The Oscars

Hear, Hear for Milk, Penelope Cruz, and Melissa Leo

Hey, Dana—

Yes, we’re skanks, agreed—yet I sense a symmetry between this morning’s glossy announcements and Tuesday night’s Obamathon. If you take away the Obamas’ wedding-reception dancing, the made-for-TV balls played, in all, like a long and grinding awards show, complete with emotional reaction shots, self-laudatory mood, and Kanye West in an overly dandyish tuxedo.

I cannot shed a tear over the omission of Revolutionary Road; I have avoided seeing the film and am eager to take its snubbing as a sign that it’s safe to continue avoiding such a patent sack of pretty, petty maundering. However, I shed several tears laughing at your alternate title for Stephen Daldry’s The Reader—with The Hours, that director took an almost decent novel inspired by a modern classic and turned it into A Special Womanly Sadness. Daldry has something more valuable to the Academy than artistic vision: a knack for The Prestige. His three films have earned a total 17 Oscar nominations. Next on Daldry’s plate is an adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel partly about escaping the Holocaust using magic tricks, so Michael Chabon’s friends can go ahead now and send him a note of congratulations. Or condolences.

Yes, agreed, Slumdog Millionaire seems to have the momentum. The movie itself is all momentum, giddily and sometimes wonderfully—but how do you suppose its controlled rush will sit with the grandma set? And how many voters will join reasonable people in finding its hybrid of Dickensian melodrama and Bollywood melodrama a little too melodramatic? If I had a best-picture vote, I’d cast it for Milk. It’s the squarest movie Gus Van Sant has ever made and not even his best of the year—that’d be Paranoid Park, about manslaughter and sinking dread and skate punks more graceful than gliding fish—but you take what you can get.

Besides, the morning offered a few glimmers of justice. With Melissa Leo’s visibility raised by her best-actress nod for Frozen River, one excellent performer won’t need to clock in so often on run-of-the-mill police procedurals. From my perspective, the best news of the morning was Penelope Cruz’s nomination for her Frida-Kahlo-as-Sophia-Loren squalling in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, as I’d vowed to quit watching movies if that perfect turn went neglected. It was nice for Richard Jenkins to get a nomination for The Visitor and even nicer that the movie was otherwise ignored, it being a middling entertainment about a white guy who has his soul restored by some brown people—less coherent than Henderson the Rain King, though notably less creepy than Baz Luhrmann’s current ad for Australian tourism.

I notice that you didn’t say anything about Frost/Nixon. Is that because no one is saying anything about Frost/Nixon outside of the immediate hearing of Grazer/Howard?

Hold that thought for a month.