The annual award show is set to tape a week later than usual, as to not interfere with the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were asked to return as producers for the show.
In a press release from the Academy, Zadan and Meron praised DeGeneres as the pick for year's host, saying:
As a longtime friend, we had always hoped to find a project for us to do together and nothing could be more exciting than teaming up to do the Oscars. There are few stars today who have Ellen's gift for comedy, with her great warmth and humanity. She is beloved everywhere and we expect that the audience at the Dolby Theatre, and in homes around the globe, will be as excited by this news as we are.
The 86th Academy Awards will air Sunday, March 2, 2014 on ABC.
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"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane will host the 85th annual Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2013, on ABC. The network released the statement today, citing MacFarlane's "box office success" with his 2012 directorial debut, "Ted," and a rather impressive list of accomplishments, spanning through television, stage, and music. (Did you know MacFarlane received two Grammy nods for his 2011 album, "Music Is Better than Words"? Did you know he released an album? We didn't either.)
MacFarlane, a RISD graduate, was quoted with the following: "It's truly an overwhelming privilege to be asked to host the Oscars. My thoughts upon hearing the news were, one, I will do my utmost to live up to the high standards set forth by my predecessors; and two, I hope they don't find out I hosted the Charlie Sheen roast."
MacFarlane kicked off the 38th season premiere of "Saturday Night Live" in September, giving audiences just a taste of his live hosting (and singing) abilities but viewers will have to wait until February to see him take the Dolby Theatre stage. (Image via REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Ty Burr and I talked about last night's Oscars broadcast. Replay the chat below.
So once again the Oscars are conquered by England. "The Kings's Speech" wins. But that best picture montage was really something. All 10 movies were stitched together into a single inspired short film that looks like it required a lot of research. Give that movie the Oscar. After "The King's Speech" speech, PS 22 from Staten Island sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Why, oh, why couldn't they get these kids suits and dresses? Oh well. Those are the Oscars. I'm going to go for a walk. More tomorrow. Ty Burr and I will be chatting on Boston.com at 1 p.m.
Jeff Bridges arrives to heap warbled praise upon the best actress nominees. Natalie Portman wins. Her speech is nice, and Annette Bening is even nicer not to pull a Kanye West on her. Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock and her suddenly strange-ish face most excellently toast the best-actor nominees, which only reminds us all that she needs another movie soon, please. Colin Firth wins and gives an acceptance speech that has a lot of class, humor, and some wit. Basically, what we'd expect from a Colin Firth acceptance speech.
So Hilary Swank has been asked to chaperone last year's director winner, Kathryn Bigelow. Why? In other "why" news: Tom Hooper wins the directing award. There's no "cool" hosting assignment in the world that can cover up that kind of fogeyish choice. But it's hardly surprising, if richly undeserved. But these are the Oscars. What can you do?
So Jennifer Hudson arrives to present the song Oscar to Randy Newman, the same Jennifer Hudson who's made about three movies since she won her Oscar five years ago. I don't think that's a problem her new figure can solve. How many has Halle Berry made? I guess we can ponder that later when Berry pays tribute to Lena Horne. Speaking of depressing news: Celine Dion is singing "Smile" over the necrology. Oh, wait, here's La Berry. Her praise is brief and nice, but it raises a lot questions about how far black people have really come at the movies. The whole thing ends with Horne's great line: "It's not the load that breaks you down. It's the way you carry it." I would say the movies are doing a pitiful job of carrying.
We've hit a good streak. Billy Crystal is taken off ice to remind us what might have been and what deserves again to be. Why are we pretending that the Oscars were ever "cool," and does hiring Franco and Hathaway, whom I love in the movies, solve that "problem"? They're talented and hard-working and, yes, funny, but not cool. Crystal's shtick and the oddly over-processed Bob Hope clips that preceded just suggest that the Academy Awards should be whatever they are: long and corny and earnest. Never, ever cool. Of course, I write that and Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law show up and are cool. But my point stands: Bring back Billy Crystal. Or Whoopi Goldberg. In other news, Downey and Law just gave the visual effects Oscar to "Inception" and editing to "The Social Network."
The first and, so far, only sustained bit of comedy involves Auto Tuning a scene from three movies -- "Death Hallows Part One," "Toy Story 3," and "Twilight: Eclipse." It's funny, but might have come too late. One of the songs is called "He Doesn't Have a Shirt." Someone needs to take off their shirt during the show. In other news, Oprah arrives to give Charles Ferguson his directing Oscar for "Inside Job," and in her preamble says something wonderful and true, that the documentary Oscar is for "the best movie that did not let us escape." So true.
Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are presenting the short filmmaking awards. The winners are "Strangers No More" (documentary) and "God of Love" (not documentary), whose director, in mentioning his lack of a haircut, gives the night's best speech.
James Franco already really looks stoned and peaked, liked he has a paper to write when this all over. They bring out Cate Blanchett to present makeup and costume design. Her dress needs an Oscar. In a welcome bit of spontaneity, she gets a look at the "Wolfman" clip and says, "That's gross." I think we're all a bit desperate, at this point, for a Moment. Oh, here it might be. People on the street and one POTUS mention their favorite songs. Oh, never mind, it last 90 seconds and ends with Kevin Spacey singing something from "Top Hat" before rhwy bring out Randy Newman to sing. Someone needs to turn his mic up. Can you hear him? Actually, he's introducing two of the song nominees. Now it's Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi singing from "Tangled," and suddenly we're at some weird talent show-prom-bar mitzvah combo.
Scarlett Johansson is presenting the sound awards with Matthew McConaughey. Silly girl, she failed to bring a towel. (He's still melting.) "Inception" wins both awards, and the winners proceed to kneel at Lord Christopher Nolan's feet. During a commercial break Celine Dion sings "Happy Birthday," which means she'll be singing two more times than I will be tonight.
Boy, oh boy. We just learned that ABC has reupped for future Oscar broadcasts -- from ABC! It's like they're daring us to watch the Kardashians instead. It's also like Cabletown, the evil company that controls NBC on "30 Rock," has taken over the show. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman just gave Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch their surprise score Oscar for "The Social Network."
Reese Witherspoon, looking a little legally Bardot and a little legally Barbie, gives Christian Bale his supporting actor Oscar. His speech is good, but like everyone he's got speech fatigue, although his singling out Dicky Eklund and Lowell and losing it a bit as he mentions his wife were all classy. But Mr. Bale, your redemption won't be complete until Anne Hathaway knocks you around in the next Batman movie.
