Duncan's Preferred 2009 Oscar Nominations!

Dave and I decided to come up with our own Oscar nominations (after some oversights in the real-life Oscar nominations). We conform to the bylaws of the Academy, but reduce the voting block to one, essentially. Again, we’re not picking foreign language, documentary, or the three shorts owing to barely seeing any. I decided to make it even more fun by limiting myself to the 60 eligible 2008 films that I’ve seen to date. Here’s what I came up with. My picks are kind of oddball this year- I’m like the Manohla Dargis of blogs that nobody reads.

Best Sound Mixing:

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
Rachel Getting Married

As I understand it, Sound Mixing is about balancing the finished soundtrack of a film- music, dialogue, and effects. Rachel Getting Married tracked a vivid, organic, and music filled atmosphere almost like a documentary. Button and The Dark Knight had epic scopes to deal with, Wall-E was an amazing expansion of Ben Burtt’s R2D2 routine into full-fledged adorable robot language, and Slumdog really knew when to crank up the soundtrack.

Best Sound Editing:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Editing, meanwhile, is for the creation of specific effects (again, as far I can tell), so I’d give it to Button’s shrieking tugboats and so forth, The Dark Knight’s various explosions and crashes, the innovative nature of Cloverfield’s sound effects (the monster was mostly scary because of off-screen noises), Wall-E’s rocket launches, and Iron Man’s armored-suit vs. fighter jet chicanery.


Best Special Effects:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Fall

Button’s digital mapping is the next evolution of Gollum and was nearly seamless. Hell, if it wasn’t Brad Pitt’s ubiquitous face they were altering, I wouldn’t even have thought about the achievement of it as I was watching. TDK gets props for flipping trucks without CGI, and the mixture of CGI, setpieces, and one bravura claymation dream sequence really set apart The Fall for me.

Quick note here: Dave and I did agree before that we were going to choose our nominees from the Academy finalists, which didn’t include The Fall in the round of fifteen or seven… but I just love The Fall so much. So sue me.

Best Make Up:

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

This is the only category I actually predicted correctly! Woo! Again, old person makeup, scary clown makeup, and crazy monster makeup. Variety is fun.

Best Art Direction:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Fall
Be Kind Rewind

I don’t understand why Wall-E can’t qualify for best art direction when it transports us to entire worlds that had to be invented, not just planned out. Button and TDK are pretty complete visions, The Fall is inventive artistry at its best, and Be Kind Rewind I think is just as complete in set design and production design as anything else- it’s just that they created a charmingly rundown Jersey town, not a fantastical world. But Gondry’s home-video aesthetic doesn’t happen on its own, people.

Best Costume Design:

The Dark Knight
The Fall
Revolutionary Road
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Maybe it’s me, but I’m more inclined to take the name of the award literally and look for Costumes that were designed, as in, the fantastic, rather than recreated to match earlier time periods, hence The Dark Knight and The Fall. But those were the only non-period films I could think of. So I went with Revolutionary Road for blending the costumes in with the lighting scheme, nearly, Button for having to costume multiple time periods instead of just one, and Appaloosa mostly for Viggo Mortensen’s scarves.

Best Animated Feature:

Kung Fu Panda
(Something Else)

I only saw two animated movies this year. It was a slow year for CGI, relatively. Really this should just be three nominations for Wall-E, though. It’s that good.

Best Song:

“Down to Earth” – Wall-E
“Another Way To Die” – Quantum Of Solace
“Little Person” – Synecdoche, New York
“The Little Things” – Wanted
“O Saya” – Slumdog Millionaire

As much as I loved “Dracula’s Lament,” it was sixth behind the above five. The Oscars would never be cool enough to nominate songs from Wanted and the new Bond movie, but damn if they don’t make me feel like a badass when they pop up on my iPod. “Down To Earth” is a great addition to the Pixar credit-song gauntlet, “O Saya” starts Slumdog off with a bang bigger than the film turns out to be worth, and “Little Person” encapsulates Charlie Kaufman’s bittersweet world better than his mess of a directorial debut even began to.

Best Score:

Carter Burwell- In Bruges
Krishna Levy- The Fall
Thomas Newman – Revolutionary Road
Thomas Newman – Wall-E
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard – The Dark Knight

I’m not a score guy. Dave’s got a billion of them, I probably have a dozen, total. But they do sometimes leave an impression- my hands down favorite this year has to be Carter Burwell’s elegant, somber score for the tragicomedy In Bruges. A close second is TDK’s creepy build into madness, from the opening low extended violin warble to the billowing note of the title screen at the end.

