January 21, 2009

Inauguration and Nominations

(Click to enlarge)

(L): Stuck in foot traffic on 3rd St., I raised my camera as high as I could reach. This guy pulled out a periscope. I don't think he fared any better than we did, moving about a block an hour. (R) Sitting on someone's shoulders, this woman couldn't have done much better to ruin a perfect shot in the moments before the inauguration.

As my mind clears and my battered body recovers, I'm slowly realizing the magnitude of what I witnessed this weekend in Washington, D.C. Based only the sights I saw and the indelible images now stuck in my mind, yesterday in particular was unquestionably one of the most exhilarating days of my life.

To take nothing away from the hundreds of millions who watched it online or on TV, I'd be lying if I said the live experience was anything but unforgettable, unbelievable and, well, indescribable. From where I stood in the silver ticketed area behind the Capitol reflecting pool, I saw a million humans standing behind me - and yet I didn't see one of them, so distorted was the picture. It didn't look like a sea of people, but some kind of holographic image, as if out a "Magic Eye" book. The Washington Monument was clearly visible a mile further down the mall, but everything between me and it was this glittering...stuff.

(not my shot, click to enlarge)

It was the thrill of a lifetime, to say the least - maybe like...winning an Oscar? In the whirlwind of the last week I almost forgot the Best Excuse to Wake Up Early All Year (alright, maybe it's not that early here in Central Time): the announcement of the Oscar nominees tomorrow morning. As I have a habit of doing every year, here follows my predictions for what the Academy has decided, whether I like it or, inevitably, whether I don't.


Best Picture:
Slumdog Millionaire
Gran Torino
The Wrestler
Sneaking in through the side door (possible upset)...: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

(Alright, I admit I prefer guessing the right upsets to the more obvious selections, but that I don't have The Dark Knight and Benjamin Button in there is ridiculous.)

Best Actor:
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
Sean Penn - Milk
Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Sneaking in through the side door...: Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Actress:
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
Meryl Streep - Doubt

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky

Sneaking in through the side door...: Kristin Scott Thomas - I've Loved You So Long

Best Supporting Actor:
Josh Brolin - Milk
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt

Robert Downey, Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
James Franco - Milk

Sneaking in through the side door...: Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actress:
Kate Winslet - The Reader
Viola Davis - Doubt

Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Sneaking in through the side door...: Rosemary Dewitt - Rachel Getting Married

Best British or American White Male Director (again):
Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon

Gus Van Sant - Milk
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

Sneaking in through the side door...: Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky

Best Original Screenplay:
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Nick Schenk - Gran Torino

Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married
Woody Allen - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky

Sneaking in through the side door...: Charlie Kaufman - Synecdoche, New York

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Eric Roth - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Jonathan Nolan - The Dark Knight

Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare - The Reader

Sneaking in through the side door...: Justin Haythe - Revolutionary Road

Best Cinematography:
Claudio Miranda - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Roger Deakins - Revolutionary Road

Roger Deakins and Chris Menges - The Reader
Anthony Dod Mantle - Slumdog Millionaire
Wally Pfister - The Dark Knight

Sneaking in through the side door...: Colin Watkinson - The Fall

Best Editing:
Slumdog Millionaire
The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Art Direction:
Revolutionary Road
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight

Best Costume Design:
Revolutionary Road
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess

Best Sound:
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Mixing:
The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Score:
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight

Best Original Song:
"Jaiho", Slumdog Millionaire
"I Thought I Lost You", Bolt
"Down to Earth", WALL*E
"The Wrestler", The Wrestler
"Gran Torino", Gran Torino

Best Foreign Language Film:
Waltz With Bashir
The Class
Everlasting Moments
The Baader Meinhof Complex
3 Monkeys

Best Documentary Feature:
Man On Wire
Nerakhoon (The Betrayal)
Standard Operating Procedure
Trouble the Water
Encounters at the End of the World

Best Visual Effects:
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Iron Man
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Makeup:
The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Best Animated Feature:
Kung Fu Panda

Most nominated films: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (11), The Dark Knight (9), Slumdog Millionaire (8)

There's really no reason for me to do this other than to fake gamble with myself and a few others, but it's as fun a movie game as anything else, and if I've seen all of the nominees (with the exception of four movie listed above, I have), why not do it?

