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Volume XVII, Issue 8 - February 19 - February 25, 2009
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My Oscar Picks

by Jonathan Parker

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reports its opinions on the best movie making of 2008 this Sunday, February 22, with the 81st Annual Academy Awards. But first, continuing a 10-year tradition, I have my say:

Oscar Show Gripe of the Year
What will be worse: Hugh Jackman hosting or the reviews of Hugh Jackman hosting?

I’m not anti Hugh Jackman hosting the show. Although I do think it’s strange for a man who is best known as a Hollywood star to host a show that is mainly about awarding Hollywood stars. Leave the hosting to the comedians.

Nonetheless, I would wager the guy does an admirable job. Yet the late-night comedians and entertainment blogs will have a field day telling us how bad he was. After all, nothing could possibly top the borscht-belt and below-the-belt comic stylings of Billy Crystal. God help us if Crystal ever comes back: It would be like watching a blue show in the Catskills. The big question: If Jackman gets an Oscar nomination in the future, did this show help or hurt him with Academy voters? Hmmmm?


Most Overlooked Potential Nominee
Gran Torino for anything.

What happened here? A film strategically released after Christmas by a celebrated, Oscar-winning director and Hollywood superstar on his last legs. Yet Gran Torino got nothing, nada, zero. I’m not saying Gran Torino was the best film of the year, but it certainly was more deserving than a lot of the movies nominated. Plus, it had that dramatic angle with a moralistic ending that Academy voters love. I can’t explain it. Did Clint spit on their yards or something?


Most Ridiculous Nomination
Best directing, Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon.

Frost/Nixon is a very good movie. The only thing preventing it from being a great movie is the poor directing of Ron Howard. I typically make fun of the Academy for omitting directors nominated for Best Picture from the Best Directing nominations. Finally, here is a year that should have happened, and it didn’t. 

The problem with Howard’s direction in Frost/Nixon is that he can’t leave well enough alone. Most frustrating is an over-reliance on to-camera interviews. Never do these characters tell us anything that we can’t see in the drama unfolding on the screen. We get it, Ron. We’re not 12 year olds; we can’t be, as your movie is mysteriously rated R. 

Nominee I’ll Be Rooting for Hardest
Best directing, Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.

I’m also rooting hard for Slumdog Millionaire to take home the Best Picture Oscar, and in that category it seems to be favored. But I’d be happiest for director Danny Boyle. It’s his vision and direction that drive the magic of this film. Boyle has a soft spot in my heart dating back to 1996’s incomparable Trainspotting, still one of my all-time favorites. If you didn’t notice, Boyle pays homage to his Scottish masterpiece with Slumdog’s toilet sequence and a scene with one of the boys running into a car and peering into a windshield. 


Actual Best Picture of 2008

2008 was a pretty rotten year for movies, and the Best Picture nominations prove it. Most of the nominees are flawed; The Reader, I didn’t even like. Slumdog Millionaire was almost my favorite film of 2008. But I’m giving my nod to those mad geniuses at Pixar. How is it that they continue to crank out animated film after animated film that puts more humanity on the screen than any films featuring real humans? And WALL-E is about a cartoon robot for crying out loud, a cartoon robot who channels his inner Charlie Chaplin to charming and inventive heights. If WALL-E loses the Best Animated Feature category against two much lesser films, we might as well end the Academy Awards altogether.

On second thought, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

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