I enjoyed Levy’s chiming, sweeping score to The Fall (which again, may not be properly eligible because it incorporates part of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony as a theme, but my heart would break, sorry), which takes as many turns as the story, as well as Thomas Newman’s work on both Wall-E (playful) and Revolutionary Road (somber): Newman is an absolute master at emphasizing moments in films with subtle touches instead of cliché musical swells, the American Beauty score being a prime example.

Best Editing:

Lee Smith – The Dark Knight
Robert Duffy- The Fall
Stephen Schaffer- Wall-E
Jon Gregory- In Bruges
Chris Dickens- Slumdog Millionaire

This category, I think even more than director, has a lot to do with Best Picture. How well put together a film is says a lot about how good it is. The Dark Knight lagged in the third act, but not as much as Button lagged in the entire second half, so it makes it while Button doesn’t. The Fall (unlike Button) used its framing device to perfection, though that’s sort of the point, and came in at a taught 117 minutes while still feeling epic to me. Wall-E I still say deserves a nomination when every shot, sequence, and transition has to be planned in advance. That doesn’t leave an editor much wiggle room. In Bruges expertly dealt out key flashbacks at just the right moments, and maintained a dramatic, three act structure like a play (to an effect I found much greater than two lauded films adapted from actual plays this year). And finally, Slumdog Millionaire is a well-paced and frenetic adventure- it doesn’t leave anyone enough time to scoff at it until it’s over.

Best Cinematography:

Roger Deakins – Revolutionary Road
Claudio Miranda – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wally Pfister – The Dark Knight
Harris Savides – Milk
Colin Watkinson- The Fall

One of my favorite categories to consider. Deakins played expertly with framing and light in Road (much better than he just centered stuff in the camera in The Reader, which he apparently needed some other dude’s help for... That was probably too harsh.). Miranda and Pfister moved effortlessly through all sorts of settings to maintain the particular visions of the auteurs they work for. Milk was a light and dreamy film that subtly worked into a grim subject, with some innovative shots, the more I watch it. And can you tell I’m really a big fan of this “The Fall” that came to Milwaukee in April and no one else has ever heard of? Can you?

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Christopher Nolan, Johnathan Nolan, and David Goyer – The Dark Knight
Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis, and Tarsem- The Fall
John Lindvqist- Let The Right One In
Fergus/Ostby/Marcum/Holloway- Iron Man
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord- The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

I feel like Goyer just wrote the part in TDK where Batman dramatically lands on top of a van in a parking structure, then put his feet up and let the Nolans do their thing. The Fall is apparently based on the screenplay for a 1981 film called Yo Ho Ho (?), so I’ll put it here. Because it’s awesome. I had to find somewhere to honor Let The Right One In, which is brilliant mostly for the nature of Lindqvist’s adaptation of his own novel. Four dudes I’ve never heard of made a taught, entertaining two hours out of Iron Man’s mess of a back story, and finally I’ll begrudgingly give the last spot to Button, even though it has some major problems and should really be listed as “based on the Forrest Gump screenplay.”

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

I’m gonna go with Dave on this one, for all five. Milk makes city district board politics as compelling, in a way, as the central gay rights struggle. Rachel Getting Married finds time to create an entire family of three dimensional people. In Bruges is at once complex and precisely simple (and foul-mouthed, and hilarious). The Wrestler is impressive both as a script and as a role written to bring the best out of Mickey Rourke, of all people. And Wall-E is a triumph of imagination pushing the limits of the CGI medium, as Pixar always does.

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams – Doubt
Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler
Rosmarie Dewitt- Rachel Getting Married
Debra Winger- Rachel Getting Married
Penelope Cruz- Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Not the strongest year for this category- I wasn’t really that sure about including Cruz (she mostly yells in Spanish for a while) until I couldn’t find anyone I like more for the fifth spot. I prefer Adams’ doe-eyed character in Doubt to Viola Davis, since naiveté is harder to sell than scenery chewing for about ten minutes. Tomei is a solid second fiddle in The Wrestler, with a parallel faded glory all her own. And Dewitt and Winger really make Rachel Getting Married one of the strongest ensembles of the year.

Best Supporting Actor:

Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Ralph Fiennes- In Bruges
Bill Irwin- Rachel Getting Married
Michael Shannon- Revolutionary Road
Phillip Seymour Hoffman- Doubt

Heath Ledger, all the way. But we need four people to smile politely for drama’s sake, so I say Fiennes’ f-bomb-dropping, cockney crime lord, Irwin’s quietly desperate father, Shannon’s truth-to-power headcase, and Hoffman’s seemingly scrupulous priest can smile and nod right before they lose out.

