The Curious Case of the 81st Annual Academy Awards

A few thoughts on the nominees in the major categories this year...

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button picked up a whopping 13 nominations, many of the them in the highest profile categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay).  Cheers to Taraji P. Henson for her nomination as Best Supporting Actress - she took a woefully underwritten role and turned in a great performance - but there isn't much else in this tepid picture to merit these nominations.  The film's screenwriter, Eric Roth, won an Oscar for his Forrest Gump script.  Lucky for him, Hollywood still loves a sentimental story about a man-child and his free-spirited love, who must be punished for daring to go off and live her dreams. 

I was pleased that Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei both got acting nods for The Wrestler.  The film is one of the most striking explorations of masculinity I've ever seen, and Mickey Rourke deserves high praise for his work.  But I would have been disappointed if Marisa Tomei had not been nominated as well, because her performance as a woman in a profession that is as gendered and as physical as Rourke's is just as impressive.

All around great, great news for Milk

Even better news for Anne Hathaway (and her many fans on this blog): looks like the Bride Wars disaster may not end up sinking her Oscar chances for Best Actress in Rachel Getting Married, after all.

The Reader, a contentious film featuring Kate Winslet's equally contentious performance, picked up a surprising number of nods.  An even bigger surprise is that neither she nor Leonardo DiCaprio won were nominated for Revolutionary Road.

What a joy to see Courtney Hunt nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Frozen River, and actress Melissa Leo nominated for her performance in it.  Hunt is the only woman nominated in either writing or directing categories.  She's not going to win, but this is a big victory for such a small, amazing film.  It does not, however, make up for the fact that Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams' work on Wendy and Lucy went completely ignored.

Finally, I wonder about the implications of the nomination of Robert Downey, Jr. for Best Supporting Actor in Tropic Thunder. Downey's performance as an actor who dons blackface was largely viewed as smart and sophisticated satire by most of the critical world, and it's a performance that undoubtedly benefits both from Downey's reputation as one of the best actors of his generation and the performance's proximity to other less intelligently rendered characters (Tom Cruise's Less Grossman was an offensive, gross caricature; Ben Stiller's Simple Jack satire made its point about Hollywood treatment of disability issues, but couldn't restrain itself from trading on its own disability jokes).  But it's an interesting choice to elevate and honor a performance that uses blackface as the mechanism for its satire.  I wonder what - if any - implications this will have on Hollywood filmmaking.  

Of course, there's a lot more to be said about the Oscar nominations as well as everyone who didn't get nominated.  What do you think about this year's crop of Oscar nominations?

Here's the complete list of nominees.

by Tammy Oler
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Tammy Oler has been contributing to Bitch for over a decade. Her writing about pop culture and fandom has appeared in Slate, Ozy, Vulture, and Geek, among others.

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8 Comments Have Been Posted

I found the Brad Pitt flick

I found the Brad Pitt flick pretty boring.

The best movies this year (just my humble opinion): Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire, & Happy Go Lucky.

I thought the Wrestler was good but not great. I think alot of the meaning was way too subtle but I loved how real life and fakeness and real life all fell across the actor's real lives, their real lives in the movie, and the fakeness of wrestling - only Darren Aronofsky could do that.

I liked Tropic Thunder - Robert Downey is my new favorite Actor, probably. Hope he picks some good roles that keep showing off his great versatility.

I don't think "Benjamin Button" will make a clean sweep.

I didn't care for "Benjamin Button." I saw it with a friend who is a Brad Pitt fan (Who was literally drooling sitting next to me in the theater during his scenes!), while I find him to be overrated. Am indeed disappointed that "Happy Go Lucky" didn't get any more nominations than it did. I think Mike Leigh is quite underrated as a film-maker and I especially appreciate his insistence on casting talented actors that are suited for their roles as opposed to "A-list stars" at the insistence of money-minded studio heads. It was perhaps my #1 favorite film of 2008. Odds are that "Slumdog Millionaire" will win Best Picture and it is the only film that I am looking forward to seeing in a theater soon.

I saw "Doubt" in a stage production with the ever-awesome Cherry Jones in the Meryl Streep role. Sorry Meryl ... I luv ya' ... but in this role Cherry's the better actor. Wished it was her in the film instead.

Am glad that Anne Hathaway was nominated for "Rachel Getting Married" (another favorite from '08) and not for any of the other dreck she unfortunately appeared in last year.

Kate Winslet

If Kate Winslet doesn't win, it will be a complete travesty.

i'm downright incensed

that kate winslet wasn't nominated for Revolutionary Road. it was perhaps the most remarkable and compelling performance of the year. what gives, oscar???!!!

Well I think it would be

Well I think it would be like giving her two bites at the apple to be nominated for two best actress roles. I haven't seen Revolutionary Road yet (and I doubt I will before the awards because I don't think it will be coming to my town), but I got the impression that the academy didn't like it much.

Ben Button

I'm wondering if anyone who has said they didn't like "The Curious Case..." is from New Orleans or knows anyone who was displaced by hurricane Katrina. I do, and it broke my heart to watch that movie.

So we have to like a crap

So we have to like a crap movie just because it takes advantage of the New Orleans tragedy?

Certainly not! But to those

Certainly not!

But to those of us who are from there, and who are currently living with (not just discussing) the continued neglect of NOLA & the Gulf Coast region, "Benjamin Button"'s high profile means continued media awareness of Katrina & it's effects.

If you just didn't dig the movie, that's fine ... I'm sure there are people who didn't like Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke", either, but that doesn't make it's acclaim any less meaningful to us.

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