February 23, 2009

Oscars Afterglow

If Slumdog Millionaire would have lost in all of the eight categories in which it won, I truly believe my feelings about it would be the same. Really, I do. I've said before that the Oscars should have no bearing on how we feel about the films we've seen, just as the Grammys don't in any validate whether the music we listen to is "good". The people who really care about the Oscars are typically in the business of celebrity worship or box-office calculations. All I want to do is celebrate the last year in films, and if there is occasion to celebrate the specific films that really touched me, well then that's just a bonus.

In fact only three of my Top 10 films from 2008 received nominations in any category, so it's not like I had a lot invested here - awards aside, those are all still my top ten.

But the big one, #1 with a bullet, just happened to get showered with gold. And I have to say - simply seeing each of its components (editing, cinematography, score, original song, etc.) individually recognized did solidify my admiration for this film. So it was a great night for me (especially considering my review on 11/21/08: "
the best movie I've seen so far in 2008 - and it's not even close."), capped off by a feast of Indian food to celebrate the occasion.

For fun, here are my thoughts on some of the other highlights from the ceremony...

The Winners: No major surprises at all, which is...a little surprising. I ended up 19/24, missing:
- Best Supporting Actress (a bad upset pick)
- Best Sound Mixing (though I did say Slumdog deserved to win in my predictions, I didn't think it would)
- Best Documentary Short (a CNN story on Pinki Sonkar should have made this win more obvious to me)
- Best Animated Short (should have gone with my heart, La Maison was another I thought deserved to win)
- Best Foreign Language Film (wrong upset pick)

The Set: Much was made about this year's set design being a throwback to the "golden years" of the Academy Awards, but it looked the same to me aside from some cramped seating. Which is to say it looked just fine, as usual, so I don't even want to know how many millions of dollars were spent to design it.

The Genre Montages: The comedy montage was the best of the bunch, and incidentally a lot funnier than Pineapple Express actually was. I was a fan of the romance montage as well, but the others seemed repetitive, lackluster or just unnecessary. This isn't a bad idea, but it could use just a bit more work. And why no "drama" montage?

Mickey Rourke: Too bad he goes home empty-handed - he wanted it so much more than Penn.

Least Surprising Upset: Departures winning for Best Foreign Language Film. I know I chose The Class here, but it was down to the two of these after I picked up on a lot of buzz about Waltz with Bashir's near-certain loss. No documentary or animated film has ever won in this category, so it was in a pretty deep hole to begin with. Tough year for this movie, but again, if you're looking for validation that it was a good movie then you're looking in the wrong place - it's OK, you can still like it!

Most Enjoyable Upset: For me, this would have been either a win for either Viola Davis or Trouble the Water, but La Maison en Petits Cubes winning Best Animated Short Film was one of my favorite moments of the night, mostly because I got to hear three seconds of the musical score by Kenji Kondo again. As I said in my reviews of the shorts, there was nothing wrong with Presto, but La Maison was so good that I'd pay full price just to see it again (which I might have to do since it still can't be found online). I think the Animated Short category is quickly becoming one of my favorites after only two years of seeing the nominees.

(UPDATE: I found it - watch it here before it's gone!)

The Memorial Tribute in Song: Nice, but didn't really achieve the intended effect of discouraging audience applause, which makes everyone uncomfortable because the thing turns into a popularity contest.

Best Reminder: I had forgotten how great Alexander Desplat's score for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was. Make it third best of the year, after Slumdog Millionaire and Revolutionary Road (which wasn't nominated, even though Thomas Newman was still up for WALL*E, giving him a total of 10 Oscar nominations and not one win).

Kate Winslet: Finally - good for her.

Best Reminder, Part II: The second time I saw Slumdog Millionaire I was completely floored by the cinematography. Seeing the clips for a third time briefly here, it was clear to me that despite all of the brilliant work done by others this year (The Dark Knight, The Fall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle was unmatched.

Most Selfish Moment: The "musicals are back" blowout. Connect these dots: Bill Condon was the co-producer for this year's ceremony and designed the entire program; Bill Condon also directed Dreamgirls, which was roundly considered to be snubbed when it didn't receive either a Best Picture or Best Director nomination two years ago. Hmm...

