Academy Award nominations come out early tomorrow morning, and I’ll have some reactions up soon after that, but before, I thought I might take the opportunity to highlight some movies that will not be recognized by the Academy for various taste and political reasons. However, in a different world, these films would be in contention just as readily as some of the more “awards-bait” fare.
For Best Picture:
Blindness- Fernando Mereilles’ beautifully conceived and gorgeously executed allegory in which the world is suddenly struck blind. Julianne Moore is as solid as ever playing the only person in the world who can see. This film performed badly at the Cannes film festival and never gained many fans, but for style with substance, there were few better films in 2008
For Best Director:
Chris Carter for The X-Files: I Want to Believe- It may sound silly, but chances are that the only reason it sounds silly is because of the words “X-Files.” If you can get past the cult-science fiction nature of the show and movie, then Carter’s direction jumps to the forefront immediately. The way he slowly reveals the machinery behind the mystery in this film ranks up there with some of the best of film noir. This is a science fiction movie, but it succeeds at being more, and that is thanks to Carter.
Naomi Watts for Funny Games- This Michael Haneke remake of a Michael Haneke film was pretty much universally hated. I am in the small minority of people who rather liked and appreciated the movie. And, at the center of everything, Watts explores the same emotional range of many of this year’s most lauded performances and does it with as much skill.
Best Supporting Actor:
Jason Butler Harner for Changeling- Angelina Jolie is getting some well-deserved attention for her performance, but as the captured serial killer, Harner plays the kind of ambivalent, maniacal character that is so hard to pull off but, when done right, is astonishing. Jason Butler Harner is astonishing in this movie. His final scene is absolutely gut-wrenching.
Best Supporting Actress:
Emma Thompson for Brideshead Revisited- Does anyone remember this movie coming out this year? It was very good, and if you missed it, you should see it on DVD. Thompson is downright scary as the matriarch of a God-fearing family around whom she has a tight-fisted hold. When that control is challenged, the depth of Thompson’s performances allows the audience to both sympathize with and be reviled by her actions.
Best Original Screenplay:
Lakeview Terrace- Deeper and more nuanced than much of the revenge-flick dross that populates multiplexes, Lakeview Terrace is something very rare: an adult drama that plays its characters straight and never winks at the camera. It is intelligent and hard-hitting, while remaining a substantial entertainment.
“Inside of You” from Forgetting Sarah Marshall- It is crude and it is vulgar and it is absolutely hilarious. I mean both the movie and the song. As such, the song perfectly exemplifies this movie, and if I understand the award, isn’t that the point?
Synecdoche, NY and In Bruges- Both films feature very small chamber group music for the majority of the score, but the subtly provided by the small scale music perfectly underlines the human drama at the core of each film. Too often, the Academy falls victim to the thought that “bigger is better,” when often the opposite is true.