Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscars Analysis 2008: Minor Categories

With the Oscar telecast coming up in six days and 12 categories left to go, we’re running a little short on time, so I’m going to have to rip through some of the “minor” categories still remaining. I know my readers are devastated that I won’t be able to devote 2,500 words to Best Costume Design, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in life for the good of the people. O.K., that kind of sounds like something creepy that Mussolini might have said, but you get the idea.

(If nothing else, this should help everyone fill out your Oscar pools – all three of you who are actually in an Oscar pool.)


BEST ART DIRECTION / SET DECORATION

NOMINEES

Changeling

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

The Duchess

Revolutionary Road


WILL WIN

I say this every year, but the Academy should really rename this award to Best Production Design so casual viewers know what the hell they’re talking about. Basically, we’re dealing with sets, meaning this is a craftsmanship award, and Benjamin Button is poised to dominate the craft categories. Either Changeling or The Dark Knight could mount challenges, the latter especially, but I think sympathetic voters are more likely to give Batman some play in the sound areas. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button takes this one.









SHOULD WIN

The Duchess and Revolutionary Road are both out of their depths here. The Duchess is lovely enough for a period drama, but its design is by no means extraordinary, and the suburban setting of Revolutionary Road, while appropriately claustrophobic and nauseating, isn’t exactly, ahem, revolutionary. I admire the dark and foreboding look of Changeling, but I think that’s as much due to Tom Stern’s cinematography as the production design. And while Benjamin Button’s sets are certainly impressive and expertly constructed, I just love the design of The Dark Knight. There’s this haunting Gothic sensibility that pervades the entire movie, especially in the Hong Kong sequence, which is somehow both modern and medieval at the same time. Just gorgeous.







DESERVING

Appaloosa – Steve Arnold, Linda Lee Sutton. There’s just something seductive about the dusty streets and dirty saloons of a well-made Western. Appaloosa is certainly that.









Defiance. I don’t know how much of this movie was shot on location and how much was built on a set, but either way, the forest in which the Bielski Otriad makes their home in Defiance feels incredibly real, highlighting both the danger and the beauty of nature.

Synecdoche, New York. Say what you want about the movie’s cockamamie storyline, but the cavernous theatre in which Philip Seymour Hoffman goes about creating a production of his life is a marvelous invention.



BEST COSTUME DESIGN

NOMINEES

Australia

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Duchess

Milk

Revolutionary Road


WILL WIN

The Academy loves those Victorian era costume dramas, as evidenced by the past two winners (Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Marie Antoinette). And fine, I don’t really know the difference between the Victorian era and the Elizabethan era and any other historical era of Europe, but you know I mean – voters like movies with lots of big, frilly dresses and powdered wigs. Hence, The Duchess takes this in a cakewalk.













SHOULD WIN

Bizarre group. For instance, what the hell is Milk doing here? I’m confounded. Australia has some neat costumes, and Revolutionary Road does a nice job recreating the omnipresent dullness of 1950s suburbia through its wardrobe, but there’s a simple rule operating here: You put Keira Knightley in a fancy dress, you get my vote. The Duchess is the pick. (Mmm, more Keira Knightley pictures …)










DESERVING

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Admit it: You missed seeing that hat.









Hellboy II: The Golden Army. For the German guy who specializes in ecto-plasmics, or something like that. That guy’s costume was a cross between the Elephant Man and the blue opera singer in The Fifth Element, only if they were mechanized and spoke German with an intellectual air.














BEST SOUND

NOMINEES

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Slumdog Millionaire

Wall-E

Wanted


WILL WIN

This category is often called Best Sound Mixing to distinguish it from Best Sound Editing. For my part, I freely admit that A) I don’t understand the difference between the two categories and B) I have no idea how to isolate and evaluate a movie’s sound. As such, I’m excluding the “Should Win” and “Deserving” sections for each of the next two categories (and, in fact, from everything else in this post other than Best Makeup). But in terms of what will win for Sound Mixing, let’s look at the historical record. The Academy tends to favor two types of movies here: either musicals / musically tinged films (Dreamgirls, Ray, Chicago) or really loud action / war films (The Bourne Ultimatum, King Kong, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). With no musicals on the board this year (I suppose you could label Slumdog Millionaire “musically tinged”, but that’s a stretch), I’ll go with The Dark Knight – it’s nothing if not loud. (Apparently the pundits over at In Contention are predicting Slumdog Millionaire, but fuck ‘em, what do they know?)










