Friday, January 23, 2009

Who got the bigger Oscar shaft, The Boss, Batman or Dirty Harry?

Before I dive into anything about the Oscar nominations, the coolest thing I found this morning was actually casting news for what should be a rather wickedly good movie from Alfonso Cuaron.

The "Children of Men" director's next flick will probably be what the IMDB still calls an "Untitled Alfonso Cuaron Project," a small film about a family living in Mexico City in 1971, but I'm talking about what should come next.

"A Boy and His Shoe" is described as a road movie about young folks traveling throughout England, Scotland and France, and if you've seen "Y Tu Mama Tambien" (and if you haven't, why not?), you know the man knows a thing or two about road movies. And, even better, according to the Froggy film site Cinempire (if I have my rusty French right), he's recruited French everyman Daniel Auteil and Charlotte Gainsbourg to star in it.

Still best known so far as the daughter of iconic French crooner Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte is turning into a fine actress herself. I've liked her ever since Claude Miller's "The Little Thief," and she and Heath Ledger together were easily the best thing about Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There," Cate Blanchett notwithstanding.

Anyways, enough about that. On to the Oscars ...

I was asked by my boss to write something handicapping the Oscars for the actual Telegraph newspaper, and I will about a week before the show or so, but for now just a few gripes, starting with the shoddy treatment of "The Dark Knight."

Now, I didn't put it in my top five for the year ("Milk," "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Wrestler," "Tell No One" and "Let the Right One In"), so I wasn't terribly surprised or upset to see it didn't get a Best Picture nomination, but I really would have liked to see a Best Director nomination for Christopher Nolan's accomplishment.

According to some fun facts compiled by Variety, this is rather amazingly only the fifth time that all five directors of the Best Picture nominees also got a Best Director nod, and I would usually say huzzah to that. It just seems to make sense.

This year, however, can you really tell me that Stephen Daldry, who has now received Best Director nominations for each of his first three films ("Billy Elliott, "The Hours" and now "The Reader"), is deserving of yet another nomination while Nolan is shut out for creating something as epically entertaining as "The Dark Knight"? Now, I haven't seen "The Reader," and I realize that makes my argument rather ludicrous, but this is my rant, so deal with it.

One of the two people who might have a bigger beef than Mr. Nolan would have to be Clint Eastwood, who I just assumed was entitled to a Best Picture nomination every time he sat in the director's chair, but this time got a big bucket of nothing for "Gran Torino."

Now, I would normally celebrate the death of this sense of entitlement, but I found "Gran Torino" to be more entertaining than any Eastwood-directed movie I've seen since "Bird." It took a while to grow on me, but for a reason that probably reflects poorly on me: I found myself laughing at the saltier of Walt Kowalski's racial slurs, and it just me extremely uncomfortable for a good portion of the flick.

That said, once I've had time to think about it, Eastwood's tale about his friendship with a Hmong family that moves in next door is a naturally entertaining tale, even if he is still a mortal enemy of subtlety (examples: Did they really have to play the military music every time he pointed a gun or, AND IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FLICK YET, PLEASE SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH, have him lying in the shape of a cross at the end of the flick?)

Those are small quibbles about a flick that while, again shouldn't have gotten a Best Picture nomination, should have at least garnered either a Best Actor nod for him, an Adapted Screenplay nomination for Nick Schenk or, at the very least, a Best Song nomination for his graceful theme song that plays at the movie's finish.

And, to wrap this up with the biggest head-scratcher of all, how in the world did they end up only nominating three songs in the Best Original Song category, "Jai Ho" and "O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Down to Earth" from "Wall-E"? The double nod for A.R. Rahman's "Slumdog" work (he's also, rightfully, nominated for Best Original Score) probably means they will cancel each other out for a "Wall-E" victory (actually, the "Wall-E" nomination that just made me smile was Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon with Best Original Screenplay for a movie that mainly features robot dialogue. Priceless.)

But, getting back to the songs, did they just get tired after picking three and stop? Along with snubbing Clint Eastwood's jazzy piano tune, they also ignored Bruce Springsteen's soulful theme song for "The Wrestler," which also closes out Darren Aronofsky's movie and is one of the Boss's best songs in years.

