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PCR #465 (Vol. 10, No. 8) This edition is for the week of February 16--22, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"81st Annual Academy Awards"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"81st Annual Academy Awards"  by Mike Smith
The Yellow Submarine Chronicles Part Eight: It's All Too Much  by ED Tucker
Top 20 Albums of 2008 part 2: #10-1  by Terence Nuzum
7th Annual Rondo Awards Are Underway .... Monster Kid Hall Of Fame .... Oscar Picks ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
A-fraud! .... Passing On .... Vote Early And Often .... .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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Don't forget to say a prayer for Roy during the "In Memoriam" segment     
Starring: Hugh Jackman (woo hoo)
Directed by: Gil Cates
Rated: Family Friendly
Running Time: I'm thinking 3 hrs 21 min

This Sunday evening, February 22, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood will be front and center as the film industry gathers to honor its own at the 81st Annual Academy Awards ceremony. In a year of surprising nominees (and non-nominees) almost all of the categories are going to be horse races down to the wire. Almost. Here are my choices for the big prize:


“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” “The Reader,” “Slumdog Millionaire.”

To understand Hollywood is to analyze what films are here….and which one isn’t. My hat is off to Harvey Weinstein and his promotion machine for pulling five total nominations for “The Reader.” A mediocre film at best whose only memorable quality is a supporting performance by Kate Winslet. The academy never reveals what film came in sixth but I’m betting it was “The Dark Knight.” I don’t think I’ll never understand Hollywood’s reluctance to honor summer blockbuster films with it’s highest accolade. 30 years ago, films like “Jaws” and “Star Wars” not only made tons of money but earned the respect of critics and found themselves nominated for the big prize. Now it seems like only films released in the fall have a chance of going home with Oscar. In the past decade, only Best Picture winners “Gladiator” and “Crash” had been released before Labor Day. This being said, it appears that this category is a two horse race. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” earned an amazing 13 nominations, though I think it will get the majority of its honors in the technical categories. My personal choice for the best film of the past year was Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon.” However, I’m going to pick the little movie that could, “Slumdog Millionaire,” to take the trophy. A feel good back story (when its original production company went under the film was days away from going straight to DVD) and an audience pleaser, this is the kind of movie the academy used to honor regularly in the past (“Rocky,” “Chariots of Fire”). To take a phrase from the film, my final answer here is “Slumdog Millionaire.”


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

Again, a race with two favorites. After 25 years as a solid supporting actor, Jenkins made the most of his first starring role. As fine as his performance was, I think many voters will think less of Pitt’s work because of the enormous amount of computer graphics involved in his performance. If there is a long shot to come from behind it is Langella. He took on one of the most recognized people of the 20th Century and nailed the performance. Most actors have portrayed Richard Nixon as a caricature. Langella made him human. Which leaves two of Hollywoods most notorious bad boys. Penn immersed himself in the character of Harvey Milk, again not stereotyping a character but bringing him to life. Rourke battled not only real wrestlers but 20 years of inner demons to return to the top of his chosen profession. I’ve got to go with Rourke here.


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

No, that wasn’t a typo. Kate Winslet is in this category for “The Reader.” And, barring an upset courtesy of fifteen time nominee Streep, she’s going to win. All of the actresses here are worthy, but Winslet has the added value of a second great performance this year, courtesy of “Revolutionary Road.” That is the film I thought she would end up in this category for. And it doesn’t hurt to have two great performances in the same year. In 1977 the Best Actress and Actor awards went to Diane Keaton for “Annie Hall” and Richard Dreyfuss for “The Goodbye Girl.” Great performances, backed up by star turns the same year in “Looking For Mr. Goodbar” (Keaton) and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (Dreyfuss). You can never count out Meryl Streep….since her first nomination 30 years ago for “The Deer Hunter” she has averaged one nomination every two years, but I’m going to give the award to Winslet this year.


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

Ledger. Nice work everyone else. Sadly Heath Ledger will become the first posthumous acting winner. Not because he’s gone but because he was great.


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

My choice here is Winslet….oops, forgot, she isn’t here. Miss Kates’ absence here makes this the hardest category to pick. Every actress here is deserving. With her third nomination Tomei is finally proving that her Oscar for “My Cousin Vinny” wasn’t a mistake. Both Adams and Davis were outstanding but I think they’re going to split the “Doubt” vote. Henson was the heart of “Button” but Cruz managed to impress someone that really wasn’t a fan…me. Add to that the fact that Woody Allen wrote the part and she’s almost a lock. Allen has made Oscar winners of Diane Keaton, Mira Sorvino and Diane Weist…twice. I look for Cruz to add her name to the list come Sunday night.


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

Once again, “The Reader” rears its ugly head. I hope somebody called “The Dark Knight’s” Christopher Nolan and apologized. I will say congratulations to Daldry who became the first director in history to be nominated as Best Director for his first three films (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours”). Howard already has a directing Oscar so he won’t mind going home empty handed. Van Sant has been here before and, believe me, will be again. So will Fincher. But the story this year is “Slumdog Millionaire” and that story starts and stops with Danny Boyle. Congratulations Danny.

The rest of the categories:

Before I list the rest of my picks, let me offer my congratulations to this years’ recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Mr. Jerry Lewis. Lewis is being honored for his years of work with Muscular Dystrophy, having raised more than $2 billion since he began his annual telethons.

BEST ANIMATED FILM: “Kung Fu Panda” (sorry “Wall-E”

ART DIRECTION: “The Dark Knight”

CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

COSTUME DESIGN: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”


DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306”

FILM EDITING: “The Dark Knight”


MAKEUP: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

ORIGINAL SCORE: “Slumdog Millionaire”

ORIGINAL SONG: “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire”





VISUAL EFFECTS: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: “Slumdog Millionaire”


The 81st Academy Awards are presented this Sunday night, February 22.


This week's movie review of "81st Annual Academy Awards" 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.