BEST SOUND EDITING

NOMINEES

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

Slumdog Millionaire

Wall-E

Wanted


WILL WIN

Oh, you think I’m just going to take the easy way out and double-up with The Dark Knight, huh? Ha! Everyone knows that the Academy’s choices in the Sound Mixing and Sound Editing categories rarely coincide. In fact, in the past eight years, they’ve only matched twice (for The Bourne Ultimatum and King Kong). I will not be fooled so easily. Now, couldn’t you argue that, as an animated film, Wall-E’s sound editing is more crucial than its sound mixing, because the entire movie is dubbed and therefore the editing is integral to the movie’s auditory success? You could, right? To quote yet another robot (the creepy intelligence mainframe from I, Robot), my logic is undeniable. Give it to Wall-E.








BEST MAKEUP

NOMINEES

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Hellboy II: The Golden Army


WILL WIN

Absolutely no contest here. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button bags another technical award.










SHOULD WIN

Ron Perlman makes for a kickass demon in Hellboy II, and Heath Ledger’s face-paint (not to mention his supremely greasy hair) in The Dark Knight is appropriately disturbing, but neither undergoes the sort of radical transformation Brad Pitt does for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Here’s what I’m wondering though. Apparently Pitt spent five hours in the makeup chair every day prior to shooting. Five fucking hours! How is that even possible? I can’t spend five minutes sitting still without freaking out like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. And what did he do the entire time? Was he allowed to watch TV? Did he plow through every John Garfield movie on Turner Classic Movies? I doubt it, since I’m guessing he had to be in front of a mirror, so did they play books on tape for him or something? Or did he and the makeup artist just talk? Were they best friends? Can you imagine talking to the same person every day for five consecutive hours? The night I met my friend Stacy at Brown, we talked for three hours in our dorm room lounge. It was great. The next night, we talked for maybe half an hour. It’s just the law of diminishing returns. Stacy is one of the most interesting people on the planet, and I couldn’t possibly imagine talking to her for more than an hour a day, not to mention dealing with her applying some sort of gooey paste all over my forehead. Brad Pitt is a multi-millionaire married to Angelina Jolie, and he sat in the same chair for five hours every day before going to work. Fuck the Oscar, the guy deserves a Nobel Prize.


DESERVING

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The minotaur looks cool and all, but I’m especially impressed with the way they turn Peter Dinklage into a bearded badass. He looks like the Bizarro Gandalf, only if Gandalf were four feet tall, irritable, and didn’t have any magical powers.









George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead. Zombies are freaking gross.









BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

NOMINEES

The Betrayal – Nerakhoon

Encounters at the End of the World

The Garden

Man on Wire

Trouble the Water


WILL WIN

My one black mark on my credentials as a film critic (O.K., one of many black marks) is that I just can’t watch documentaries. I’m sorry, they just bore me. It doesn’t even matter what they’re about. I just need an element of artistic creation involved – something that indicates that the movie was made – in order to appreciate a movie. It is a deep and abiding flaw in my character. Such is life.

Anyway, Man on Wire is the near-certain winner here, although for what it’s worth, my father saw it and dubbed it “boring”, and he’s the same guy who found The Assassination of Jesse James to be compelling. Note to filmmaker: When The Professor determines your movie to be boring, you might want to think about jazzing things up a little.



BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

NOMINEES

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (Germany)

The Class (France)

Okuribito (Japan)

Revanche (Austria)

Waltz with Bashir (Israel)


WILL WIN

In all honesty, I don’t hold the same irrational prejudice toward foreign-language movies as I do documentaries. It just takes a greater effort to see them because they rarely play at the Boston Common, and now that Kendall Square and I have permanently broken up, the Common is all that’s left. (For what it’s worth, I still plan on seeing The Class and Waltz with Bashir if they ever arrive at the Common.) In fact, I only saw one foreign-language film in theatres this year (the forgettable Mongol), a total that sincerely disappoints me – I hope American distributors do a better job highlighting cinematic imports in the future.

In terms of the winner here, it’s a two-horse race between The Class and Waltz with Bashir. The latter has earned superior reviews and is supposedly cutting-edge, marking it as the current favorite. But it’s animated and apparently highly unorthodox, whereas The Class appears to be dramatic and character-driven (it won the Palme d’or at Cannes). So I’ll depart from the pundits and pick The Class in a minor upset.



BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

NOMINEES

Bolt

Kung Fu Panda

Wall-E


WILL WIN

You know what? Fuck this category. I’m not even going to acknowledge it by predicting a winner. It is completely beneath me, and beneath all of you for that matter. I know this whole stimulus plan is important, but if Obama really wants to do some good, he’ll get a law passed that banishes this category to a fiery hell. Oh, and implementing playoffs in college football couldn’t hurt.

1 comment:

stacy said...

Kung Fu Panda for the win!!!!!!!!!!