On this Tuesday, January 20th, as we have witnessed the historic inauguration of Former President-Elect-Now-Just-Merely-President Barack Obama, let us not forget that this week brings another monumental event: on Thursday, January 22nd, the 2009 Oscar nominations will be announced. Ok, so maybe it's not quite on the par of inducting the first African American President into the White House, but if you happen to be Mickey Rourke or Danny Boyle, it might as well be.
As I gear up for my annual tradition of waking up at 5:30am (ok, 5:40am) to hear the nominations announced in real time at 5:45am (PST) it has occurred to me that this year marks something of a milestone for me as a die-hard Oscars fan. 1979 was the year I stumbled across the Academy Awards broadcast while sitting in a hotel room with my family. Back then I had no idea they even gave out awards for movies much less televised it. Even though I had never heard of THE DEER HUNTER, the movie that won Best Picture that night, just knowing it had won made me want to see it even more. So seeing as 2009 marks my 30th year as a full-fledged, never-missed-a-single-show Oscar watcher, I thought I'd kick off the festivities with a little forecast of the nominations-to-be, followed by some last minute pleas for the nominations that absolutely-should-not-be.
Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, DOUBT
Penelope Cruz, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Viola Davis, DOUBT
Taraji P. Jenson, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
Kate Winslet, THE READER
What Not To Do: Ignore Marisa Tomei's terrific performance from THE WRESTLER. Sure I'm biased against any performance by Tomei in which she appears in the altogether, but I actually think she has given her best performances in roles that require her getting naked, as in last year's BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD. A nomination for Tomei might also quell those nasty rumors that she won this category for MY COUSIN VINNY only because daffy presenter Jack Palance read her name off the nominees list. And why hasn't Cate Blanchett been mentioned for this category? She had the hardest role in all of BENJAMIN BUTTON but hasn't made anyone's short list for Supporting Actress. If only she had gotten naked.
Best Supporting Actor:
Josh Brolin, MILK
Robert Downey Jr., TROPIC THUNDER
James Franco, MILK
Philip Seymour Hoffman, DOUBT
Heath Ledger, THE DARK KNIGHT
What Not To Do: Adding Dev Patel from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE to this list. He plays the lead character and he's in nearly every scene of the movie for cryin' out loud. So why is he listed as a supporting actor on the Screen Actor's Guild nominations? You don't have to phone a friend to know that's the wrong answer.
Best Foreign Film:
3 MONKEYS, Japan
THE BAADER-MEINHOFF COMPLEX, Germany
THE CLASS, France
WALTZ WITH BASHIR, Israel
What Not To Do: Keep the Academy's ridiculous tradition of letting foreign countries be the ones to select which films should "represent" their respective country. Who cares which movie best represents them? Why not just nominate the best films period? Remember, Academy, you're the ones throwing the party, so why not invite whoever the heck you want to? Maybe that way some of 2008's truly best (not to mention popular) foreign films like TELL NO ONE, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and I'VE LOVED YOU FOR SO LONG wouldn't be getting the shaft.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Simon Beaufoy, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
David Hare, THE READER
Peter Morgan, FROST/NIXON
Eric Roth, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
John Patrick Shanley, DOUBT
What Not To Do: Forget to put Christopher and Jonathan Nolan's dazzling adaptation of THE DARK KNIGHT on this list. I mean, did John Patrick Shanley really do as good as they did? I...wait for it...DOUBT it!
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Woody Allen, VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA
Dustin Lance Black, MILK
Joel and Ethan Coen, BURN AFTER READING
Thomas McCarthy, THE VISITOR
Robert Seigel, THE WRESTLER
What Not To Do: As much as it pains me to say it, the Coens got it wrong this time. Instead of the so-so screenplay for BURN AFTER READING, why not a script for an even better comedy, such as the imaginative and hilarious one Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux wrote for TROPIC THUNDER?
Danny Boyle, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
David Fincher, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
Ron Howard, FROST/NIXON
Christopher Nolan, THE DARK KNIGHT
Gus Van Sant, MILK
What Not To Do: Leave Christopher Nolan off this list. Without him, Heath Ledger might not have even been cast as The Joker. To exclude him from this category would be a very cruel joke indeed.
Richard Jenkins, THE VISITOR
Frank Langella, FROST/NIXON
Sean Penn, MILK
Brad Pitt, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
Mickey Rourke, THE WRESTLER
What Not To Do: As amazing as Brad Pitt's physical transformation is in BENJAMIN BUTTON, I think Leonardo DiCaprio's work in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is far more Oscar-worthy, so it would be a shame to leave him out. Without him, Kate Winslet might not have taken home the Golden Globe, which brings us to...
Anne Hathaway, RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
Angelina Jolie, CHANGELING
Melissa Leo, FROZEN RIVER
Meryl Streep, DOUBT
Kate Winslet, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
What Not To Do: Have Streep's way over-the-top performance on this list. Put her hambone acting in DOUBT next to Melissa Leo's work in FROZEN RIVER and you'll see they are worlds apart. This is Kate Winslet-Porrill's category to lose, however, so it probably won't even matter.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
THE DARK KNIGHT
What Not To Do: As good as it is, I don't really think FROST/NIXON is one the five best films of the year. Why not THE WRESTLER or REVOLUTIONARY ROAD in it's place? Still, the one on the list most in jeopardy is THE DARK KNIGHT, which I think would be the most glaring omission of them all. Some think WALL*E could be an 11th hour thunder-stealer, but it's guaranteed Best Animated Film nomination will likely relegate it's Best Picture chances to the trash-cube tower.
So there you have it. Did I leave anything out or I has my moviegoing brain merely left me? Drop me a line and let me know. Or call me at 5:50am Thursday morning and we'll discuss - in real time!