Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: And the nominees are…

No, I didn’t crawl out of bed to see who snagged Oscar nominations. I’m not quite that dedicated to the Oscars. OK, so let’s be honest, I’m not that impressed by the Oscars, period. They simply have too long a history of overlooking anything and anyone that might frighten the horses in favor of the safely middle-brow. (Remember the look on Robert Altman’s face when he was passed over for Ron Howard? Or the furor over Crash beating out Brokeback Mountain?) All the same, it’s impossible to be interested in movies and completely ignore the damned things however irrelevant you think they are. That means, of course, that as soon as I was up and had become sufficiently caffienated and nicotinized that my eyes would focus, I sought out the list.

With the exception of a couple unlikely to win nods to the existence of the world of indie film—Richard Jenkins’ Best Actor nomination for The Visitor and Melissa Leo’s Best Actress one for Frozen River—it was fairly predictable and rife with the Hollywood politics to be expected every year. At least I hope the nomination for Angelina Jolie as Best Actress for her performance in Changeling was Hollywood politics and not actually grounded in her ability to scream “my son” every few moments. Hey, she’s a big name, she’s glamorous and they couldn’t very well nominate her for Wanted. Perhaps the biggest surprises came in the form of The Dark Knight and WALL-E being absent from Best Motion Picture consideration.

So what do we have? Well, let’s look at them in order.

For Best Motion Picture we have The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire. The only surprise there is The Reader and shutting out Revolutionary Road and The Dark Knight. In truth, both the choice and the omission of the other two suit me fine. I don’t honestly think The Reader has a hope in hell of winning, but I’m glad to see it up there—and amused by the prospect of all those Oscar-doping theater chains kicking themselves for choosing this week to drop it from most of their theaters and pushing Revolutionary Road into them. (Don’t be surprised if The Reader reappears next week.). At the same time, they’re doubtless patting themselves on the back for getting Slumdog Millionaire into saturation mode (perhaps too much saturation) and opening Frost/Nixon.

For my money, there’s only one choice—Slumdog Millionaire. The race, however, is going to be unusually interesting. Setting aside The Reader as a very dark horse, cases can be made for all of the four others in Oscar terms. Slumdog has the edge critically—but that might work against it with the Academy. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has serious Oscar appeal. It’s long (Oscar likes long; they think it means “important”) and it has a Hollywood star in the lead. But don’t underestimate the mid-cult appeal of Frost/Nixon. It has historical import. It’s solidly crafted, but not particularly exciting (or threatening) filmmaking. It has a dynamic performance from Frank Langella as Nixon. It’s a Ron Howard film and he’s the perfect Oscar filmmaker—serious-minded, but very accessible and audience-friendly. Plus, he seems like a nice guy. At the same time, Milk has historical import, too. The gay aspect could go either way for it. It might work against it, or the Academy voters might want to show no homophobia was involved in voting for the mediocre Crash over the far from mediocre Brokeback Mountain. I’m pulling for Slumdog all the way.

In the Best Actor realm we find Richard Jenkins in The Visitor, Langella in Frost/Nixon, Sean Penn in Milk, Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. I doubt that Jenkins has a chance, especially since the Academy has Mickey Rourke to choose from in a film that also carries some indie film cred. Personally, I’m solidly for Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, but I’d be cool with Rourke or Langella. All three give remarkable performances. Brad Pitt has that movie star thing going for him and that may counter the fact that his Benjamin Button is stupefyingly bland. My guess, though, is that Rourke will end up with the award.

Best Actress comes down to Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, Angelina Jolie in Changeling, Melissa Leo in Frozen River, Meryl Streep in Doubt and Kate Winslet in—surprise!—The Reader. Winslet’s nomination is really something of a shocker. Yesterday, the smart money would have had her nominated, but for Revolutionary Road. My own suspicion is that this choice has as much to do with slapping the Weinsteins in the face as it has to do with merit. The Weinsteins’ push for her in the Supporting Actress category with The Reader was such a barefaced attempt to not lose out to her performance in Revolutionary Road that it was impossible to ignore. There’s no question that her role in The Reader is a lead, not a supporting one. That it’s also a far better performance is another matter—and probably irrelevant in Academy terms. In any case, Winslet is my personal choice.

