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2008: An Oscar Commentary

Well, another Oscar night come and gone. As I’ve been telling people all day, “It’s my Super Bowl.” I was not disappointed, for the most part. Another great hosting job by Jon Stewart, but did he seem more toned down than his first time to anyone else? On the other hand, there was some brilliant stuff going on in the background (binocular/periscope montage, anyone?). Actually, in general, this show felt much less electric than last year’s in a lot of ways . . . just kind of a by-the-numbers affair. That’s odd, since the pool of nominees is, I feel, much stronger. Perhaps the ceremony felt it had to compensate last year. If that’s the case, give me the somber ceremony every time. Anyway . . . on to the show:

Best Costume Design: Very surprised to see Elizabeth: The Golden Age take this award. I felt pretty certain that Atonement would take it in this category, and I was personally rooting for Sweeney Todd.

Best Animated Feature: No surprise here. After seeing Persepolis on Friday, I felt pretty sure that Ratatouille would win this, and of course it did.

Best Makeup: La Vie en Rose, just saw this today. Great choice. Of course, I’m sure we’re all just glad that Norbit didn’t win.

Best Visual Effects: The Golden Compass? Seriously? I didn’t really have a guess in this category, but I did not expect this one to take it. Oh, well. What’re you gonna do? Really, none of the nominees did anything that demanded the award.

Best Art Direction: Hooray for Sweeney Todd, and really, what an amazing look that film had. It certainly deserved an award that acknowledged the extraordinary visual craftsmanship at work here. Great pick . . . the right choice, I think.

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, definitely excited to see No Country for Old Men knock down its first award of the night. I didn’t actually expect him to carry this, in the end. There just seemed to be a lot of strong competition in this field. Also, I’d have preferred to see Tommy Lee Jones nominated in this category for his role in the same film. Josh Brolin was pretty good, but I think Bardem was still a decent choice. However, as happy as I was to see this swell my favorite film’s numbers, I haven’t seen three of the nominated performances in this category, and I won’t say this was the best possible choice (I suspect, however, that it will prove to be the most iconic of the five by far).

Best Supporting Actress: What a shock . . . certainly the biggest of the night. Heck, you could just see Tilda Swinton herself was shocked. Looking at those choices, I could think of reasons why all 4 of the other nominees would win the voters over her, but perhaps they cancelled each other out. I look forward very much to seeing Michael Clayton now . . . I’ve heard great things about her role in it. Fantastic speech there. Swinton is definitely a class act.

Best Adapted Screenplay: This award simply begged to go to the Coen Brothers, and it did. Nothing more to say. There were 5 deserving nominees, but only one right choice. Two up, two down.

Best Sound & Best Sound Editing: Seeming even more like the same category this year than most, both awards are announced by the same people and get scooped up by The Bourne Ultimatum. Ho hum. Again, awards I am not qualified to sleep on, but would have liked to see swell the numbers speaking of the general excellence of No Country for Old Men.

Best Actress: Again, something of a surprise, but not nearly as big an upset here, I think. Having seen 4 of the 5 performances, this is the one I would have picked. Fantastic, truly definitive work by Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf. The only reason I wouldn’t say that I “suffered” through that 135-minute biopic was the strength of her performance. Wonderful, glowing speech. By the way, isn’t it a bit early to toss that award out there?

Best Editing: After it so neatly waltzed away with both of the other technical awards for which it was nominated, it was no surprise to see The Bourne Ultimatum slum this one too. Great pair of movies, those last two of the trilogy, but the choppiness of the filmmaking is pure hackery. There’s nothing of merit to commend cutting the shot every 1.78 seconds. There can be no doubt about it, this film won for Most Editing, not Best. I’d have been happier to see it go to any of the other nominees.

Best Original Song: Fantastic pick, “Falling Slowly” from Once, a movie which charmed me most unexpectedly. Really great, though, to see this honored. The talent was right there, singers, songwriters, performers, playing their own instruments, the whole 9 yards. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová were so deserving. Cringe-worthy moment when the music cut off Irglová’s Oscar moment, which made it my favorite point in the show when they brought her back on-stage to deliver her speech. That was just really great. Undoubtedly the best part of the night. No one could be unhappy with that.

