Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Nominations

Penélope Cruz gets a nod for Best Supporting Actress

Nominations for the 81st Academy Awards are out this morning. Here are some of the major categories:

1. Best Picture: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire."

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

3. Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"; Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"; Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"; Meryl Streep, "Doubt"; Kate Winslet, "The Reader."

4. Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, "Milk"; Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"; Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"; Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road."

5. Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "Doubt"; Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"; Viola Davis, "Doubt"; Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler."

6. Director: David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"; Gus Van Sant, "Milk"; Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"; Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire."

7. Foreign Film: "The Baader Meinhof Complex," Germany; "The Class," France; "Departures," Japan; "Revanche," Austria; "Waltz With Bashir," Israel.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt"; Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"; David Hare, "The Reader"; Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."

9. Original Screenplay: Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"; Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"; Martin McDonagh, "In Bruges"; Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"; Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, "WALL-E."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Bolt"; "Kung Fu Panda"; "WALL-E."
The big surprise has to be Benjamin Button getting 13 nominations, including Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actress (Tarajip Henson) and Best Director (David Fincher). I haven't heard anything exceptional about it. Two serious film-going friends both gave it lukewarm reviews.

WALL-E was sadly relegated to the children's table, getting a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film but not Best Picture.

With the exception of Heath Ledger's nod for Best Supporting Actor, The Dark Knight is ignored in the major categories, though it did reap a number of nominations in technical areas like Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, etc.

Cultural Hell: Brad Pitt wins Best Actor and Angelina Jolie wins Best Actress. All media would fuse into one Brangelina channel. You will soon be forced to adopt children from other countries.

Irish playwright and film director Martin McDonagh received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for In Bruges, but that was it for one of my favorite films in a long time.

How about Robert Downey Jr. getting a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Tropic Thunder?

The most interesting competition this year has to be Best Actor: Frank Langella, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke have all received tremendous praise for their roles.

Clint and Gran Torino get shut out.

I haven't seen any of the Best Picture nominees. We tried to go see Frost/Nixon on Monday, but it wasn't showing anywhere nearby.

I'd be curious to hear everyone's thoughts on the nominations. What caught your attention?


Liam said...

Interesting. The only two I've seen are Tropic Thunder and the Dark Knight, so not a lot of opinions here. Robert Downey Jr. was hilarious in TT, my wife and I still crack up about it.

"Cultural Hell: Brad Pitt wins Best Actor and Angelina Jolie wins Best Actress. All media would fuse into one Brangelina channel. You will soon be forced to adopt children from other countries."

Brilliant. I like both of them, but you're right. It's hard standing in line at the supermarket checkout counter anymore.

crystal said...

I haven't seen any of the movies mentioned, just the trailers and reviews, but I'm surprised the Brad Pitt movie got so many nominations - the reviews were not very good.

Ebert did like Frost/Nixon, and he liked Penn in Milk. The trailer for Doubt showed Streep and Hoffman and they both seemed very convincing, though I don't think I'll see it.

I wonder what The Baader Meinhof Complex is like.

cowboyangel said...


I'm somewhat scared to ask, but how was Tropic Thunder? Love Robert Downey Jr., but I don't know if I could actually sit through an entire film with BOTH Ben Stiller and Jack Black. Just thinking about it gives me a headache.

cowboyangel said...


Yeah, I was certainly surprised about Benjamin Bunny. Er, Button. It didn't seem to get the acclaim several films received.

One of my friends, who's seen all five films, said Frost/Nixon was the best. I have a feeling it will come down to that and Slumdog Millionaire, which seems to have a lot of buzz.

At first, I thought Penn would easily win Best Actor for milk, but I keep hearing more and more about mickey rourke in The Wrestler, and Langella has always had good reviews for Frost/Nixon.

They'll give something to Milk, I'm sure. Maybe Van Sant for Best Director. Frost/Nixon gets Best Pic, Rourke gets Best Actor and Van Sant gets Best Director. Everybody goes home happy.

I wonder what The Baader Meinhof Complex is like.

Actually, I had The Baader Meinhof Complex for a while when I was in Spain. Believe me, it's not fun. It starts with a red rash all over your body. Very red. Then you start speaking German. Then you have an uncontrollable urge to rob banks and burn down department stores. Finally, projectile vomiting at prominent members of government and right-wing media.

And, of course, you suddenly start noticing the same symptoms in other people wherever you go.

Liam said...

Well, I have a higher tolerance for stupid comedy than you do, so I hesitate to recommend it to you. It was hit and miss, but I enjoyed it. Downey's performance was great and the character was a pretty good commentary on primadonna method actors and questions of race.

Liam said...

I should add that as good as RD Jr was in TT, out of the two I've seen Heath Ledger really deserves the oscar -- that was an iconic performance.

cowboyangel said...

Hmm... Stupid comedy. That would be a good post. What, exactly, is stupid comedy? One hears the term, but it's not always clear to me what it is. Are the Three Stooges stupid comedy? Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin? Hot Fuzz? I like all of those. Can a stupid comedy be intelligently written? Or does it actually have to be badly written by stupid people FOR stupid people? Monty Python was often pretty stupid, in the sense of being slapstick and, well, just plain silly. Is silly the same as stupid? But we know they're from Oxford, and they were also brilliant, so we don't call them stupid comedy. Interesting that you say you have a higher tolerance for it. Does this all come down to where one falls on the 40 Year-Old Virgin? Is that a stupid comedy? Aptnow gets articles written about him in the New Yorker, so can he really be considered stupid? I didn't think it was a stupid comedy exactly. I just didn't like the tone, the strange mix of raunchy and overly sentimental. Were the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies stupid comedies? They're definitely very silly at times.