Anne Hathaway just fake-flipped a musical bird to Hugh Jackman, and James Franco just came out dressed like a Fire Island fire-sale Marilyn Monroe. It does inspire a good Charlie Sheen joke. They're followed by Russell Brand and Helen Mirren who make a good duo. I'm not wild about Brand (he's growing on me), but he has just the right brand of teasing irreverence a show like this needs. Hathaway is too earnest, and Franco a little too harsh. And the writing keeps letting them down. They're presenting foreign film, which goes to Susanne Bier of Denmark for "In a Better World."
Anne Hathaway just said, "It's 1929." No kidding. Then she presents an old-timey tribute clip, then Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem walk out. They take the stage to present the screenwriting awards in classy white tuxedoes, looking like they'll be serving martinis to Douglas Fairbanks and Myrna Loy at the Overlook Hotel. Aaron Sorkin wins the adapted Oscar. David Seidler wins the original one for "The King's Speech." (He's American?!)
"The Lost Thing" wins animated short and "Toy Story 3" wins the feature award, presented by Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. That block of the Oscars was presented by Listerene, which is fighting something called biofilm, which might mean no more James Cameron movies.
Kirk Douglas arrives on the stage, tells Anne Hathaway she's hot, and keeps alive the ABC tradition of maintaining airtime for entertainment legends who've had strokes. He's here to present the supporting actress Oscar, which he does with a lot of hamming in drawing out the announcement of the winner. It's Melissa Leo, who seems truly shocked to get the Oscar from Douglas. She makes a dirty joke about the view and Cate Blanchett. She takes her time, but she's nervous, and makes an oblique reference to her faux Oscar campaign. It's what they call an Oscar moment. She even takes Douglas's cane ("Oh my God," she mouths) as they head backstage. But, sweetie, he really looks like he needs that.
Oh no. Krista Smith's Ambien might have taken hold of the broadcast. Tom Hanks is presenting the art-direction and cinematography Oscars while the music pit plays below him. It's like they don't want him to finish. Are we so pressed for time that presenters will now be cut short, too? The Oscar goes to "Alice and Wonderland," which might make perfect sense except, as a moviegoer through those glasses, I could see their work to appreciate it. And Wally Pfister rightly wins for "Inception," which means Roger Deakins, who shot "True Grit," goes Oscar-less again. I'm nervous that already kind of rooting for the end. I need a musical number. Or a blue Ben Stiller.
The show begins with clips from the 10 best picture nominees, proving yet again that montages are orgasms for the eye. Meanwhile, having James Franco and Anne Hathaway jump into scenes from a few of the nominated movies, courtesy of "Inception" and Alec Baldwin's brain, might be more interesting than it is good. But it is filmmaking paying tribute to movies in a way that seems more appropriate than live television often does. Then they take the stage, and one wonders why Anne Hathaway didn't wear that dress on the red carpet.
So Matthew McConaughey is melting his way down the red carpet. He's doing it wearing the evening's best tuxedo. Before I take a 10-minute steamed-clam break, it should be known that Nicole Kidman's dress is a fan. Oh, and, mysteriously, Marisa Tomei's gown looks a lot better on ABC than on E!.
And missing her only opportunity to arrive at anything in a giant, slave-driven plastic swan egg, it's Natalie Portman! Meanwhile, at the bar, Krista Smith is putting James Franco to sleep. If Portman didn't arrive in an egg, Smith's celebrity small-talk has.
Boy, this is boring. Right now Reese Witherspoon is sitting in a parlor of some kind talking to Vanity Fair's Krista Smith. It's like watching two Ambiens slide down somebody's throat.
Ty Burr and Wesley Morris, Globe Staff
Hollywood tilted significantly and decisively to the northeast this morning. Nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards were announced, and movies set in Boston and its environs, featuring actors either from Massachusetts or playing local natives, represented a historically high percent of the total. Two Bay State dramas were nominated for the best picture Oscar. "The Social Network," a portrait of Harvard social life and anti-social entrepreneurs, received eight nominations, and "The Fighter," which memorializes the city of Lowell and one of its own, the boxer Micky Ward, has seven.
In the supporting actress category, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, respectively playing Ward's mother and girlfriend in "The Fighter," were nominated. When all the nominations are taken into account, New England figures significantly in the overall total -- a startling comeback for a state whose film industry was moribund a decade ago.
For area moviegoers, the sheer preponderance of nominated actors, films, and behind-the-camera talent with local connections stands as a major source of pride, evidence that the area has stories to tell that the world wants to see. This says nothing of "Shutter Island," "Conviction," "The Company Men," and "The Town," movies the Academy largely overlooked. The volume and quality of films also confirms the state's hard-won beachhead in the film industry, at a time, ironically, when those gains may be threatened: Recent weeks have seen the Patrick administration oust state film head Nick Paleologos and merge his office into the polyglot new Massachusetts Marketing Partnership. How the business of wooing filmmakers here will change is unknown.
It should be noted that other films made outside the area were nominated as well. ?The King's Speech,? a period drama about a stuttering George VI and his speech therapist, received 12 Academy Award nominations. The popular revenge western ?True Grit? received 10. And the ambitious smash-hit caper thriller "Inception" had eight. In its second year fielding an expanded list of 10 best-picture candidates, since it stopped doing so in 1944, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominated an impressive array of films, from earnest family comedy and animated sequels to ambitious summer entertainment and enjoyably sleazy trash.
The field includes "127 Hours," about a hiker whose arm is pinned by a boulder (six); Pixar's animated hit "Toy Story 3" (five); the ballet-world psychological-thriller "Black Swan" (five); the au courant social comedy "The Kids Are All Right," about a Los Angeles lesbian couple coping with the appearance of their teenagers' sperm-donor father (four); and "Winter's Bone," a little-seen independent drama, in which a tough young Ozarks woman (Jennifer Lawrence) scours the backwoods for her deadbeat dad.
Lawrence, a 20-year old, received her first Oscar nomination for best actress. Until "Winter's Bone," her biggest par was as a regular on the comedian Bill Engvall's now-cancelled TBS sitcom. Her fellow nominees have all been nominated before. They are: Annette Bening for her role as an uptight doctor in "The Kids Are All Right"; Nicole Kidman, who plays a vividly grieving mother in "Rabbit Hole"; Natalie Portman for her work, in "Black Swan," as a dancer undergoing a physical and psychological tranformation; and Michelle Williams as a miserably married wife in "Blue Valentine."
The best-actor race includes Javier Bardem, in a minor surprise, for his role as a psychic networker in "Biutiful"; Jeff Bridges as a rarely sober U.S. Marshal in "True Grit"; Jesse Eisenberg as a cutting, deadly serious college student in "The Social Network"; Colin Firth as a frustrated, tongue-tied royal in "The King's Speech"; and the Oscar broadcast's co-host, James Franco, as an imperiled hiker in "127 Hours."
