A brilliant and perfect ending to the best film of the year.

My Top 20:

  1. Slumdog Millionaire
  2. Milk
  3. The Dark Knight
  4. Wall-E
  5. Revolutionary Road
  6. Rachel Getting Married
  7. The Visitor
  8. I’ve Loved You So Long
  9. Happy-Go-Lucky
  10. Let the Right One In
  11. In Bruges
  12. Iron Man
  13. Burn After Reading
  14. A Christmas Tale
  15. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  16. Australia
  17. The Wrestler
  18. Gran Torino
  19. Changeling
  20. The Reader

note:  Nothing like the year before.  The **** films end with #8.  Zodiac – the #25 of 2007, would be the #9 film here.

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Director:  Danny Boyle  (Slumdog Millionaire)
  • Best Actor:  Sean Penn  (Milk)
  • Best Actress:  Kate Winslet  (The Reader / Revolutionary Road)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Heath Ledger  (The Dark Knight)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Penelope Cruz  (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Milk
  • Best Cinematography:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Foreign Film:  Waltz with Bashir  /  Let the Right One In
  • Best Animated Film:  Wall-E

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Director:  Danny Boyle  (Slumdog Millionaire)
  • Best Actor:  Sean Penn  (Milk)
  • Best Actress:  Kate Winslet  (The Reader)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Heath Ledger  (The Dark Knight)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Penelope Cruz  (Vicky Christina Barcelona)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Milk
  • Best Cinematography:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Foreign Film:  Departures
  • Best Animated Film:  Wall-E

note:  For the first time since 1991, the Academy agrees with the Consensus on the big 8 awards.

That lovable robot wins over everyone on the Top 1000.

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Wall-E  -  (#42)
  2. Let the Right One In  -  (#82)
  3. Synecdoche, New York  -  (#83)
  4. A Christmas Tale  -  (#84)
  5. Waltz with Bashir  -  (#93)
  6. Wendy and Lucy  -  (#99)
  7. Hunger  -  (#120)
  8. The Dark Knight  -  (#122)
  9. Paranoid Park  -  (#134)
  10. The Wrestler  -  (#145)

note:  Because so much of the focus for the Top 1000 is on classic films, because they have had a longer time to sink into the critical consciousness, they have a separate list called the Top 250 of the 2000′s.  The number in parenthesis is for their rank in the Top 250 for the 21st Century.  There are no post-2007 films on the Top 1000.

Top 10 Films  (2008 Best Picture Awards):

  1. Slumdog Millionaire
  2. Wall-E
  3. Milk
  4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  5. Frost/Nixon
  6. The Reader
  7. Waltz with Bashir
  8. The Dark Knight
  9. Doubt
  10. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

note:  Slumdog Millionaire becomes the first film since 2003 and the last film to date to sweep the Best Picture awards (Oscar, Globe, PGA, BAFTA, BFCA).  With 3 critics awards, Wall-E has the most Best Picture wins without an Oscar nomination since Mulholland Drive in 2001.

Top 10 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. Slumdog Millionaire  -  2925
  2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button  -  1806
  3. Milk  -  1727
  4. The Dark Knight  -  1363
  5. Wall-E  -  1234
  6. Frost/Nixon  -  949
  7. The Reader  -  835
  8. Doubt  -  811
  9. Happy-Go-Lucky  -  779
  10. Vicky Cristina Barcelona  -  612

note:  With 28 total nominations but 0 wins, Frost/Nixon sets a new record.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon become the 4th and 5th films to earn Picture, Director and Screenplay nominations at the Oscars, Globes, guilds and BAFTA and win none of them.  They become the 2nd and 3rd films (after Good Night and Good Luck) to also add the BFCA.

Easily the biggest film of the year at the box office.

Top 10 Films  (Domestic Box Office Gross):

  1. The Dark Knight  -  $533.34 mil
  2. Iron Man  -  $318.41 mil
  3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  -  $317.10 mil
  4. Hancock  -  $227.94 mil
  5. Wall-E -  $223.80 mil
  6. Kung Fu Panda  -  $215.43 mil
  7. Twilight  -  $192.76 mil
  8. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa  -  $180.01 mil
  9. Quantum of Solace  -  $168.36 mil
  10. Horton Hears a Who  -  $154.52 mil

note:  Nine of the ten films are lower than the same place on the list the year before – 7 of them significantly so.  The Dark Knight, however, earns almost $200 million more than Spider-Man 3 had.  The Dark Knight has the highest percentage of the Top 10 since Titanic (21.07%).  This is the most recent year in which I have seen all of the Top 10.

