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:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (72%)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where the hell is “The Wrestler”? They know that Springsteen wrote it, right? Wouldn’t that alone guarantee it a nod? Ugh.
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.