Who will actually win Best Actress? That’s a really hard call. Hathaway is a good bet, but hardly a shoo-in. It’s a terrific performance housed in a messy movie that didn’t exactly set attendance records. The Jolie factor is formidable, even if I personally think it’s a ludicrous choice. Melissa Leo was very good in a movie not that many people saw. It could go to Meryl Streep almost by default, though she’d be my personal second choice.

Best Supporting Actor is probably a lock for Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, but he has interesting competition from Josh Brolin in Milk, Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt and Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road. My actual choice would have been James Franco in Milk, but since he’s not on the list there’s a perverse side of me that would love to see Robert Downey Jr. win. I don’t think it would be a bad choice on any level, but I also don’t think it’s likely. Then again, I didn’t think a nomination was likely either. Hoffman feels kind of shoe-horned in, since his role in Doubt is really a lead. Michael Shannon is certainly the liveliest thing in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, but that’s not saying much. Still, his character in the film is supposed to be crazy and Oscar loves crazy. Josh Brolin is very good in Milk and my money would would be on him if he wasn’t up against Ledger’s Joker.

With Winslet out of the Best Supporting Actress category, this becomes an interesting race. We have Amy Adams in Doubt, Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Viola Davis in Doubt, Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler. That’s a pretty strong list. I’d go for Viola Davis, whose performance in Doubt is shattering in its brutal honesty, but I think she’s a long shot. Adams is, I suspect, an even longer shot. I’m delighted to see Taraji P. Henson nominated, but she’s done better work (Hustle & Flow, Talk to Me) than her turn in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She’s good, but like everything else about the movie (apart from the overlooked Tilda Swinton), there’s something curiously remote about the performance. Tomei’s performance in The Wrestler is not only very good, but it’s a brave one. I’m leaning toward Penelope Cruz as the best bet—and that’s fine. Even though I’d prefer Davis, I’d be good with this choice. Thing is, I love all these women and I’d have a hard time being upset with any of them winning.

In theory the race for Best Director is supposed to be between Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire and David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. So far as I’m concerned, Boyle deserves it beyond any possible choice—nominated or otherwise. Oscar voters, on the other hand, are inscrutable in these matters, but it probably doesn’t help that Boyle is something of an outsider, especially up against Fincher. With that in mind, it would be foolish to rule out Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon. Van Sant is a possibility, but not, I think, a strong one. The darkest horse—and the biggest surprise, especially since it snubs Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight—is Stephen Daldry for The Reader. A win for him is just unlikely. It might be kind of amusing. Or it would be, if it wouldn’t be barefaced robbery for anyone but Danny Boyle to win.

The Best Original Screenplay choices are a strange mix. We have Courtney Hunt for Frozen River, Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky, Martin McDonagh for In Bruges, Dustin Lance Black for Milk and Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter and Jim Reardon for WALL-E. Much as I liked Happy-Go-Lucky and much as I love Milk, I’m in McDonagh’s corner here. Not only did he elevate swearing to an art form (its only competition ever may be Barry Sandler’s script for Crimes of Passion), but In Bruges is one of the most cleverly constructed screenplays in living memory. I admit to just completely not “getting” the noms for Frozen River and WALL-E, and they both seem unlikely winners to me. I’m guessing the Academy will plop for Milk, but I wouldn’t lay money on it.

The Best Adapted Screenplay surprises once again by including David Hare’s script for The Reader and ignoring Justin Haythe’s for Revolutionary Road. The choices of Eric Roth and Robin Swicord for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire were a given, while neither John Patrick Shanley for Doubt and Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon are greatly suprising. Sanity would dictate Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog as the winner, but politics will probably win out. It’s for Oscar show moments like the probability of a Benjamin Button win that I am forbidden to keep bricks handy while watching.

