Way, Way Back in 2008

With the Oscars just a day away, I felt like handing out a couple of my own biased awards. But then I realised that I haven’t seen nearly enough films from 2009 to fairly do that. So in order to uphold the Oscar spirit, I’m going to reflect all the way back to 2008 and pick a few of my favourite films and performances from a year where I’ve seen most of the big ones. Stay with me, I promise it’ll be fun (Note: not an actual promise).

Best Picture

The Dark Knight

Milk

Slumdog Millionaire

Snow Angels

Wall-E


And the winner is…

The Dark Knight

Back in 2008, it was a simpler time. There were only five best picture nominees (though if I had to choose ten, I’d rattle off The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married, Doubt, and Vicky Christina Barcelona as the additional five). Christopher Nolan created something of a masterpiece in his sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins. The storytelling is rock solid, and the film’s two and a half hour running time feels like a breeze. It’s not only great by superhero movie standards; it’s a taught, satisfying thriller.

Best Actor

Philip Seymour Hoffman – Synecdoche, New York

Sean Penn – Milk

Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Sam Rockwell – Snow Angels

Michael Sheen – Frost/Nixon


And the winner is…

Michael Sheen

Frank Langella, while of course very good in Frost/Nixon, seemed to steal a lot of the attention away from my favourite performance of the movie, which came from the Michael Sheen. Playing the Frost to Langella’s Nixon, it’s a relatively low-key performance in a quiet film. But Sheen does a great job of conveying the frustration and moral quandaries that David Frost experiences in his time with the enigmatic former president.

Best Actress

Rebecca Hall – Vicky Christina Barcelona

Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married

Sally Hawkins – Happy-Go-Lucky

Meryl Streep – Doubt

Michelle Williams – Wendy and Lucy


And the winner is…

Anne Hathaway

From her early work, I never would have guessed that Anne Hathaway would be nominated for an Oscar. But her gritty performance of recovering addict Kym is unforgettable. She’s wry and hilarious at times, and utterly heartbreaking at others.

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Angarano – Snow Angels

Robert Downey Jr. – Tropic Thunder

Aaron Eckhart – The Dark Knight

Emile Hirsch – Milk

Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

And the winner is…

Heath Ledger

After his tragic death, Ledger became last year’s sentimental favourite at every awards show. But if things had gone differently, I think that Ledger still would have deservedly gone home with the Oscar. His portrayal of the Joker is terrifying and iconic in a way that few recent performances have achieved.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams – Doubt

Penelope Cruz – Vicky Christina Barcelona

Rosemarie DeWitt – Rachel Getting Married

Samantha Morton – Synecdoche, New York

Tilda Swinton – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

And the winner is…

Amy Adams

As a young nun, Adams’ Sister James found herself in a moral dilemma, and Adams proved once again to be a very capable actor. Her simpering innocence was perfect, and she provided so much heart in an otherwise intense film. Adams, already receiving two nominations, will one day win an Oscar, for sure.

Best Director

Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire

David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

David Gordon Green – Snow Angels

Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight

Gus Van Sant – Milk

And the winner is…

Danny Boyle

His lush, sweeping images of India in Slumdog Millionaire were breathtaking, and the gritty interrogation scenes packed just as much of a punch. He’s a director whose proven that he can do anything (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Trainspotting) and he reinvented himself yet again in a wonderful way.

Best Original Screenplay

Happy-Go-Lucky

Milk

Rachel Getting Married

Synecdoche, New York

Vicky Christina Barcelone

And the winner is…

Rachel Getting Married

This screenplay by Jenny Lumet made the most mundane facets of life feel fresh and significant. All of the characters feel like real people, and the wonderful, subtle humour helps save the film from ever becoming gloomy.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Doubt

Frost/Nixon

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Snow Angels

And the winner is…

Frost/Nixon

Peter Morgan’s script (based on his own play) ramps up the tension between Frost and Nixon and creates a wonderful game of Chicken between the two. Great dialogue and pacing.

Best Ensemble Cast

The Dark Knight

Doubt

Milk

Slumdog Millionaire

Snow Angels

And the winner is…

Milk

Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Victor Garber, and Alison Pill all bring a wonderful spark to this film about Harvey Milk’s fight for gay rights. It’s a treat watch them all interact and get their individual moments to shine.

Best Scenes (as spoiler-free as possible)

The Joker and the boats – The Dark Knight

Jamal’s last question – Slumdog Millionaire

Kym’s rehearsal dinner toast – Rachel Getting Married

Day in the park – Pineapple Express

The late-night phone call – Frost/Nixon

Best On-Screen Duos

Eve and Wall-E – Wall-E

Salim and Jamal – Slumdog Millionaire

Frost and Nixon – Frost/Nixon

The Joker and Batman – The Dark Knight

Tony Stark and Pepper Potts – Iron Man

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