GonzoGeek Picks The 2009 Oscars: Best Picture

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With the Oscars looming on Sunday, February 22, GonzoGeek will be previewing this year’s awards with a look at five major categories…with some help from a Nintendo 64 game.

Monday: Best Supporting Actress
Tuesday: Best Supporting Actor
Wednesday: Best Actress
Thursday: Best Actor
Today: Best Picture

Nominees (Odds)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” – 6/1

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Slumdog Millionaire” – 1/7

Slumdog Millionaire

Milk” – 20/1

Milk

Frost Nixon” – 30/1

Frost/Nixon

The Reader” – 50/1

The Reader

What began as a somewhat even contest at the beginning of awards season has lost some of its build-up as Slumdog Millionaire, the story of a poor Indian teenager defying odds and capturing the country’s heart while appearing on a national game show (and trying to win the heart of his dream girl), has steamrolled this category at nearly every turn.  Despite this near-juggernaut status, the Danny Boyle picture is still somewhat of an underdog.  Harvey Weinstein has already set his sights on it, and it is the only nominee without a single acting nomination to go with it.  Weinstein’s The Reader, the story of a man coping with the revelation that the woman with whom he shared a passionate affair as a boy was actually a Nazi war criminal, has been widely disregarded in this race.  The majority of ire related to snubs of Wall-E and The Dark Knight were aimed at The Reader, which serves as the “last one in” in March Madness parlance.  It’s chances are indeed slim.  Gus Van Sant’s Milk, the biopic of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, rides on the strength of Best Actor nominee Sean Penn.  Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard’s adaptation of the stage production of the same name, also features a powerhouse acting performance with Frank Langella as former president Richard Nixon, put on virtual trial during syndicated interviews after leaving office.  The strongest opposition for runaway favorite Slumdog Millionaire is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a grandiose film from David Fincher that covers the life story of a man aging backwards and trying to make sense of the world like everyone else. 

Bruce

Frost/Nixon – I’m voting for this one for one simple reason. As of this writing, it’s the only one I’ve seen.  Besides, the Academy loves Opie.  And Langella is due for a career award.  And he won’t win that since he’s not nominated for Best Supporting Actor (see Sean Connery, Paul Newman, Jack Palance and Martin Landau).  And the movie reminds us of the folly of the Nixon administration.  And I saw “The Reader” last weekend (after my first draft) and it nearly put me to sleep…really.  Go Opie.  Go Dracula.

Chris

Slumdog Millionaire – It’s got a great title, deals compellingly with a variety of social and cultural issues, and has that whole ‘human spirit’ thing working. It’s a great field though, with 3 of the other 4 also plausible picks. The one missing? Benjamin Button. It seems like it’s getting most of its props due to the complexity of the direction that must have been involved, so maybe that where its turn will come.

John

Slumdog Millionaire

Matt

Slumdog Millionaire– After my “Oscars are evil” sentiment during yesterday’s Best Actor breakdown, I have to resist the urge to be pessimisstic about this category as well.  The only thing that makes me leery of Slumdog’s chances as best movie (inner cynic sidebar: …besides all the factors not related to being best movie that decide the award) is how conveniently linear the plot device of the game show works out.  That comes from the original story and I think it’s the jaded moviegoer in me that remains skeptical of it.  Visually, it’s the best of the five nominees – not just for its sweeping shots of India but for the balance between muddy earthtones and flashy Bollywood-esque panoramas.  But will the emotional connection it has made with audiences translate to the big prize on Sunday night?  I’m still not sure.

Among the other nominees, Milk is this year’s There Will Be Blood – its lead character is a strong candidate in the acting categories, and that singular starring performance overshadows the “overall” appeal.  Frost/Nixon has a strong story without the kind of action that’s available in the other nominees.  It has a strong screenplay and powerful performances; it’s yet another solid outing from Ron Howard.  However, as a film adaptation of a popular stage production, is it that much better than Doubt, which did not receive a nod here?  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button immediately jumped out as a favorite here, but nuances – the slow pace, the constant expression of blank wonderment from Pitt’s Button – don’t lend it the emotional connection that other choices have.  The Reader is the least qualified of the candidates to a shameful degree.  It comes off like a paint-by-numbers attempt at pandering to the Oscar panel (book adaptation, Nazis/holocaust, Ralph Fiennes), with a standout performance from Kate Winslet giving it credibility.

