Sun 8 Feb 2009
In which I will try to persuade you that although “Slumdog Millionaire” is the certain Best Picture winner, there is still a chance for a surprise win to baffle prognosticators: Stephen Daldry is a very probable winner for Best Director for “The Reader”.
The BAFTAs are two hours away, and the Oscars are two weeks away and it seems the race is locked. “Slumdog Millionaire” is everyone’s favorite cinderella, winning every guild prize possible. Any gambler looking to be safe on Oscar night should bet on “Slumdog” winning both Best Picture and Best Director (after walking away with the prizes by the DGA, PGA and SAG). “Slumdog” should walk away also with Oscars for Best Editing, Best Score and possibly also Best Cinematography (making it the first HD movie to win that prize).
But I’m mixed. I liked “Slumdog Millionaire” a lot, but not all that much. I don’t share Hollywood’s crush on the film. If I were an Academy member I wouldn’t have voted for it.
So for the sake of some suspense, and in hopes that the “Slumdog” juggernaut slows down a bit I propose to see “Slumdog” in context: how will we see that movie in, say, 10 years. Wouldn’t it be considered a rather slight movie to have won Best Picture?
I feel for “Slumdog” exactly the same way I felt for “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago”: all three films were highly enjoyable but all three, I felt, were too minor to be Best Picture. As with “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Slumdog” has that “important” social theme, made timely by the terror attack on Mumbai earlier this year. And as with “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago” it has an infectious groove, speed and tempo to it that sends the audience out of the theater whirring with adrenaline.
Now: all three movies won Best Picture but lost Best Director. “Driving” and “Shakespeare” lost to a war movie in the director category (”Born on the Fourth of July” and “Saving Private Ryan”). So the “Slumdog”/”Chicago” comparison is the most appropriate. “Chicago” lost for a Holocaust movie (”The Pianist”), I’m starting to believe that the same will happen with “Slumdog”.
- “The Reader” is more loved by the Academy than we give it credit.
- It’s a Holocaust movie, therefore IMPORTANT.
- It will be a tribute to Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, the film’s producers, who both died tis year.
- The Nikki Finke excuse: it will be an “up yours” to Harvey Weinstein and an “all hail” to Scott Rudin who fought Weinstein through post-production.
- The “due” aspect: Danny Boyle isn’t due, but Stephen Daldry is. He’s the Academy’s favorite sex-toy: he has made three films and was nominated as Best Director on all three (!). I think the Academy will now consummate the affair.
If you want to be bold and astound your colleagues in your office Oscar pool, put your money on Stephen Daldry for Best Director.
But then again, I could be blamed for trying to inject some artificial suspense into an Oscar race that’s done and shut and over with. Boyle wins and that’s that. But I don’t know. It’s just too boring to be it.