Best Cinematography: There’s Cameron Diaz, seeming rather thick, as she announces the award (and not just her pronunciation hiccup, which could happen to anyone). That snide comment about the characters in Sunshine not having actual names . . . she obviously doesn’t know that that was the common practice during the silent era. Ah, well. A bone for There Will Be Blood here; one of two if this goes as expected. I didn’t know how to call this one, though I’m sure you know whose corner I was in (again, very subjectively).

Best Original Score: Atonement, fantastic choice. If it did have to win only one award (and, it seems poised to pull a Babel) this was certainly the most deserving. I would say the music was the one feature of this film which (although I liked it overall, too) really distinguished it from the pack in any given category. A disappointing night for Atonement, but justice was done here.

Best Original Screenplay: This will be no surprise, and indeed it is not. Diablo Cody with what will hopefully be Juno‘s one win of the night. I don’t approve, at all, but this was inevitable. Nice to see Cody have her moment, though. Very happy for her, she seems quite overwhelmed. I’d have given the award to Lars and the Real Girl or Ratatouille, no question.

Best Actor: The other award with no suspense attached. Boring. Daniel Day-Lewis for his (literally) show-stopping performance in There Will Be Blood. I came away from that movie certain that I had witnessed something very much worthy of notice, and I have no problem with this award. Once again, would have liked to see Johnny Depp get a nod, but I suspect there might have been *ahem* blood if Daniel Plainview hadn’t carried the day. Depp’s day will (hopefully) come.

Best Director: The Coen Brothers, excellent. So deserving, both for this film and for their whole body of work . . . which I am woefully uneducated in, now that I look into it. I’ve seen only about half of their films. I have some watching to do, it looks like.

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men, no great shock by this point. Its fourth and final Oscar of the nigh. I expected it would take at least 5 or 6, but this is still a good number. Of course, my favorite film of the year . . . an amazing film; a perfect film. Certainly a worthy entry to a somewhat spotty list: Academy Award Winner for Best Picture.

As I look back at the predictions I made on the day the nominees were announced, I’m a bit surprised. Not only were a lot of them very spotty since I hadn’t seen several of the films that I have now, but in some areas I failed to make a clear prediction. You’ll just have to trust me when I say now what my intent was then. I called: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score. As personal favorites (rather than primary picks) I called Best Supporting Actor and Best Art Direction. And, I find that I had a sneaking suspicion about Best Editing back then, as well.

I was way off on Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Costumes and Best Original Song (although I later changed my mind correctly on the first and last of those). In a cowardly move, I failed to call Best Animated Film (though I later decided correctly). If we were being generous, I picked 9 out of the 16 I guessed on. Had I gone with my original guesses, plus the modifications I made after seeing certain films by Oscar night, I’d have had maybe 12. Not so hot, in any case.

Those are my thoughts for this year. As a closing note, here’s a fantastic little retrospective on the last year in movies:

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~ by Jared on February 24, 2008.

2 Responses to “2008: An Oscar Commentary”

  1. That snide comment about the characters in Sunshine not having actual names . . . she obviously doesn’t know that that was the common practice during the silent era. Ah, well.

    Oh, come on! Don’t even pretend that she was doing anything other than reading a script prepared for her. The only original thing in her presentation was her flub of cinematography.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t see it as a snide remark. Although, perhaps it is difficult to read “man,” “wife” and “woman from the city” without making it sound like a bad joke.

  2. The real irony there is that I said Sunshine when the movie is called Sunrise. Anyway, it wasn’t the way she said the character names (or lack thereof), that made it snide. It was the “sounds like a fun shoot” *purse lips snidely* that followed. Anyway, it still seemed pretty obvious from the way the entire remark was phrased that she and/or whoever wrote that is not aware that that was how a large number of silent films are. Just sayin’ (Video link here).

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