Over at NY Magazine, number-cruncher extraordinaire Nate Silver breaks down the Oscar odds for the big categories. He doesn’t really say anything surprising – Danny Boyle’s Slumdog for the win in director and best picture and the deceased Heath Ledger in best supporting. I find the debate around who will win far less interesting than the question of who should win (or should have been nominated).
Some of my favorite films of the year got shut ouut of the central categories – mostly for being really weird. Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut Synecdoche was shut out, despite being an epic contemplation of contemporary life. I actually liked it much better than Kaufman’s critically-lauded Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich. Philip Seymour Hoffman gave a command performance and the ensemble cast was incredibly strong. As always with Kaufman, the writing stole the show, and for him not to be nominated in the screen-writing category is a crime.
Silver has Mickey Rourke picking up a statue for his performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, which is very much deserved. Even if he does win, the film will go under-recognized. The Wrestler was a significantly better movie than the four best picture nominees I saw (missed Benjamin Button). It was gritty and raw and left me, my brother and dad speechless and squirming in our seats through the credits. Aronofsky doesn’t just deserve a nomination, he deserves to win.
Another desrving film to be shut-out is the French holiday movie A Christmas Tale. I hadn’t heard of anyone involved in the film (except Catherine Deneuve) before I saw it, but it was quite possibly the most cerebral film of the year. Okay, Synecdoche gives it a run for it’s money, but they both make the viewer really have to think. A Christmas Tale is a bizarre family dramedy about a dying mother, a few delinquent adult brothers, a sister losing her grip on reality and some really fucking cute grand kids. It’s too bad it got stuck in the holiday movie category, because it’s a great film in general. I haven’t yet seen The Class, the Palm D’Or winner that took the French contribution to the Best Foreign Film category, so I can’t comment on how they stack up. However, it just seems wrong that they can’t both be nominated in the category, is it hard to believe that one non-American country could make two excellent films in one year? Perish the thought.