Joining Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner in the supporting actor contest are: John Hawkes for his role as an intimidating crystal-meth addict in "Winter's Bone; Mark Ruffalo as the feckless sperm donor in "The Kids Are All Right"; and Geoffrey Rush as an unorthodox elocution teacher in "The King's Speech."
In addition to Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, the nominees for supporting actress includes Helena Bonham Carter as the king-to-be's tepid wife in "The King's Speech," Hailee Steinfeld as a sharp young woman bent on catcher the man who killed her father in "True Grit," and Jacki Weaver as a mother forced to do unsavory business for her criminal sons in "Animal Kingdom."
This years's directing nominees reflect the coming of age of a group of men whose work has been on the cutting edge of commercial cinema for years: David Fincher ("The Social Network"), Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), and David O. Russell ("The Fighter"). Only Fincher has been nominated in the directing category before; their appearance together represents an unmistakable generational change. They're joined by Joel and Ethan Coen ("True Grit"), whose work, in general, is by no means conventional and Tom Hooper, whose work in "The King's Speech," by every means is.
"Toy Story 3" will compete in the best animated feature category with the springtime hit "How to Train Your Dragon," and "The Illusionist," a delicate French comedy based on a script idea by the comic genius Jacques Tati, who died in 1982.
For all the variety in this year's nominees, there appear to be a number of sure bets. Firth stands poised to collect a best actor Oscar for "The King's Speech" in part on the momentum of last year's "A Single Man," for which he was nominated but did not win. Barring a Portman upset, Bening is on track for her first Oscar, a best actress award for "The Kids Are All Right." And Bale's performance has won him almost every pre-Oscar acting prize there is, making him close-to-certain victor in his category.
"The Social Network" and "The King's Speech" are considered the films to beat for the best picture of 2010. The two represent strikingly different schools of moviemaking. The latter film is a crowd-pleasing historical drama in the classic Miramax mode (that studio's ex-head, Harvey Weinstein, executive-produced the film for the Weinstein Company). The former is an up-to-the-minute tale of online success and offline betrayal, heavily and shewdly marketed by Sony Pictures, and delivered at a breathless pace. In a sense, boiling the ten films down these two represents a kind of David-and-Goliath, as much as Weinstein can still be considered a David in Hollywood.
Alternatively, this year the truly tiny independent distributor, Roadside Attractions, founded and run by a pair of Boston natives, picked up "Winter's Bone" and kept it in theaters for months. The studio is also releasing Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Biutiful," which opens Friday in Boston and, in addition to Bardem's nomination, is up for the foreign-language Oscar.
Every year, the Academy manages to omit a few names and titles. This year's include: Bening's co-star, Julianne Moore, and Williams's co-star, Ryan Gosling. "The Town" was on many predictors' short-lists, but Renner represents the movie's sole nomination. And two best picture nominees were directed by women -- "The Kids Are All Right" (Lisa Cholodenko) and "Winter's Bone" (Debra Granik) -- but neither is a directing nominee. Both women are nominated for their screenplays, however. The Academy's directors branch also managed to again pass over Christopher Nolan. Two years ago it was for "The Dark Knight"; this year it ignored his work on "Inception," which was nothing if not directed. His script is nominated in the original screenplay category.
But the story around here is the deserved largesse the Academy has bestowed on the local screen scene. Has Massachusetts come of age as a center of film production and narrative or is this the peak? Given the iffy future -- tightened state budgets, a new film board minus its established guiding force, the potential for "Bahstan" fatigue among Hollywood filmmakers -- it's far too soon to say. For now, the area has 16 Oscar nominations -- second only to California -- and those other 48 states don't.
The 83rd Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 27.
Movie critic Ty Burr will field your questions and comments about this year's Academy Awards. Do you agree with the night's big wins? Should "The Hurt Locker" have received the award for best picture along with five others? Share your thoughts with Ty on Monday, March 8, at noon.
greatest ethical dilemma I’ve faced as a journalist involved a pair of
Oscars. More specifically, it was William Goldman’s pair of Oscars. Goldman, of
course, is one of the legendary
The site of
my dilemma was Goldman’s truly fabulous apartment atop the Carlyle on the Upper
East Side of Manhattan. This was ten years ago. He’d just published his second
At one point he was called away to take a phone call. The fabulousness of the apartment being what it was, this meant he was well out of earshot several rooms away. So there I sat in his living room, practically within arm's reach of the handsome bookcase on one of whose shelves sat the two statuettes. He’s gone, there’s no else around, and (this is where the dilemma comes in) there are two Oscars in close proximity to me crying out to be hefted!
I ask you, fellow citizen of Movie Nation, what would you have done? On the one hand, I’m there as a reader surrogate; and what reader of a profile of William Goldman wouldn’t want to know what it feels like to heft an Oscar, let alone two? On the other hand, if Goldman comes back and finds my sweaty little hands around his Oscars he’d have had every right to snatch them back and boot me out the door, and where would that leave my readers (not to mention my sense of amour-propre)?
Well, not knowing how long the call would last – and, I would like to think, not being the sort of guest who paws his host’s most prized possessions – I just sat there and that was that.
Except there’s a happy postscript in which my virtue (or was it my meekness?) found its reward.
Three years ago Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese’s favorite film editor, was a couple of weeks away from being presented with the 2007 Coolidge Award. A photographer and I sat in her editing room at Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions, a few doors from Carnegie Hall. I was there to interview Schoonmaker, a truly lovely person (Goldman, in his own way, is a real charmer, too). How lovely? This is where the reward comes in.
Four days earlier, Thelma had won
her third Oscar, for “The Departed.” There it sat on a windowsill, next to a congratulatory
bouquet Peter Gabriel
had sent (they’d become friends during the filming of “The
Last Temptation of Christ,” edited by Schoonmaker and for which Gabriel
had written the Grammy-winning score).
She asked the photographer and me if we’d like to hold it. You bet we
did, so she graciously handed it over to each of us in turn.
I can report that the statuette, as you might imagine, is quite bottom-heavy; and, whether intentionally or not, the tapering nature of Cedric Gibbons’ design insures that the Oscar rests easily within a closed hand. I can only assume it rests that much more easily in the hand when the statuette came to be there by other than furtive means.
Chat transcript follows: Come by this space Monday at 2 p.m. to hash over the outrages and overkill (or underwhelmingness) of Oscar 2009. I'll be your host and will take all responsibility for office-pool ballots that went south on my account.
