Cinema Autopsy on the 81st Academy Awards ceremony and winners

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Go straight to the list of Award winners

Who would have thought that getting a host who was not a comedian would make such a difference to the Academy Awards ceremony? Hugh Jackman on first glance may not have seemed like an obvious choice but when you realise that he comes from the old-school showman song and dance tradition, it makes perfect sense. Jackman’s funny, warm and self deprecating opening set the tone for a ceremony that was fun, light and mostly free of awkward moments.

The opening number using homemade sets was great fun as was the tribute to musicals that Baz Luhrmann put together. Anne Hathaway’s inclusion in the opening number was spirited, Ben Stiller’s impersonation of Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre recent appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman was very funny and I also enjoyed the Pineapple Express sketch. There were only two clip montages that were unrelated to the nominated films, introducing the awards roughly in order of the production process was a nice touch and the extended introductions for the actors nominated in the four acting categories was a great way of honouring their work. Robert De Niro’s introduction for Sean Penn was particularly entertaining.

Of the 24 categories, I had a go at predicting the winner for 19 categories (the other 5 categories contained films that I hadn’t seen) and I actually managed to do OK by guessing 13 of them correctly. However, it was not exactly an unpredictable year although I was surprised and somewhat annoyed at the extent in which Slumdog Millionaire cleaned up. I certainly don’t begrudge Slumdog Millionaire completely but I felt that the awards it won in cinematography and in the various sound and music categories should have gone to other films. Otherwise, there was not much to complain about this year.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Winner: Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? Yes. Everybody nominated was fantastic but Cruz was the best. She gave a great speech and it was especially wonderful that she made a special mention of Pedro Almodóvar who has had such an important impact on her career.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Winner: Milk, written by Dustin Lance Black
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? Yes and what a moving speech by Black.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire, written by Simon Beaufoy
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? It is not undeserving but I think Frost/Nixon or The Reader would have been better choices.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Winner: WALL·E, Andrew Stanton
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? Absolutely, this was probably the most clear-cut award of the night.

Best Short Film, Animated
Winner: La Maison en Petits Cubes, Kunio Kato

Best Achievement in Art Direction
Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
Did I predict? No, I really though The Duchess would get this.
Should have won? It is not a bad choice but The Dark Knight really should have won.

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Winner: The Duchess, Michael O’Connor
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? The costumes in The Duchess were stunning but I think the costuming on Revolutionary Road or Milk was more impressive in terms of conveying character.

Best Achievement in Makeup
Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Greg Cannom
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? I think the makeup in Hellboy II: The Golden Army was more impressive. The makeup for Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button is great but it wasn’t as consistently good for some of the other characters.

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? No and this decision annoyed me as it is a boring and predictable. The Academy have always been too easily impressed by films shot on ‘exotic’ locations. The award should have gone to either The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or The Dark Knight as the cinematography in both was far superior.

Best Short Film, Live Action
Winner: Spielzeugland (Toyland), Jochen Alexander Freydank

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

Winner: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? I still maintain that based purely on the performance in the films nominated, Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road should have received this award. But considering the circumstances this year there is no way the award was going to go to anybody else, or should have gone to anybody else. Ledger and his family really deserved this recognition.

Best Documentary, Features
Winner: Man on Wire, James Marsh and Simon Chinn

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
Winner: Smile Pinki, Megan Mylan

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? No, The Dark Knight deserved this award, as its effects were far more seamless and impressive.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Winner: The Dark Knight, Richard King
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? Yes, absolutely.

Best Achievement in Sound
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
Did I predict? No
Should have won? Absolutely not. Slumdog Millionaire was the least deserving film in this category and I am really surprised it was even nominated in the first place. I thought WALL·E would be a certainty for this award and I am annoyed that it lost.

Best Achievement in Editing
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire, Chris Dickens
Did I predict? No
Should have won? The editing in The Dark Knight was more impressive but Slumdog Millionaire is still a beautifully edited film.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman
Did I predict? No
Should have won? No. Listening to the orchestra play music from all the films before the announcement simply confirmed how unremarkable the Slumdog Millionaire music is. WALL·E deserved this so much more.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Winner: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire, Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
Did I predict? No
Should have won? No but it looks like the ethno-kitsch vote is stronger than I thought as again; WALL·E deserved this so much more than Slumdog Millionaire.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Winner: Departures, Japan

Best Achievement in Directing
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? I would have liked Gus Van Sant to win for Milk but Boyle is a wonderful director and I am pleased to see him win.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Kate Winslet in The Reader

Kate Winslet in The Reader

Winner: Kate Winslet in The Reader
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? Yes, my goodness she deserved to finally win this award. It was a beautiful and gracious speech too, acknowledging fellow nominees and the honour of being nominated.

 

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Sean Penn in Milk

Sean Penn in Milk

Winner: Sean Penn in Milk
Did I predict? No but I knew it was going to be close one between Penn and Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler.
Should have won? Very much so and Penn gave a humbled, funny and rousing speech that acknowledges both Rourke and the importance of equal rights for the gay community.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Winner: Slumdog Millionaire, Christian Colson, Producer
Did I predict? Yes
Should have won? Look, I really liked Slumdog Millionaire at the time I saw it but it has been insanely overrated. It is a great film and I’m glad that such a film has received this amount of recognition but the fact remains that Milk, The Reader and even Frost/Nixon are better films. Nevertheless, congratulations Slumdog Millionaire!

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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4 Responses to Cinema Autopsy on the 81st Academy Awards ceremony and winners

  1. moogirl22 says:

    Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz and Dustin Lance Black were highlights of the night for me. They each gave exceptional speeches. I am so glad that one of my favourite working actresses FINALLY has an Academy award to her name… but it will always have Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind written on it in my mind.

    I also very much loved Hugh Jackman as a presenter – I expected to hate him. It was a wonderful show they put on, and I liked that it was a lot more personal this year. Everyone was very tight-knit and were interacting with the people on stage. Though I love the new set-up, I mourned the loss of the little clips from each of the performances.

    Overall, a nice night, though I would have liked a little more variety in the winning films.

  2. Yes, I have to agree with you on selecting those 4 speeches as the best of the night. I’ve also been a massive fan of Kate Winslet ever since Heavenly Creatures so I was also thrilled to see her finally win. She really is one of the greatest actors working today and she always comes across as such a cool person. If you haven’t seen the episode of Extras that she is in then I highly recommend it as she is hilarious. And as for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…don’t even get me started on that film as I will gush endlessly about its brilliance. It’s a modern masterpiece and one of the best films of the past 10 years.

  3. moogirl22 says:

    Cool, I’ll look out for that Extras thing. :) And I actually love, love, LOVE Eternal Sunshine as a whole – possibly my favourite film of all time. Up there with Amelie – WHICH WAS ALSO SHUNNED BY THE ACADEMY, EVEN IN THE FOREIGN FILM CATEGORY!! >:(

    Academy Awards = bogus. Nominees are usually right but the winner can be dubious.

  4. I have to say that I agree with you on everything you have said here. The Academy Awards are a bit of joke but that has still never prevented me from having an unhealthy interest in them.

    The episode of Extras that Kate Winslet is in is season 1, episode 3. She really is hilarious and I’m sure if you did a bit of a search on YouTube you may be able to dig up some clips.