Well, we’re already down to writing awards, which means we’re already past the awards that most people care that much about. As a result, I’ve no intention of weighing in on cinematography, editing, etc. I will say that I’m conflicted in the Original Musical Score department. I couldn’t possibly choose between Danny Elfman’s Milk score and A.R. Rahman’s score for Slumdog Millionaire. However, if “Jai Ho” by Rahman and Gulzar from Slumdog doesn’t nab Best Original Song, there ain’t no justice. We all know that WALL-E will grab Best Animated Feature. It’s a wonder they bothered nominating anything else. The Best Foreign Language Film is completely…well, foreign to me this year. Not a single entry has made it to town yet and no one bothered to send screeners for any of the nominees. The buzz, however, indicates the choice will be Waltz with Bashir, which at least is slated to show up.

And there you have it—at least till all will be revealed on February 22. I’ll be there—sans bricks, especially since I have a nice new flat screen TV. Passion is sometimes outweighed by practicality.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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54 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: And the nominees are…

  1. I’m surprised on how much weight the Weinsteins can still throw around during award season. They haven’t come up with a hit since their inception, the stock for their distributor (which they are a majority owner of) hovers around 4 cents. They have backstabbed filmmakers, theaters, cable stations and mom and pop video stores like me. How much longer can they go on?

  2. Ken Hanke

    They have backstabbed filmmakers, theaters, cable stations and mom and pop video stores like me. How much longer can they go on?

    An interesting question to which there is no handy answer. No one was more surprised than I when The Reader scored so highly in the noms. I wasn’t sorry because I think it’s a terrific and terrifically powerful movie, but with the anti-Weinstein sentiment in the industry, it never occurred to me it had a chance, especially when you throw in the “difficult” subject matter of the film. I don’t think the film has a hope of winning, but I do think Winslet does.

  3. Tonberry

    And I… agree with all your personal choices here. I laughed when you suggested Robert Downy Jr., that was my personal pick, but there’s no way he’s gonna get it.

    The Academy really confused me this time around when it came to the nomination for best original song. Though “Jai Ho” is my favorite and should win, I was shocked that “The Wrestler” by Bruce Springsteen wasn’t nominated. There’s only three songs nominated in this category, two from Slumdog, why couldn’t they have picked another?

    My favorite foreign film was “Let the Right One In,” but there is always that one movie the academy ignores that shouldn’t be ignored or doesn’t get nominated because of silly politics.

  4. I’m also bummed about LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. So far it’s the best horror film of the decade and one of the best vampire films ever.

    I’m in love with Kate Winslet, so a win is ok by me. She’s been passed over for SO long, that I feel she will get it.

    There’s good discussions on other boards about if Robert Downey Jr. is the only blackface performance to ever be nominated. Of course, someone immediately chimed in about Olivier in OTHELLO.

    I was pissed about THE FALL getting NOTHING, but apparently it was released somewhere in 2006. Best costume? Come on!

  5. Tonberry

    Awesome, I would have suggested “The Fall” too if was for that 2006 release (?).

    But I would have also put just about everything else in that movie for a nomination, especially Cantica Untaru as best actress/supporting whatever, one of the greatest child performances I’ve seen. Can’t wait for Tarsem’s next work “War of the Gods.”

  6. Sean R. Moorhead

    You know what cheeses me? I’ve seen four or five news articles describing an “Oscar snub” against The Dark Knight, which assumes that it was a worthy film in the first place.

  7. Sean Williams

    I believe I just posted under a different name, so let me clarify that I am “Sean Moorhead”. I have two surnames, you see — just like Michael Freaking Bay.

  8. Ken Hanke

    The Academy really confused me this time around when it came to the nomination for best original song. Though “Jai Ho” is my favorite and should win, I was shocked that “The Wrestler” by Bruce Springsteen wasn’t nominated. There’s only three songs nominated in this category, two from Slumdog, why couldn’t they have picked another?