Top 10 Films  (Worldwide Box Office Gross):

  1. The Dark Knight  -  $1003.0 mil
  2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  –  $786.6 mil
  3. Kung Fu Panda  –  $631.7 mil
  4. Hancock  -  $624.4 mil
  5. Mamma Mia! -  $609.8 mil
  6. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa  -  $603.9 mil
  7. Quantum of Solace  -  $586.1 mil
  8. Iron Man  -  $585.2 mil
  9. Wall-E  -  $521.3 mil
  10. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian  –  $419.7 mil

note:  The Dark Knight becomes the first film since records are kept to finish #1 in worldwide gross but make over half its money in the States.  It has the lowest international gross for a #1 film since 2000 (in spite of having the 4th highest worldwide gross to date).  Mamma Mia does the best outside of the States – taking over 3/4 of its gross on the international market.  On the other hand, while DC heroes don’t travel (46.8% international for Dark Knight) and Marvel heroes don’t travel (45.6% for Iron Man), brand new ones do (63.5% for Hancock).

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road – the film she should have won the Oscar for.

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Director:  Danny Boyle  (Slumdog Millionaire)
  • Best Actor:  Sean Penn  (Milk)
  • Best Actress:  Kate Winslet  (Revolutionary Road)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Heath Ledger  (The Dark Knight)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Debra Winger  (Rachel Getting Married)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Milk

Comedy  /  Musical:

  • Best Picture:  Wall-E
  • Best Director:  Joel and Ethan Coen  (Burn After Reading)
  • Best Actor:  Brendan Gleeson  (In Bruges)
  • Best Actress:  Sally Hawkins  (Happy-Go-Lucky)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Robert Downey, Jr.  (Tropic Thunder)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Penelope Cruz  (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Iron Man
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Wall-E

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Director:  Danny Boyle  (Slumdog Millionaire)
  • Best Actor:  Sean Penn  (Milk)
  • Best Actress:  Kate Winslet  (Revolutionary Road)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Heath Ledger  (The Dark Knight)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Penelope Cruz  (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Milk
  • Best Editing:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Cinematography:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Original Score:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Sound:  The Dark Knight
  • Best Art Direction:  Revolutionary Road
  • Best Visual Effects:  Iron Man
  • Best Sound Editing:  The Dark Knight
  • Best Costume Design:  The Duchess
  • Best Makeup:  The Dark Knight
  • Best Original Song:  ”Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Foreign Film:  I’ve Loved You So Long
  • Best Animated Film:  Wall-E

The original French poster for the best Foreign Film of 2008.

Top 5 Foreign Films:

  1. I’ve Loved You So Long
  2. Revanche
  3. Let the Right One In
  4. A Christmas Tale
  5. Summer Hours

Do you see the problem here?  Here is, of course, where I complain about how the Oscar system works (so I won’t repeat the complaint at the end of this post).  The Oscars allow each country to submit one film.  Nowhere on this list will you find the film, The Class, the overrated French drama that was submitted by France and nominated in a group of over-rated films.  Of the five nominees, three didn’t remotely deserve the nominations, including Departures, the eventual winner.  A fourth, Waltz with Bashir, one of the most widely admired Foreign and Animated Films of the year was nominated only for the former and, amazingly, passed up for the latter award in favor of Bolt, one of the weakest Disney Animated films.  I thought it was very good, but it didn’t quite make my list (it’s my #6) and I did nominate it for Best Animated Film (my #2).  That leaves Revanche, which was a great choice, almost dead even for the #1 spot of the year.  But, going back to The Class – as I said, it was the French submission.  What that means is that my #1 film, I’ve Loved You So Long, my #4 film, A Christmas Tale, and my #5 film, Summer Hours, were all passed over, because they’re all French, and all much more deserving of being Oscar nominated.  And then of course, there is Let the Right One In, the brilliant Swedish vampire film – but that was passed over for submission by Sweden for Everlasting Moments, a very good film from Jan Troell, whose The Emigrants was actually nominated for Best Picture in 1972.  Yet, though Everlasting Moments is better than 3 of the 5 nominees, and it was a semi-finalist, it wasn’t nominated either.

