Richard Roeper on the Oscars

Richard Roeper nailed all the major categories and was 21 for 24 in his predictions. He sums up the night in his latest blog.

Who knows if Mickey Rourke’s offscreen antics cost him the Best Actor trophy. More likely, Academy voters felt Sean Penn’s performance in “Milk” was more likely to resonate through the ages. Both actors played charming, doomed characters, but Harvey Milk was a real-life crusader, whereas the wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson was a fictional creation. We felt empathy for Rourke’s character, despite his self-destructive and self-loathing ways—but we felt inspired by Penn’s Harvey Milk. The roles themselves might have given Penn the edge.

I love Kate Winslet but I didn’t love “The Reader.” She was fine in a supporting role, but she was unforgettable in her much larger role in “Revolutionary Road.” Heath Ledger’s performance was Oscar-worthy. The tragedy of his death was reflected in the faces of all those talented actors who worked with him or knew him or simply appreciated his gifts. Penelope Cruz had a showcase role in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and she hit it out of the park. Like Dianne Weist and Mira Sorvino, she is also the beneficiary of a Woody Allen screenplay.

“Slumdog Millionaire” was the best movie of 2008 and one of the best 100 films I’ve ever seen. I’m thrilled for the film, the cast and of course for Best Director winner Danny Boyle.

As for the show: Hugh Jackman did a fine job in a couple of lavish and slightly wacky production numbers, and then he seemed to disappear in the second half, as is usually the case with hosts. I can’t imagine that he’d ever want to take on the job again. The ratings won’t be great, but the Oscars will still bring in more viewers than the Grammys and the Emmys combined. Until/unless they cut the ceremony to two hours and eliminate the broadcast of the “minor” categories, the numbers will continue to go down. When the viewers at home have never heard of the winner onstage, have never seen his film and have never heard of any of the people he’s thanking—that’s not timeless TV.

  

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Academy Awards recap: Oscar loves Nazis, hates robots, superheroes

Wow. Just…wow. Do you ever wonder just what movies the Academy voters are watching, and if they’re seeing the same movies the rest of us are? I certainly had that thought after scouring through the list of nominees for the 81st Academy Awards, when I saw that most of my favorite movies – one of which made over half a billion dollars – were discarded in favor of an overripe Nazi legal drama. And, just to have some fun with how far off some of these selections are, I’m going to include the Rotten Tomatoes freshness ratings. Let’s start at the top:

Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (72%)
Frost/Nixon (91%)
Milk (92%)
The Reader (60%)
Slumdog Millionaire (95%)

Now, fellow BE movie critic Jason Zingale and I admit that we are in the minority on “Milk” – it’s a fine movie, but neither of us understands what people think is so wonderful about it – but I’m not surprised to see it here. It’s about a gay California poilitician in the year that Prop 8 passed. Of course Hollywood’s going to get behind this one. But “The Reader” for Best Picture? You have got to be kidding me. Look again at that freshness rating. Sixty percent, which means only three out of every five people liked it. Granted, “Benjamin Button” isn’t rated much higher, but movies with that kind of scope and reach always have their detractors. (Indeed, in our local film critics’ poll, “Benjamin Button” finished ninth.) Simply put, “The Reader” has no business whatsoever being nominated for Best Picture, not in the same year that saw the release of “The Dark Knight” (94%) and “WALL-E” (96%).

So why is it here? My personal theory: because Hollywood’s liberal populace sees Kate Winslet’s character getting tried for war crimes, and fantasizes about doing the same to George W. Bush. Get over yourselves, people. “The Reader” isn’t about you, or us, or now. It’s overdone melodrama, nothing more.

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Man, I’m torn here. On the one hand, I’m thrilled for Richard Jenkins that he finally got a lead role, and earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts. On the other hand, Clint freaking Eastwood just gave his final acting performance, and it was unforgettable. Again, I don’t think Sean Penn belongs here, but I’m starting to think Jason is right when he says he’s going to win. Damn. I’m totally pulling for Mickey Rourke.

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Kate was far better in “Revolutionary Road,” for my money, and for the life of me I can’t understand why the Academy is throwing that movie under the bus. This is not a strong list of nominees, if you ask me. My money’s on Melissa Leo to surprise the world.

Best Supporting Actor
Please. Does it even matter who else is nominated here? This is Heath Ledger’s to lose, and he’s not going to lose. Bonus points for nominating Robert Downey Jr. for “Tropic Thunder,” though.

Best Supporting Actress
Both Amy Adams and Viola Davis from “Doubt” were nominated, and will surely split the vote. I’d like to see Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”) or Taraji P. Henson (“Benjamin Button”) win, but my gut tells me Penelope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) will be the winner.

Best Director
Danny Boyle, Danny Boyle, Danny Boyle. Again, Stephen Daldry is here for “The Reader,” while Christopher Nolan (“Dark Knight”) and Andrew Stanton (“WALL-E”) watch from the cheap seats. Absurd.

Best Animated Feature
Here’s your bone, “WALL-E.”

Best Foreign Language Film
Where the hell is “Let the Right One In”? Inexcusable oversight, that.

Best Song
Where the hell is “The Wrestler”? They know that Springsteen wrote it, right? Wouldn’t that alone guarantee it a nod? Ugh.

Best Documentary
God help them if something other than “Man on Wire” wins this.

Come Oscar night, I’m going to make sure I don’t have anything heavy in my hands when they announce the Best Picture winner. Because, if for some ungodly reason “The Reader” wins, I will kill my television, then fly to Hollywood and burn the place to the ground. Academy, you’ve been warned. Do the right thing.

  

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