Kate Winslet just finished her post-win press conference, and she's in rare form, taking even the oddest questions like a pro. Despite those two bad movies, Lady Kate, I'm happy you're happy.
By the way, here are the current top Google searches, most of which are Oscar-related -- this includes Will Smith's "dynamite" joke about his flub.
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"Jai Ho," people. "Jai Ho." "Slumdog Millionaire" wins best picture and eight of its 10 nominations, losing only to itself in best song and to "The Dark Knight" in sound editing. (How many best-picture winners has Steven Spielberg announced?) There are about 700 people on stage. It's an impressive, mystifying story how this movie came to conquer the world. Frankly, I'm glad it's all over. It's been wearying talking up "Milk" in the shadow of "Slumdog" all these months. Of course, for Mumbai the party is just starting, depending on where on the "Slumdog" divide Mumbaikar stand. Me? I'm standing so I can pee. My legs haven't moved in six hours. Jai ho, everybody. Thanks for sitting with me.
Another impressive gang of past winners, this time for best actor. But it's already off to a dubious start with Michael Douglas telling Frank Langella that his Richard Nixon is the definitive movie portrait while Anthony Hopkins stands on the same stage. Robert De Niro reroutes things, saying to Sean Penn that it's amazing that he's gotten away with playing straight guys for all these years (I know!). Adrien Brody does Richard Jenkins. Hopkins does Brad Pitt, and Ben Kingsley does Mickey Rourke. I wonder if they drew straws to pick the man they salute.
The Oscar goes to Sean Penn. "You commie homo-loving sons of guns," he says, depriving us what was sure to be a speech for the ages from Mickey Rourke. Penn says something nice about Rourke and proclaims the need for the passing of gay marriage laws. It's a decent acknowledgment of a political moment, and a far milder speech than Penn could have given. Is it possible that a little of Milk's elegance is now part permanently part of Penn? Could he be hosting the show in top hat and tails next year? Also, one of the few American winners this evening, for what it's worth.
That is a titanic best-actress assembly to pay tribute to this year's actress nominees. MacLaine. Berry. Kidman. Cotillard. And Loren. I'm tearing up. I'm not sure why. It's really quite wonderful. MacLaine's words to Anne Hathaway are really those of an acting coach and a grandmother: a private, seemingly heartfelt appreciation for the whole world to hear. Under these circumstances, they're all winners, but the Oscar goes to Kate Winslet, and the crowd goes a little bit nuts. She's just asked her father to whistle so she can find him. He does. Who is this man, with the nice hat and sly grin? Mickey Rourke eat your heart out. (Quick research reveals Papa Winslet is an actor, too.) This is Winslet's best speech of her recent circuit. The "suck it up" moment to Meryl Streep is practically Streepian.
It's best director time, as presented by Reese Witherspoon to Danny Boyle, who first pays tribute to Tigger and the people who've put the show on. How nice. He goes on to thank Mumbai, which is also nice. So it's probable I'll be very wrong about a best-picture win for "Milk," but there's still plenty of time for anything to happen, and it looks like there are only three awards left.
Queen Latifah sings during the necrology. Cyd Charisse. Bernie Mac. Bud Stone. Van Johnson. Kon Ichikawa. Roy Scheider. Michael Crichton. Nina Foch. Robert Mulligan. Richard Widmark. Claude Berri. Paul Scofield. Ricardo Montalban. Isaac Hayes. Jules Dassin. James Whitmore. Charlton Heston. Anthony Minghella. Sydney Pollack. Paul Newman. Where's my Kleenex?
Wow, it's our first real upset! "Departures" wins best foreign-language film over "Waltz with Bashir." It's the one of the nominees I didn't see. But whenever this happens, it means the movie will probably break somebody's heart and be FedEx-ed to American art houses in minutes.
It's time for original score and song -- or, as we call it at my house, proofreading time. I'm back and -- catty comment alert -- what happened to Zac Efron's hair and Alicia Keys's makeup (she looks like she missed the cut for "RuPaul's Drag Race")? They give the original score award to A.R. Rahman for "Slumdog Millionaire" then introduce the three song-nominee performances.
Uh-oh: It's brown-people night at the Anytown, U.S.A. cultural center. But hold up, it's also "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire." That's my jam. This "live" version sounds a little canned, though, and John Legend interrupting the exuberance doesn't help (John, I don't want a Frappuccino!). Danny Boyle grips his face -- not at John Legend (as far I can tell), but at all these prizes. I think the reality is sinking in: You're going to have to give a speech in a few minutes. The commercial break seems wrong: The "Slumdog" dancers were still working as the producers cut away.
This feels like it's zipping by. Although: I'm a little desperate for something to make up for Luhrmann's train-wreck. It's already time for the Jerry Lewis tribute (is it really after 10:30? ) Eddie Murphy is presenting Lewis his Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Lewis looks great, more like himself than I can remember. If only the clip show had been longer. It barely exceeded the length of his short, sweet speech.
Tom Cruise just made me laugh in a Jimmy Kimmel promo. This is a man who needs more comedies. We want to laugh with him, at him, through him. Whatever. Just stop with the piety. By the way, is he our $4 billion man? Speaking of money: We're on to the montage for action movies, which is excitingly assembled but kind of problematic since the Academy still doesn't have a category for stunt work.
Will Smith has just risen out of the floor to do the effects categories. This, I believe, is our $4 billion man. The tux alone must be worth at least two. "Benjamin Button" wins visual effects. "The Dark Knight" wins sound editing. (Is that movie's co-writer and director, Christopher Nolan, seated in the nose-bleeds?) "Slumdog Millionaire" wins sound mixing; and one of the three winners, Resul Pookutty, is beside himself. Chris Dickens wins film editing for "Slumdog Millionaire." So for those of you keeping score at home, I think that's three/three for "Slumdog."
Albert Maysles has made an engrossing documentary tribute to the nominated documentary directors. Then presenter Bill Maher comes out and pays tribute to himself. James Marsh, who made "Man on Wire," about Philippe Petit's walk across the World Trade Center towers, wins. Petit joins the filmmakers onstage and balances his Oscar on his lips, which is almost as brilliant as James Franco and Seth Rogen's trying to turn Janusz Kaminski's two Oscars into bongs. ("Smile Pinki," about children with cleft palates in India, wins the documentary short category. I saw none of these short documentaries movies, I'm embarrassed to say. Congratulations, Megan Mylan.)
