The 2009 Oscars: Time Out's reaction

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'Slumdog Millionaire', 'Benjamin Button' and 'Doubt' are all in the running for prizes at this year's Oscars. Tom Huddleston offers his two cents on the nominations

So, the Oscar nominations are finally with us, and we can all finally get to arguing about which films blatantly don’t deserve the honour, and which great films were outrageously overlooked.

There’s plenty of fuel for both arguments. Despite an unusually wide-open field this year, the Best Picture category is as predictable as ever: three worthy literary dramas that don’t deserve the nod (‘Frost/Nixon’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘The Reader’), one rebellious, politically charged biopic that should win but won’t (‘Milk’) and one solid, entertaining old-Hollywood epic that’ll probably pull in the undecideds, and win by default (‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’). The exclusion of far worthier titles from consideration is lamentable, but hardly unexpected: this happens not because the films aren’t good enough, but because they just don’t fit the Oscar template, being either too small (‘Wendy and Lucy’), too big (‘The Dark Knight’), or too childish (‘Wall.e’). Oscar snobbery is alive and well.

The Best Director category, as usual, reflects Best Picture precisely, leaving no room for those welcome little surprises which result in occasional nominations for directors like David Lynch and Woody Allen. But if the Academy are looking to reward ‘Slumdog’ without handing over the big kahuna, it seems likely Danny Boyle will carry this one, and perhaps he deserves to: whatever the script’s flaws, his dedication to making the film on the real streets of Mumbai deserves recognition. But it’d be even nicer to see Gus van Sant take it.

The acting categories are a bit more interesting: our money’s on Mickey Rourke to take home Best Actor to complete his meteoric comeback, and a more worthy recipient you couldn’t hope to find, though, again, Sean Penn’s lead in ‘Milk’ was pretty astonishing. It’s also nice to see hard-grafting journeyman Richard Jenkins finally recognised. Best Actress-wise it’s an open field, with Winslet the obvious frontrunner, but Angelina Jolie nudging up on the inside. Melissa Leo doesn’t stand a chance in the still-unreleased ‘Frozen River’, though Anne Hathaway might just sneak a highly justified upset for her remarkable turn in the otherwise snubbed ‘Rachel Getting Married’ (not even Original Screenplay, which has to sting).

There are some interesting nuggets further down the list: there’s no doubt Heath Ledger has Supporting Actor sewn up, and deservedly so, but it’s nice to see a nomination for indie stalwart Michael Shannon. The Original Screenplay category acts, as usual, as a mop-up of otherwise overlooked gems, and provides the only love for Mike Leigh’s divisive ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’; it’s also nice to see ‘In Bruges’ slipping in under the radar. Despite being snubbed in the animation category (where it wouldn’t have stood a chance against ‘Wall.e’), ‘Waltz with Bashir’ seems to have the Foreign Language category in the bag, provided Cannes fever doesn’t infect the jury and swing it to the (arguably more deserving) ‘The Class’.

Perhaps the most outrageous exclusion of all is the absence of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Wrestler’ in the Best Song category, which is instead dominated by two selections from AR Rahman’s agonising ‘Slumdog’ score. Still, at least we know there’ll be at least two perfectly timed toilet breaks during the five-hour ceremony.

Author: Tom Huddleston



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