The big surprise was I forgot that Hugh Jackman can sing- he was “The Boy from Oz” after all. The opening number with its Be Kind Rewind style sets and snappy lyrics was more fun than most of what followed. The choices were pretty expected, but they surprised me with some of their choices this year, but not always in a good way. I did like the “former-winner” round table method of introducing the best performance categories. That was an inspired choice. The tip-tap-typing for the screenwriting categories? Not so much.
Best Supporting Actress, Penelope Cruz. I like her too, but I didn’t think that movie really showcased her talents or made her very memorable. I was quite surprised they didn’t pick Viola Davis, who was amazing in a short amount of time.
No surprise on Animated Feature or Heath Ledger; those picks were in a long time ago. Same with Man on Wire for documentary- why not a feelgood movie, instead of reminding us about Katrina or Abu Ghraib? To be fair, Man on Wire is very compelling. Plus, Philip Petit balanced the Oscar on his chin, that was sort of cool. He’s still infectiously cheerful 35 years after wowing the world by performing his amazing stunt.
As for Best Visual Effects, I had a feeling Benjamin Button would sweep them up. I was hoping Iron Man might get it, as the visuals were pretty impressive there. Sound Editing for Dark Knight was nice, I thought Slumdog might grab it- it got Sound Mixing instead, and I must say for a drama it had an impressive and creative mix. Then again, those are the Oscars no one cares about.
I was very glad Danny Boyle got Best Director. I think Fincher will earn one eventually, but Benjamin Button was not the movie for it. If he has to wait to make his Departed 30 years from now, so be it. As for Kate Winslet, she was the best part of a clumsily constructed movie, and did a great job with a complex character. She deserved recognition, and while Anne Hathaway may have done a fantastic job, hopefully she’ll have more chances to earn an award.
I was also surprised that Sean Penn got it for Milk- it was a great performance, but I guess I was hoping Mickey Rourke would get the nod. I guess he’s got to be satisfied with a nomination, maybe they thought he was just playing himself? At least it gave Penn a chance to mention the shame of Prop 8, and give Mickey some kudos for clawing his way back up from self-destruction.
And no surprise, Slumdog Millionaire grabbed the gold. It was an old basic story, told fresh, in a refreshing way. It reminded me of The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp, a Pressburger & Powell epic that told its story through flashbacks, but Danny Boyle and company made it a thrilling and emotional ride. I’m glad it won, but I wish The Wrestler and The Dark Knight got more recognition.