Monday, February 23, 2009

2008 Oscars

Film Review: Oscars Big Winner is "Slumdog Millionaire"; With a Few Surprises

by Eric Green
"Slumdog Millionaire" was the big winner with 8 Oscars for this year's Academy Awards ceremonies. Danny Boyle took home the best Director for that film; and the film swept all the music awards for A.R. Rahman. Rahman is a legend in India for his film music creations.

As expected Kate Winslet won best actress for her stirring portrayal of Hanna Schmitt in the anti-fascist film, the "Reader." The film was based on a book by a German attorney/judge.

In a dead heat for fans of films, close friends, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke, faced off for the best actor award. For Rourke this was the culmination of his return to film acting in, "The Wrestler." He won awards for best actor from the Indy Spirit Awards the pervious day; and, also the Golden Globes. [Darren Aronofsky's "the Wrestler" won the top film prize at the Indy Spirit Awards.] But, this evening, Penn won for his great portrayal of Harvey Milk.

In a little wrinkle, a former winner introduced each of the 4 leading actor awards. Penn was introduced by Robert DeNiro who paid tribute to Penn's acting skills and also his international activity for human rights and peace. DeNiro said that in this world you have to do both. Penn didn't disappoint in his acceptance speech. Starting off with sarcastic references to "Communists and Homos" and referring to the ugly anti-Gay demonstrators outside the Oscars, he called for the rights of gay ad lesbian people to enjoy all the rights of people in the U.S. He made special mention of Prop 8, recently passed that would ban gay marriage.

Heath Ledger's mother, father and sister accepted his award for Best Supporting Actor; and Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress.

While there were Black actors, as former Oscar winners, only two Black actors were nominated for any of the top positions; and, none won. Villa Davis for "Doubt" and Taraji P. Henson for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

The loss by Rourke and Maria Tomei, for Best Supporting Actress, left, "The Wrestler" with no Oscars.

In a hotly contested Oscar race, "Slumdog Millionaire" cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, won the Oscar.

The biggest surprise of the evening was in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. Here, it was thought the French film; "In Class" would spar off against the Israeli Anti-war film, "Waltz with Bashir." But, neither won. A Japanese film, "Departures" won the award. This film is about a layed of violinist who goes to work at a mortuary. The film did not have nearly the film distribution of the other nominees. Very few people have even seen the film. In fact, commentators who reported these results of the Oscars had not seen the film. Let's hope the film gets a distribution so that it can be seen. As days past it will be interesting to see why the heavily favorite film, "Waltz With Bashir" did not win.

As expected, "Man on a Wire," won the top documentary film. "Smile Pinki" won the best documentary short. Let's hope this film gets some distribution so that we can see it.

And, for Original Screenplay, Dustin Lance Black got the Oscar for "Milk." In his acceptance speech he described his life as a son of Mormon religious people and his transformation.

"Wall-E" the very popular film, won the Best Animated feature film. Andrew Stanton is its producer.

Economics of the Industry

It is a shame that speakers, awardees and industry spokespeople did not call attention to the dire straights this field of the creative arts is about to enter. Someone could have slammed the right wing Republicans for targeting portions of the President's economic package that target the National Endowment of the Arts and the Humanities. Let's hope this gets corrected. I am sure with Sean Penn leading the way, it will.