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Blog // Travel
February 23, 2009

Preliminary Thoughts On The Oscars

I’m calling these preliminary thoughts because the distribution of films here in Hong Kong means that I’ve been unable, as yet, to see many of the films nominated for key awards. Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married, Okuribito, The Wrestler and Frozen River have yet to open. Milk and The Changling opened last […]

I’m calling these preliminary thoughts because the distribution of films here in Hong Kong means that I’ve been unable, as yet, to see many of the films nominated for key awards. Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married, Okuribito, The Wrestler and Frozen River have yet to open. Milk and The Changling opened last week, but I’ve yet to see them, opting instead for other recent premiers like Doubt and Revolutionary Road. So, for a guy who has seen over 10 films a month in the last couple of years, I feel strangely under-prepared to comment on these awards.

But, that hasn’t held me back in the past…

It was great to see Slumdog Millionare do well. I greatly admire Danny Boyle as a director and firmly believe A.R. Rahman is in a class of his own as a film composer (I’d also like to throw in some kudos for director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantle). It has been fascinating to track the debate this film sparked in India; in particular around the question of why Indian films don’t always get the recognition they deserve internationally (my take is that the wrong films get targeted for the big “crossover” marketing push).

It was also great to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button not doing so well. I like Brad Pitt, I like Cate Blanchett even more, though not as much as I like David Fincher and my regard for Alexandre Desplat tops them all. But, Benny Button is simply not a great film. Technically compelling – yes, up to a point. Just like Forrest Gump (to which it owes so much), it is a film that in 20 years will be remembered more for its effects and inanely cheesy moments, than for its thoughtful moments (of which there were far, far too few!).

I was glad to see Kate Winslet win. Although I’ve yet to see The Reader, I’m sure that if her performance in that really trumps her performance in Revolutionary Road (the best film I’ve seen so far this year), then it must be something special. Of course, it is hard not to cast one’s mind back to her barnstorming performance in the TV comedy, Extras, where she talked about taking on a role in a “Holocaust film” as a way to improve her chances of an Oscar!

Sean Penn is a great actor, but I was sad that Richard Jenkins did not win for his commanding performance in The Visitor, one of the most criminally underrated films of last year.

La Penélope more than merited her award for what may well be the most memorable female role ever in a Woody Allen film (a writer/director who has created many memorable female characters). I could write an essay on her masterful acting in Spanish language films and the dire way she has been repeatedly miscast in Hollywood. This time she was (mostly) in Spanish and nothing short of brilliant.

Unlike a lot of people, I wasn’t captivated by Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight (though I did like the film). However, he was a fine actor. In a field of nominees with no clear leader, it was fair that he was recognised with this posthumous award.

Wall-E should have been nominated for best film, but at least it won best animated feature and gained an award for best original screenplay. It is destined to become a Sci-Fi classic and was one of the most ethically interesting films of the year. Moreover, it is pure aesthetic brilliance – a really beautiful experience.

That’s it for now. We getting an avalanche of Oscar-nominee releases over the next few weeks, so I should be able to revisit these comments towards the end of March.

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