[pause while he surfs the web]

Okay, here are two lists of Top 10 Stupid Comedies

1. Austin Powers (1 & 2)
2. Tommy Boy
3. Dumb and Dumber
4. Airplane
5. Wrongfully Accused
6. Mallrats
7. Clerks
8. Billy Madison
9. Spaceballs
10. The Man Who Knew Too Little

2.Dumb and Dumber
3.The Naked Gun
4.There's Something About Mary
5.Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
6.The Naked Gun 33 1/3
7.The Naked Gun 2 1/2
8.Monty Python's Life of Brian
10.Robin Hood: Men in Tights

So someone out there actually thinks Monty Python is stupid comedy. Interesting. I would not call Life of Brian stupid comedy. nor would I call The Man Who Knew Too Little stupid comedy, even though Bill Murray plays a stupid fellow. It's actually quite brilliant. And Airplane isn't stupid, is it? you have to be pretty intelligent to come up with all those cultural allusions, no?

Is Mel Brooks stupid comedy? I see several of his films listed. I would never think of calling Young Frankenstein a stupid comedy. Or Blazing Saddles.

This requires more investigation.

cowboyangel said...

Oh yes . . . I wouldn't worry too much about Heath not getting the Oscar. There may never in the history of the Academy Awards have been an award so wrapped up beforehand.

cowboyangel said...

Another Top 10 Stupid Comedies list, with the Holy Grail and Blazing Saddles included.

I'm really shocked that people would call Life of Brian or Holy Grail stupid comedy. Those have to be two of the most intelligent and brilliant comedies of all time. I learned more from those two movies than I did in several years of my public school education. I mean, really. Has any film, comedy or otherwise, ever dissected politics and religion as well as Life of Brian?

Maybe there are no stupid comedies, only stupid people who watch comedies.

Though that doesn't account for Adam Sandler.

Liam said...

Interesting lists. A good "stupid comedy" is one of those things I recognize but I can't define. Monty Python and the Marx Brothers, even at their zaniest, aren't "stupid" because their level of anarchy rises to a brilliant criticism of what we consider normal. "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" I think are both original and well-done. BS has a lot of political (especially racial, thanks to Richard Pryor's involvement) and meta stuff going on. "History of the World" on the other hand goes more for gags than overall cinematic quality (though the inquisition musical scene is remarkable). So I don't think "History of the World" is as good a film as the other two, but it does make me laugh uproariously and I love it.

I also love the Austin Powers movies, especially the second, though I think they're truly stupid. One gag after another, puerile, and hilarious.

I think there's a certain kind of actor that mugs and falls down a lot and he or she carries the film in large part depending on whether you react well to them or they annoy you. I can watch anything with Jim Carrey, for example, and perhaps I like Ace Ventura the most, because it's nothing more than a platform for him to act like a complete ass for an hour and a half. Jerry Lewis annoys me to no end. For a period of time I found Will Farrell really funny, then something snapped inside me and he just started irritating me.

"Airplane" would have been completely stupid had it not been for the pacing. The gags were dumb, but the sheer velocity and quantity of them end up making something very memorable and funny. Stupid or groundbreaking?

By the way, sorry I did not comment on the Chia post. I was too much in awe.

cowboyangel said...

So much to discuss...

Zany. Excellent word. Zany really isn't stupid, is it?

[pause while he goes to the OED]

Wow. I knew nothing of the origins of zany. It was originally a noun: "A comic performer attending on a clown, acrobat, or mountebank, who imitates his master's acts in a ludicrously awkward way; a clown's or mountebank's assistant, a merry-andrew, jack-pudding; sometimes used vaguely for a professional jester or buffoon in general."

(A merry-andrew! I'm going to call you that from now on.)

According to this definition, Harpo is really the zany in the Marx Brothers. And Harpo, one of God's finer angels and poets, was not stupid.

There are numerous definitions of zany over time, leading up to the current usage:

"imitative; clownish; foolish, idiotic. Comically idiotic, crazily ridiculous."

So zany is idiotic, and an earlier use meant idiot. But an idiot is not stupid, per se. So that's a fine but clear distinction.

I love one of the OED examples of the current usage:

"1960 Sat. Rev. - Ginsberg, for all his carefully cultivated (and natural) zaniness, is a writer far above Kerouac."

So Ginsberg is to the Marx Brothers as Kerouac is to . . . Jim Carrey? Will Farrel?

For the record, a Will Farrel fan I am not, but I enjoyed Stranger than Fiction, which is basically his version of Carrey and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think I liked Stranger than Fiction better.

So, it sounds like you're saying that a comedy which critiques society can't be a stupid comedy?

Also, quality plays a role. Young Frankenstein is not a stupid comedy because it's a better made film than History of the World? Which begs the question, what make YF a better film?

Gags. You imply that a film with a lot of gags may be a stupid comedy. Although one of the examples of zany from the OED said: "Television shows that lean heavily on the brand of humor known as ‘zany’, consisting largely of sight gags and the sight of appealing people making cheerful fools of themselves."

What, really, is a gag? Does it differ from a sight gag?

Alas, the OED doesn't help in this situation. It just says "a humorous remark or action."

My head is spinning.

And I haven't even gotten to puerile.

I'm still not satisfied...

Liam said...

Yeah, it's very tough. If gags are stupid, what about Chaplin and Keaton?

Zany may just complicate things. I think there is some physical comedy (Harpo, Chaplin, Keaton) that tells us something about being human, whereas in some cases you can just act like an ass and be funny (Carrey in "Ace Ventura").

Why is Eddie Murphy not funny anymore?

cowboyangel said...

1) Maybe Eddie wasn't as funny as we thought to begin with?
2) He never had good writers after he left SNL?