Editor’s note: Welcome to the twenty-fourth and final of a 24-part series dissecting the 81st Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Blake of Bitchin’ Film Reviews.
Does anyone ever really agree with the Oscars? It seems like he can’t just get a break sometimes, and then you start to feel sorry for him. But then you remember all the times he acted a fool and completely screwed things up. This offense is especially felt in the Best Picture category. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the year 1997. Forrest Gump won the little statue for best picture over Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption. Fast forward a few years to 2005, when the best picture category was over run with the following fantastic films: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich, and, well, Crash (do the lyrics ‘one of these things is not like the others’ come to mind?). We all know the awful outcome of the 2006 awards, and what a shame.
I don’t want to say that the Academy never hits the right notes. How about 1999’s American Beauty? 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, 1977’s Annie Hall, or last year’s No Country for Old Men? These films certainly deserved the coveted award that distinguishes it forever in history as the best of its time (although this isn’t to say cases for the other films of those years in the same category couldn’t be argued). The conundrum comes when you realize that it’s really a crap shoot. Oscar may decide to finally give an award to a director that was really due twenty years earlier (this theory would certainly explain Ron Howard’s win for best director of A Beautiful Mind), even though there are more deserving filmmakers in the category. He may decide to give it to the underdog just because, or he may award it seemingly based on domestic box office sales. Who can really guess the Academy’s motives from year to year?
It’s the opinion of this author that Oscar missed the boat all together this year with the overlooking of Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road. Can anyone that has seen both movies really posit that The Reader is a better film than Revolutionary Road? This complaint aside, the Academy has recognized some truly terrific films that came out of 2008. Some are heart-warming celebrations of life, some are painfully politically and socially relevant, and some provide simply brilliant storytelling. Any informed movie-goer can argue that each deserves the award of best picture, and it’s a complete guessing game as to who will win. The nominees are:
It’s not a question as to whether or not Danny Boyle belongs in this category. He’s one of the most versatile directors out there and he really managed to do some fantastic things with a script that wasn’t really that remarkable. It’s a movie that’s just edgy enough to convince people they’ve experienced something real, but still delivers the clear message that there is good in the world today. A happy ending never hurt anyone… except when it came down to winning the Oscar for best picture.
This is the sort of movie the Academy likes to overlook when the director’s previous projects have been less than satisfactory (shame on you Ron Howard! The Da Vinci Code is an embarrassment to American film). If Oscar can overlook the sad fact of Howard’s previous, and planned projects, Frost/Nixon stands a real chance of winning. Not just because it’s a tremendous film that will entertain even the least politically-minded, but because it’s wish-fulfillment, and painfully relevant. They might as well substituted Nixon’s name with Bush.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I may be stoned for this, but this seems to be both one of the most overrated films of the year, and at the same time, a film that the Academy will voluntarily jump behind faster than you’d expect. It’s super long, a little inaccessible, coming from respected source material (even if it bastardized it), and most importantly: coming from a respected director. Achievements in special effects and makeup can’t be denied, but an aged Brad Pitt’s faced on a shriveled, old man’s body can only carry the film so far. Then again, thirteen nominations? The Academy always likes to out do itself, maybe this will be the film to break the record held by Ben-Hur and Titanic. Either way, I think David Fincher has safely secured at least one of the major awards.
I was completely compelled by Stephen Daldry’s The Reader…for the first hour, at which point I expected it to end. It didn’t. It continued for almost another two hours broaching every subject deemed important by the Academy in the last thirty years: underage sexual awakening, illiteracy, the holocaust, unrequited love, etc., etc. To be honest, it’s a complete mystery how this film ended up in the prestigious best picture category, and let’s pray that the confusion isn’t exacerbated by a win.
Milk was released during an incredibly relevant time. Proposition 8 had just been defeated in California, a minor, but serious setback for the GLBT gang (a defeat that Sean Penn seemed to take to heart). If only Van Sant’s masterpiece had been released before the polls had closed…who knows what could have been? In all seriousness, the competency of this film is unusually brilliant. It manages to both inspire the understanding of a somewhat misunderstood culture, and inspire pure patriotism that America’s constitution provides.
It’s anyone’s game. The category is filled with some great stuff, and was said before, anyone would be able to argue for any of these films. Who knows which one Oscar will choose?
Tags: Best Picture