“Getting The Oscars All Wrong”


popcornBy Michael S. Goldberger, film critic 

By now you’ve been inundated with Oscar picks. It has become a full-fledged pastime, a key component of that unofficial holiday between St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

No one is without an opinion. Every little kid in America knows he, too, may one day grow up to get all his Oscar predictions right. It’s egalitarian. When the food delivery guy, who’s only been here a few months, says, “The Brad Pitt…he should win,” we nod and think, ‘Hmm…maybe it won’t be Mickey Rourke.’

It’s not for me to say whether it’s gone too far. Nor would it be right to name those film critics who I’m sure double up on their steroids just before Oscar prediction season. Although, it is disconcerting while having your blood pressure checked when you ask, “Hey Doc, how does it look?” and he responds, “I think Streep will surprise a lot of people this year.”

As the great Jimmy Durante so exasperatingly noted, “Everybody wants to get into the act!”  Indeed, Jimmy, we’ve been usurped. So I’ve decided this year to abandon my tradition of picking the Oscar winners. It’s gotten old.

Instead, as a magician friend might segue, for my next trick I will only pick the losers. I contemplated doing it hanging upside down in a giant ice cube perched above a pit of boa constrictors. But the rental place said they only had dry ice and wolverines. Though, the guy did have this advice: “Psst. ‘Slumdog.’ Vote for that ‘Slumdog.’ And be careful for G-d sakes.” 

Hence, without further ado, here’s why Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) won’t win Best Actress in a Supporting Role. For starters, she wasn’t the best in this traditionally impossible-to-handicap category, whereas Amy Adams (“Doubt”), Viola Davis (“Doubt”) and Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”) were all great, with Penelope Cruz (“Vicki Cristina Barcelona”) the greatest of all.

Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”), the least known thespian accorded a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, will lose. Heath Ledger’s outrageously stupefying performance was the only thing worthwhile in “The Dark Knight.” Forget the empathy vote. We’re talking Hollywood, the town without pity. They know he was best.

And the loser is, in the category Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Angelina Jolie (“The Changeling”). No matter. She has all those kids to comfort her. Watch out. She may even adopt yours while you’re distracted by the show. Here, more than any other group, superb portrayals will cancel each other out, with Kate Winslet (“The Reader) the ultimate beneficiary. Angelina will then immediately adopt her.

Color veteran character actor Richard Jenkins (“The Visitor”) an also ran. He won’t eke out any of the brand names receiving nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. America’s liberal tide continues. Sean Penn deservedly wins for “Milk”

“The Reader,” despite Winslet’s contribution, will lose in the Best Picture category as “Slumdog Millionaire” wins best in show. Likewise, director Stephen Daldry, twice before nominated for best director, becomes a three-time loser with “The Reader.” Continuing to have its day, “Slumdog Millionaire’s” litter of winners will include director Danny Boyle.

Other losers comprise, for Best Animated Feature Film, “Kung Fu Panda,” rendered extinct by winner “WALL-E”; “The Dark Knight,” eclipsed in Art Direction by the plastic and turquoise, nifty fifties kitsch of “Revolutionary Road”; and “The Dark Knight” maintains its losing ways with the Cinematography sweepstakes, the prize going to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Additionally, the rather disappointing “Australia” doesn’t redeem itself with a Best Costume Design Award. Surveying a century of changing fashions, that honor goes to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” “The Betrayal” is doused by “Trouble the Water” in the Best Documentary Feature category; and “The Final Inch” comes up short to “The Witness–From the Balcony of Room 306” in Best Documentary Short Subject.

Further losers include “Revanche,” out danced in the Best Foreign Language Film competition by “Waltz with Bashir”; “The Dark Knight,” stitched together not nearly as well as the Best Edited “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; and though putting on a mean face, “Hellboy Boy II: The Golden Army” loses Best Makeup honors to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” 

But humbled again, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” loses out to nemesis “Slumdog Millionaire” in the Best Score competition; “WALL-E’s” “Down to Earth” loses Best Song to “Slumdog Millionaire’s” “Jai Ho”; “Oktapodi” quickly snatches a win from “Presto” in the Short Film (Animated) contest; and “Auf Der Strecke” is beaten to the Short Film (Live Action) trough by “The Pig.”

“Happy Go Lucky” sadly loses Best Original Screenplay honors to “Frozen River”; “Doubt” loses to “Frost/Nixon” for Best Adapted Screenplay; and the “Dark Knight” loses to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in the Best Visual Effects race. 

And finally, you can stop holding your breath. “Wanted” falls to the superior Sound Editing heard in “WALL-E,” while the Sound Mixing in “The Dark Knight” proves decibels better than “Slumdog Millionaire’s.”

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