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by Andreas Lindin, staff writer

On Feb. 22 the biggest film event of the year will be once again upon us. The Annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, will be distributed for the 81st year in a row. Only those who have accomplished outstanding work in filmmaking the past year are nominated into the different categories, and, as always, the red carpet will be crowded with movie stars and other celebrities looking to either win the acclaimed statue, root for their favorites, or just enjoy the show.
The year 2008 has proven to be a competitive opportunity for movie making, especially in the category for Best Motion Picture of the Year. Five critically acclaimed movies have been nominated as worthy of an Oscar in this category. The nominees are Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, Frost/Nixon, and Slumdog Millionaire.
Most of these movies have a love theme, except for Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, which follows a series of interviews between jet-setting television personality David Frost and former president Richard Nixon, three years post Watergate. Howard, who received two Oscars for directing and producing A Beautiful Mind (2002), starring Russell Crowe, has been admired as the compelling director of films such as Apollo 13 (1995) and Cinderella Man.
One of this year’s leading favorite is Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which is nominated for ten Oscars and which won The Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture—often an indication of which film is like to win the Oscar. British director Boyle, who is known for turning low budget projects into audience-thrilling cult classics (Trainspotting, 1996, and 28 Days Later, 2002), has directed a rags-to-riches story of Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old slum dweller from Mumbai with no formal education, but who, nevertheless, seems to know all the answers when he signs up to be a contestant for the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” For every question he is asked, we are shown retrospective accounts of how his experiences in the slums help him to ace questions that perplexed doctors and lawyers. Slumdog Millionaire will win several Oscars: Best Motion Picture, Best Direction, Best Original Score and Best Writing Based on Previous Material are all among this reviewer’s expectations.
Another movie that has won the heart of the audience is the depiction of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official. Milk is directed by Gus Van Sant and stars Oscar winner Sean Penn (Mystic River, 2003). It follows Milk’s career from when he opens a camera shop that becomes the salon for the growing gay community of San Francisco in the ‘70s. With political alliances built up by the gay community around him, he runs for office, and though he has a lot of enemies who want to preserve conservative ways, Milk prevails and becomes America’s first self-identified gay public official. Van Sant has proven earlier that he knows how to portray characters audiences can identify with, and he received an Oscar nomination for Good Will Hunting (1997), starring Matt Damon and Robin Williams. However, the weight of Milk lies truly on Penn’s shoulders, and he shares the No. 1 favorite slot for Best Male Actor with Mickey Rourke and his outstanding characterization of Randy ‘The Ram’ in The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008).
Another established actor who is nominated in the same category is the ever-satisfying Brad Pitt for his lead role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) seems to turn Pitt the way Scorsese turns to DiCaprio or Burton turns to Depp. And why not? Why fix something that works perfectly? Button is a stunningly well made movie that follows the life of a man who is born old and turns younger as he ages. Such a life is bound to become a life less ordinary, and as he ages and becomes familiar with love, he finds that life isn’t measured in minutes, but in moments.
The film is nominated for an astonishing 13 Oscars and will most likely receive an Oscar for Makeup, Costume Design or Visual Effects (if not more). The reason why it will likely not win any prominent Oscars such as Best Picture, rather the less prominent ones, is basically because the competition is tough this year and because the visual effects team and the makeup team did such a good job in the aging process of Brad Pitt throughout the movie, that they will be recognized for it.
Another person who is often recognized by the Academy, but still hasn’t received the golden prize, is the impressive Kate Winslet. Six Academy Award nominations in 13 years tell us that she is both one of the best actresses of our time, and that it’s time she receives the Oscar statuette to prove it. This year, we see her in The Reader, a story about secrets and what sort of shameful things one is willing to do in order to keep them concealed. The film centers on a sexual relationship that lasted for a summer between 15-year-old Michael (David Kross) and Hanna (Winslet), who is in her mid-30s. Eight years later, Michael witnesses Hanna on trial for horrible war crimes and chooses silence instead of revealing their secret when he could have helped her.
The movie is directed by Stephen Daldry who has now been Oscar nominated for all of his movies, including the earlier Billy Elliott (2000) and The Hours (2002). The Reader, though it is a powerful movie, will most likely not win Best Motion Picture, but it may win for Best Directing. In fact, all of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture are also nominated for Best Directing.
We’ll just have to wait and see. The Oscars will be distributed live on Feb. 22. Don’t miss it.



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