And The Nominees Are… 2008

THE 2008 BEST PICTURE NOMINEES

05. The Reader (Stephen Daldry, USA/Germany)

My least favourite of the nominees from the moment it was announced. Although I’m glad it got nominated and thought it expected, it certainly isn’t a good film. Some aspects are good – the disarrayed performances and drowsy cinematography in particular – but as a whole it falters. With plenty of plotting problems, the ability to convince and muddled reasons behind character development, this is probably the worst film about the effects of the Holocaust on society. The primary theme that the film pounds into the viewers head is that life is conflicted. A fair assessment of human behavior and good for a few aspects, but certainly not a required film viewing for any fan of cinema. [5/10]

04. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, USA)

Expected to garner a load of Academy Award nominations (inc. Best Picture) from day one, this film had major flop written all over it. With expectations at a high that comes around once every few years, Mr. Fincher had a lot to do to make it work and not be underwhelming. Unfortunately, he could only do so much. With a unique concept, generic characters and character growth and a time-frame that spans important event after important event, the 160 minute running time isn’t as dreadful as one would assume. Packed with a solid cast doing their best with typical, but honest characters it is strong on the ensemble front. Beautiful technically, too. The major flaw the film has is that it has the tired inspirational dialogue that appears rehashed from Forrest Gump and films of that nature, with a theme that is identical. This causes for a constricted atmosphere and territory to become retread to tedious extremes. Nonetheless, a fine film that has enough going for it to make for a solid picture. “A genuine Christmas tale”. [7/10]

03. Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, UK/India)

“The little picture that could”. After getting a lot of buzz from Telluride and TIFF, Slumdog Millionaire was able to snag an American distributor and with it, a Best Picture win. Certainly a flawed film, but one that tries the viewer and hopes to suspend their disbelief by charming them with style, likable characters and innocence. If you dislike the underdog story that goes to extremes to make a story a story then odds are you’ll dislike this film – I, fortunately was pleased by this film. Energetic, vivid and solely set on a singular theme for the film to thrive one, it isn’t exactly complex – but complexity and this film go hand in hand like Westboro Baptist and homosexuality. Although the main actors leave a lot to be desired, the more seasoned veteran actors and less seasoned child actors allow for a pleasant ensemble. For a film with one theme and one goal, it shines. On the other hand, while it completes what it aims to do, it does lack complexity – and every great film needs to have some form of intellectual stimuli to resonate throughout time. Although it is almost complete in fervor, it lacks the euphoric sensation it hopes the viewer will experience. Just a minor flaw, but still one that leaves you hoping for a pinch more. Pleasant with a lot of flavor – a fine Best Picture winner. [8/10]

02. Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, USA/UK)

Akin to the last nominee I spoke of, Frost/Nixon is a very simple film that plays on one sole theme. However, unlike Slumdog Millionaire, it is entirely realistic and only attempts to recreate a moment in history rather than compact a bunch of various events to piece together a puzzle. In fact, it deconstructs the puzzle for the audience and watches the characters be built from the ground up. It’s clear what’s going to happen from the get go and isn’t all that surprising, but Ron Howard’s laid back approach to the story allows it to all just be. While some may jump the gun and do as much as possible to create the aura appropriate for the verbal eruptions, Howard just let the scenes play themselves out and the quiet atmosphere is cause for eerie tension. With an all-star cast headed by Michael Sheen as the charming and pleasant David Frost, as well as Frank Langella as the jolly, deceptive, yet friendly Richard Nixon, the film has one fantastic aspect, regardless of opinion of the film itself. A solid film that is an easy viewing, but also an entertaining one that keeps the two hours going at a fine pace. [8/10]

01. Milk (Gus van Sant, USA)

A seasoned independent filmmaker, van Sant set his eyes on his first biopic. As a homosexual himself, it is no wonder why he was so focused and endeared towards the material and the story. Milk isn’t your run of the mill biopic that glamorizes the protagonist to a place on a pedestal, but rather shows the struggle of a frustrated, but passionate man in Harvey Milk. He is sometimes inconsistent; sometimes a bit too aggressive; sometimes a bit too inexperienced, but usually a fair man who cares more about the rights of his comrades and fellow homosexuals than he does himself. Emotionally distressed from the hatred brought on by the law, failed romantic affairs and caustic acquaintances the film further perpetuates that he is no God among men. With a fantastic – almost completely – male cast, Milk is pretty much complete. Careful, but with a few bits of sexual exploration to not dance around the issue at hand, Milk is a perfectly even film from the moment Harvey meets Scott. An excellent film, and if not for few pacing issues, a little dizzy spell when trying to balance the multiple themes together and a few fragmented characters, a perfect one. [9/10]

All in all, a fine bunch of films. Certainly on the same level as most other years’. However, these are the five I would’ve gone with:

01. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, UK)
02. The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
03. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, USA)
04. Be Kind, Rewind (Michel Gondry, USA)
05. Ballast (Lance Hammer, USA)

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