June 20, 2013
Written by by MARK and JONATHAN SCHUMANN
Thursday, 19 February 2009 16:04
Every Oscar season is a moment in time. A moment when, perhaps briefly, a film achievement is considered the very best. A moment when, perhaps memorably, a creator offers insight into a magical process. A moment that, naturally, is influenced what else is going on in the world.
In 1939, when a world feared it might have to say goodbye to a way of life, the Academy honored a film about people saying goodbye to a way of life, Gone With the Wind. In 1977, when a world shocked by scandal longed for simple heroism, the Academy honored a small movie about a simple hero, Rocky. And in 1998, as the world celebrated an excess of riches, the Academy honored the most excessive film on its roster, Titanic.
So it’s no surprise that, as we near Oscar night, the voters may be as influenced by the times as by the movies. Here are our choices:
Jonathan: Milk. Barring some wildly unexpected upset, look for Gus Van Sant and company go home empty-handed. History, though, will remember Milk as the superior film of this year — radical, exhilarating, and heartbreaking.
Mark: Milk. While Slumdog Millionnaire will likely win the top award, it is not the year’s best film. That honor goes to Milk, the film of 2008 that will be best remembered (and most revered) in the future. Director Gus Van Sant brilliantly creates a portrait of man who becomes an unlikely icon for a movement.
Jonathan: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler. Yes, I love Sean Penn in Milk. But Rourke’s shattering turn in Darren Aronofsky’s pitch-perfect character study will not only transform his career (we can hope) but also be remembered in the league of great performances (think Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull).
Mark: Sean Penn, Milk. This is the tightest category of the year with Penn neck-and-neck with this year’s comeback hero, Mickey Rourke. While Rourke’s fine work in The Wrestler is a perfect match of performer, material and moment, the amazing Penn subdues every familiar mannerism to inhabit the role of Harvey Milk. He is astonishing.
Jonathan: Angelina Jolie, Changeling. I’m more than a little surprised to see myself mark the ballot for Ms. Jolie, who I also refer to as Our Lady of Humanitarian Narcissism. But, in a year when the year’s best female performances were overlooked (Kristin Scott Thomas, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Williams), Jolie does career-topping work as a woman searching for her kidnapped son (and battling police corruption and the crazy house, oh my!).
Mark: Meryl Streep, Doubt. Kate Winslet is the favorite to win this category for a weak (supporting) performance in the rather dismal The Reader. If she wins, it will be to finally honor this fine actress after six nominations — but not in recognition for her work this year. Streep, on the other hand, has had a banner year, and is oh so deserving of Oscar #3.
Jonathan: Josh Brolin, Milk. Yes, I love Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. But in all honesty, it’s a lead performance. Brolin takes a two-dimensional part and brings depth and texture to his every scene. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
Mark: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight. What this amazing young actor did with this comic book role is legendary. That he did not live to see the reaction is tragic. This posthumous Oscar will pay tribute to the legend and the tragedy. In any other year, Josh Brolin would be the likely winner for his fascinating take on Dan White in Milk.
Jonathan: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona. It’s official — I can’t get enough of Penelope. After her landmark turn in Volver, Cruz has transformed herself into our generation’s Sophia Loren. She should easily take home this prize for her hilarious turn as the volatile Maria Elena in Woody Allen’s amusing comedy.
Mark: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona. This delightful Spanish actress is all set to join the exclusive club of Dianne Wiest and Mira Sorvino — actresses who have won Supporting Oscars for working in a Woody Allen film. The marvelous Cruz arrives half-way through the film with enough gusto to fill an entire multiplex.
Jonathan: Gus Van Sant, Milk. I’m glad to see Van Sant nominated this year, though I think his work on Paranoid Park, his ruminative indie from last spring, is superior. Expect Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionnaire) to take this one home (bummer).
Mark: Gus Van Sant, Milk. What could have been yet another biopic — with a few newsreel clips tossed in for authenticity — instead becomes a cinema time capsule of a time so recent but so long ago when fundamental freedoms were simply overlooked. Van Sant also created the breathtaking Paranoid Park in 2008. He is on a roll.
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