Best Actress:

Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
Kate Winlset – Revolutionary Road
Julianne Moore- Blindness
Michelle Williams- Wendy And Lucy
Rebecca Hall- Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I’m fully behind Hathaway’s first nomination, but the rest of the category didn’t sit right with me (Meryl Streep can scowl? That’s news?). I’d rather see Winslet win for her range and expression in Revolutionary Road, instead of the “I’ll look conflicted and you can let the Holocaust do the rest” grimacing in The Reader (I have many, many mixed emotions about that film. This will be its own post soon.) Overlooked in the mixed reception for Blindness was Moore’s strong turn as the film’s emotional center, den mother to a blind race. Williams broke out in Wendy and Lucy, but it was unfortunately only to a handful of theaters. And Rebecca Hall keeps Woody Allen’s travelogue comedy from falling apart with a sort of feminine spin on the Allen neurosis archetype (plus I might be in love with her. She was an unsung hero of The Prestige, and she looks kind of like a British Dick Van Dyke Show era Mary Tyler Moore. Sigh.).

Best Actor:

Colin Farrell – In Bruges
Sean Penn – Milk
Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler
Chiwetel Ejiofor- Redbelt
Lee Pace – The Fall

I certainly can’t argue with the twin Rourke/Penn juggernauts that are taking all the awards (or decide between them for predicting purposes, for that matter). And Farrell deserves more than just a B-level Golden Globe for his role. I nearly forgot about Ejiofor in Redbelt, a perfect melding of the actor’s zen sensibility, the teachings of Jiu-Jitsu, and David Mamet’s brand of dialogue. And you don’t realize how reserved Lee Pace in The Fall is until a big moment at the very end.

Best Director:

Darren Arnofsky – The Wrestler
David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight
Tarsem- The Fall
Ben Stiller- Tropic Thunder

Before you laugh, think about Tropic Thunder for a minute. Think about the cast, crew, stunts, explosions, effects, and overall scope of that film. For a comedy, it’s pretty epically done, and I can’t think a better place to recognize it than by clearing a spot for Ben Stiller- just don’t meet any more parents, and we’ll be fine. Tarsem is a visionary director that really struck a chord with The Fall (with me, anyway), though I half-expect his next film to be insufferable. Does that make sense? The rest are three directors so dear to my heart I can hardly believer they would all be (and Fincher is, of course) first time nominees: Fincher, Nolan, and Arnofsky.

Best Picture:

The Dark Knight
The Fall
In Bruges
Rachel Getting Married

As you can see, I was perhaps a bit bitter when The Dark Knight was overlooked for Best Picture this year, after winning so much guild and press acclaim. In Bruges at least snuck into original screenplay, but it deserves so much more as well. The Fall is a film with mixed reviews that isn’t exactly loved by all (61% on RottenTomatoes, although that’s higher than a certain Holocaust-related movie I know of), but clearly I fell for. Rachel Getting Married I thought was more complete of a vision than people realized, and Wall-E is of course, the film that all ages can appreciate with a timeless message.

I didn’t expect my five nominees to be completely different from the Academy’s, but there you go- the more I looked at them (and I have rewatched The Fall more than once, almost to confirm I like it this much), the more I realized those five didn’t speak to me as memorable or as imaginative as others. Button was the closest call, but we don’t have room to honor everyone in the meaningless Oscars in my head, sorry.


The Dark Knight – 13
The Fall- 10
Wall-E – 9
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – 9
Rachel Getting Married – 7
In Bruges – 6
Revolutionary Road – 5
The Wrestler – 4
Milk – 3
Slumdog Millionaire – 3
Vicky Christina Barcelona – 2
Doubt – 2
Iron Man – 2
Quantum of Solace – 1
Wanted – 1
Hellboy II: The Golden Army – 1
Kung Fu Panda – 1
Cloverfield -1
Be Kind Rewind- 1
Appaloosa- 1
Synecdoche, New York- 1
Let The Right One In- 1
Tropic Thunder- 1
Wendy And Lucy- 1
Blindness- 1
Redbelt- 1
Some Other Animated Film I Didn’t See- 1

2 Response to "Duncan's Preferred 2009 Oscar Nominations!"

  1. Kerri says:

    I couldn't see all your choices. It stopped after sound editting...

    Fixed! Thanks Kerri. I've basically had to learn some HTML programming to fix problems that blogger causes when it thinks it's being helpful.

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