    There is perhaps some weird rule that the Springsteen song has broken. When all is said and done, I really think this is a category that has outlived its relevance. It was only added to the Oscars in 1934, at which time musicals were fairly common. Even films that weren’t musicals would often have a song or two in them. All too often these days the songs that are nominated — and even win — are simply over the closing credites. That could virtually be said about “Jai Ho,” though at least it’s actually performed. Films like Chicago even cook up a song that wasn’t in the stage version for the express purpose of slapping it over the credits strictly in hopes of an Original Song nomination.

    My favorite foreign film was “Let the Right One In,” but there is always that one movie the academy ignores that shouldn’t be ignored or doesn’t get nominated because of silly politics.

    It was mine, too, followed by Roman de Gare and Priceless. But in all fairness, I haven’t seen any of the nominated films.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I was pissed about THE FALL getting NOTHING, but apparently it was released somewhere in 2006. Best costume? Come on!

    I keep hearing good things about this film, but I haven’t seen it. I suspect its obscurity — what kind of release did it actually get? — works against it in terms of award nominations.

    I’m still being amused by the heavy nominations for Doubt and especially The Reader, both of which are no longer on local screens.

  10. Ken Hanke

    I believe I just posted under a different name, so let me clarify that I am “Sean Moorhead”. I have two surnames, you see—just like Michael Freaking Bay.

    Now, the question is where is the Sean Moorhead post to which you refer?

  11. Ken Hanke

    You know what cheeses me? I’ve seen four or five news articles describing an “Oscar snub” against The Dark Knight, which assumes that it was a worthy film in the first place.

    Ah, the Moorhead post in question appears as if by magic!

    I’m actually a bit surprised that this thread hasn’t been descended on by the Dark Knight contigent. I’ve seen at least one “news” item putting forth the idea that the Academy has shot itself in the foot for overlooking the film — based on its box office performance and its plethora of good reviews. While the reviews could be seen as a not unreasonable barometer, the box office really oughtn’t be a consideration either way. “It was wildly popular” has little to do with quality — neither does its inversion that a thing’s popularity means it’s bad. If the Oscars are irrelevant — and in a lot of ways they are — it’s not because they didn’t nominate The Dark Knight.

  12. DiggerDan

    Puh leeze , yet another self destructive actor. Just becasue he choose to end it all, doesn’t make him oscar material

  13. Sean Williams

    I’ve seen at least one “news” item putting forth the idea that the Academy has shot itself in the foot for overlooking the film — based on its box office performance and its plethora of good reviews.

    I anticipate a slew of editorials criticizing the Oscars for being “out of touch with the common man” — Time runs just such an editorial every year around this time, in fact. And while I respect the common man (if he does, indeed, exist outside of the overheated imaginations of conservative pundits), I refuse to defer to his tastes in cinema.

  14. Ken Hanke

    There’s good discussions on other boards about if Robert Downey Jr. is the only blackface performance to ever be nominated. Of course, someone immediately chimed in about Olivier in OTHELLO.

    And Larry Parks was nominated for Best Actor for The Jolson Story.

  15. T_REX

    Relevant or not I will be watching with bells on and excited just like every year. I am one of those surprised at Dark Knight’s omission from the big one but not upset, those are 5 great films nominated. ( My pic is Benjamin Button, it leaves all the others, as good as they are, in the dust The crime however is the fact that Nolan was not nominated. He took a comic story and made it into a fantastic, even believable, crime drama. That is a feat worth accolades even if you do’t think the film is the bee’s knee’s.

  16. Ken Hanke

    I anticipate a slew of editorials criticizing the Oscars for being “out of touch with the common man”—Time runs just such an editorial every year around this time, in fact.

    The question then becomes whether the awards are supposed to be based on artistic merit or simply popularity.

  17. Ken Hanke

    My pic is Benjamin Button, it leaves all the others, as good as they are, in the dust

    I suppose it will come as no shock to you to learn that of the five films nominated, Benjamin Button would come in as my fifth choice. Someone sent me a link the other day that says it all —

    http://www.funnyordie.com…forrest-gump-from-fgump44

    The crime however is the fact that Nolan was not nominated. He took a comic story and made it into a fantastic, even believable, crime drama.

