Doodad Kind of Town

Oscar Time: The Overlooked
February 20, 2009, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve never been less enthused about the Academy Awards than I am this year.

To begin with, in my humble opinion, it hasn’t been a great year for films.

In 2007, the film industry produced an embarrassment of riches. If I’d troubled myself to publish a list of that year’s best films, I’d have had real trouble limiting it to a Top Ten – a Top Twenty would have been more feasible. For the year just ended, however, it would be a real strain to come up with ten films I found worthy of honors. And most of the films that would make my list didn’t make a strong showing in the Oscar nominations.

Second-guessing the Academy is every film buff’s favorite parlor game come awards season. And I just can’t resist suggesting a few people and films I wish were going to be represented at the Kodak Theatre Sunday night:

Best Foreign Film: I was surprised – but not disappointed – to find Arnaud Despelchin’s dysfunctional family drama “A Christmas Tale” missing from the nominees this year. It was on most major critics’ Ten Best lists. (Myself I found it rambling and pointless, if very well acted. More on that later.) Perhaps it lost out due to one or the other of the Academy’s baffling and byzantine rules for foreign films’ award eligibility.

If there had to be a post-Holocaust-guilt drama on the Oscar roll this year, why oh why couldn’t the Academy have forgotten all about “The Reader,” and given a Foreign Language Film nod to “A Secret” instead. Claude Miller’s sweeping and beautifully acted saga of a French family’s guilty secrets was ten times the movie that “The Reader” purported to be.

Best Supporting Actress: Not to keep “Reader”-bashing, but….

Even in a dual role, she’s only onscreen for a few minutes, total. But Lena Olin is one of the best things – actually one of the very few good things – in “The Reader.” Her eleventh-hour appearance as a no-bullshit Holocaust survivor almost (but not quite) redeems all the manipulative hogwash that precedes it. If Beatrice Straight could win an Oscar for five and a half minutes of screen time in “Network,” then surely Olin could earn a nomination for her brief but stunning work.

Best Supporting Actor: The late Heath Ledger is going to win, of course, and I have no ax to grind about that. He was great in “The Dark Knight,” and we’ll never have another chance to reward him. Actually I have no problem with any of the nominees in this category. But it was a unusually rich year for supporting actor performances, and if I had to, I could come up with another, completely different slate of nominees. My choices for such an alternate list are:

  • Bill Irwin – the least celebrated cast member of “Rachel Getting Married,” and unfairly so. In his first 10 seconds onscreen, you know exactly who he is and what his character is all about, so fully does he inhabit the role.
  • Brandon Walters – As the young aboriginal boy in “Australia,” his is the most effective, least affected performance in the film. He’s the one who draws you into the story, which is no mean feat given all the dreadful, “me catchum fish”-style dialogue he’s given to speak.
  • Eddie Marsan – the angry and deeply wounded driving instructor in “Happy Go Lucky.” With the exception of one major critics’ award, he’s been criminally overlooked this awards season.
  • Brendan Gleeson – Colin Farrell got the Golden Globe for “In Bruges” – and he was fine – but Gleeson’s nuanced, compulsively watchable performance is the one that really stayed with me.
  • Mathieu Almaric – brilliant in “A Christmas Tale.” His chemistry with Catherine Deneuve in their mother-son confrontation scenes was electric.
  • Best Actress – Do I even have to say it? Sally Hawkins’ omission from this category is unforgivable. And Mike Leigh’s Best Screenplay nomination is not a consolation.

    Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio’s fine, emotionally naked performance in “Revolutionary Road” has been sadly overlooked this awards season, part of an apparent backlash against Sam Mendes and his very underrated adaptation of the classic Richard Yates novel. It’s bewildering to me that Brad Pitt is scooping up nominations everywhere for doing no more than putting on age prosthetics and gazing vacantly at Cate Blanchett, while Leo is absent from nearly every awards gathering.
    Best Picture: In my world, only two of the actual nominees would have made it this far: “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Milk.” It’s only my opinion, of course, but the rest of my Best Picture lineup would look like this: “Rachel Getting Married, ” “Happy Go Lucky,” and “Revolutionary Road.” No more to say on the subject.

    3 Comments so far
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    Well, we’re down to the wire now, Patty.It’s all over but the cryin. Tomorrow we’ll know definitively. We’ll be overjoyed or miserable. I think 80% of us will likely be a combination of both. But anticipation kills, you know? TOTALLY agree on what you said re EDDIE MARSAN and LENA OLIN. I WANT LENA OLIN TO WIN AN OSCAR BEFORE ONE OF US IS IN THE GROUND.BADLY. I will also state, from my perspective, that the omissions of BRENDAN GLEESON and SALLY HAWKINS are horrificly heartbreaking. But I firmly believe that ALL of those people will have superb shots at Oscars at some point in the future. They’re all incredible performers and they’re destined to be nominated.I’m not exactly an optimist and I’m positive of that. Have to let the whole thing go. For this year, it’s done. Please come over to CP after the ceremony is over. I’d really love for you to visit. Don’t know if it’ll be mostly in commiseration or unbridled joy. But stop by if you can. *deep breath*Less than 24 hours now.Let the games begin….

    Comment by Miranda Wilding

    Hi Miranda-Yes,it will be interesting to see who brings home the statuettes tonight. I hope there at least a couple of surprises,happy ones.I’ll be dropping by CP either late tonight or early tomorrow to catch up. Or,at least, to dish the red carpet fasions.I just watched “Frozen River” today, and I was blown away by Melissa Leo’s work. I love Kate Winslet, but in a perfect world, Ms. Leo would be taking Oscar home with her tonight.

    Comment by Pat

    I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

    Comment by 22

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