The Oscars – And the Oscar Runner Up is…
I hope you’ve all enjoyed the Oscars this past Sunday. After all, it is considered the most important and viewed event in the film industry. Yesterday I was contemplating the idea of Oscar runner ups. The Olympic games always rate the top three in each competition, which is only fair and appropriate in my view. I would have liked to know just how close the other ‘losing’ film nominees were to claiming the golden statue. But as this information isn’t available to the pubic – and I think it should be – I decided to share with you my runner up list for this year’s Oscars (major categories only). As a sort of a disclaimer I feel I need to make, I do not doubt the ‘worthiness’ of the winning nominees; these were judged and chosen by professionals. And now, without further due, here are the best runner up films for 2008 (drum roll please…):
Runner Up for Best Picture – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
About three-quarters of the way through The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, we are presented with perhaps the unlikeliest scene of 2009, a real cinematic curio: as Benjamin (Brad Pitt) and Daisy (Cate Blanchett) move into an apartment together, we get the awesome spectacle of A David Fincher Rom-Com Montage, as the lovers do the decorating, set up home and goof around. It’s exactly the kind of thing that is de rigueur for films starring Kate Hudson, but seems unimaginable from the director of Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac. But, in turning his attention to the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story that previously passed through Steven Spielberg and Spike Jonze (isn’t Fincher the middle ground between these two?), David Fincher, after years of assaulting our senses, has found a palette of completely different tones without jettisoning any of his filmmaking flair or acuity.
A lot of talk surrounding Button will concern its similarity to Forrest Gump. This is down to its almost blank-slate hero, technical razzle-dazzle, use of a single character to document swathes of American history and the fact that Eric Roth penned both screenplays. But in the off-screen and on-screen story, the film Benjamin Button perhaps most resembles is Titanic. Both represent culty genre directors stepping out of their comfort zones — for Cameron, science-fiction with a double-helping of time travel, for Fincher, thriller with a double-helping of serial-killing — into more awards-friendly territory. Both are time-shifting, big-scale love stories narrated by an old dear that are marinated by the knowledge of impending death. And both are exquisitely tailored pieces of filmmaking that put dazzling visual effects in the service of deeply human stories…… For the complete Empire Online review – click here.
Runner Up for Best Actor in a Leading Role – Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
“The Wrestler” is about a man who can do one thing well, and keeps on doing it because of need, weary skill and pride. He wrestles for a living. Pro wrestling is a fake sport, right? Yes, but as an activity, it’s pretty real. I watch it on TV with fascination. It’s scripted that the villain sneaks up on the hero, who pretends not to see him, and pushes him over the ropes and out of the ring. Fake. But when the hero hits the floor, how fake is that? “Those guys learn how to fall,” people tell me. Want to sign up for the lessons?
Mickey Rourke plays the battered, broke, lonely hero, Randy (“The Ram”) Robinson. This is the performance of his lifetime, will win him a nomination, may win him the Oscar. Like many great performances, it has an element of truth. Rourke himself was once young and glorious and made the big bucks. He did professional boxing just for the hell of it. He alienated a lot of people. He fell from grace and stardom, but kept working, because he was an actor and that was what he did. Now here is his comeback role, playing Randy the Ram’s comeback.
This is Rourke doing astonishing physical acting. He has the physique of a body builder, perhaps thanks to some steroid use, which would also be true of Randy. He gets into the ring and does the work. Rourke may not be physically performing every single thing we see, including the leaps off ropes and ladders and the nasty falls. Special effects have robbed movies of their believability. But I’ve seen a lot of F/X, and I have to say it looked to me like he was really doing these things…… For the complete Roger Ebert review – click here.