    First of all, being an auterist, I never understand how the Best Picture and the Best Director can be split. But more, I have to disagree with what he did. To me, all he did was take a comic story and make it clunky, overlong and unpleasant. (I realize that unpleasant is often interchangeable with believable.)

  18. T_Rex

    yes, I have seen that video clip and it is funny.

    But BB is still the better film this year and speaking of Gump, it robbed Shawshank Redemption of the Oscar for 1994. Maybe this is a case of a writer simply improving his script for the better. lol

  19. Ken Hanke

    There’s no way you’re ever going to convince me that Benjamin Button is better than Slumdog Millionaire. Actually, you probably can’t convince me that it’s even very good.

  20. Dread P. Roberts

    Puh leeze , yet another self destructive actor. Just becasue he choose to end it all, doesn’t make him oscar material

    I assume your only reason for posting this is to try to get a rise out of someone for your own attention seeking amusement. Truth be told, I am not concerned about what you think about the Ledger’s performance, but I would like to defend his death. It has been clearly stated that his death was accidental. He did not ‘choose’ to end it all, but even if he did your comment would still be disrespectful – joking or not.

    My pic is Benjamin Button, it leaves all the others, as good as they are, in the dust

    My favorite part of “Benjamin Button” is the guy who got struck by lightning seven times. I thought the movie was very well made, but I was a little indifferent to the main characters, and that kind of detracted a little from the overall experience. Plus, at the end of the movie my wife was bawling her eyes out, and I was not at all emotionally involved. I remember looking around the theatre to see other people weeping, and I kind of felt like a jerk for not caring, but I got over it.

  21. Ken Hanke

    I remember looking around the theatre to see other people weeping, and I kind of felt like a jerk for not caring, but I got over it.

    Well, you have a lot of company — like everyone I screened the movie with (granted, that only amounted to 8 people) and me. That, for me, is why the movie fails — it couldn’t make me care even slightly what happened to any of these people.

    And back on the popularity as a barometer of quality question — Paul Blart is the no. 1 picture in America for the second week and has now grossed in the neighborhood of $65 million on a budget of $25 million (where it went is mystifying). It will doubtless cross the $100 million mark before it’s over. Should the Academy bear this in mind for next year?

  22. Dread P. Roberts

    The crime however is the fact that Nolan was not nominated. He took a comic story and made it into a fantastic, even believable, crime drama.

    I like Nolan as a director, but truth be told – even though he co-wrote the screenplay – he is not the originator of making the Batman universe into a crime drama. That credit belongs to Frank Miller who re-imagined the Batman comics with “Batman:Year One” (which was a big inspiration for “Batman Begins”) and, of course, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”, which was written by Frank Miller back in 1986 – three years prior to Tim Burton’s “Batman”. Nolan even talks about how Frank Miller inspired HIS vision of the batman character in certain interviews.

  23. Dread P. Roberts

    It will doubtless cross the $100 million mark before it’s over. Should the Academy bear this in mind for next year?

    Good grief! Isn’t the economy depressing enough without us completely loosing all hope in humanities taste for entertainment? Don’t people know this will only inspire more of this sort of thing in the future? These are indeed dark times we are living in.

  24. Ken Hanke

    Don’t people know this will only inspire more of this sort of thing in the future? These are indeed dark times we are living in.

    Distressingly enough, I suspect they (the anonymous, ever-present “they”) would be fine with generating more of these movies. If word of mouth didn’t kill this off after one week, then there is apparently an audience for it. It gives me no joy to say that.

  25. Ken Hanke

    Further on the relevance of Oscars. It’s hard to tell how much the nominations pushed the box office for Slumdog Millionaire, since it was widened to so many screens on Friday. However, the take for Benjamin Button was only up 9% after the nominations. Frost/Nixon had a fairly tepid wide opening. Doubt (which is returning for two shows a day to the Hollywood on Friday) and The Reader (which is supposed to be returning to some theaters next week) were on so few screens as to be negligible. Milk expands to more theaters this week in hopes of an Oscar boost. But all in all, the power of Oscar — at least in nomination form — would appear to be limited these days.

