The Mood of the Party

As 2009 inched to a close, a few thoughts, updates and a small bit of news.

First, the news: we’ve decided to take a year off from the annual Oscar party. This wasn’t an easy decision – as you know, I’ve hosted an Academy Awards party annually since 1986, and at time of writing, this comprises over 25% of all years when the Academy Awards have been awarded. Still, for various reasons, we need to be dark this year. Look for us in 2011, when the Oscars-in-Black-and-White will be back, blacker-and-whiter than ever.

Second, I am very tardy in a summary from last year- the awards for the best-of-the-best in movies from 2008! Below I report the choices of the Academy, the popular vote at the party (“the mood of the party” as I describe below)  and, finally, my own assessment:

Performance by an actor in a leading role: the Academy selected Sean Penn in “Milk”. Mood of the party and I both agreed with the Academy.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role: the Academy selected Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”. Mood of the party = Robert Downey Junior in “Tropic Thunder”. I went off-page and wrote in Brendam Gleeson in “In Bruges” for his masterful, understated, powerful performance – the performance of the year IMHO.

Performance by an actress in a leading role: the Academy selected Kate Winslet in “The Reader”. Mood of the party = Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”. My money was on Kate Winslet, but for “Revolutionary Road” and not “The Reader”. Althought Revolutionary Road was a dog of a movie, she gave a full-force, tremendous performance.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role: the Academy selected Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. Mood of the party was evenly split between Cruz and Viola Davis in “Doubt”. I didn’t have strong feelings on this category, but remain unenamoured with Ms. Cruz. If I had to choose, my vote was with Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.

Best animated feature film of the year: the Academy selected “WALL-E” (Walt Disney) over “Bolt” and “Kung Fu Panda” and both the mood of the party and I overwhelmingly agreed.

Achievement in art direction: the Academy chose “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo. The mood of the party was “The Dark Knight”. I actually sided with the Academy on this one.

Achievement in cinematography: the Academy preferred “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Anthony Dod Mantle. The mood of the party slummed as well. My write-in vote went for “In Bruges” – a movie where the cinematography was actually central to the story; it was part of the story. This doesn’t happen often enough.

Achievement in costume design: the Oscar went to “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor, and the party agreed. I threw a bone to “Milk” (Get it? Milk. Bone.)

Achievement in directing: everyone and their (slum)dog agreed: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Danny Boyle.

Best documentary feature: the Academy and I enthusiastically agreed on “Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall in association with Red Box Films Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn. The party selected “Encounters at the End of the World” in a close vote.

Best documentary short subject: “Smile Pinki” A Principe Production, Megan Mylan was the choice of the party and the Academy. Presumably some of the voters actually saw this Oscar winning short…

Achievement in film editing: the unanimous choice among myself, the party and the Academy was “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Chris Dickens.

Best foreign language film of the year: the party and I agreed on “Waltz with Bashir”. The Academy went their own way and gave the Oscar to “Departures” (Regent Releasing), A Departures Film Partners Production, Japan.

Achievement in makeup: this category was easy and everyone agreed on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Greg Cannom.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): again, everyone agreed on “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): clean sweep for “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar. Curiously, this song has been cited by those who were advocating for the rule change on Original Song for the Oscars in 2010 – the argument is that it was such mediocre choice that perhaps some years no Oscar should be awarded in this category. While I agree with this sentiment (shape-up Disney!), “Jai Ho” was a kick-butt number and totally deserving of Oscar.

Best motion picture of the year: all agreed “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A Celador Films Production, Christian Colson, Producer.

Best animated short film: the Academy went with “La Maison en Petits Cubes” A Robot Communications Production, Kunio Kato. The party went with Pixar and “Presto”. I had nothing intelligent to contribute to this category.

Best live action short film: the Oscar went to “Spielzeugland (Toyland)” A Mephisto Film Production, Jochen Alexander Freydank.

Achievement in sound editing: “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Richard King took the nod. The party and I went with “Iron Man”.

Achievement in sound mixing: the Academy liked “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty, while the party and I overwhelmingly favored “WALL-E”.

Achievement in visual effects: the Oscar went to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron. This was a tough category, but and the party preferred “The Dark Night”. For my vote, I think the Academy got this one right on the button.

Adapted screenplay: a sweep for “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy.

Original screenplay: everyone agreed with the Academy’s selection of “Milk” (Focus Features), Written by Dustin Lance Black.

And so closes, at last, another year at the movies. Good Milk, Buttons and Slumdogs to all.

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