Five supporting-actor winners from the past salute the supporting actor nominees of this year. This isn't as touching as the supporting-actress nominees, but it is a veritable "where are they now?" moment - Joel Grey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Kevin Kline. Gooding turns his serenade of Robert Downey into the sort of entertaining cultural commentary that makes you sad he doesn't make watchable movies anymore. Just underwear commercials. (Show him the roles. Please.) His plea for better parts for black actors is a really a plea for himself. Maybe somebody's listening. Maybe they've seen "Radio," and it's just too late.
Kline does a classy job with the Heath Ledger portion of the salute (he's got good writing to work with). Ledger's family accepts his Oscar. Kate Winslet tears up again. Anne Hathaway and Angelina Jolie go misty, too. Ladies, save something for your category.
Sorry mom, it's Beyoncé, who will now proceed to have a razzle-dazzle-off with Hugh Jackman. They're performing every song to appear in a movie ever, including from "High School Musical 3." This is the first low of the evening. It's a Vegasy low. I'm expecting to Siegfried and Roy. Céline, perhaps. It's not gay. It's not good. It's not even bad. Just -- how you say? -- off. And I suspect Beyoncé knows it. She's a perfectionist, and it appears she was lip-synching, which I don't think she's done since Destiny's Child. Baz Luhrmann put this number together, and he's been exposed. Most of the songs are terrible. But, really, he's not a live-theater guy, despite those operas he's done. This thing was a conceptual mess (why have Seyfried, Hudgens, Efron, and Dominic Cooper also crowd in Jackman and Beyoncé? Luhrmann needs a camera to frame action then hack it up. Here he crams the stage with nonsense. That might have been worse than anything in any "High School Musical."
James Franco and Seth Rogen are "Pineapple Express"-ing the hell out of their filmed montage, which Rogen and Judd Apatow wrote. It's funny as they laugh at clips from "The Reader" and "Doubt" while confusing Stellan Skarsgard in "Mamma Mia!" with Bill Nighy and Ray Winstone, which even the non-stoned do. Things turn surreal when Janusz Kaminski shows up. The trio appears live to present live-action short, which "Toyland" wins and which I did not think should win. I meant to say it will. But some kind of transposition in the print paper (and subsequently online) made suggested that I thought "Manon on the Asphalt" would win. It didn't have a shot. But it was the best of the five.
In an accidental tribute to Hanna Schmitz of "The Reader," Jessica Biel, this year's science-awards host, fights to prove her literacy. Meanwhile, her dress fights itself not to eat the rest of her. This could be something from a 1950s horror movie, with Vincent Price: William Castle presents "The Dress!" It's unclear at the moment who made it, but it doesn't look like it would survive a "Project Runway" judging. Notice Tim Gunn didn't go near Biel during the pre-show.
Ben Stiller does a nifty brokedown-Joaquin Phoenix impersonation that was a big hit when someone else did it last night at the Spirit Awards. Marisa Tomei really likes Stiller's. Natalie Portman plays the gamely exasperated straight woman. And as Stiller's bit turns peripatetic, the camerapeople improvise with him. Conveniently, the category is cinematography, which Anthony Dod Mantle wins for "Slumdog Milllionaire."
We're on to a montage of romance in 2008, presented by Robert Pattinson and Amanda Seyfried, whose dress, sadly, I am no longer that into. It's interesting: montages that reach back to last year as opposed to the last 60 years, as is customary at this show. There's a single clip from "Milk" and about six from "Benjamin Button." Oh, well. When it's over, one of the announcers says, "Stay tuned for an appearance by an actor whose movies have made over $4 billion dollars!" I guess we love money, too.
Red carpet fairy Sarah Jessica Parker and the sexiest man in the room (sorry, Mr. Jackman), Daniel Craig, are giving away art direction, costumes, and makeup. They've got no human chemistry, but their clothes are in love. (Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo, of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," win for art direction; a very nervous Michael O'Connor of "The Duchess" wins for costume, which I ought to have known; and Greg Cannon wins for makeup for "Benjamin Button".) How smart to turn three categories in one well-produced sequence. They've really thought about how to make this seem classily smooth, not hasty and desperate. It's working.
I hate hot girl-fat guy pairings, but Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black really have something. They're presenting a montage looking back on the year in animation. This is another way of lessening the blow of not being nominated or winning, or, in this case, not being "WALL-E," which wins the Oscar. Andrew Stanton, wearing a velour wall-hanging, seems pleased and reveals that he was once cast in a production of "Hello Dolly." I'm not kidding about the Broadway-ness of things.
Holy cow! "La Maison en Petits Cubes" wins best animated short! That was a surprise even if I predicted it (It's a wonderful movie). The director Kunio Katô, who's Japanese, says, "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto," which is what I would have said had I won.
Steve Martin and Tina Fey are here doing more comedy than you get from most movies in a single year. They're presenting the screenplay award (they're writers, too). While the clips play, words from the scripts appear onscreen, and Martin and Fey take turns reading. I'll stop Jess Cagle-ing soon, I promise, but this is a real salute to the movies. Dustin Lance Black wins original screenplay for "Milk." This is a much better speech than the one he gave at the Spirit Awards yesterday. He mentions gay rights. It's political but far more eloquent than the usual political awards speech. It's personal, too. It's how you'd expect a writer (and Harvey Milk acolyte) to express himself. Cut awkwardly back to Martin and Fey feigning heterosexual love.
But somebody has to win and it's Penélope Cruz, deservingly for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." She thanks Pedro Almodovar, and shares the award with her fellow Spanish actors and Hispanics all over the world. Kate Winslet is in tears. So am I. Could they keep this up for four more hours? These salutes really emphasize that at the end of the day the Oscar is not just a peer-to-peer award or a commercial for Hollywood, it's about a kind of very exclusive, highly visible fandom.
Supporting Actress winners of yore have just walked in to welcome someone new to the club. This is special. Eva Marie Saint isn't just a member, she's also a fan -- in this case, of Viola Davis, who can't quite believe it. This might be better than winning. "Bless you, Amy," says a very funny (if tackily dressed) Whoopi Goldberg to Amy Adams. The writers are making it work, too. Judging from the tears in everybody's eyes, the nominees are already winners.
So the show has begun. Will anyone watch? The set looks great in a throwback-to-the 1930s way -- the crystal curtain, the vaguely Art-Deco set. Hugh Jackman, the showman with the GQ face and triple-X name, might turn out to be a genius host. He'll kill himself for a standing ovation.
Who did this opening production number, with the homemade sets? It's very Michel Gondry. But the number's themselves... We're at the Tonys. "Ohhh, Nixon," Jackman moans to Anne Hathaway, who carried on the stage King Kong/Rhett Butler style. This sequence was really special, including the shout-out to the barely nominated "Dark Knight." The giant auditorium feels like a cabaret. It's like he's sitting on my lap. (Again: not that I'd like that. No, not me.)