OK, enough about that. If I had to handicap it, I'd say the Best Picture race will be a three-way heat between "Slumdog Millionaire," "Milk" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and I guess you could do worse than that (though I've expressed here before my distaste for "Benjamin Button.") In closing, here's a video montage from the flick set to Springsteen's tune, since, amazingly, "The Wrestler" is STILL not playing wide enough to reach into my little corner of the world this week (though we do finally get "Frost/Nixon," "Rachel Getting Married" and "Slumdog Millionaire," so I should probably just be thankful.) Enjoy the song, and have a perfectly pleasant weekend. Peace out.


Sterfish said...

I'm really surprised that Bruce Springsteen wasn't nominated. There were plenty of eligible songs, why did they only nominate three? The Batman snub didn't surprise me. Genre films, comedies, and animated films are in the Oscar ghetto.

It's sad that just because a movie is a "superhero film" it gets shut out of major categories despite being honored everywhere else. It makes the Oscars seem more pretentious than they already are.

Reel Fanatic said...

Amen to that, Sterfish ... I keep saying I'm not going to bother to tune in or, more importantly, waste my time writing about it, but I'm just a sucker for the Oscars ... What annoys me more than the pretension is the clear politics behind it .. If I'm not mistaken, the Weinsteins are behind "The Reader," and I have to assume they've been campaigning for that fifth Best Picture slot for many months now

dbackdad said...

I finally got a chance to see Slumdog Millionaire tonight. Absolutely brilliant. It would definitely make my top 5. It's sad, funny, poignant and has great music and scenery.

I agree about the Springsteen snub. I think the Oscars generally do pretty good with the acting nominations but absolutely blow it on the music. Last year they nominate 3 from Enchanted and none from what I (and many others) thought was the best soundtrack of the year, Into the Wild. I have no idea what they are thinking when they pick the nominees for that category.

Reel Fanatic said...

I absolutely adore the "Into the Wild" soundtrack too, Dbackdad, and would put only one from 2007 above it, "Once," featuring the sublime music of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

dbackdad said...

RF - They redeemed themselves a bit with last year's winning Oscar song in that the Once song won. It was definitely the one out of that grouping that I was pulling for. Great song and movie.

Vance said...

I usually LOVE the Boss but I'm sorry, but his song for The Wrestler did nothing for me.

Meanwhile, I think Gran Torino is not a good film that I liked a LOT (if that makes sense). So while I enjoyed watching it, I am glad it got looked over for the Oscars.

I think The Dark Knight is slightly flawed (it ran on too long and some could have been saved for a sequel) but now that I've seen all the nominated films, I wish TDK actually took over Benjamin Buttons slot (and keeping The Reader in). THAT would have been a good Best Pic list (acknowledging the fact that they will never let Pixar in with the big boys).

If I had to take out one director (for Nolan), it would be a tough call between Howard, Fincher and Daldry, each with pros and cons but since I liked The Reader far more than Buttons (despite flaws itself), and Frost/Nixon for me was really all about Sheen, I'd leave Daldry in.

Reel Fanatic said...

I just managed to see "Frost/Nixon", Vance, and I think I would take Ron Howard out ... This is clearly one of his better movies, if not his best, but like you said almost all credit for that should go to the actors and the writers

Chalupa said...

Do you think some of Eastwood's directorial style stems from his early days of Western acting? I'm no expert on the Western genre, but aren't things pretty much spelled out in those types of films?

Reel Fanatic said...

I think you might be right there, Chalupa ... I think I just forgave such lack of subtlety when it showed up in earlier films, but I have less of a stomach for it now

Bert said...

I thought it was absolutely criminal that Gran Torino got completely shut out. Would it have killed them to at least nominate the song. I do agree that the academy nailed last years top honor with Once but this year they dropped the hammer on their foot.

RC said...

of your three choices my instinct is to say Batman...especially because it received so many other nominations...

although, with all those other nominations it's hard to say they got the shaft...more nods then any other super hero movie

i guess i'll have to go with The Boss.

I was a little disappointed that they didn't do 5 noms and that there wasn't more diversity...with only 3 noms & 2 from Slumdog the category's pretty lame.