It’s still no Drag Race, but the contest for costume design (i.e. the Oscar category most likely to send me headed to Wikipedia to even remember what won last year) just got a little bit more interesting over the weekend. And if the Costume Designers Guild’s award for Patricia Norris’s desiccated plantation line from the House of Mason-Dixon is to be taken seriously, then Amy Adams’s milky, sleek sternum is simply not as eye-catching an accessory as the funk of 40,000 lashes. (And I’m not talking the Maybelline kind here.) That Norris this weekend pranced past Michael Wilkinson’s chesty silhouettes in American Hustle wasn’t a major surprise, but that those drab rags left Catherine Martin’s flip-flap frippery from The Great Gatsby face down in the pool does arch one’s eyebrows. Or maybe that’s not such a surprise. The Costume Designers Guild have never much warmed up to Martin’s work; her Oscar-winning feathers and ruffles from Moulin Rouge weren’t even invited to the guild’s dance back in 2001. Perhaps they, like many of us hardened vets who experienced that Oscar season in real time online, were simply weary of the squealing zealousness of those “kicking up their heels” (and writing those same noxious words ad nauseam) over Baz Luhrman’s over-performance that year.
Milk (#1–10 of 13)
In Pusher, which hits theaters this weekend, Briton Richard Coyle stars as a mid-level drug dealer, whose business is booming in London’s underground culture. A remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1990s thriller, the film (which also marks director Luis Prieto’s English-language debut) watches as a drug lord’s life implodes, a process with which filmgoers are quite familiar. Throughout much of cinema history, and especially in recent decades, drug pushers of all walks have graced the screen, providing brief escapes for lost souls and party people. But be them morphine sellers, pot distributors, or even moonshine runners, the party has to stop some time.
- 15 famous
- Academy Awards
- al pacino
- bret easton ellis
- Brian De Palma
- christopher walken
- city of god
- clifton collins jr.
- darren mcgavin
- fernando meirelles
- hype williams
- irvine welsh
- James Franco
- king of new york
- Method Man
- mixed blood
- monkey on my back
- new jack city
- pineapple express
- ralph fiennes
- raymond burr
- robert mitchum
- roger avary
It’s extremely fitting that Clint Eastwood uses film in J. Edgar to illustrate changing public opinion, charting the evolution of America’s view of law enforcement as it was reflected by Hollywood, with screenings of James Cagney’s crime-denouncing G Men replacing those of its pro-gangster predecessor The Public Enemy. Such cinematic shifts in perspective are directly applicable to Eastwood’s work, as the 81-year-old has had one of the more erratic late careers of any active filmmaker. The Oscar-favored Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby marked a marvelous artistic peak, and led to a wave of grand ambition and varying success. Good and bad were neatly juxtaposed with Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, while the appealingly self-reflective Gran Torino was followed by the insufferable Invictus and the listless Hereafter. Though already panned by some, J. Edgar is likely to readjust viewers’ mindsets yet again, as it’s Eastwood’s most accomplished movie since 2004. All but gone is the palpable detriment of his hasty shooting style, which in recent years has yielded a great many subpar takes. And while there will be those who’ll dismiss J. Edgar as textbook-ish, its adamant leafing through history proves increasingly fascinating, and for Eastwood, the film represents not a return to form, but a new horizon.
- Academy Awards
- Armie Hammer
- barneys version
- brokeback mountain
- clint eastwood
- Dustin Lance Black
- flags of our fathers
- gran torino
- il divo
- j. edgar
- j. edgar hoover
- james cagney
- leonardo dicaprio
- letters from iwo jima
- million dollar baby
- mystic river
- naomi watts
- oscar prospects
- shutter island
- the aviator
- the social network
Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2009 Academy Awards.
Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Directing: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Actress in a Supporting Role: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Original Screenplay: Milk
Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Foreign Language Film: The Class
Documentary Feature: Man on Wire
Animated Feature Film: WALL-E
Documentary Short: Smile Pinki
Animated Short: La Maison en Petits Cubes
Live Action Short: Toyland
Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Costume Design: The Duchess
Makeup: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Song: “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire
Sound Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Sound Mixing: Slumdog Millionaire
Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Because it pushes that button. Because it makes them feel like sitting on trains. Because you know Sharon Stone texted Dev Patel: U R A Q T. Because it got them wondering why everyone got hustle on their mind. Because they like the sound of them knocking on the doors of their hummers. Because Bucky done gone. Because they shake their ass, making moves on a mover. Because Indian chicks, they get men laid. Because of gold and diamond gems and jades. Because of painted nails, sunsets on horizons. Because the price of living in a shanty town just seems very high. Because they’re sick of all the shit that’s keepin’ them down. Because it got them to whistle, whistle, blow, blow.
Lessons learned from the winners in this category in the last decade: gothic is a no-no (just ask Colleen Atwood, who’s only won for Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha); the frilliest attires almost always rule, regardless of whether the film that contains them is an abomination (Elizabeth: The Golden Age); and in the rare cases where the Pre-Frilly and Post-Frilly eras reign supreme, the films must be Best Picture honorees (Gladiator, The Aviator) and boast costumes that are at least as opulent as the Taj Mahal and Sharon Stone’s affections for Dev Patel. Weird that Slumdog Millionaire didn’t manage a nomination here, but that only makes this one of the easiest calls of the evening. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know Oscar or their Prada from their Pucci.