Here's a preview from Patrick Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times of how tonight's show might go:
"In its slightly madcap devotion to tradition, the academy insists that all of the awards, no matter how obscure, must be given out on camera--compared to say, the Grammys, which only presents 8 or 10 of their 100-plus awards on their telecast. With the Oscars, once you add the musical numbers, the tribute to deceased luminaries, honorary awards and host and presenter patter, you don't have much time to try anything new. That hasn't stopped Mark and Condon from broadly hinting to virtually every reporter they've talked to--including me, at lunch the other day--that they're determined to freshen up the awards as much as possible. Besides the most obvious change--hiring Hugh Jackman as host--they've brought in Baz Luhrmann to do a big production number, have Judd Apatow paying tribute to comedies (the wildly popular genre that, ahem, never wins any awards), asked documentary legend Albert Maysles to celebrate documentaries and persuaded Queen Latifah to sing a show tune during the in-memoriam segment. There are sure to be other surprises as well, starting with a new look for the audience seating."
Robin Roberts pays tribute to Richard Jenkins, and the rest of America says, "That's who that guy is!" It's a sweet moment. And Tim Gunn just told supporting-actress nominee Marisa Tomei, whose dress has grown on me, that he prefers her with her clothes on. Merely the first indication of how gay the evening will be. I'm so excited.
Wow, a montage of clips in tribute to movie accountants. That is so Boston Globe charticle.
The fawning job this year falls to Entertainment Weekly's new boss Jess Cagle, who appears to be personifying the magazine's recent we-heart-everything tone. He just told Miley Cyrus that she'll be on this carpet a lot. He's probably right, but seriously.
Not to go bananas with this, but Tim Gunn is -- to paraphrase Tim Gunn -- making it work. How cool is it that he's talking to Valentino? There are so many televisions that are turned off right now. It's great. The elegant Robin Roberts is with all of "Slumdog Millionaire" and makes talking to an entire megalopolis look easy. She is also about three Efrons tall. Amazing. (Zac basically just told her he wants Dev Patel's phone number. Vanessa Hudgens didn't bat an eyelash.) Now she's with Viola Davis, who looks great in gold.
Tim Gunn, where have you been all this show's life? You have taste. You have class. You have wit. And no matter how complimentary you are, you never seem to fawn. You know who made the clothes and really care about how they look on their wearers. You just paid your respects to the Pitt-Jolies and seemed relatively unfazed (no need to clean up your area!). If this is any indication of how the evening might go from a competence standpoint: Woo-hoo.
So I've crossed over to ABC, which is likely to be a lollapalooza compared to E! -- and it is. There's an editor and some enthusiasm. ABC has stolen the other network's punctuation trademark. It's ABC! for now.
Philip Seymour Hoffman: obviously one of our great actors, not one of our great dressers. Lots of dark, mis-tailored fabric. If I can be that writer: I have "Doubts" about his outfit. He's wearing a Snuggie. Cut to the be-tuxed Daniel Craig who, with all due respect to the opposite sex, looks stunning. Jessica Biel's dress comes with a bib, perfect for men who plan to drool on her -- that includes you, Mr. Timberlake.
With all due respect to Sam Mendes, Kate Winslet should be Daniel Craig's date - her dress looks royal (it's blue) but there's some kind of beading creeping across it that seems, to my teenage mind, like comic-book netting. It's chic and science-fictional, and I think I love it. Stan Lee, what about you? Meanwhile, Tilda Swinton, in two outfits (frilly and champagne on top, loose and black on bottom), has come dressed as Winslet's nemesis -- it's a joke on elegance. Her Marvel Comics name would be Tilda Two Tone.
The Pitt-Jolies have arrived, and Giuliana is having an orgasm. I can't say I disagree. The matching sheen is Olympics-caliber (synchronized glamour?). Really, it's the little things about them that make me happy. Those emerald earrings on her. The Clark Gable mustache part of Mr. Pitt's goatee. Excuse me, I'm going to go tidy up my area.
How could it be that Mickey Rourke is the best-dressed man at the show? White suit, black vest, lots of accessories (more than the ladies). He could have used a little more tailoring (yes, I just typed that, but it's true). In any case: This, gentlemen, is how to not wear a tuxedo to an event.
Queen Latifah is with Ryan. She's performing, too? Sweet Beyoncé! How many production numbers will there be? There are only three song nominees.
I know what I've been saying about colors. But Anne Hathaway's dress is pretty incredible. More sequins, but these, unlike Miley Cyrus's, belong in a museum of marine biology, not in a bento box.
Natalie Portman in pink! I couldn't see the dress but colors look great in high-definition. More of those, please. Robert Pattinson looks like a pre-asylum Michael Shannon. The Hair -- the magical hair -- is on its way back, "Twilight" girls. You can love him again.
Things are picking up on the carpet. Yet something is off. Sarah Jessica Parker is making it OK, though. She's like a red-carpet fairy, isn't she? She's brought her husband, Matthew Broderick, and is appearing to love him out loud. ("No, it's midnight blue!" she corrects Ryan, while stroking a tuxedo that looks black to me. ) For his part, Broderick looks like he ate something bad -- maybe all the tabloid-magazine covers rudely speculating on his fidelity.
Heidi Klum ought to be at every awards show. That, to me, is A Dress - red, slitted, origami-asymmetry, and a shoulder situation that seems to have a life of its own. On anybody else, that dress would be wearing them. She has a lovely haircut, great jewels, and enthusiasm. She knows she looks good. So does Taraji P. Henson, who just hiked up her gown to show us all, courtesy of Ryan (everything seems lost on him), her ankle tribute to her late father.
I wish Marisa Tomei had gone for the hyperactive pilates-instructor look she sported to perfection at the Golden Globes. Tonight, in a porcelain one-piece, she looks tamed. The great Melissa Leo, though, has a better dress than she did last night at the Spirit Awards. This one is monotone, though not quite monotonous (and how about that Jane Fonda hair?). Amanda Seyfriend, Meryl Streeps's daughter in "Mamma Mia!," looks great, also in red with a giant, elaborate bow. I like Amy Adams's necklace. It's like somebody threw a candy dish around her neck.
