Let's Talk Oscars

Revolutionary Road Got Shafted. The Reader Is Still Ridiculous. Ledger Will Win.
All about the Academy Awards.
Jan. 22 2009 12:26 PM

Let's Talk Oscars

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Hi, Troy,

Gossiping about Oscar nominations during this historic inauguration week feels sort of like being one of the skanks passing notes in the back of the junior-high classroom while the star civics student gives a prizewinning oration. But you know what? He's going to be up there talking for four years, and Oscar season only lasts for one brief, sparkling, tawdry moment. So let's hide a movie magazine in our civics textbooks and skank out.

Oscar nominations.
Actor Forest Whitaker and Academy President Sid Ganis announce Oscar nominations
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Scanning the list of nominees, I find myself in the odd position of feeling indignant on behalf of a movie I didn't like much, Revolutionary Road. I don't think I would mind this handsomely mounted yawner getting what amounts to a jumbo-sized dis—Leo not up for best actor, Mendes not up for best director, Justin Haythe not up for best adapted screenplay, the movie itself ignored for best picture—if it weren't for the alarming number of accolades beings heaped on Revolutionary Road's evil twin, The Reader. Everyone knew Kate would get a best-actress nod, and as a five-time loser, she still seems likely to win the category. But it somehow besmirches her honor to be recognized for the execrable Reader (aka Boohoo, I Bonked an Illiterate Nazi). And the fact that BIBAIN also snapped up noms for best adapted screenplay, best director, and best picture (it made a lot of critics' lists for worst movie of the year, and with good reason) only rubs salt into the wound. I guess Ricky Gervais, whose presentation at the Globes last week was the ceremony's high point, was right: Do a Holocaust film, and the awards will come.

What else? Masked fanboys everywhere must be blogging portentously in Gothic font about the lack of recognition for The Dark Knight. No best-picture nomination (gotta make room for those illiterate Nazis!), no best-director nod for Christopher Nolan or original screenplay for his brother, Jonathan.Indeed, the only nontechnical award the Caped Crusader is up for is best supporting actor for Heath Ledger. Which may be the ceremony's only real lock: The only surer route to Oscar credibility than making a Holocaust movie is being dead. In all due respect, Ledger's performance reigned—but so did Robert Downey Jr.'s in Tropic Thunder, which earned him that movie's only nomination. (What, no best makeup?) The total Gran Torino shutout seems to indicate some degree of Clint backlash, though Eastwood's The Changeling did wedge its way into the best-actress category (Angelina: "I want my son! Where is my son? This is not my son. Find my son.") as well as best cinematography and art direction.

Slumdog Millionaire, with 10 nominations (second only to Benjamin Button's 13), seems positioned to Hoover up every award in sight by virtue of being the cute, inoffensive crowd pleaser that no one hates (me included—I walked out with a warm glow that only gradually congealed into faint annoyance). Slumdog, and I mean this kindly, is the grandma movie in the lineup, and a lot of academy members vote the grandma ticket. Among only three nominees for best song, two are from Slumdog, which guarantees a couple of rollicking Bollywood-style production numbers at the ceremony. (But also seems likely to split the best-song vote, making Peter Gabriel's Wall-E ballad the default winner.) Would it have killed them to recognize Springsteen's lovely, spare theme for The Wrestler? Troy, do you have any three-legged dogs in this fight?

Dana

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

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