Runner Up for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Angelina Jolie (CHANGELING)
Toward the end of Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” in what is perhaps the only lighthearted scene in this rigorously somber film, Christine Collins, the heroine, is invited by some of her phone company co-workers, and then by her boss, to go out on the town and listen to the Academy Awards radio broadcast. The year is 1935, and “It Happened One Night” is Christine’s pick for best picture, but it’s hard to avoid interpreting this moment as a none-too-subtle wink directed at present-day moviegoers and Academy voters. Christine begs off — she just has too much work — and it goes without saying that on Feb. 22, Angelin Jolie, who plays her, will have to make similar excuses. She won’t be watching the Oscars with the likes of us; we’ll be watching her.
That seems to be the plan behind “Changeling,” at any rate, an ambition telegraphed a shade too blatantly in the many close-ups of Ms. Jolie’s extraordinary face, which is by turns tear-streaked, stoical, crestfallen and howling. To watch her trace Christine’s harrowing emotional passage — a series of flights from anxiety to terror, from grief to rage, pausing occasionally at calm defiance or tremulous hope — is to witness an undeniable tour de force of screen acting. It insists on being regarded as a great performance and may, indeed, be mistaken for one…… For the complete New York Times review – click here.
Runner Up for Achievement in Directing – Gus Van Sant (MILK)
Maybe you don’t know a damn thing about gay activist Harvey Milk. Maybe you ought to know that President-elect Barack Obama isn’t the only community organizer who went on to make a difference. Maybe thoughtful filmmaking, no matter how incendiary and intimate, isn’t worth squat at an infantilized multiplex. Stop me now. There’s really no maybe about Milk, directed with a poet’s eye by Gus Van Sant from a richly detailed script by Big Love writer Dustin Lance Black. It’s a total triumph, brimming with humor, heart, sexual heat, political provocation and a crying need to stir things up, just like Harvey did. If there’s a better movie around this year, with more bristling purpose, I sure as hell haven’t seen it.
San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be voted into office in America, was shot dead in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone, in City Hall. Dan White, a troubled politico who had served with Harvey on the city’s board of supervisors, pumped five bullets into Harvey. The crusader for gay rights in San Francisco, and the nation, was 48……. For the complete Rolling Stones review – click here.
Runner Up for Best Foreign Movie – Waltz with Bashir
Despite its blaring phantasmagoria and hallucinatory nostalgia, the central image of Ari Folman’s utterly spellbinding Waltz with Bashir is one of brilliant, serene calm. Bathed in streetlamp-yellow glow, three rail-thin soldiers emerge from a black ocean, stark naked, and begin walking onto the shores of West Beirut. Accompanied only by the sustained synths and strings of Max Richter’s ominous score, the image reemerges throughout the film, eventually leading to the film’s shattering finale.
At the beginning of Folman’s film-a stylish hybrid of documentary, animation, and war movie-this image of himself and his two comrades, youthful and morose, is the only thing he can conjure up about his times as an Israeli soldier in 1982. He cannot remember what he did or, for that matter, what he did not do while serving in Lebanon against the Palestinians in the days leading up to the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Early on, Boaz, Folman’s good friend and fellow soldier, recalls a recurring nightmare he has about a battalion of zombie dogs running through the streets of a steel-blue Tel Aviv in search of his jugular. He knows the dream’s origins: As a soldier, he shot dogs in the small towns to ensure that they wouldn’t bark and give the Palestinians time to escape.
The rest of Waltz with Bashir plunges through Folman’s own past to find the origins of his dream. He interviews a dozen or so of his fellow combatants, along with a psychologist and Ron Ben-Yishai, a television reporter who was on the ground during the attacks that lead to Sabra and Shatila. The massacre, revealed in the film’s final quarter, served as retribution for the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the leader of the Christian Phalangists and prospective president of Lebanon. So muddled is the conflict that the death toll has never been confirmed……. For the complete Reel review – click here.
Special Thanks – I found all the above movie reviews through MRQE – Movie Review Query Engine. It is the ultimate site for movie reviews. Do you think we should add it to our Movies FaveLine on AllMyFaves Entertainment?