    At the same time, the highly-touted re-release of The Dark Knight — despite the push, this amounted to about 350 theaters, mostly second-run venues — didn’t set any records either.

  26. Ken Hanke

    And more Oscar nom scrambling…

    Doubt not only returns to the Hollywood for a split set, but it returns to the Carmike for a full set of shows come Friday. The Reader is showing up for another go at the Regal Biltmore Grande on Friday as well.

  27. T_Rex

    One only wonders if this Nom list would be diffrent had the Soloist not been pushed back. I wasnt blown away by it’s trailer at first but like it more each time I see it.

  28. Ken Hanke

    One only wonders if this Nom list would be diffrent had the Soloist not been pushed back. I wasnt blown away by it’s trailer at first but like it more each time I see it.

    Hard to tell. It certainly has Oscar Bait written all over it, but then so did Reservation Road and you see how that turned out. (I suspect the folks who made Seven Pounds had some Oscar notions, too.) Much as I like the stars and the director of The Soloist, it just looks too gooey for me.

  29. irelephant

    Whatever the quality–gooey or not–of The Soloist, I’m just happy to see Robert Downey Jr. getting more and more parts. I think it’s curious that the breakout movie star of that generation of actors–Tom Cruise–is sinking, while brilliant actors like Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. are rising. Not sure it means anything–besides the obvious moral lesson concerning scientology and self-satisfied grinning. Perhaps it could be turned into a children’s story: I reckon there’s a Newberry medal waiting to be claimed from that slice of celebrity non-fiction.

  30. xingxang

    Was Gran Torino released too late for consideration this year? Haven’t seen it, but I thought it was trying to get positioned for awards.

    Ken- do you do an annual piece about your favorites of the year?

  31. irelephant

    I don’t know of very many best picture winners that I think are great. The Apartment and Lost Weekend come to mind. Annie Hall, definately. Recently, No Country For Old Men and The Departed. But, damn, what’s with the academy: Million Dollar Baby, Forrest Gump, Gladiator, Crash, Rain Man, Ordinary People, Dances with Wolves, etc. They seem to enjoy awarding mediocrity. Ghost and Green Mile got best picture nominations? It boggles the mind. I’m looking at a list of past winners and nominees and it is a sad list. Mostly, I look at the list and say, “Why didn’t that or that or that win?” Ah!–doesn’t matter, any justice there might be in the world would be better focused elsewhere anyway. But Titanic? For pete’s sake!

  32. Ken Hanke

    I’m not sure there’s a single Best Picture winner I think is the best of its year. The Apartment maybe, but then 1960 isn’t exactly chock full of great choices. Carol Reed’s Our Man in Havana possibly. Lost Weekend I’m less sure of, though I can’t think of a better film from 1945. I can think of a few I enjoy more, but that’s a separate issue. If Annie Hall is 1976, I’ll agree with it. If it’s 1975, I won’t. (Anyone who’s read my stuff to any degree knows what I would call the Best Picture of 1975.) Even with Best Pictures that I like — say, Grand Hotel for 1932 — I can name you three or four titles I’d say are more deserving. If Slumdog Millionaire wins this year, I’ll have to ammend that statement.

  33. T_REX

    Slumdog Millionaire is a great film and crafted by a great director but even Be Kind Rewind and Leatherheads (which were way overlooked) are better films.

    again, just an opinion

  34. irelephant

    I’m partial to Barry Lyndon, but I’d take Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville over One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest anyday. Jaws just doesn’t cut it for me–didn’t when i was young and doesn’t now. Speilberg never did it for me. I tried to walk out of E.T. when i was four years old. And tax season is more frightening to me than Jaws could ever dream to be.

    In retrospect, I’m surprised Jaws: The Revenge didn’t get a best picture nomination back in 1988. Also, it befuddles me that Rocky III was shut out of the race in 1983. The academy may just have gone crackers.

  35. Ken Hanke

    I’m partial to Barry Lyndon, but I’d take Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville over One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest anyday. Jaws just doesn’t cut it for me–didn’t when i was young and doesn’t now.