The traditionalists view this as the “Best Picture-elect” category, and with four of the five contenders in that category in play here, it certainly looks like a done deal for what nearly every guild has now christened the only 2008 movie worth honoring. Slumdog Millionaire’s suspense is pitched at about the same level as one of
Regis Philbin’s Meredith Vieira’s pregnant pauses—which is to say it’s a comfortable tease, but probably only works on those who are in the movie’s hot seat. Fortunately, everyone who votes on movie awards this year seems to be pretty well strapped into that seat, and adding insurance are Slumdog’s breathless, M.I.A.-infused montages and the fact that it sends audiences out with a production number. The other Best Picture nominees haven’t got a prayer, though Benjamin Button’s methodical, unshowy pacing is as responsible for the movie’s alien, out-of-time effect as anything, and also allows the VFX team’s work to weave itself into the tapestry without too much fanfare. (Too bad it will probably lose the vote of anyone who had to get up and change their colostomy bag during the film’s 47-hour running time.) Of the two 1970s candidates, Milk’s editing is defter by far, and should at least win a few points for the times when it chooses not to cut away (like when Sylvester wishes Harvey Milk a very gay birthday). Frost/Nixon only brings game when it parallels the central interviews with the spectacle of their respective handlers spiking footballs or recoiling in horror, but it’s no All the President’s Men. (And how do you let “I Feel Love” just sit there on the soundtrack without so much as a single syncopated cut?) If anything’s going to beat Slumdog, it’s The Dark Knight, because critically-acclaimed actioneers have proven stealth candidates in recent years here. But a lot of Knight’s action sequences are spatially confusing, even by Paul Greengrass’s standards.
For writing that hinges on indulgent exposition, leaden metaphor, painful grade-school symbolism, and cliché characterization, Courtney Hunt is now an Oscar nominee thanks to the same AMPAS voters who don’t recoil into the fetal position at the sound of actors reading aloud from a Paul Haggis screenplay. That’s a pretty significant bloc of the academy, but we’re guessing there’s a considerable overlap of fans between Frozen River and the smarmy In Bruges, which was quickly forgotten after opening in early February but has built a sizeable cult following since then and is now riding high off Golden Globe and BAFTA fumes. Of course, it’s rare for a screenplay to win here without also being nominated for Best Picture, so don’t bet on In Bruges taking this one unless you also think six-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh will be given a chance to wax cynically—and justifiably so—about his improvisational style of writing and Happy-Go-Lucky’s egregious snub in the Best Actress category. Dustin Lance Black, the openly gay ex-Mormon who writes for HBO’s Big Love, should have had this one in the bag, especially after his Writers Guild of America victory, but Black didn’t have to contend with WALL-E for that award. Critically and financially, WALL-E benefits from being the most successful film in this category, but we’re of the opinion that the same blue-haired types who confuse Most Editing for Best Editing will feel somewhat uneasy—and mistakenly so—about voting for a film that’s written in chirps and beeps for a significant portion of its running time, even if they do prefer WALL-E to Milk at the end of the day.
The brouhaha over The Dark Knight’s eligibility has been settled and found irrelevant. Clearly, the Academy music branch prefers their James Newton Howard scores to sit down, shut up, and give the timpani a rest. Thus, he gets his nomination for his collaboration with director Edward Zwick, resulting in a music score with all the potency and dynamic range that particular combination of cinematic personalities would imply. As far as composers who are starting to rack up stacks of nominations without toppling over into a win, Danny Elfman (Milk) and Thomas Newman (WALL-E) undoubtedly stand better shots than Newton Howard. But neither are solid bets, in part because the ghosts of previous compositions overshadow them. Like the movie that surrounds it, Newman’s understated work in the earlier portion of WALL-E eventually slips into a slightly disappointing techno-satire, and even though the “Define Dancing” cue is gorgeous, the movie’s most enduring musical legacy is the hat routine WALL-E performs to his VHS copy of Hello, Dolly. And Elfman’s score almost deliberately avoids the sort of emotional gut-punch that Mark Isham provided in his muted, icy requiem for The Times of Harvey Milk. Flip that equation and you have Alexandre Desplat’s conundrum. His luxuriantly legato cues are like an entire movie’s worth (make that movie-and-a-half’s worth) of John Williams’s elegiac coda from A.I., but no matter how pliantly his orchestra bends their bows to forge an emotional connection, Fincher’s film retains its calculated distance from the material. Not that I’m saying every last voter got weepy over AR Rahman’s tranced-out interpolation of the theme from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but it may be the one piece of music whose pulse most closely matches that of its respective film.
There’s nothing more to add to what “actressexual” blogger Nathaniel R. already made perfectly clear when he reacted to the umpteenth set of guild nominations reflecting the carbon-copy lineup of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, and Slumdog Millionaire? And I quote: “I’m so confused right now. I swear that I saw 113 movies in 2008 and I’m beginning to think that I imagined 108 of them. Did I? Are these the only 5 movies that came out in 2008? It sure seems like it. Who knew that movie theaters were so empty all year? I specifically remember being in movie theaters and in all kinds of places and weather, too. Am I losing my mind?” Like Jamal’s game-show victory, it is apparently written in stone that these five films will move on to the next round; one gets the sense that this Best Picture lineup won’t actually have anything to do with Academy voters’ personalities, biases, or whims. And who are we to argue when there’s such a clear lack of alternative candidates below the line, thanks in large part to guild hegemony? Case closed, right? And yetthere is the small matter of voter passion. Academy nominations are set up in such a way that rewards passionate fan bases, something I’d argue at least two of these preordained nominees-elect don’t have; I’m looking specifically in the direction of the two films about politicians not named Barack Obama. Maybe living in the Obama era for the last 24 hours has filled me with a newfound sense of optimism, but I reckon that most of the voters who bother to cite WALL-E on their ballots are most likely to slot it at the top of their lists. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe old-guard Academy voting habits (the ones that hold politically liberal, aesthetically conservative biopics above all other films) die hard. But for now, here’s to blind hope.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.