Friday, February 27, 2009


After a few really good years (The Departed, There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men deserved every Oscar they got) I thought the Oscars fell flat on their face this year. I believe Slumdog and Milk deserved to be nominated for everything they were nominated for, as they were both great films, but the competition was embarrassing: Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, The Reader? Those were the 3rd or 4th or 5th best films made this year? That's a joke.

So first I set out to create an AlternaOscars, in which I did the nominations and awards myself, and then asked for your thoughts on who did a better job. But then I got a better idea: I'm going to nominate and choose winners for the major Oscar categories - and not use a single film or person in any category there were originally nominated for. And I will, I think, produce a better set of winners and near-winners than the Academy did, even though they had first choice.

Best Picture Nominees:
The Dark Knight
Frozen River
Iron Man
Rachel Getting Married
Winner: The Dark Knight

As Andre O'Hehir wrote in Salon, even though he didn't enjoy The Dark Knight, it not winning Best Picture is one of the great Academy "Huh?s" of all time. The people declared it the best film of the year, the critics declared it one of the best films of the year, and that's supposed to be what the Oscars are all about: finding middle ground between highbrow critical acclaim and mass tastes. With Dark Knight, they didn't have to bridge that ground: the people and the critics did it for them. Then they didn't even nominate it. Of course, the people and critics also loved Wall-E, which came in second in my heart's vote, and it also got no nomination.

Best Director:
Darren Aronofsky - The Wrestler
Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married
Christopher Nolan - Dark Knight
Andrew Stanton - Wall-E
Guillermo del Toro - Hellboy II
Winner: Christopher Nolan

Again, this is kind of a no brainer - this was clearly the Dark Knight's year. But just looking at my list makes me sad - these are 5 brilliant filmmakers who made arguably their greatest films this yeah, and they were pushed aside for Opie and David Fincher in the year he chose to remake Forrest Gump?

Best Actor:
Robert Downey Jr - Iron Man
Werner Herzog - Encounters at the End of the World
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Synecdoche, New York
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Jason Segel - Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Winner: Heath Ledger

I'm certainly sad to not be able to nominate Rourke, Penn, and Jenkins. But Ledger's performance was not supporting - he was the strongest of Dark Knight's three protagonists, all of whom were leads (in my universe nearly every film has at least 2 leads, and 3 hour films usually have 3+). So he gets the win, and I also get to reward some performances in three kinds of movies that don't get honored for acting awards: superhero, Apatow comedy, and documentary. And Herzog...well, that guy should probably win best actor every year, just for walking around and pretending to be Werner Herzog. Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for the wrong film. Damn Academy.

Best Actress:
Catherine Deneuve - A Christmas Tale
Ronit Elkabetz - The Band's Visit
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Michelle Williams - Wendy and Lucy
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
Winner: Catherine Deneuve

Sorry Kate. I know you don't have an Oscar. Neither does Catherine Deneuve. You've got plenty of time to catch her if I give her one. Again, the academy did better here than they did in picture/director - I wanted to give the award to Melissa Leo but they had to go and actually nominate her. Why nominate her if you weren't even going to think about giving her the award and it ruins my AlternaOscars? Of course, you did nominate Angelina Jolie for wailing "This is not my child, where is my child, etc" for 2 hours, so maybe you misunderstood Leo's performance anyway.

Best Supporting Actor:
Javier Bardem - Vicky Christina Barcelona
The Deranged Penguin - Encounters at the End of the World
Bill Irwin - Rachel Getting Married
James Franco - Milk
Danny McBride - Pinapple Express
Winner: Bill Irwin

I'm tempted to just rename this the Best Supporting Performance by Javier Bardem award and give it to him every year, but I found Irwin's performance as the mourning father of Rachel Getting Married even more compelling than Bardem. Lucky for both of them that Brolin and Downey were nominated for reals, because they would have been hard to pass up. Of course, the deranged penguin is even more moving than Irwin, but he (she?) didn't get much screen time.

Best Supporting Actress:
Maggie Gyllenhahl - The Dark Knight
Samantha Morton - Synecdoche, NY
Debra Winger - Rachel Getting Married
Dianne Wiest - Synecdoche, New York
Evan Rachel Wood - The Wrestler
Winner: Dianne Wiest

Ok, I admit it, I just love, love, love Dianne Wiest. I couldn't really decide who to give this to so I decided to give it to her. Also, I could have nominated pretty much everyone in Synecdoche for this award...some damn impressive acting in that movie.

Best Screenplay:
Thomas McCarthy - The Visitor
Charlie Kaufman - Synecdoche, NY
The Nolan Brothers - The Dark Knight
Jason Segel - Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Robert Siegel - The Wrestler
Winner: Nolan and Nolan

Again, despite the fact that there are four other great candidates here, The Dark Knight just has to win. Say what you want about a crazy 3rd act (and I personally have nothing bad to say about it) that was an utterly inspired script. And I can only imagine the mental gymnastics it took to come up with all of The Joker's various misdeeds - the bomb in a henchmen, the clown-hostages, the domino murders of the first heist - all of those are brilliant all by themselves.

So, interwubs, what do you think? Whose awards are better: mine or the Academy's? What would your own AlternaOscars look like?

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