Some discussion of supporting-actress nominee Taraji P. Henson's gown. It's pretty, has a gorgeous tail, but I wish it had more color. Meanwhile, Ryan talks to Dev Patel and Freida Pinto ("Are the rumors true? Are you guys dating?," interrupts Giuliana. If only our congresspeople would cut to the chase like that.) During their talk, a woman with giant breasts lurks in the background. Apparently, she's attached to the Starbucks soundtrack generator John Legend, who apparently loves "Slumdog Millionaire." As Ryan talks to Danny Boyle, the director of "Slumdog Millionaire," he inquires whether Boyle brought anyone else from "the slums" to the show. Oh, Ryan!
The kids from "Slumdog Millionaire" are on the carpet. Ryan can't pronounce their names. He can't speak Hindi. What good is he? "Wow, she speaks good English," he says of one of the actors. "Those kids are delicious!" says Giuliana. Not as much as Miley Cyrus's dress, but if you're into eating small Asian actors...
Supporting-actor nominee Michael Shannon has hit the carpet. He's selected the same pouffed-out hairdo that made Drew Barrymore look like Tippi Hedren in the climax of "The Birds." Don't worry, Michael. You can be Suzanne Pleshette.
Vanessa Hudgens, who's a doll in the literal sense, compared herself to a "young Audrey Hepburn." She was talking about her cheap-looking dress (sorry, Marchesa), and still it was jarring. She and her partner in chastity, Zac Efron, might be doing a number together. Heaven help us.
A gentleman on E! just announced some kind of elaborate, "dramatic" presenter situation. It could be interesting, but, really it sounds very much like "Deal or No Deal."
The new producers, Larry Mark and Bill Condon, attempt to upstage the gawking foreplay might be working. This is the slowest pre-show ever.
So here we are on the red carpet with E!. How will they fill two hours with stuff to do, if the rumors are true -- that the presenters have to use a special entrance to preserve freshness for the actual show? That would imply that being on the red carpet this year is lame. There's Virginia Madsen. There's Anthony Hopkins (so tan)! What on earth will the E! Star Tracker track?
Giuliana DePandi has brought out the movie-hyper Ben Lyons for his predictions. Ryan Seacrest and Miley Cyrus discuss her dress. It's some kind of scalloped, sequined, scaled thing. The shell-buckled belt forces the issue. Not only is she seaworthy tonight. In that dress, she's sushi-worthy, too. "I'll have one Hannah Montana Dragon Boat, please."
In other news, Hugh Jackman just told told Giuliana about all the big surprises that he can't talk about - the intimacy, the spontaneity, the exclusivity ("whatever happens tonight can happen only at the Oscars"). This, of course, makes me think Mr. Jackman will be hosting the show from my living room. (Not that I'd want him to or anything. No, not me.)
I'll be chatting live about the Oscar nominations, Sundance, and other movie-related news today at 1 p.m. in this space. Come on by and rant (or rave).
Oscar nominees Taraji P. Henson and Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
And now the nation's euphoria shifts, for a few minutes, from Obama to Oscar. The nominations are here, and, as these things go, they're pretty fascinating. Because the Academy needs a big, long, costumed spectacle (no, "Australia," not you), "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" wound up with 13 nominations, including picture, director for David Fincher (I'll pretend it's for "Zodiac"), and an actor nomination for Brad Pitt. This is a fascinating list, both for what's on it and what isn't. The Reader?" Really? It did better than at least I thought it would -- picture, director, screenplay, cinematography, and actress – which means there are a lot of people in Hollywood who take their Holocaust movies with a cup of tea. That, or they truly miss the film's producers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, both of whom died last year.
Meanwhile, "The Dark Knight," released by ailing Warner Bros, was too dark for these cautiously optimistic times, which, in part, is why "Slumdog Millionaire" received 10 nominations, including one for picture and another for director, while Batman and, to some extent, "WALL-E" are snubbed. (One's origins as a comic book and the other's being a cartoon should not be discounted, either.)
"Milk" feels like a movie of our moment, especially in the Academy’s California backyard, where tussling over the legalization of gay marriage continues. More important is the possibility that the Academy, this year, wants to see light amid the dark at this putatively hopeful juncture. Harvey Milk, for all practical purposes, represents Obaman social, cultural, and political change. While “Slumdog Millionaire” sends its camera careening through the ghettos, call centers, torture chambers, and corruptly hosted game shows of Mumbai to come back with the happy, if hardly front-page, news that love is all you need. Even “Frost/Nixon,” with its toothless, postlapsarian Tricky Dick suddenly seems to have a defensive bright side: Dude, the White House is in such better hands now.
The movie industry tends to skew liberal and sentimental – last year’s “There Will Be Blood”/”No Country for Old Men” combo notwithstanding. But you have to ask how Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight,” with its dystopic metropolis and neo-con homeland security ideas, might have been received under a McCain presidency. Oh, well. For now, it’s all good, as they say. Unless, of course, you happen to be Sally Hawkins, whose unstoppable optimism in “Happy-Go-Lucky” didn’t seem to cut it for the actors branch, which went with five comparatively somber performances for best actress. (Ok, four. “Doubt” is a comedy, right?)
Kate Winslet’s nomination for “The Reader” in that category, alongside Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, and Meryl Streep, was also interesting. The people who arranged these awards campaigns saw that Winslet had two steaming prestige movies (“The Reader” and “Revolutionary Road”) hurtling toward earth – or at least toward the best actress category, where there’s room for only one performance per performer. Sensing disaster, Winslet’s work as a Nazi prison guard on trial was downgraded to a supporting part, which is like calling an SUV a big-wheel. That strategy won her two Golden Globes and two Screen Actors Guild nominations. The Academy, however, saw differently. Winslet was nominated for “The Reader” (the better of her two problematic performances) not “Revolutionary Road,” a movie whose only major nomination came for Michael Shannon, who almost literally brings the house down as a mental patient who visits Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio for dinner.
The poor showing for that movie suggests that it was probably too pristine for voters. It snagged nominations for art direction and costume design, apt acknowledgements that the director Sam Mendes had made a dollhouse of Richard Yates’s novel. Of course, if the Academy is averse to expensive-looking furniture dressed up as filmmaking, how does one explain “Frost/Nixon” or “The Reader”? Well, that’s important furniture. (“The Reader”’s most crucial nomination is for Chris Menges and Roger Deakins's cinematography.)
It’s interesting to note that the director of “The Reader,” Stephen Daldry, has made three movies (“Billy Elliot” and “The Hours” are the others) and now has three director nominations. This is a remarkable, unparalleled average. It’s also inexplicable. But Daldry excels at a certain kind of tastefulness that both audiences and an industry can admire. Of his movie, only “Billy Elliot” is alive with any kind filmmaking verve. These other two movies are triumphs of middlebrow self-congratulation: I’ve captured suffering, cooked it, and served it with a lime risotto.