I'll update this space with my final tally tomorrow after the nominees are announced. Doesn't seem worth another post...unless I'm 99 for 99 with these picks...

Well that was messy. Because Best Original Song is for some reason down to three songs this year instead of five, I ended up being 72 for 97 with these picks, which means...absolutely nothing!


  1. I thought there were only 5 noms per cat. CHEATER!! Gran Torino best pic? Boo that. Dark Knight will be the one sneakin' in the side door. Also sneakin' in the side door.....Patel. Yep I called it. We'll see in a couple hours chief!

  2. Haha, why? I didn't get a whole bunch of these suckers. I should have thrown Shannon in there for Best Sup Act - that was my best shot at sweeping a legitimate category.

    Well there are a whole bunch of snubs here (and just plain bad picks - Jolie, Frears, Hunt), but I have to go to work so I can't lodge my complaints right now...

  3. And for this year's reason that I don't care at all about the Oscars I present to you...The Reader.

    I understand that we would hate to award anything that was actually popular, but the fact that this was nominated over The Dark Knight and Walle is a travesty.

    I don't even have anything bad to say about The Reader. Just complete indifference. But hey, Fiennes, Winslet, the Holocaust, redemption and physical disability, it just sounds like an Oscar movie.

    And no Winslet for Revolutionary Road ?? Even she got screwed by The Reader.

  4. Well I didn't even find The Reader moving enough to write a review, so that should say something. WHat did I say when we walked out of the theater, "lackluster"? Worst makeup since Love in the Time of Cholera last year, too. Note to makeup artists: caking an actor's face with powdered sugar and glue doesn't make them look older.

    My Oscar preview a couple of weeks ago is looking pretty bad. Eastwood didn't even get a whiff of attention, and Winslet appears to be at risk to not winning an Oscar AGAIN. I think she has the momentum right now, but I've got a bad feeling Hathaway will snatch it. Even Melissa Leo might shock the world. I'd say Streep and Jolie have no chance.

    I wouldn't have minded TDK or WALLE getting in here. I really wouldn't have. Although these are not my top five movies of the year, this the realistic list I would have been happier with:

    Benjamin Button
    Gran Torino
    The Wrestler
    WALLE/The Dark Knight

    So I guess I'd still have to choose between one of the two. Alright, maybe toss The Wrestler.

  5. Whoops, guess I got my British directors named Stephen mixed up - I meant Daldry when I said Frears a couple comments ago.

  6. It was amazing on TV, I can only imagine how it was in person. The humanity!

    It's your Woodstock, and you were there!

    Welcome back, I'm glad it was everything you must've dreamed it would be.

    Now the hard part begins. Here's hoping the man can turn this ship around...

  7. It was pretty surreal to see so many humans massed in one place with the naked eye. And I couldn't even see past the Washington Monument to see the half million behind it.

    It will be a slow road, I think, but at this point almost every decision Obama makes will be the correcting of a wrong one made in the past. In that sense, we can only go up from here.

  8. Well,as i complained to you before< i thought you should have given The Reader more attention as I thought it made the viewer "think" more than most movies. I least I know I am not absolutly crazy!!

  9. I know, I thought that must have been sweet justice for you.

    I don't know what I missed in that movie, but it just didn't grab me in any way. There were things to appreciate (Winslet, the cinematography), but the story just...happened. I'm all for thought, but it didn't seem like there were a lot of inroads to do so in this one. We were supposed to feel sorry for her? For him? Forgive and forget? Things just weren't flushed out clearly enough for me.

    I guess I should just read the book.

