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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Oscars '08: The Trouble Begins

By Luke

This much we (I) know. Slumdog Millionaire is garbage. Today, prominent Hollywood blogger Jeffrey Wells wrote that he gets the feeling Millionaire is the current favorite for the Best Picture Oscar (he meant in a very gut feeling, not-saying-this-is-the-way-it-will-turn-out kind of way). But the fact that it is crap, and the fact that I have been reasonably happy with the last two winners (No Country and The Departed) leads me to believe something else will win. However, NO upcoming movies are exciting me.

I'll already think 2008 was a banner year even if the last month doesn't produce any classics. Reprise, Mister Lonely, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Be Kind, Rewind, Chop Shop, A Christmas Tale, Flight of the Red Balloon, and Speed Racer are all movies that in my world are exceptionally worthy "Best Picture" recipients. If anything, it is these movies' high quality that makes the actual Oscar seem important...it has to be something at least reasonably representative of the strong 2008.

The Dark Knight continues to get mentioned as a possible Best Picture nominee. I wasn't as blown away with it as a lot of people, but it's definitely a worthy choice. It's epic enough that it isn't "just a comic book movie," and it pulls off its "epicness" more respectfully than even some past Best Picture winners.

But what else lies on the horizon?
-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: The full gist of Wells' post was the advanced word he's gotten on Button is "meh," which makes him think it's no longer the favorite. Obviously, that is way-in-advance word and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, even among people who like it, comparisons to Forest Gump and exclamations about how much they cried seem to dot their praises. I'm worried Fincher, Eric Roth, and Co. overdid it in their effort to make a crowd pleaser and laid on the schmaltz a little too thick. I think everybody involved (Fincher, Roth, Pitt, Blanchett, etc.) are individually great, and that makes Button exciting to think about, but which of those people is going to put the breaks on if things were getting too Gumpy? Fincher doesn't seem to care too much about story, and Roth obviously wrote Gump, so we know he can go there (compare Gump to The Insider or The Good Shepherd, great restrained stories). I'm keeping my expectations low, but this could still turn out to be a masterpiece.

-Milk
like the "seen: I bet Penn's really good. But this just looks-it-before" biopic. Meh. (see Penn below)


-Frost/Nixon: This is definitely a "seen-it-before." Ron Howard won't drop the ball, the performances will be good, but the chances of this movie surprising or exciting me in any way are 0. And yes, I can be certain of that without seeing it.

-Revolutionary Road: All along, this has seemed like a "more-than-they-can-chew" project for Mendes and Co., I feel like there are probably too many great things in that huge novel and the movie will end up just struggling to connect all the dots. But like Button, I'm cautiously optimistic just because of the amount of talent involved.

-Australia: I loved Moulin Rouge! This don't look like no Moulin Rouge!, unfortunately. It looks more like Baz's other two movies, which I've never had the slightest desire to see.

-Gran Torino: No. Just no. I don't see Eastwood surprising anyone anymore. This will be just OK.

-The Reader: "The Reader"? Not even TNT would approve that title. Oh wait, Stephen Daldry, Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes? Sounds stuffy.

-The Wrestler: By all accounts it's great, but Arnofsky has never done it for me. That said, what's it competing against so far? I'm ready to embrace this movie if it's half as good as people say.

-Doubt: Another one I'm counting on at this point. A playwright adapting his own hit play with a great cast sounds dependable to me.




Che
: My most anticipated of any of these, but it's huge length means the Academy would never go near it even if it was getting unanimous praise.








So what does this mean for us? Doubt, The Wrestler, Button, and Revolutionary Road seem like the four movies that could turn out great AND end up being nominated for Best Picture. Throw The Dark Knight in there and I'll definitely be happy. More realistically, two out of those four end up being good enough to deserve it and hopefully they're nominated and I have horses to root for.

Just please no Slumdog Millionaire.

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