miley Cyrus – “I Thought I Lost You,” Bolt; Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Michael Stevens and Kyle Eastwood – “Gran Torino,” A.R. Rahman and Gulzar – “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire; Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman – “Down to Earth,” WALL·E; Gran
Actual: A.R. Rahman and Gulzar – “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire; Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman – “Down to Earth,” WALL·E; A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam – “O Saya,” Slumdog Millionaire.
The Academy only chose three nominees this year and two of them went to Slumdog Millionaire. The third went deservedly to WALL·E for the song, “Down to Earth” but I wonder why they decided to shut out Bruce Springsteen’s title song, “The Wrestler” and Clint Eastwood et al.’s “Gran Torino” though, as both songs were rather crucial to the final effect of the respective movies. Well, maybe they only chose three this time around so as to lower the chance of Miley Cyrus would sneak in.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
BEST ART DIRECTION
Predicted: Changeling; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight; The Duchess;
Actual: Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight; The Duchess;
Predicted: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Hellboy II: The Golden Army; The Reader.
Actual: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight; Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
BEST SOUND MIXING
Predicted: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight;
Actual: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight; Slumdog Millionaire; WALL·E; Wanted.
BEST SOUND EDITING
Predicted: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight; Iron Man; Quantum of Solace; WALL·E;
Actual: The Dark Knight; Iron Man; Slumdog Millionaire; WALL·E; Wanted.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Predicted: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight;
Actual: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; The Dark Knight;
Actual nominees of categories I did not predict:
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Baader-Meinhof Complex; The Class; Departures; Revanche; Waltz with Bashir.
BEST DOCUMENTARY, FEATURES: The Betrayal – Nerakhoon; Encounters at the End of the World; The Garden; Man on Wire; Trouble the Water.
BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECTS: The Conscience of Nhem En; The Final Inch; Smile Pinki; The Witness from the Balcony of Room 386.
BEST SHORT FILM, ANIMATED: La Maison en Petits Cubes; Ubornaya istoriya – lyubovnaya istoriya; Oktapodi; Presto; This Way Up.
BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION: Auf der Strecke; Manon sur le bitumen; New Boy; Grisen; Spielzeugland.
All in all, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button got the most number of nominations at 13 followed by Slumdog Millionaire with 10. The Dark Knight took eight just with the technical nods and Heath Ledger’s for Supporting Actor, which could have meant that the Academy did not want to have two movies vying for the major AND technical categories so they picked the one friendlier to them. Milk is also up for eight nominations, WALL·E received six and Frost/Nixon, The Reader and Doubt each received five.