  10. I'm with you, Daniel, except The Reader not only failed to grab me, I felt like it was actively pushing me away. It was a tremendous surprise this morning; I was fully braced for the reality of a Frost/Nixon nomination and a nomination for Ron Howard, but I was not expecting The Reader, which is sort of a self-fulfilling punchline as far as the Oscars are concerned.

    I also thought it was humorous that, at the end of the televised announcement this morning, Sid Ganis implored people to watch the telecast. Yes – as if there's been a problem getting word out about the Oscars. That's surely the reason the televised audience has fallen by 20 million in ten years.

  11. Wow - those pictures from DC are great.
    There were definitely times when it looked surreal/hologramish when I watched it online at work, but when I got to see some clips in HD at home it was much clearer. Either way the whole, spectacle did look quite stunning, and I am truly thankful again for a peaceful transfer of power in this country and the hope for a brighter tomorrow.

    Having said that, I really wish The Dark Knight would have gotten the picture nod.

    I know it wouldn't have won, but man I really thought it deserved the honor. After watching it through a few times now even on DVD I think the script and impact of the story impress me more each time.

    Also, with your on-going documentary expertise, I am again impressed that you got 4 out of 5 right, and I am mildly surprised that Standard Operating Procedure was the one left out.

    To TS's point - haha indeed Sid Ganis. I am glad that this years noms support a diverse range of films and many deserving (and several head-scratching) nominees, but good luck getting some meaty ratings from this bunch. Might be able to beat last year's though, which apparently was the worst since Nielson started keeping track in '74 ...

  12. It's true, T.S. - the inclusion of The Reader is the perfect punchline to the jokes about the Academy's tastes. It's so obvious in hindsight that The Reader would have bumped out The Dark Knight. How short our memories are.

    As far as the ceremony goes, I'm not sure why the telecast ratings are such an important marker of the health of Hollywood. Box office numbers have been high all year, and if the ratings are low, the most damaged entity is ABC, not AMPAS. Nobody ever said the Oscars had to draw Super Bowl audiences. The Grammys and the Tonys aren't held to such a standard.

    I don't know, the whole obsession with the telecast has always boggled me. I'll obviously watch it from start to finish no matter what, but if I was the only one, I wouldn't really care.

    In any case, I think the TDK crowd will definitely tune in anyway just to see Ledger's win.

  13. Although I thought The Reader was great and thought provoking in a way that you end up sympathizing, in way, with a woman responsible for mass murder of innocent people, including women and children, I do not think it deserves this nod. Especially over TDK. This might be do to the Weinsteins always pushing their movies to the academy or the fact that the late Sydney Polluck had a big part in making this movie.

  14. I fully agree with everything but the "great" part there. I just thought it could have been better somehow, some way. I'm not having fits about it being nominated because it had a few positive elements, but that Best Picture nod didn't need to be included in the nominations it received.

    The Weinsteins are apparently back in a big way.

    The further I get from these announcements, though, the more surprised I am that neither TDK got the job done. What does it say about the year when The Lord of the Rings swept the awards? Are Oscar voters bigger fans of hobbits than superheroes, or were the movies that year just awful?

  15. Ah well, I guess I'm the odd duck as I was deeply-moved by THE READER and applaud mightily it's surprise nomination. T.S.'s eloquent comment here somewhat unerves me, as I respect his opinion--and yours Dan--greatly.

    But this is one instance where the Weinstein complicity yielded a pleasant surprise. I'll wait for your review Dan.

    I could have sworn i saw you at the inauguration holding up a poster for THE READER!

    Just kidding! You will remember that day for the rest of your life.

  16. Haha, Sam, whether it was me or someone else holding a sign, the message was received loud and clear. It seems like it's a really divisive movie all of a sudden, which surprises me! Well I'm glad we (T.S., you, me, and others) can agree to disagree on this one, because I'm not holding on too tightly to it. Not a bad movie, not a great one, in my opinion.

    And yes, that time I had will not fade from this head very quickly at all. It was like I visited another planet for a day and witnessed the coronation of their king.


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