The effect of the recession on the upcoming Oscar nominees is . . . absolutely nada! The toilety economy has had no impact whatsoever on which movies will be honored by the Academy—and isn’t it refreshing to finally read something where the angle isn’t “how the spiraling market affects blah, blah, blah”? (But please recycle this paper after you put it down.)
Regardless of dropping real estate values, it was a great year for feel-good movies about the Holocaust, the assassination of a gay politico, and faraway torture. You left all chirpy and happy, if mildly soiled, and you’ll be even more uplifted (and soiled) after reading this column, my annual spot-on predictions for the all-important, yet somehow quite meaningless, nominations.
So here are my two cents. (Relax, it’s just an expression.) The nominees will be:
Slumdog Millionaire (Given its almost-fell-through-the-cracks history, this became the little movie that could—Little Miss Sunshine with excrement.)
Milk (A vote against this is a vote against gay marriage—even if Milk himself wasn’t exactly the best husband.)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Hollywood loves the idea of someone who looks younger as he gets older. And though the effortful epic spouted such homilies as “Be yourself” and “Nothing lasts,” it also included more profound thoughts like how we all start out and end up in diapers.)
The Dark Knight (A superhero dirge that drilled into the nation’s psyche, especially since the real-life dramas of mother-pusher Christian Bale and “accidental OD”-er Heath Ledger added to the depressing stew.)
Frost/Nixon (It brilliantly shows how Cynthia Nixon finally came to admit she was wrong.)
Sean Penn, Milk (You know what they say: Big nose, big chance at Oscar.)
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (The character may be “an old, broken-down piece of meat,” but not Mickey, who delivered a transcendent comeback performance—and he loves his dogs. Staple the nomination certificate to his battered forehead right now.)
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon (Thank God they used the original Broadway cast and not Roz Russell!)
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor (The movie was patronizing and dull, but he’s a charmer and looks like Bob Newhart.)
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino (A far more potent car flick than Herbie Fully Loaded. Clint added both cuteness and gravitas with every rasp—and he “sings,” too!)
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married (She made the sociopathic nightmare totally lovable. I rooted for her over all the normal people.)
Meryl Streep, Doubt (Just guessing she’ll get the nod for this and not Mamma Mia!)
Angelina Jolie, Changeling (The last time she was in a mental institution, she won an Oscar. Hollywood itself would be crazy to keep punishing her for being a celebrity.)
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky (A charming performance that only annoys when it’s supposed to—and she was once on Little Britain.)
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road (We’ve long known it’s her year. The fact that the movie turned out to be no good can’t stop that.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (The rare actor whose Oscar chances didn’t die when he did. Even if he loses, it’ll be all about him, so they might as well give him the award.)
Josh Brolin, Milk (He made the crazed killer seem almost human. I’m talking about his performance in W.!)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt (Even with his manicured nails, you couldn’t tell if he was guilty.)
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire (Oscar’s final answer will be, “We have no idea who you are, kid, but you’re nominated!”)
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder (They need to include some black people.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis, Doubt (Her big scene was weirdly shot outdoors, but this was another guaranteed nomination role even before filming started.)
Amy Adams, Doubt (She was very effective as the habit-former who sees all—mostly from indoors—but doesn’t know what to make of it.)
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (She talks Spanish; she soars like a pajaro.)
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler (Touching as a stripper with ethics, if not with clothes.)
Kate Winslet, The Reader (They’re pushing her for supporting, and the voters are that stupid. It’s her year, remember?)
In other podium-storming developments, did Bride Wars purposely have its premiere the same night every critic in town would be busy at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards? I have no idea because I was at the latter event, too, catching up with my whip-smart old friend Jenny Lumet, who won Best Screenplay for that other Anne Hathaway bridal romp, Rachel Getting Married. “Will there be a sequel called Rachel Getting Divorced?” I asked Jenny wittily. “Maybe Rachel Stealing a Car,” she played along—though I told her the whole series should definitely end with Rachel Getting Buried.
Jenny admitted she didn’t even write two of the speeches in the film, but she won’t hand out pieces of all her awards to those who did. “I’m telling people I wrote every fucking word!” she comically exulted as I cheered her on.
Sally Hawkins won the critics’ Best Actress award all by herself and cracked to me about her growing pile of honors: “I’m going to have to strap them to my back. Or maybe put them on wheels and pull them. It’s a heavy load to bear, but I can handle it. It’s good to know they’re solid, not some Easter egg that will crack!” Not to bring her down, but I told Hawkins her mom had just urged me to rent Fingersmith, in which Hawkins plays “a lesbian Victorian body stripper.” “I do play a lesbian,” said the actress, squirming, “but not a stripper.” Later, I realized that by “body stripper,” mom probably meant “pickpocket.” Ah, the culture wars.
Josh Brolin stole my heart with his acceptance speech—the famous one where he trashed Russell Crowe and Ben Brantley in a hungover-sounding monotone, getting even more bizarrely worked up when he said Sean Penn will win the Oscar because he smiles a lot for a change!
At the Golden Globes, Sean wasn’t smiling—or even there—when he lost to Mickey Rourke (who was the night’s most sincere and likable presence, which says a lot). But Hawkins picked up another trophy and got super-weepy and flustered about it, no doubt wondering how she was going strap one more prize onto her pushcart.
The rest of the show was basically amateur night, with highlights like J.Lo shrieking, “Hello, mamma talking, mamma talking,” and Miley Cyrus saying a nomination “has been a dream of mine forever.” The creature is all of 16 years old!
Unshockingly, there were tons of coke references, especially when several stars seemed to be rubbing their nostrils in the audience. Robert Downey Jr. looked like he came straight from a crack house souvenir shop, and after Colin Farrell sniffled and explained, “I have a cold. It’s not the other thing it used to be,” half the room could have easily gotten up and said, “With me, it is the other thing it used to be.” Of course, the voters themselves must have been coked out of their minds to think the inconsequential In Bruges and blah Revolutionary Road deserved any honors.
But I did get a buzz when the two new Star Trek stars came out to present something—they’re so hot I want to be beamed way up their Deep Space Nine. And aren’t we thrilled for Jeremy Piven‘s rapid recovery? And . . . wait, you’re not listening! Mamma talking, mamma talking!