Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oscars 2008

To be blunt, the Academy blew it this year. The 2008 Oscar ballot is plagued by undeserving nominees and glaring omissions.

Although this was Kate Winslet’s year, the actress was snubbed in the best actress category for her performance in Revolutionary Road, her first film with costar Leonardo DiCaprio in eleven years since 1997’s Titanic. The Academy chose instead to nominate her for The Reader, in which she plays an illiterate Nazi who has an affair with a fifteen year-old boy. Not to say her performance is bad, it’s quite the opposite in fact. She gives a subtle, stunning air to the deceptive character, but to nominate her in the lead actress category is a joke. She is barely even onscreen in the last half of the film.

The Reader also racked up nominations for best cinematography, directing, adapted screenplay and best picture, the latter of which being the least deserved. The film brings nothing new to the category of World War II drama. The film lacks emotional power. It’s simply a fairly solid retread of an overused subgenre.

Another undeserving best picture nominee is David Fincher’s overblown The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a long, melancholy epic about a man who ages backwards. The movie was practically a shoe-in for a best picture nomination from the moment the trailer first appeared. It’s has everything the Academy loves; a long running time, big-name stars, a period piece romance and a huge budget. In the end though, the plot-hole filled film is just a Forrest Gump retread (the two films were both written by Eric Roth) that shares many of the same plot-points and themes as that movie.

Brad Pitt gives a wooden performance in the film, which is why it’s a shame to see him get nominated for best actor. The usually great actor plays the title character like a robot, muttering his lines in a solidly dry pitch with no emotions visible. His nomination is clearly a cheap attempt by the Academy to draw more viewers to the Oscar broadcast by including a big name on the ballot.

The most obvious snub of all this year was The Dark Knight, which was missing from almost all of the major categories. Many thought TDK was a shoe-in for best picture, but in the end the Academy refused to recognize the film as one of the year’s best.

The nominations weren’t all bad though. It’s good to see no-name actress Melissa Leo get recognized for her stunning portrayal of a woman smuggling illegal immigrants from Canada into the States in Frozen River. The film was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, at which it took home the Special Jury Prize.

Maybe this year’s nominees are a sign that the Academy is sticking to its roots and nominating the same clich├ęd types of movies it always has, but hopefully not. At least there’s always next year.

Jake’s Picks :
BEST ACTOR – Sean Penn in MILK
BEST ACTRESS – Meryl Streep in DOUBT
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Phillip Seymour Hoffman in DOUBT

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