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Oscar who?

Citizen Staff Writer
Cover story



Make no mistake about it, some very well-dressed millionaires are quite worried about Oscar’s health. The Academy Awards show isn’t drawing audiences as it used to. There’s a lot of manicured finger-pointing going on. Just like the prettiest girl in high school, the big studios get worried if their popularity starts to fade.

One reason for the decline is obvious. Just as family-friendly ticket prices have disappeared from the multiplex, so have family-friendly movies. So is it any surprise families aren’t sitting around the living room TV to see if their favorite flicks capture a gold statuette?

Obviously, say many of Hollywood’s self-proclaimed experts, the people who select the nominees are picking the wrong movies! If more popular movies were picked as nominees, the Academy Awards show would be more popular. This backlash against quality began building last summer with the pointy-eared box office success of “The Dark Knight.” Then came the action-comedy “Tropic Thunder” featuring Robert Downey Jr. in blackface.

Like a pack of hounds picking up the scent, one by one the big screen moguls began to influence the nominating process. A new production team was picked specifically to shake up the Awards show structure – no more comic monologues, boring thank-you speeches and cheers for quality movies that did no business at the box office.

So here we are with Australia’s manly man Hugh Jackman (most famous as the tormented superhero Wolverine in “X-Men”) being the emcee and promising lots of ad-libbed moments on Sunday’s telecast. He’s making the awards ceremony sound like it will be a reality show for celebrities. Just a little bit of script, but lots of spontaneous emotions. A big live-action party, Australia style.

Running down the list of movies and actors does, indeed, reveal a smattering of pictures lots of people have seen. If this year’s Academy Awards show pulls in a bigger audience than last year – which hit a record low on the viewer ratings chart – you can bet there will be lots more popular films nominated next year. Why should the Super Bowl get all the TV audience? Especially now that Super Bowl commercials are at least as popular as the game itself.

When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie lead the list of contenders, you can be sure there will be a bigger audience. Add the classic comeback performance by Mickey Rourke, as well as the sentiment behind the posthumous nomination of Heath Ledger, and audience potential begins rising faster than “Mall Cop” Paul Blart’s market value.

Best Picture

So will this be the last year for nominations of such quality films as “The Reader,” “Frozen River,” “Doubt” “and “Revolutionary Road?” Hopefully not. Will there ever be another chance for a heart-warming epic such as “Slumdog Millionaire” to be nominated for Best Picture without a single movie star in the cast? Wash your mouth out with soap!

The absolute best film released in 2008 is “Slumdog Millionaire.” Nobody else is even close. Not “Milk.” Not that mashed-potato mess “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

So what if “Milk” does star tight-jawed Sean Penn as San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk. So what if “B. Button” touts bright-eyed B. Pitt. Geez . . .

Not only that, but the Best Director award this year should be re-named the Best Miracle-Working Director, and represented by a statuette twice as big as the other Oscars. Then it should be given to Danny Boyle. He pulled off the most amazing cinema trifecta directing “Slumdog Millionaire,” which nearly went straight to DVD. Boyle rivals Rourke in having the greatest Cinderella story of the year.

Best Actor

As for the Best Actor award: A few weeks back, I wrote if there is any justice in Hollywood, Frank Langella would win the Oscar for his performance as Richard Nixon in ‘”Frost/Nixon.” The I saw Rourke’s intensely relentless performance in “The Wrestler.”

Langella did have the most difficult assignment, though, playing a world-famous politician. It’s a lot easier to feel sorry for Rourke’s beat-up pug whose only skill is to absorb more punishment than anybody else in the wrestling ring.

Best Supporting Actor

The Best Supporting Actor award goes to Heath Ledger. End of story.

Best Actress

The female side of the acting awards are more complicated. There isn’t a clearly deserving nominee for Best Actress. Leading in that undesirably arty category of obscure performance is Melissa Leo for her quality work in “Frozen River.” Most famous is Angelina Jolie with a forgettable role as a distressed mom in “Changeling.” Meryl Streep in “Doubt” and Kate Winslet in “The Reader” make exceptional impressions. But of the lot, Anne Hathaway breaks her goody-girl mold wearing coon-eye makeup and playing the severely distressed sister Kym in “Rachel Getting Married.”

Best Supporting Actress

Leading in the category of most deserving actress is Viola Davis who played the conflicted mother of an altar boy in “Doubt.” Her big scene electrified the whole film, giving it purpose. For that, she deserves the Oscar. But Marisa Tomei, who played the exotic dancer in “The Wrestler,” and Penélope Cruz as the estranged Spanish wife in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” have got those precious celebrity profiles.

In this year, more than others, fame means TV audience. Not that anything is fixed, but if more famous actors win most of the awards, that would surely help the television ratings.

Reviewer spotlights why we’re less wild about Oscar


Best Picture: “Slumdog Millionaire”

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Doubt”


What: The 81st annual Academy Awards

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: ABC, Channel 9


Watch the show in style and on the big screen at this simulcast presentation of the 81st annual Academy Awards presentation. The fundraising, black-tie event for the Fox usually includes a red carpet entrance, a photo opportunity with an actual Oscar, an official Oscar ballot to predict the results, cocktails, a silent auction, and the simulcast presentation of the Oscars on the theatre’s 40-foot, high-definition screen. When: 5 p.m. Sunday Where: The Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. Price: $25-$160 Info: 547-3040, foxtucsontheatre.org

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