There’s a message that will be sent about being the best picture on Sunday.  A win for Frost/Nixon would be acceptable but ultimately harmless as the movie isn’t particularly influential.  If The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wins, the message is that sprawling “epic” stories combining big-name actors and big-time effects are the future of cinema.  But if Slumdog Millionaire continues its Cinderella story and wins, the message is that you don’t need a huge campaign or a big name attached to a movie to be recognized; you just need to make it a good movie and the acclaim will come.  I hope the Academy delivers that inspiring proclamation…I’m just not sure that they will.

Stephe

I’m going to go with….Frost/Nixon. This movie runs Tricky Dick’s dick through the ringer, and there ain’t an academy voter alive who’s going to let the opportunity to give it an award go by.

My second runner-up here is CC of BB. And I only say that because I think all the choices are weak. Milk is about a guy that most of America is not going to care about. Ever. And yes, it is because he’s gay.

Slumdog Millionaire is another portrait of a life that nobody in this country cares about. If we did, Sally Struthers wouldn’t be on TV asking us to spend just pennies a day to save the life of a child. We don’t care about the poor or their nobility. Personally, I believe this film is nominated because most Americans can’t believe anything decent came out of India. We’ve all called technical support at some point in our lives.

And finally, there is The Reader. It’s deep and based on a book about serious stuff Good luck. Paul Blart, Mall Cop has grossed over 100 million dollars so far. Why do I bring this up…oh yeah, because I, like most everyone else, has a problem paying attention to serious things, unless they are pretty. Kate Winslet is pretty. Nazi’s and the Final Solution are not. Therefore, the film is uneven. Take your books and your themes and your Holocaust and hit the showers, friend. No award for you!

Wrestlemania 2000*

Button = HBK: Somehow remains appealing to women at various stages of old age and hair loss.

Slumdog = The Rock: Came from out of nowhere to be something of a phenomenon and capture everyone’s attention; tends to be a representative of “the people.”

Frost/Nixon = Vince McMahon: From the widow’s peak to the mind games and the showmanship, they both involve people with a lot of power and even more wont to use it.

Milk = Mr. Ass: Because it’s a tasteless pun, and if I can’t make tasteless puns in an Oscar prediction article involving a N64 wrestling game, then where can I make them?

Slumdog Millionaire and Benjamin Button go at it immediately, but Milk makes its presence known to Slumdog as well. Milk repeatedly retreats to the outside to grab weapons from the crowd, but doesn’t always manage to use it before being foiled. The Curious Case… takes control over Slumdog Millionaite, seeming to control it at every turn. Meanwhile, Frost/Nixon throws Milk around a little before getting in on the beatdown against Slumdog. All bets are off when Frost/Nixon and Benjamin Button start going at it, though, as Frost/Nixon almost has the chance to eliminate Button before Button turns the tide. Milk gets involved and starts attacking The Curious Case… as well, while Slumdog Millionaire works over Frost/Nixon, finishing with a back body drop and a pinfall at 8:11.

Down to three, the remaining nominees take turns giving out and receiving the beatings as no one alliance takes shape. After a double-piledriver, both Benjamin Button and Milk take a moment to gloat over the crumpled form of Slumdog Millionaire, then immediately start fighting amongst each other. Slumdog tries to pick the two apart as they keep going at it, but every time it gets involved the other two nominees team up on him. Benjamin Button is thrown to the outside and Milk focuses the attack on Slumdog Millionaire, ramming it into the turnbuckle pole and drawing blood. When all three return to the ring, Milk repeatedly attacks Benjamin Button, draws Slumdog in for a double-team, then turns on Slumdog immediately. After several times, the ruse pays off: following an Atomic Drop from Milk, Slumdog Millionaire is pinned and eliminated by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at 15:51.

Milk takes control immediately thereafter, beating Benjamin Button both inside and outside the ring. However, the attack only earns a two-count after a charging knee in the corner. Milk follows with a gorilla press slam, but the scrappy Button breaks up the ensuing pinfall and tries a schoolboy rollup on the probably-entertained Milk. Button tries riling up the crowd to prepare for his finisher, but Milk counters with a small package for another two-count. Milk deflects another superkick attempt to deliver a second gorilla press slam, but a slick reversal by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button turns into a standing sleeperhold, to which Milk eventually submits at 23:03.

Wrestlemania 2000’s selections are made via a four-man elimination match simulation on the Nintendo 64 title. The nominee with the longest odds** does not get represented in the match. For more information on how Wrestlemania 2000 picks the winners, click here. The only change for 2009 involves assigning each nominee a wrestler according to their likelihood of winning per Vegas odds.

Odds are provided by /Film. It bears noting that /Film is by no means a professional oddsmaker, but the figures presented aren’t intended for actual betting.

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