    But nary a one of those would be my choice anyway.

    Additional current Oscar rumblings: Having now see Kristin Scott Thomas in I’ve Loved You So Long, the nomination of Jolie for Best Actress is even more appalling than it already was.

  36. irelephant

    I’m curious what your choice is?

    On another note–besides Tommy, I’ve never caught a Ken Russell film. I understand you’re something of a scholar of his work. Where is a good place to start?

  37. Ken Hanke

    On another note–besides Tommy, I’ve never caught a Ken Russell film. I understand you’re something of a scholar of his work. Where is a good place to start?

    Well, I was going to toy with you as to the answer my Best Picture of 1975 — or make someone else tell you — but since you named it in your post, I won’t do that. Yes, so far as I’m concerned, Tommy is the film of that year, while Russell’s follow-up, Lisztomania released the same year, is on the short list for most outrageous and bizarre film ever to play in multiplexes. Tommy was also the first Russell film I ever saw, so for me, it was a good starting place. But where to suggest someone starts…

    I guess I’m a Russell scholar, but that sounds so dry and pedantic. Let’s say, I wrote a book about him (that came out in 1984, so it ended with Altered States), became his friend, wrote the liner notes for the special edition laserdisc of Crimes of Passion, and have done a few other things on him over the years. If you haven’t seen it, these might interest you —

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/screening_room/2008/cranky_hankes_screening_room_ken_russell_at_the_bbc_box_set

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/screening_room/2008/cranky_hankes_screening_room_lets_all_go_to_the_devils

    And so might this in part —

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/screening_room/2008/cranky_hankes_screening_room_whats_the_most_embarrassingly_fannish_thing_yo

    The problem with suggesting where to start on Russell is that so much of his work is not currently available on DVD. Women in Love, Mahler, Tommy, Altered States, Crimes of Passion, Gothic and The Lair of the White Worm may be all that’s out there right now. That means that many key works — The Music Lovers, The Devils, The Boy Friend, Savage Messiah, Lisztomania, Valentino and Salome’s Last Dance — are missing. Most were available in laser format, so decent DVD-Rs are possible. Salome was on DVD, but it’s out of print and runs $200-300 used, last I knew.

    Of the available titles, Women in Love is the most highly regarded — especially by people who don’t otherwise care for his work. Don’t let that throw you, though. It’s a terrific movie, but it looks a little less daring than what followed. Mahler is an amazing movie — especially for being made for about $300,000 — but may rely on your fondness for Mahler’s music. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t like Mahler liking the film. Alternatively, I can imagine Mahler fans who might be outraged by it. Altered States may be the most accessible. (Based on your posts, I don’t think that’s a real consideration for you.) Crimes of Passion probably the most controversial. The Lair of the White Worm is easily the most fun. And there’s that BBC box set.

  38. T_REX

    Speaking of great films from 1970’s, Being There is being rereleased on a special DVD Tueseday Feb 3rd.

  39. irelephant

    Thanks very much. Enjoyed your articles. I’m definately sold on checking him out in more depth.

  40. irelephant

    It seems that Tommy truly led the way for movies like Moulin Rouge! and Across the Universe. Amazing that its influence has reached across the last twenty four years.

  41. Sean Williams

    If you’re looking for out-of-print Russel films, try the WorldCat network, which connects thousands of libraries worldwide. I got fifty-two hits for Salome’s Last Dance, most of them from universities.

  42. Ken Hanke

    If anyone’s interested in catching Anne Hathaway’s performance in Rachel Getting Married, tonight is the last chance to do so locally (Carmike 10). As of tomorrow, it’s gone. Also, as of tomorrow, Frost/Nixon is gone from all screens, but the Hollywood, Milk remains at the Hollywood and in split shows at Cinebarre. Revolutionary Road goes down to one show at Carmike, is still at Hollywood (I don’t have their breakdown on times), but is otherwise gone. Doubt holds at Carmike and Hollywood. The Wrestler is still at the Fine Arts and opens at the Epic in Hendersonville. And Slumdog Millionaire is holding up in general — and spreads to the Co-Ed in Brevard, too.

