The Carpetbagger, who is today’s preeminent Oscar guru (since he is both funny, a good writer and employed by the New York Times) posted his choices for top honors and I can’t say I’m surprised. Below see my comments on some of his best bets.
“Slumdog Millionaire”—Yes, a sweet, happy ending film, which we all like. It’s the safe choice in a depressing economy although hearing it referred to as “poverty porn” filled me with strange glee.
Danny Boyle—I’ve always been a fan of Danny Boyle so this would not upset. But Ron Howard deserves kudos for turning “Frost/Nixon” into a momentous event on film that it never was in history.
Mickey Rourke—Rock on Mickey! I’m 100% rooting for him (and not just because I’m trying to get his agent to return my phone calls). His performance in “The Wrestler” was raw, riveting and possessed an honesty rarely seen on screen. The obvious parallels to Rourke’s own life motivated not only his deftness in the role, but the unbelievable humility and candor he’s shown throughout the awards season. He deserves an Oscar for being a great actor and a great movie star.
Kate Winslet—I’m all about the ‘year of Kate Winslet’ but let’s be honest—her role as a desperate housewife in “Revolutionary Road” triumphed over her Nazi war criminal in “The Reader.” Maybe that’s a good thing.
Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger—In all the time that a post-mortem Heath Ledger garnered a clean sweep of nearly every award for which he was nominated, you never once heard the term, “sympathy vote.” That’s because Heath Ledger’s performance in “The Dark Knight” was as profound, dark and encompassing as any role that’s ever been on screen. It could be said that for such a young actor, he made cinematic history when has a comic book adaptation ever produced so legendary a performance?
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis—Umm, not so much. Gonna have to go with Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” or Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that, Penelope Cruz, like Winslet, also had a marvelous year on screen. Her performance in “Elegy” (based on a Philip Roth novella) was heart-wrenching. Viewing the two films back-to-back reveals that Cruz is not only the most beautiful actress of her generation, but as versatile as a chameleon.
Anthony Dod Mantle for “Slumdog Millionaire”—The fast-paced, rhythmic sequencing and mixed chronology is a foremost reason why people loved the film—and why Danny Boyle is nominated for his direction.
Best Original Screenplay
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, “Wall-E”—Saw this on a plane, headphones broken, judgment impaired. Abstaining from vote.
Best Foreign-Language Film
“Waltz With Bashir”—Even though Ari Folman was mean to me, his film is undeniably good, technologically sophisticated and politically important. But just in case, look out for “The Class” to upset (and if you’re interested, see it playing at The Landmark this weekend).