Three of Daldry’s fellow nominees – Gus Van Sant, David Fincher, and Danny Boyle – have been recognized for some of their more accessible and popular work, which is hardly a crime. It's just very Oscar. In Van Sant’s case, he puts his brilliant avant-garde-film ideas to work in “Milk,” a rousing, unconventional act of movie biography that turns one man’s story into the story of a movement. Fincher directs up such a storm in “Benjamin Button” that choosing to bookend the movie with Hurricane Katrina’s approach seems redundant. And I prefer Boyle in a less hectic frame of mind (“28 Days Later” being a gonzo exception), but his movie, despite its script and character problems, at least brims with color and life.
More blathering to follow in the coming weeks. The actual broadcast – the 81st – is on February 22nd.
And the nominees are...
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”
Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”
Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn, “Milk”
Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”
Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”
Amy Adams, “Doubt”
Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”
Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road”
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”
David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”
Gus Van Sant, “Milk”
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“The Baader-Meinhof Complex” (Germany)
“The Class” (France)
“Waltz with Bashir” (Israel)
This is a link to the complete list. (More soon.)
Tomorrow morning the Oscar nominations arrive, and there's some last-minute speculation about who and what will be in or, in the immortal word of Heidi Klum, out. For now, I'll make a drive-by list of the six major categories and tomorrow will apply more thought (but not too much, I swear).
Certainly: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Milk," "Slumdog Millionaire"
Probably: "Frost/Nixon," "The Dark Knight,"
Maybe, but probably not: "Doubt," "Gran Torino," "The Reader," "Revolutionary Road"
Certainly: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"; David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Gus Van Sant, "Milk"
Probably: Ron Howard, "Frost Nixon"; Christopher Nolan, "The Dark Knight"
Maybe, but probably not: Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"; Sam Mendes, "Revolutionary Road"; Clint Eastwood, "Gran Torino"
Hopefully: Andrew Stanton, "WALL-E"
Certainly: Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"; Sean Penn, "Milk"; Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"
Probably: Clint Eastwood, "Gran Torino"; Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Maybe, but probably not: Tom Cruise, "Valkyrie"; Leonardo DiCaprio "Revolutionary Road"; Colin Farrell, "In Bruges"
Hopefully: Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Certainly: Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"; Meryl Streep, "Doubt"; Kate Winslet, "Revolutionary Road"
Probably: Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"; Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Maybe, but probably not: Kristin Scott-Thomas, "I Loved You So Long"; Michelle Williams, "Wendy and Lucy"
Hopefully: Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Certainly: Josh Brolin, "Milk"; Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"; Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Probably: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"; Dev Patel in "Slumdog Millionaire"
Maybe, but probably not: Aaron Eckhart, "The Dark Knight," Bill Irwin, "Rachel Getting Married"; David Kross, "The Reader"
Hopefully: Tom Cruise, "Tropic Thunder"
Certainly: Viola Davis, "Doubt"; Penélope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Probably: Amy Adams, "Doubt"; " Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Kate Winslet, "The Reader"
Maybe, but probably not: Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"; Rosemarie DeWitt, "Rachel Getting Married; Misty Upham, "Frozen River"
Hopefully: Hiam Abbass, "The Visitor"
Scott Feinberg at the LA Times' awards blog The Envelope reports on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' foreign-language short list, a group of nine films that -- once again -- leaves out a couple of the most well-received imports of the year.
Last year it was Romania's "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days" and France's "Persepolis" that got the shaft. As the 2009 awards takes shape, covering the 2008 calendar year, the list of six films nominated by several hundred Academy members who are interested enough to screen a minimum number of the 65 eligible films, augmented by three films chosen by a new 20-member executive committee -- aka, a "panel of experts" -- still doesn't make outsiders happy. Missing is Italy's "Gomorrah" (photo above), a fact-based expose of the Mafia in Naples that has been on a number of 10-best lists (including Wesley's), won the Grand Prix at Cannes, and was nominated for a Golden Globe. A lesser-known but much-loved foreign-language contender that is off the list is "Captain Abu Raed," a heart-tugging drama that's Jordan's first-ever submission to the Oscars.
Making the list are a few high-profile titles like Golden Globe-winner "Waltz with Bashir" (opening on Friday in Boston), Turkey's Cannes hit "Three Monkeys," and France's "The Class" (also on Wesley's list and opening here in February) as well as movies that are off my radar, like Mexico's "Tear This Heart Out" and Japan's "Departures." Of the nine, five will make it to the final step when nominations are announced Jan. 22.
Feinberg, who has made a point of seeing as many of the contenders as he can this year, isn't arguing that any of the nine are unworthy movies -- just that "Gomorrah" and "Captain Abu Raed" (a personal favorite of his) are worthier and that anyone who has been paying attention would agree. I feel his pain, but I think there's a conceptual disjunct here: That the Oscars are supposed to reflect critical reality as opposed to Hollywood reality.
More than the Golden Globes -- glitzier but selected by ostensibly working journalists -- the Academy Awards are a popularity contest that serve as a core sample of AMPAS members' opinions at the time the nominations and ballots are mailed in. This jibes with show-business reality in the acting and picture categories, but in areas that require context and expertise -- the documentary and foreign-language categories most notoriously -- the Oscars can't help looking naive. To participate in the foreign-language shortlisting process, an Academy member has to watch a lot of foreign language movies (most of them at home on screeners, I'm guessing), and for that, you need time on your hands. Consequently, the nominators tend to be older voters who (again, I'm guessing) aren't as open to violence, outre sexuality, or new ways of seeing things as a younger crowd might be. At the very least, this explains why so many Holocaust movies get nominated.
Where Feinberg errs, I think, is in his insistence that the Oscars have to conform to the opinions of the critical and festival communities, who in most cases are the only people who have seen these films at this point. He's wrong: Oscar voters can do what they damn well want and, if they want to look like know-nothings, they'll suffer for it in the long run. The Academy wasn't founded back in the 1920s as an arbiter of taste but as a PR move designed to keep Washington bluenoses, state censors, and labor agitators at a safe distance: the awards thing was just window dressing. To take it as a genuine imprimatur of quality is wishful thinking at best, naive at worst.
That said, everyone knows what the words "Oscar winner for best foreign language film" mean on a newspaper ad: an audience, and often the only audience a foreign film gets in this country. In that sense, "Gomorrah" and "Captain Abu Raed" have both lost a major foothold in the US marketplace, and that's a particular shame. But it's not just the Oscar nomination process that's broken. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
Take 2 reviews and podcast
Look for new reviews by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris at the end of each week in multiple formats.