  43. Ken Hanke

    Awards followers should note that Slumdog walked off with all the major BAFTA awards except acting.

    As a side note, I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG — which is playing at the Fine Arts — took the BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film. And deservedly so.

  44. irelephant

    Have you seen The Class, Ken. Heard a story about it on NPR. It’s s’posed to be fantastic–naturally, I’m skeptical.

  45. Ken Hanke

    Have you seen The Class, Ken. Heard a story about it on NPR. It’s s’posed to be fantastic–naturally, I’m skeptical.

    I haven’t seen it, but that may soon be rectified.

  46. Tonberry

    I felt like tonight’s show was the most engaging I’ve ever seen the Oscars to be. I was never really disappointed with any of the choices, though ‘Hellboy 2’ not getting best make up bugged me. My friend and I kept txting “F*** BB!” back and forth every time Benjamin B. won.

    Some highlights were:

    –The opening sequence was brillant, best ever in my book. “I am WOLVERINNEEE!!!”

    –Ben Stiller ripping on Joaquin Phoenix.

    –The new Pineapple Express short was funnier than the entire movie.

    –Bill Maher “Oh great, I get to present after that and everyone is crying.”

    –Jai Ho!

    –Kate Winslet! Classy, and awesome. Though I didn’t like The Reader as much as you did, I did feel she justly deserved the award. Giving a shout out to Peter Jackson made me smile. Her acceptance speech was my favorite of the night, so glad she won.

    –Penn calling Rourke a brother, was awesome, I felt the two were on equal footing for the award.

    –Danny Boyle’s Tigger bounce!

    –I love Slumdog Millionaire with the passion of the Christ, and seeing the whole cast and crew on stage was wonderful. Man, did that kid who played Jamal as a young kid, not look happy or what?

    I think Hugh Jackman should host more often, and I really liked the format of having five previous winners announce the nominees. Great night!

  47. Ken Hanke

    I felt like tonight’s show was the most engaging I’ve ever seen the Oscars to be.

    You’ll get no argument out of me — as you’ll see in Wednesday’s paper.

  48. T_Rex

    I love the show! It was very entertaining and Hugh should host a few more. Unfortunately I was not happy with the final winner. Slumdog is a great film but highly overrated. Everyone knows that I think BB is far above the other nominees and Milk would be second followed by the dog.
    The most upsetting moment was Peter Gabriel not getting an Oscar, that man is a god of music.
    There will always be someone disappointed at the outcomes but the show was a huge success and I cant wait for next year when it is Coraline’s turn to be insulted by getting the token Best Animated award.

  49. Ken Hanke

    Slumdog is a great film but highly overrated.

    No, I don’t agree with that, but you know that.

    Everyone knows that I think BB is far above the other nominees

    And it’s the one film on the nominee list that I wanted to see go home empty-handed. The more I think about the film, the more I dislike it. I’d have been much happier if Doubt and Happy-Go-Lucky had replaced it and Frost/Nixon, even though I’d have still been pulling for Slumdog all the way.

    The most upsetting moment was Peter Gabriel not getting an Oscar, that man is a god of music.

    Well, that’s subjective, but even granting that, I don’t think the WALL-E song was one of his better moments. But then I’m not a fan of WALL-E either.

    I cant wait for next year when it is Coraline’s turn to be insulted by getting the token Best Animated award.

    If that. Coming this early in the year isn’t in its favor. Of course, I have something of the same complaint about it — I don’t care what happens to these characters — that I have about Benjamin Button, except that I like Coraline.

  50. Sean Williams

    Well, it looks as though the ceremony conformed exactly to Mr. Hanke’s personal tastes, with the exception that WALL-E won best animated. (Come on, you didn’t think Kung-Fu Panda had a Black man’s chance in an action flick, did you?) Congratulations, sir!

    Also, I hear that Jerry Lewis won some kind of special award for Best Portrayal of Jerry Lewis in a Jerry Lewis Film. I can’t think of anyone who deserved it more.

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