The 2009 Academy Awards
This is the first year I have actually made a point of watching the entire broadcast of the Academy Awards, largely due to the fact that I have seen more nominated films this year than I have during any other season. And like any other official award ceremony, I have mixed feelings about who won and (obviously) who did not.
Man on Wire‘s win for Best Documentary was probably the most gratifying win for me, because I loved this movie. I haven’t seen any of the other nominees, but I can’t imagine that they would succeed in outshining one of the best documentary feature films I have ever seen. James Marsh’s poignant telling of Frenchman Philipe Petit’s quest to tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 was all at once enchanting, harrowing, and incredible:
The film’s tagline is an apt summation: 1974. 1350 feet up. The artistic crime of the century.
My opinion of the winners after this becomes a little more muddied. Milk was an outstanding production and artlessly evokes a pivotal point in Californian political history. Sean Penn’s performance as the enigmatic Harvey Milk is, needless to say, all at once compelling and understated. He evokes the spirit and the momentum that immortalized the real life Milk’s crusade for equality and an end to legally sanctioned discrimination.
My reservations come in when I compare this performance with Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. This film is a brilliant, unassuming depiction of second chances, lost love, and the desperate self-sacrifice of a man who has nothing to live for except the thing he loves most – his life as a professional wrestler. It is all of these things largely due to Rourke’s selfless, unconscious performance.
Comparing Penn and Rourke’s performances is, needless to say, exceptionally difficult. In this case, however, I believe that Rourke achieves a rawness and vulnerability that Penn does not for the simple reason that he does not try to.
Slumdog Millionaire made out like a, well, millionaire at the Awards this year.
The film swept eight categories, and for the most part, deservedly so. It is beautifully photographed, and the visual and sound editing were astounding. Dev Patel is especially impressive as the lovelorn slumdog who overcomes incredible odds to make it on national television in order to find his true love, played gracefully by Freida Pinto. As much as I enjoyed this film, I would not call it great, as in “Best Picture” great. It is a film doubtlessly needed for the times, with its message of eternal optimism and the inspiration of a rags-to-riches success story. It is a very youthful production, which might explain why it does not really fit my idea of what sort of film should win this award. Hindsight might disagree, I suppose. I will probably have to give it another viewing at some future date.