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PCR #461 (Vol. 10, No. 4) This edition is for the week of January 19--25, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The 81st Academy Award Nominations"

Commentary by:
Michael A. Smith

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"The 81st Academy Award Nominations"  by Mike Smith
Edgar Allan Poe in Film  by Terence Nuzum
Holy Senior Sidekicks Batman! An Afternoon with Johnny Duncan  by ED Tucker
Barenaked Ladies: Snacktime  by Bobby Tyler
Walk The Plank…. .... Welcome To Tampa! .... Top 10 Things We Know About Wrestling .... Super Bowl Pick .... .... .... ....  by Chris Munger
Cue Beethoven's ‘ode To Joy’ .... Back On Track, Both Me And Kurt .... New Top Ten Challenge ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
Oscar Notes .... Good Awards .... Bad Awards .... Pres 1, Pope 0 .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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Oscar time again. Hopefully I continued my high percentage of nomination choices, successfully choosing 27 of the 30 top nominees.

Once again it's almost Oscar time in Hollywood. The nominations for the 81st Academy Awards have been announced and, as usual, there are surprises aplenty. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" led all films with 13 nominations, followed by the little movie that could, "Slumdog Millionaire," which received 10. "The Dark Knight" and "Milk" tied for third with 8 nominations each. Surprisingly (to this writer anyway) "The Dark Knight" failed to receive nods for Best Picture or Best Director. Here is a look at the six major categories:


"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," 'Milk," "The Reader" and "Slumdog Millionaire."

In my opinion, this category is wide open. The absence of "The Dark Knight" and the inclusion of "The Reader" are beyond my understanding. Forget the fact it made almost a billion dollars, "The Dark Knight" was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year while "The Reader" received generally fair reviews at best. In fact, with the exception of Kate Winslet's performance, the film wasn't that much to write home about, as my mother used to say. BIGGEST SURPRISE: I'll say it again...."The Reader."


David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Gus Van Sant (Milk), Stephen Daldry (The Reader) and Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

I think this is first time nominee Danny Boyle's award to lose. His work on "Slumdog Millionaire" is the culmination of the talent he's shown on previous films like "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later." The other freshman in the class is David Fincher, who should have been nominated in the past for "Se7en" or "Zodiac." He also directed one of my favorite music videos from the 80s, Rick Springfield's "Bop 'til You Drop." The other nominees have been here before, with Howard a past winner for "A Beautiful Mind." BIGGEST SURPRISE: Where in the heck is Christopher Nolan? The man has made nothing but brilliant films since "Memento" and has yet to feel the academy's love. There isn't one SCENE in "The Dark Knight" that "The Reader" as a whole can top.


Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Basically a two horse race, with previous winner Penn running neck and neck with Rourke. Congrats to both Jenkins and Langella. These men have been solid character actors for decades and it's nice to see their work recognized. And kudos to Brad Pitt whose talent is often under appreciated. That he wasn't nominated for "Se7en" is one of the academies most blatant slights. BIGGEST SURPRISE: Where's Clint? All of the nominees made my short list but I had Clint Eastwood in for "Gran Torino" while Jenkins received an honorable mention. The character of Walt Kowalski in any other actor's hands would have been laughable but Eastwood captured him perfectly. And as this is rumored to be Eastwood's last time in front of the camera, it would have been a fitting tribute to honor a true legend.


Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Meryl Streep (Doubt) and Kate Winslet (The Reader).

I don't know who didn't get the memo. That Winslet is here for "The Reader" is utterly amazing, especially since the film company submitted her name in the Supporting Actress field, so as not to compete with herself for "Revolutionary Road." That being said, I look for her to be the front runner based on her having two excellent performances in the same year (see Diane Keaton, who won the Best Actress Award for "Annie Hall" the same year she triumphed in "Looking For Mr. Goodbar"). This is Streep's record 15th acting nomination (she already has two Oscars) and Jolie's second (she has one as well). Congratulations to Hathaway and Leo for their nominations but I think that's all they're going to get. BIGGEST SURPRISE: Winslet. Not that's she's here but that she's here for "The Reader."


Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road).

On January 22, 2008, Heath Ledger left us all too soon. How fitting that on the one year anniversary of his death that he be honored for his greatest performance. This has been Ledger's award to win since the film opened and I don't see anyone taking it away from him. Previous nominees Downey and Hoffman (a Best Actor winner for "Capote") and newcomers Brolin and Shannon did outstanding work this past year but none of their performances compare to the indelible stamp Ledger put on the Joker. BIGGEST SURPRISE: Even though he had the larger role as David Frost in "Frost/Nixon," I was hoping Michael Sheen would have been recognized here.


Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicki Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)

The nominations for Adams and Davis put "Doubt" in rarified air. Very few films receive four acting nominations. Some that have include "Gone With the Wind," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "The Godfather," "The Godfather Part II" and "Network." Of these films, only "Streetcar" and "Network" have won three awards. "Network" also had an amazing FIVE acting nominees. Tomei won this category in 1993 for "My Cousin Vinny." In my opinion, it's going to come down between Cruz and Henson. BIGGEST SURPRISE: Kate Winslet again. While she may win Best Actress based on her body of work this year if she were in this category she would be a lock.

Winners will be announced Sunday, February 22.

This week's commentary, "The 81st Academy Award Nominations", is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.