Oscar buzz hits old buttons

January 23rd, 2009 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

Benjamin ButtonLos Angeles, Jan 23 (DPA) Hollywood awoke at the unglamorous hour of 5.30 a.m. and, with barely time for a double cappuccino, groggily digested the news that “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” had come out of the awards wilderness to nab 13 nominations for the Oscars.That’s just short of the record of 14 nominations for both “Titanic” and “All About Eve”. The broad consideration bodes well for the movie’s chances to accumulate a truckload of gold statuettes Feb 22.

The movie is based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, about a man who is born old and ages in reverse, until he is an infant at the time of his death.

But director David Fincher (”The Zodiac”) and writer Eric Roth (”Forest Gump”) updated Fitzgerald’s narrative, which now starts on the eve of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and as Button’s story is told through a series of flashbacks, the film manages to sweep the arc of 20th century US history.

Button is played by Brad Pitt in what many critics view as his best role to date. He is supported by a first-rate cast and crew, which succeeds in making a beautifully crafted movie that represents the height of Hollywood skills.

It yielded nominations for best movie, best actor, adapted screenplay, best director and best supporting actress. But many of its other nods were for technical aspects including sound-editing, makeup and costume design.

The film with the most nominations typically ends up with the most Oscars, but don’t write off other strong nominees like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Milk” just yet.

“Slumdog Millionaire” has already been the surprise success of the season - in both box office and awards. Still in limited release in the US, it has already racked up more than $45 million at the box office - triple what it cost to make.

“Slumdog Millionaire” has also emerged as a critical and awards favourite, dominating the Golden Globes and numerous other competitions. Though the Academy nominations recognised the achievements of the film’s creators and crew, it completely snubbed its young actors, who earned not even a single nomination.

Another expected contender ignored was Clint Eastwood, whose “Gran Torino” failed to get a single nod despite a fine performance by the grand old man of US cinema as a grumpy old bigot. However, Angelina Jolie did earn a best-actress nomination for her role in “Changeling”, another of the films Eastwood directed in 2008.

An even bigger snub was handed to “Revolutionary Road”, which missed out on nominations for co-stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio - the winning team of “Titanic” - and for director Sam Mendes who won an Oscar for “American Beauty”.

In the big picture of the Oscars and their enduring meaning, the most shocking oversight was reserved for “The Dark Knight”. The second highest-grossing film ever has been acclaimed for its marriage of cinematic high art, comic book traditions and dynamic storytelling. Yet the only major nomination it yielded was for Heath Ledger in the supporting actor category.

This may have less to do with the quality of the movie than the sensibilities of Oscar voters, whose preference for movies such as “Button”, “Frost/Nixon” and “Doubt” reflected their penchant for historical films with a clear leftist message.

“The Academy’s geriatric lefties … wanted to look back in a kind of rancorous nostalgia to the preservation of a political and artistic status quo from the dear dead days of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” said Time critic Richard Corliss.

“To the young who might have been tempted to stay home and watch the Oscar show, the message is clear and cranky: ‘Don’t watch! This is a seniors’ party!’”

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