Biggest Relief: Not seeing Miley Cyrus during the entire proceedings.

Best Presenter: Will Smith - I say line him up for the hosting duties in another year when he's not nominated.

Worst Presenter: Robert Pattinson - I didn't see Twilight and I had to look up how to spell his name just now. This kid was just creepy throughout the whole show, including when he was leering from behind Mickey Rourke as Best Actor was about to be presented, causing my sister to wonder aloud, "Maybe he really is a vampire."

The Reader: This contradicts my "I don't care about the Oscar winners/losers" message, but all the nominee space this movie took up (with the exception of Kate Winslet) still doesn't really seem justified, especially when Hugh Jackman can make a really funny - and accurate - joke about it nobody having seen it. It wasn't a terrible movie by any means, but since it didn't end up actually winning anything else we'll be forever left to wonder what movie could have received more attention in its place.

The Fellowship of the Actors Presentations: Interesting idea to have members of the exclusive winners' groups give a tribal council before welcoming the new member, but it felt kind of like a fraternity or sorority initiation, or worse, a reality show. But it was a fresh idea and the recognitions for each nominee
were nicely written.

Ben Stiller: Funny...but not as funny as it would have been had the exact same gag not been staged at the Spirit Awards on Saturday night, with almost all of the same people in the audience.

Best Acceptance Speech: Heath Ledger's family. It's extremely rare for actors to receive recognition in this way, and that was about as nice as it could have been.

Best Acceptance Speech, Part II: The Japanese winners of Best Animated Short and Best Foreign Film dropping astonishingly witty lines in their brief, heartfelt thank-yous. Just to clarify because I don't think it was obvious (and I would have totally misunderstood it had I not seen the credits at the end of La Maison): Kunio Kato wasn't just making a random joke about "Mr. Roboto" because he couldn't say much else in English (here's the text). The production company for his winning film is called Robot, so he was actually making a really brilliant joke by using the lyrics to the song as part of his speech.

The Closing Credits: I thought this idea of showing 10-second clips of upcoming movies was going to be really bad, too fast, too choppy. It ended up being...OK, not really showing me anything I hadn't seen yet and also not alerting me to any upcoming movies that I didn't already have on my radar. Probably got a lot of people to tune in for the credits, though, so I guess that was a success. If it's OK that nobody actually saw the credits.

Speaking of credits, here's the capstone for the night (and for the second year in a row, the rightful winner of Best Original Song):


  1. This kid was just creepy throughout the whole show, including when he was leering from behind Mickey Rourke as Best Actor was about to be presented, causing my sister to wonder aloud, "Maybe he really is a vampire."

    Wow...my friends and I were saying EXACTLY the same thing.

  2. I know - Rourke should have Ram-Jammed him from the edge of the stage.

    Some other notes I forgot to mention:

    - Leonardo DiCaprio really should have been recognized last night for Revolutionary Road.

    - Although I did not at all like John Legend stepping into the end of "Jai Ho", I bet Peter Gabriel wishes he would have agreed to sing his own song last night.

    - I would still love to go to this party someday.

  3. Danny, when I go up for my Best Original Screenplay Oscar in 2011, I will invite you for sure ;)

    Seriously though, I love that category. For the second year in a row, its my favourite win of the night.

    If you get anywhere close to the Oscar ceremony ever before I do, I hope you'll drag me along.

    I haven't seen the telecast yet, will watch it in 30 minutes, but I have read the winner list and seen a few acceptance speeches online - my favourite being Dustin Lance Black's.

    Glad for Penn -- even though I was rooting for Rourke, glad for Cruz and Winslet and all the other winners, including Slumdog Millionaire. What a great film, and to be awarded as such is the cherry on top.

  4. Great summary,Daniel.

    I'm with you-"Revolutionary Road" should have shown up in so many more categories, especially Best Actor. Leo's fine work was sadly overlooked this awards season.

    Thanks for positng the "Jai Ho" clip. God, I love than number, and I was so thrilled for "Slumdog's" many wins last night.

