Oscars 2009: The Shape of Things to Come, By MKJ and Farheen Jawaid

The Following Post is an unpublished article, once due to appear in iMAGES. Comments are welcome.

By this time every year, especially the day before the Oscars, the award fever rises to critical highs. Not that anyone cares. For 2009, the most coveted of the award show has little new steam if we take a gander at who’s going to win at what category, but we’ll get to that in a bit. This year the show is designed to draw steadily disappearing watchers back to the glitz of “The Biggest Movie Event of the Year.” During the last few years the American audience turnout has fallen to 32 million viewers, an all time low. Whether Jon Stewart, the previous host was to be blamed, remains a debate (personally we liked the show, ‘nuff said).

Oscar Showrunners: Mr. Luhrmann, Mr. Condon and Mr. Laurence
Oscar Showrunners: Mr. Luhrmann, Mr. Condon and Mr. Laurence

This is also the year the show will change the most. Starting with a joint marketing campaign between ABC the America-wide broadcasters of the show and The Academy of Arts and Sciences, the organization which organizes the event. “We decided that we’d get more bang for our buck if we had a fully integrated campaign with a consistent message,” said Janet Weiss, director of marketing for the academy in a New York Times articles. To bring in advertisements, advertising rate has been lowered to $1.4 million per 30 second spot. It was $1.7 million last year. The international ratings and revenue is still strong as American ratings languished.

The other, most prominent hook is host Hugh Jackman. Having the Wolverine star host discards tradition that only spirited talk show hosts and comedians can generate a light hearted aura during the big chunk of the show which is plagued with technical and documentary categories. We think that Mr. Jackman will be trying on his comedic abilities, and at the very least, a healthy viewer ship of female audience is bound to increase.

Mr. Jackman: Major Oscar Draw
Mr. Jackman: Major Oscar Draw

First time executive producers / producers of the show Bill Condon (director of Chicago) and Laurence Mark, have things wrapped up in cloak and dagger. The duos are promising “surprises and a party atmosphere”.  To get there the set design has been changed to reflect the feel of a shimmering Broadway event, eschewing the traditional hues of gold and orange, the color is blue this year. Not the subliminal environment friendly green, brought forward in 2007’s broadcast.

According to the New York Times, “There has been a whisper as well that some celebrity arrivals on Oscar night might not walk the red carpet at all — a twist that would force the curious actually to watch the show itself to see all the celebrities and the gowns, rather than getting their fill from outside news media that cover the arrivals for a host of outlets.” No presenters were announced until the writing of the article.

There will be Bollywood flavor with two songs from “Slumdog” over powering “Wall-E”. With only three nom’s and having no Bruce Springsteen to perform the theme song from ‘The Wrestler’ is a major minus for the event.

Other film Directors are also pitching in to liven up the event. Baz Lurhmann is directing Mr. Jackman a production number. Mr. Jackman will sing. Bennett Miller (of Capote fame) will be stitching together a novel sequence “feature some of the nominated filmmakers swapping thoughts with what the show’s insiders are calling “civilians,” the ordinary moviegoers who have drifted away from the last few broadcasts”.

There might be spots from upcoming movies during or at the end credits of the show.

The awards themselves will be pretty straightforward. There is a heavy pull for “Slumdog Millionaire”, yet there could be upsets. Heath Ledger, is due for his posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, that much is given.

Heath Ledger: No Contest
Heath Ledger: No Contest

For Original Score, A.R. Rahman for “Slumdog”. Small chances for upset could be Defiance or Wall-E, which sound wonderful during the movie. Yet, Rahman’s original-sounding score has a pretty strong ratio. He also has little competition for Best Song with two noms, “Jai Ho and “O Saya”. The only other nom is for Wall-E’s “Down to Earth”. If the academy voters become reserved, and stop the inevitable then Wall-E might win, other wise…

“Slumdog” is again a sure fire win for Best Editing with its recent win at the ACE Eddie Award for Best Drama Editing. The ACE awards are dependable for Best Picture and Best Editing follow-ups. After all they have been right 15 out of 17 years. The film also won The BAFTA (British Academy) Awards. Yet we still think “The Dark Knight” is a strong contender.

While both of us and Roger Ebert would like Wally Pfister to win the Best Cinematography Award for “The Dark Knight”, it could very well go to “Slumdog” which won both the BAFTA and the ASC (The American Society of Cinematographers) awards. “The Dark Knight” was a technical wunderkind, which wasn’t choppy on the senses. That gives it high marks in our books.

Slumdog Millionaire: The Dark Horse
Slumdog Millionaire: The Dark Horse

In both “Make Up” and “Visual Effects” we see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” taking the lead (again they have BAFTA’s in both nods). “The Dark Knight” is present there too, yet we don’t see it going home with the Oscar in these two nods. It would be a surprise if “Iron Man” or “Hellboy: The Golden Army” won though.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A Shoe In for Make-Up
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A Shoe In for Make-Up

“Documentary” will be “Man on Wire” as it has “Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year” at the BAFTA’s and the Producers Guild Award for Documentary. Mr. Ebert likes this one too. “Trouble the Water” is a candidate.

For “Foreign Language Film” we go with “Waltz with Bashir”, with due reason. The film is winning in the most interesting nods, like: Best Picture at National Society of Film Critics; Documentary Screenplay at Writers Guild of America (WGA); Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary at the Directors Guild of America (DGA); Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. The force is strong with the painstakingly done animated film. For “Animated Film’, ”Wall-E”, seriously.

For “Adapted Screenplay”, “Slumdog”, because of the overwhelming BAFTA, WGA, and Globes win. “Benjamin Buttons” looks like a Forrest Gump clone on paper. “Original Screenplay” is a tug of war between “Milk” (won at WGA) and “In Bruges” (won at BAFTA). “Milk” has politics to offer, while “Bruges” has better dialogues and screenplay. We predict the latter.

Best Actor
Who Will Be Best Actor?
Actresses: Best and Supporting
Actresses: Best and Supporting

For us, major chances are for Mickey Rourke to win at “Best Actor”, having won both the Globes and BAFTA’s. Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk has the Screen Actors Guild nod and could be an upset. “Best Actress” will be Kate Winslet, because Meryl Streep has been nominated 15 times and won 2 Oscars. Ms. Winslet has just Oscar nods at this point; and a BAFTA for “The Reader”, a Globe for “The Revolutionary Road” and SAG for Best Supporting Actress. Ms. Streep has SAG for Actress.

As long as we’re talking “Supporting Actress”, Penelope Cruz has a BAFTA; and she is a hot favorite. Viola Davis is a second favorite with Taraji P. Henson as third and Marisa Tomei. The Academy loves to upset this one, so expect the unexpected.

Danny Boyle for “Best Director”. BAFTA, Globes, DGA and six film critics’ awards at the director category: Consider these and tell us why he can’t win?

“Best Picture” No, not Benjamin Buttons. “Slumdog” has the BAFTA, PGA, Globes, and five critic’s association awards. And 52 out of 58 years, the DGA Best Director has won the Oscar as best picture. A distant second can be “Milk” or “The Reader”. If Benjamin Buttons did win, it might be sad day for the Academy voters.

Considering the success of the Grammy broadcast, the Oscars have a lot to look up to. And things ARE certainly looking up. Enjoy the show.

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid & Farheen Jawaid

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