Dave's Preferred 2009 Oscar Nominations!

Today, dear readers, we will decide what the Oscar nominations should have been. Who says 6,000 minds are better than one? First up, the 2008 Oscar Nominations Dave would've liked to see.

We decided to stick to official Academy eligibility rules, and we have no basis to predict the three short films, best documentary, or best foreign language. But the other nineteen are right in our wheelhouse.

Best Sound:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Quantum of Solace


Best Sound Editing:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Quantum of Solace



Best Special Effects:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

The Dark Knight gets rewarded for it’s amazing practical effects, while Iron Man gets nominated for its clean and crisp CGI designs. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button gets the last spot because of the digital wizardry incorporated on Brad Pitt.

Best Make Up:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I would call this a category of obvious choices.

Best Art Direction:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Revolutionary Road

Movies that catch my attention here usually have something very unique to them or they have a grand scale. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk, and Revolutionary Road fall into the grand scale idea for me. The Dark Knight’s new Batcave and The Reader’s apartments and prison cell are the unique ones here.

Best Costume Design:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Decadence (Australia, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Duchess, and Revolutionary Road) rules this category, but I also have to give credit for ingenuity (The Dark Knight).

Best Animated Feature:

Kung Fu Panda

Thanks for playing, Bolt and Kung Fu Panda.

Best Song:

“Down to Earth” – Wall-E
“Dracula’s Lament” – Forgetting Sarah Marshall
“Gran Torino” – Gran Torino
“Jai Ho” – Slumdog Millionaire
“The Wrestler” – The Wrestler

“Down to Earth” and “Jai Ho” are the perennial favorites. How did Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” not secure a nomination? I have not a single clue in the world. “Gran Torino”’s appearance is primarily on pedigree.
If Jason Segel got the chance to perform “Dracula’s Lament” at the Oscars – with puppets to boot – it would be legendary.

Best Score:

Alexandre Desplat – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Nico Muhly – The Reader
Thomas Newman – Revolutionary Road
Thomas Newman – Wall-E
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard – The Dark Knight

Desplat’s simple, haunting score echoes throughout the film and is readily accessible listening to it separately. Newman gets rewarded twice for his efforts this year because they were both touching and eloquent.

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard are rewarded for this brash, innovative score that helps set the tone for the film.

Nico Muhly is to The Reader this year what Jonny Greenwood was to There Will Be Blood last year. Bold statement? Yes. However, a 28 year old who can compose a score like this, having no previous film experience – like Greenwood – and deliver a heartbreaking score gets credit where credit is due.

Best Editing:

Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson – Quantum of Solace
Elliot Graham - Milk
Claire Simpson – The Reader
Lee Smith – The Dark Knight
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Again, sometimes the scale of the work – Milk, The Dark Knight, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – get you rewarded. Other times, stellar sequences – like in The Reader and Quantum of Solace – get you just desserts. It also surprises how come more action/suspense movies do not receive nominations here because the editing can be those type of film’s best friend.

Best Cinematography:

Roger Deakins – Revolutionary Road
Roger Deakins and Chris Menges – The Reader
Claudio Miranda – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wally Pfister – The Dark Knight
Harris Savides - Milk

This category and score are my two favorite technical categories. Is it wrong to say that these seem like obvious choices?

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare – The Reader
Christopher Nolan, Johnathan Nolan, and David “I’m Just Glad to Be Here” Goyer – The Dark Knight
Eric Roth and the Woman Who Wrote Practical Magic – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley – Doubt

Again, this seems like a pretty obvious category to me.

Best Original Screenplay:

Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Jennifer Lumet – Rachel Getting Married
Martin McDonagh – In Bruges
Robert Siegel – The Wrestler
Andrew Stanton, Peter Docter, and Jim Reardon – Wall-E

Frankly, I was surprised that the Academy overlooked Jennifer Lumet’s script because of the pedigree she has and it was, you know, actually a well-written movie highlighted by a great performance. It just seemed out that it was left out.

Black and McDonagh seem like gimmes here because of their well-crafted and touching – yet funny – scripts.

If Andrew Stanton and company were to win they should thank Brad Bird first because I think the level of story that animated movies are presenting these days is fantastic.

Siegel’s tender script was overlooked and I do not fully understand how it could have been. The Wrestler is touching, deft, and it never gets bogged down with melodramatizations or cliches.

Best Supporting Actress:

Penelope Cruz – Vicky Christina Barcelona
Viola Davis – Doubt
Taraji P. Hanson – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler
Kate Winslet – The Reader

While I am aware that Kate Winlset is currently up for Best Actress for The Reader, I felt that she did deserve the double nomination this year. To remain in accordance with the Academy’s rules of eligibility, she cannot be nominated twice in the same category, which – to me – seems ridiculous. So, that is why Winslet appears here for The Reader.

Marisa Tomei’s nuanced performance in The Wrestler mirrors the fallen glory and times of Mickey Rourke’s fine performance. Taraji P. Hanson does an admirable job as Benjamin Button’s adopted mother, which was also on par with Penelope Cruz’s performance in Vicky Christina Barcelona.

The person that earned her spot her the second most – behind Winslet – is Viola Davis’ confounded mother portrayal in Doubt. I was quite impressed with her performance in the film, while dealing with an obtuse and terrifying subject matter.

Best Supporting Actor:

Ralph Fiennes – In Bruges
Brendan Gleeson – In Bruges
Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt
David Kross – The Reader
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

I have to abide by Academy rules and regulations, therefore, I must have five nominees even though this category is a foregone conclusion.

After Ledger though, Hoffman gives the second best supporting performance of the year, which explains his presence.

