Mr. Movie

The Oscar nominations are out

The Oscar nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offered some interesting surprises.

Of all of them The Curious Case of Benjamin Button getting 13 nominations is the biggest. The movie was good, but not that good.

Brad Pitt was nominated for best actor, Taraji P. Henson for best supporting actress and David Fincher got a best director nod.

Of all the categories, the Best Actor in a Leading Role is the most interesting and toughest to pick. You have three riveting performances and two pretty good ones. The best of the three are Frank Langella’s Richard Nixon from Frost/Nixon, which opens this Friday at Carmike and at Fairchild Cinemas. He managed to make the disgraced Nixon sympathetic and even likable.

Sean Penn’s Milk hasn’t been here yet but should open in the week or two. It is a slightly homogenized version of the political rise of gay advocate and former San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk. He gives an amazing performance.

Then there’s Golden Globe-winning Mickey Rourke. A life of drugging, drinking and debauchery haven’t been kind to Rourke’s looks but—man—it is the perfect recipe for garnering nods for awards for The Wrestler.

Of the three, Rourke’s work is my favorite. I have no clue when the film will get to Tri-Cities but I’m guessing soon.

The real surprise in this category is Richard Jenkins for The Visitor. He has long been one of my favorite character actors and it’s nice to see Jenkins get recognized for a great piece of work. I might have swapped his pick for Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting in Revolutionary Road.

The other nomination is Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It has no chance.

Another interesting note: Pitt and his real-life partner Angelina Jolie both got nominations. She’s up for The Changling. And that’s a surprise for me. She was good, but not that good.

Question: Do they sit together at the event or at the tables reserved for cast and crew of their movies?

She shouldn’t be there anyway which leads us to the first screw-up. Probably the best female performance of the year was Kate Winslett for Revolutionary Road and, after winning the Golden Globe, she got left out.

This leads us to another surprise. Melissa Leo’s outstanding acting in Frozen River got recognized and of the bunch, and outside of Winslett, was the best performance last year.

By the way, Frozen River did show on Tri-Cities screens.

Of the rest of the actress category I do approve of Anne Hathaway getting recognized for a terrific dramatic turn in Rachel Getting Married.

The supporting category doesn’t matter other than Heath Ledger, who is a shoo-in. I do want to make a couple of notes. Michael Shannon got noticed for an outstanding piece of work in Revolutionary Road. He’s in the movie that opens on Friday at Carmike, for like five minutes. You’ll want to see it. His work is worth the price of the ticket.

The big question mark in the supporting category is Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder. He was excellent but if you must pick for that movie Tom Cruise is a much better, and much funnier pick.

For best supporting actress the performances aren’t that outstanding. The two most noteworthy are Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler which is questionable because she’s more a main character than supporting, and Amy Adams for Doubt for the same reason. The best acting here is the five minutes that Viola Davis did in Doubt.

The other best picture nominations are Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire which cleaned up at the Golden Globes and had 10 nominations. It’s real competition is Milk.

What got missed? I might put Burn after Reading or Revolutionary Road in instead of The Reader.

Last year’s best picture is WALL-E. It got picked for best animated feature, and the Academy ought to rethink things and let excellent films such as that be in the higher category.

One last note. James Franco. He got left out for brilliant work in Pineapple Express and in Milk where his co-star Josh Brolin was recognized.

What did you think of the Oscar picks? And as promised from my Razzie comments, here are my picks for last year’s best movies. What is on your own list?

1. Wall-E: The year’s best movie, the year’s best love story and the year’s deepest characters. I love this movie.

2. Young @ Heart: People whose ages average over 80 singing rock and roll like you’ve never heard it sung. I laughed. I cried.

3. Slumdog Millionaire: Original, intense, fascinating with a dead-on moral. Danny Boyle—please make more movies.

4. The Wrestler: Fascinating character study of the downside of fame anchored by a stunning performance from Mickey Rourke.

5. Frost/Nixon: I saw the televised interviews. They weren’t memorable. I’ll find it impossible to forget the movie. Frank Langella made you almost like disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon. The phone call scene is worth the price of the ticket.

6. Revolutionary Road: One of those movies that grows on you. It reunites Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in a difficult character study about people trying to break away from the trappings of ordinary life in the late 1950s and early 60s.

7. Doubt: The story is intense. As a play it won a Pulitzer Prize. Who cares? It’s the acting. Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman go toe-to-toe and the sparks fly.

8. Iron Man: Only Robert Downey Jr. could have pulled this character off. His performance punctuates a terrific tale packed with dynamite special effects.

9. Milk: A slightly homogenized version of San Francisco’s first openly-gay elected politician. Sean Penn shines and you have to wonder how California’s no-to-gay-marriage proposition 8 would have fared if this came out two months earlier in September rather than November.

10. The Dark Knight: Only the acting of Heath Ledger puts this in the top 10. It’s a great movie but an hour too long. Take Ledger out of the equation and this is average at best.

Just missing the list but as good as films five through 10: Burn After Reading, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Rachel Getting Married, Snow Angels, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader.

What’s on your list? And how did the Academy do picking this year’s nominations?