23 February 2009

81st Annual Academy Awards

I shouldn't have to tell you that they held the 81st Annual Academy Awards ceremony last night, because according to the TV spots I saw for it, it was the single most important night ever.  Still, in case you don't worship at the altar of Oscar (and I don't), I thought I'd remark on some of the awards.  Note that I did not watch the televised coverage, or any other Academy Awards ceremony since they decided not to bring back David Letterman as host.  Maybe I'm in the minority, but I actually enjoyed his hosting duties in 1994.  "Oprah...Uma; Uma...Oprah" is comic gold, and I double-dog dare anyone to find any phrase from a subsequent awards show that has entered our lexicon on such a level.

For a complete list of final nominees, click here.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Sean Penn (Milk)
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Foreign Language Film: Departures
Best Music (Song): "Jai Ho" (Music by A.R. Rahman; Lyrics by Gulzar) (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Music (Score): A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Film Editing: Chris Dickens (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Sound Mixing: Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Visual Effects: Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton Craig Barron (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Documentary Short: Smile Pinki
Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Best Short Film (Live Action): Spielzeugland (Toyland)
Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Makeup: Greg Cannom (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Costume Design: Michael O'Connor (The Duchess)
Best Art Direction: Donald Gram Burt (Art Direction); Victor J. Zolfo (Set Decoration) (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Short Film (Animated): La maison en petits cubes
Best Animated Feature Film: Wall-E
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Writing - Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black (Milk)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Christina Barcelona)

Don't ask me why Best Actress in a Supporting Role is the last item on the list, because I didn't sequence it.  This is taken directly from the Academy Awards website.  Is there some sexism involved?  Hard to say, since I don't know how they determine the order of these things.

Otherwise, I've only seen two of the films that won anything: The Dark Knight and Wall-E.  I was interested in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but having Crohn's disease makes seeing a three and a half hour long movie theatrically somewhat impractical.  (And, yes, The Dark Knight pushed my limits, but the stars all aligned and I made it through the whole thing in a matinee showing a few days after it opened.)  I also want to see Slumdog Millionaire; I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  Milk, The Reader and Vicky Christina Barcelona were all movies I decided I was interested in seeing, but only as DVD rentals.

I have nothing to say about Heath Ledger that hasn't already been said by one side or another, other than to say that I think it's a shame that Aaron Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent has been overshadowed.  He gave the film its humanity and its emotional tug-of-war.

What I find bothersome are these categories with only three nominees.  I mean, really, they only found three films worthy of receiving an award for Best Makeup?  Better still, only three songs were worth considering for Best Music (Song)?  Figure most movies average at least ten songs (excepting, of course, those that strictly employ a score).  Even if we exclude six songs for being pre-existing songs they licensed to use in the film, there are still a ton of original songs that were eligible.  And in the case of that specific field, two of the three final nominees were from the same film!  I don't mean to belittle the work of either A.R. Rahman or Gulzar, but this seems like a category that existed this year solely to ensure that the Slumdog Millionaire DVD could boast of winning at least one Academy Award.  I say, either find five worthy nominees or drop the category.