  5. This was one of the best Oscar telecasts I have seen in some time. Nice run down Daniel.

    Danny Boyle as Tigger. Very cool moment in the show.

  6. Consider it a date, Nick. The only problem I had with Milk was that I didn't love the taped recording set-up deal, but as far as original screenplays for biopics, that was pretty solid. And Cruz gave a very nice speech - I wanted Davis to win but it's no big deal.

    If there is any sad thing about Slumdog's win, it's that it is now primed for a full lifetime of bashing. Seeing how people have so gleefully stomped on Crash at every opportunity is a disconcerting sign.

    Thanks, Pat. For me, DiCaprio was better than ever in Revolutionary Road. It would be tough to squeeze any of these nominees out, and there's no way he would have beaten Rourke or Penn, but I think I would have been OK with him taking Pitt's place. Really solid year for actors overall.

    And I'm with you on JAI HO!!!! I loved that Rahman sang along to both of his songs as well. What a brilliant composer to come up with all of that music.

    Thanks, Film-Book. I liked Boyle's enthusiasm throughout the show as well. I would have liked to see just a few seconds more recognition for the kids, but I'm happy enough that they were able to attend. Hopefully it will inspire some of them to dream beyond the slums that they sadly still live in - what a great story if one of them developed into a future actor or filmmaker.

  7. I think La Maison en Petits Cubes is the best thing I've seen in a long time. That was superb.

    I'll defend The Reader's place in the line-up. It wasn't a perfect movie, but it was certainly more deserving than Frost/Nixon.

  8. what a great story if one of them developed into a future actor or filmmaker.

    It would have been a great story if Boyle et al. had really changed their lives with some of the spare change that Slumdog has made.

    But overall, I'm glad it won.

  9. Craig, if La Maison got to you on a little computer screen, imagine how deeply it affected me on the big screen in a dark theater. What an outstanding work of art by Kunio Kato. It's not going to be up for much longer before it gets pulled - hopefully people watch it right now while they can.

    You know, Rick, I missed that double post of yours on Slumdog and I still mean to catch up to it as I'm sure it's an interesting conversation. I do think the movie has been a victim of its unexpected success in that way (and I don't mean to trivialize the word "victim"), but I'm certainly supportive of these kids deserving to have some doors opened for them since it WAS so successful. I think, just maybe, their presence at the party last night will be a small step in their lives being changed. Hopefully.

  10. Yeah, Maison is a knock-out.

    I can only imagine it hitting you on a big screen in the dark when you're not expecting it.

  11. Make sure you catch Jonathan's post, too. He did some great research, and points out that the child actors got a small fraction of scale for the work they did.

    I've heard the theory that Slumdog was a victim of it's own success, and it may be true. But still: it would be nice if they'd help 'em out of their situation after the fact.

  12. La Maison en Petits Cubes was a fantastic treat, Daniel. I loved it. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

    My favorite acceptance speech was Penelope Cruz. And I liked Kate Winslet's dad whistling right on cue. Perfect.

    Petit balancing the Oscar on his chin was a memorable image as well.

  13. nice breakdown...good call on creepy robert pattinson -- definitly the worst presenter... zac efron close behind.

    glad your choice won...i think it was certainly the right choice!

  14. Penn's acceptance speech was my favorite moment of the entire ceremony. Meant a lot to me. It made me okay with the fact that Rourke didn't win. Did Rourke deserve it more...yeah, but I just loved that speech.

    I agree with the distaste surrounding Legend joining the Jai Ho performance.

    I LOATHED The Reader but Winslet was good. Really good. She deserved a statue more than almost anyone.

  15. Glad you enjoyed La Maison, Alexander. I keep wanting to see it again in the theater. And speaking of unexpected, Craig - it was immediately preceded by the uproarious Oktapedi (or whatever it's called), so nobody was emotionally ready for it.

    And Alexander, that whistling was also a great moment!

    Gringo, I'm glad you were able to see SM just in time for the ceremony. Run out and get the John Legend-free soundtrack - it's one of the best in years.