So, why Fienees and Gleeson? Fiennes’ profanely insane – or insanely profane – performance was probably one of the better comedic performances of the year, more so than Robert Downey Jr.’s turn in Tropic Thunder. Gleeson’s mentoring role had the appropriateness of an awesome dad without being preachy. That subtly gives him the edge over his competition.

David Kross’ distraught performance in The Reader merits a nomination because he holds his own against Kate Winslet’s performance and under the tutelage of HITLER!

Best Actress:

Cate Blanchett – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
Meryl Streep – Doubt
Kristin Scott Thomas – I’ve Loved You So Long
Kate Winlset – Revolutionary Road

Hathaway, Streep, and Winslet are the frontrunners in this category and have been for since award season began. The last two spots here have alternated a bit between Angelina Jolie, Melissa Leo, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Winslet for The Reader.

I give my fourth nomination to Blanchett’s performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button because of the second half of the movie. The first half of the film, I found her deplorable, but the second half is where she began to shine for me, making the character respectable and sympathetic through moments of sorrow. I just wish she had declined to be a part of a framing device.

The much forgotten I’ve Loved You So Long gets a nomination for its lead performance. While I have not seen the film, I also have not seen Frozen River or Changeling. I am left with the impression that Thomas’ performance is more moving than the other two’s.

Best Actor:

Leonardo Di Caprio – Revolutionary Road
Clint Eastwood – Gran Torino
Colin Farrell – In Bruges
Sean Penn – Milk
Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler

To me, Penn and Rourke seem like locks for this category. Ultimately, they had the finest performances of the year.

Colin Farrell put on a display and a side of himself that audiences had yet to encounter. He was heartfelt and funny, which surprised me because this was new territory for him. I hope that he stays on this path because he will finally tap into the potential that he demonstrated in Minority Report and Tigerland.

Di Caprio’s venereal performance as a jaded suburbanite in 1950’s America was an excellent counterpoint to Kate Winslet’s idealist.

Finally, Clint Eastwood is becoming like a fine wine. The older he gets, the better his work turns out to be. The plot summary of Gran Torino is rather rudimentary, but Eastwood’s earnest performance suits the film quite well and is probably one of his top three performances.

Best Director:

Darren Arnofsky – The Wrestler
Stephen Daldry – The Reader
David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant – Milk

In this category, Arnofsky scores his first nomination for a touching and depressing tale of a wrestler struggling to hold on to the glory days. Arnofsky lets the scenes unfold, but knows when to cut them off before they become too melodramatic or overwrought with cliches.

Stephen Daldry has been nominated for Best Director for every film he has ever made. I did not realize this until last week. His intimate and compelling touch earns him his third nomination in my book.

David Fincher seems to be the most obvious nominee here. He directed an epic film, has a constant track record, has never been nominated, and delivered in every way imaginable on a film that some questioned its ability to even be filmed.

The Dark Knight has Christopher Nolan’s fingerprints all over it. Not only did this much hyped movie meet the hype, it surpassed it. I cannot remember a film in recent memory that had such extraordinary expectations and then proceeded to blow them out of the water like The Dark Knight did.

Van Sant gets my final slot over Sam Mendes for the control and deft handling he displayed in Milk. While Mendes’ job on Revolutionary Road was good, it seemed at times that the actors were given free reign of a scene and he just stood back and admired. While that can also be a sign of a director knowing his actor’s strengths, I think Van Sant did a better job of utilizing those strengths in Milk.

Best Picture:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
In Bruges
The Reader

When the Academy’s nominations came out a few weeks ago, I was certain that The Dark Knight would have its Best Picture nomination. I thought the Academy may overlook Christopher Nolan, but there is no way they can pass us one of the largest box office successes.

And then it happened. No nomination.

I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was there and was perfectly accepting of that. I thought Fincher’s unusual tale of love, heartbreak, and mysticism was a wonderful film. However, seeing two of the most acclaimed movies of the year – The Dark Knight and Wall-E – get overlooked was stunning.

So, on my list, The Dark Knight and Wall-E get their respected dues.

Another film that made my Best Picture nomination section was In Bruges. Martin McDonaugh’s inaugural effort into full-length features was one of the crowning achievements of the year. It was funny, morally complex, and well executed. More over, who knew Colin Farrell could do comedy?

My final spot came down to two movies: The Reader and Milk. I guess what surprised me was that Milk, while a very good movie, was almost too conventional. However, when the real Academy nominations came out, I was holding The Reader responsible for The Dark Knight not getting in. So, I saw The Reader the weekend following nominations and thought, “Well, Kate Winslet does give a fantastic performance, I don’t see how it secured the nomination.” About a week later, I went and saw it again. I found the movie moving in its little moments, complex, and heartbreaking. While the Weinsteins may get ridiculed for their campaign tactics, I think Daldry’s efforts yielded an excellent movie and I am beginning to wonder if Frost/Nixon was the real culprit in getting The Dark Knight booted from the race. Would the four people who saw Frost/Nixon have that much sway? Only time will tell.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – 14
The Dark Knight – 13
The Reader – 9
Wall-E – 7
Milk – 6
Revolutionary Road – 6
In Bruges – 5
The Wrestler – 5
Doubt – 4
Quantum of Solace – 3
Gran Torino – 2
Rachel Getting Married – 2
Slumdog Millionaire – 2
Wanted – 2
Australia – 1
Bolt – 1
The Dutchess – 1
Forgetting Sarah Marshall – 1
Hellboy II: The Golden Army – 1
Iron Man – 1
I’ve Loved You So Long – 1
Kung Fu Panda – 1
Vicky Christina Barcelona – 1

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