"Damn you 'Departures'!"
Yes, that was the refrain heard from coast to coast Sunday night as the little Japanese Foreign Film entry that could upset perennial favorites "The Class" and "Waltz for Bashir" in a night that was pretty much a ride on the "Slumdog MIllionaire" train. And yes, I got it wrong with just about everyone else (save some very lucky and happy peeps at U.S. distributor Regent Releasing).
As for the rest of the winers, your fastidious prognosticator didn't do too badly in his picks nailing 18 out of 24. What did I blow?
Winner: "The Dark Knight"
Lame Excuse: We all know that the Academy has little respect for their animated film nominees, but who knew they had almost zero when it comes to actually awarding statues?
Predix: "The Dark Knight"
Winner: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Lame Excuse: Listen, I love "Slumdog," it made my top five films of the year, but Sound Mixing? Seriously? This is the result of members just look over the nominees and telling themselves, "Geez, I just loved that 'Slumdog Millionaire.' I want to vote for it again even though I have no idea whether it even qualifies for this category." Like, "Titanic" a decade before it, "Slumdog" won a number of statues it really didn't deserve.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Predix: "The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306"
Winner: "Smile Pinki"
Lame Excuse: Always a tough call. Usually, even the most studious Oscar historians mostly get this right on blind luck and why you rarely hear of anyone going 24 for 24.
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
Winner: "La Maison en Petits Cubes"
Lame Excuse: (1) Sometimes the committee has really bad taste as "Maison" was tedious at best and (2) "Oktapodi" may have just been too short.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Predix: Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Winner: Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Lame Excuse: I'd heard some members buzzing about Davis and I went with my gut and the fact Cruz hadn't been able to campaign much since nominations were announced. Sometimes you take a gamble and win and sometimes you take a gamble and you loose. In hindsight, I wouldn't have changed my pick.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Predix: "Waltz with Bashir" - Israel
Winner: "Departures" - Japan
Lame Excuse: None. Barely anyone called this one and that prognosticator said it "may" win. Another case of the Academy's rules affecting the overall voting. A small number of voters saw all five films as required. If it was a larger pool? "Bashir" or "Class" would have won.
Now, what tough ones did I get right? How about Sean Penn for Best Actor when everybody, Stephen Colbert and their mother were jumping on the Mickey Rourke bandwagon? How about "The Dutchess" for Best Costumes when "Benjamin Button" was the safer choice (Oscar rule: frilly and showy period always beats subtle period)?
So, while this season is over, this blog isn't going anywhere. We'll still drop in on the race for Oscar 2010 as the summer heats up, but look for a rebranded "THE EIC" as we put Awards Campaign on the back burner until thing get kicking again with the Cannes and then Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. In the meantime, we'll look to bring a different take on movies and music from the already fantastic work that Drew McWeeny and Melinda Newman have been doing in HitFix's Motion/Captured and The Beat Goes On blogs respectively.
Clearly, the drama petered out toward the end of the season with "Slumdog's" inevitable Best Picture win assured, but there were some great moments along the way. Kate Winslet's double wins and great speeches at the Golden Globes. Mickey Rourke's shocking upset of no-show Penn at the Globes. Academy favorite Clint Eastwood's stunning omission on nomination morning. A wonderful December "Dark Knight" reception when everyone still believed the Academy would get it in before we realized the membership is really just too damn old. The stunning sight of that beautiful Oscar set being lit up as this year's show began. But, most of all, the memory which will stick with this writer was "Slumdog's" rapturous Toronto Film Festival premiere last September. As the credits rolled the audience was clapping along to "Jai Ho," thoroughly surprised at what they had just experienced. A few days later, I remember a journalist saying, "No way the Academy is going to award Best Picture to a movie about some kinds in the slums of India."
Little did he know that 2009 really is about change. In Washington and Hollywood too.
Keep practicing those Oscar speeches people. It's only six months till it starts in earnest all over again.
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