    RC, what bothers me about the Pattinson/Efron/Cyrus/whatever group is that they were never part of the ceremony before (anybody remember Kelly Clarkson or Justin Guarini at the Oscars? Didn't think so), and they're catering to a tween group that is absolutely not tuning in to watch. This isn't the Nickelodeon or People's Choice Awards - can't their remain a ceremony focused on adults?

    Rick, I'll make sure to catch up on both posts - thanks.

  16. I was glad to see La Maison en Petits Cubes win. Presto was not as good as most people said. I gambled on Cubes and was proven right. Overall, It was a good show.

    As for the "party", I was fairly close to the Kodak on Sunday (I live down the street). It is special and if you get the chance, you should experience it once.

  17. You nailed it, Mikey. Like I said, I should have gone with my heart on that one. And my head for Penelope Cruz.

    Congrats on all of your pool wins - looks like it pays to live close to the action!

  18. Alright. I saw slumdog again last night and it is by far the best film of the year. But......I must say that there were three film from last year that i enjoyed more; No Country, There Will Be Blood and Once. I will also say that after a year has pasted it seems to me that There Will Be Blood is growing on me and would venture to say it is one of the best movies in the past ten years. I guess I'm trying to figure out if its just me? Anyone?

  19. Sorry about the grammatical errors...

  20. Ah dewd!

    And to think - I called and texted you immediately after leaving the theater from both Once and Slumdog. Do I know your taste or what?

    What's kind of crazy is that I haven't seen TTWB in its entirety since I saw it in the theater last January. I will say that the clips I catch here and there are always really impressive, but I can't say if the movie as whole is better than I originally remember. No Country, on the other hand, was just as good the second time I saw it in the theater.

    Either way I definitely don't think it's just you - TTWB continues to be held in high esteem by everyone I come across. I'm sure people would consider it one of the best of the decade, just as a lot of people think that Synecdoche, NY will be remembered as an unheralded classic.

    It's about time I start looking back on some of those classics from last year. I owe another viewing to Jesse James, Into the Wild, Across the Universe, The Namesake, Zodiac, 2 Days in Paris, Hot Fuzz, I'm Not There, Once, 3:10 to Yuma, Rescue Dawn, and others.

    I just saw My Kid Could Paint That the other day and it was somehow a lot better than I remembered as my #2 doc from last year. Now to see King of Kong again and see if that retains its #1 status.

  21. I know right. I saw Once twice in the theatre last year and about five times since on dvd. I've seen No Country a total of three times now and Into the Wild about three. I've seen TWBB about four and it hasn't lost any of its value to me. Every time i see it i'm just in awe. I absolutely love the score, cinematography and its general stark tone, not to mention the best acting performance i've ever seen! Its timeless where as the others have since faded after a few viewings. I dont know, just checking if anyone felt the same.

    p.s. I've still yet to see King of Kong! Whoops!

  22. Just to interject for a moment...

    I'm TOTALLY with you, Beav.

    I saw THERE WILL BE BLOOD 7 times in the theatre (four Friday nights in a row, I do believe) and I think it's a modern classic. It's completely monumental in terms of its scope and power. Absolutely magnetic, riveting, BRILLIANT performance from DDL...and the most astonishing resonant ending that I've seen in many years.

    It's a masterpiece.

    In terms of the other films that you and Danny just touched on...

    I adored JESSE JAMES, ONCE, INTO THE WILD (3 times), ZODIAC (twice) and 3:10 TO YUMA (twice).

    I was much less enthused about NO COUNTRY, which I'd only give three stars to (out of a possible five) and felt was HIGHLY overrated. Bloody Academy.


    On the other hand, I really didn't care for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I'M NOT THERE or RESCUE DAWN (aside from the awesomeness of STEVE ZAHN).

    Any way you slice it, 2007 was an unbelievable cinematic year of fabulous surprises and incredible pleasures.

    I would imagine we're not going to see many like that...

  23. Beav you got me on all of those movies and points on TWBB - I need to see them again ASAP. And you HAVE to see the King of Kong!

    Miranda, it's true - last year was unmatched, and even though I found a lot to like in 2008, it's looking likely that The Class of '07 will be one of the most timeless of a generation.


Related Posts with Thumbnails