Whether she’s doing a good job (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) or an awful one (The Spirit), Scarlett Johansson looks great.

Nighthawk Notables  (SPOILERS!):

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Dark Knight
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “Osbourne Cox? I thought you might be worried… about the security… of your shit.”  (Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical.  They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.  Some men just want to watch the world burn.”  (Michael Caine in The Dark Knight)
  • Best Opening:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Ending:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Scene:  the chase in The Dark Knight
  • Best Death Scene:  Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading  (honorable mention to Steve Coogan in Tropic Thunder)
  • Best Use of a Song  (dramatic):  “Jai Ho” in Slumdog Millionaire
  • Best Use of a Song  (comedic):  “More than a Feeling” in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
  • Best Original Song from a Bad Film:  “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” from Hamlet 2
  • Best Ensemble:  Milk
  • Funniest Film:  Burn After Reading
  • Funniest Performance:  Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder
  • Most Over-rated Film:  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Worst Film:  Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Maggie Gyllenhall in The Dark Knight
  • Sexiest Performance:  Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Scarlett Johansson in The Spirit
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Get Smart
  • Best Soundtrack:  Slumdog Millionaire
  • Read the Book, SKIP the Film:  Horton Hears a Who
  • Read the Comics, SKIP the Film:  The Spirit
  • Star of the Year:  Robert Downey, Jr.  (Iron Man  /  Tropic Thunder)
  • Coolest Performance:  Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man
  • Best Acting Discovery:  Michael Fassbender in Hunger
  • Best Teaser:  The Dark Knight
  • Best Trailer:  Burn After Reading
  • Best Tag-Line:  “Why so serious?”  (The Dark Knight)
  • Best Cameo:  Samuel L. Jackson in Iron Man
  • Sexiest Cameo:  Gemma Arterton in Quantum of Solace
  • Best Animated Character Performance:  Jack Black in Kung Fu Panda

Film History:  The Dark Knight becomes the second film to gross more than $500 million domestically.  It sets a new opening weekend record of $158 million (a record that will last three years).  It becomes the fastest film ever to reach $200, $300, $400 and $500 million, all of which except the last would be broken by The Avengers (the last was broken by Avatar).  All of these come under a cloud, as star Heath Ledger dies of an accidental prescription drug overdose on 22 January.  The four-year long saga of introducing The Avengers on film begins with the cameo of Samuel L. Jackson after the credits in Iron Man.  The 2007 Golden Globes, held in January, are cancelled as a ceremony due to the WGA strike.  The Class wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes.  Frozen River wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.  The Wrestler wins the Golden Lion in Venice and then goes on to win Best Picture and Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards.  Slumdog Millionaire wins Best Picture and Director at the Golden Satellites while Happy-Go-Lucky wins Best Picture – Comedy.  The Love Guru somehow only wins 3 Razzies, including Worst Picture and Actor.  Roy Scheider dies in February, Paul Scofield in March, Charlton Heston in April.  Paul Newman dies on 26 September.  I begin posting regularly about film with a review of Prince Caspian.  Anthony Minghella dies suddenly in March and Sydney Pollack dies in May; both of these Oscar winning directors earn final posthumous Oscar nominations the following year as producers of The Reader.

Academy Awards:  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button receives 13 nominations – the most in 6 years; it also nominated for the big five tech awards – the first film to do so in 7 years.  All five Best Picture nominees are nominated for Best Director for only the second time since 1981; they are all nominated for Director and Screenplay for only the third time (1964, 2005).  For the first time in six years, all the Best Picture nominees are released after 1 November.  The Reader becomes the first Best Picture nominee from The Weinstein Company.  Cate Blanchett stars in her seventh Best Picture nominee in 11 years.  Penelope Cruz wins Best Supporting Actress – the fourth time someone has won the award in a Woody Allen film (matched only by Elia Kazan).  Stephen Daldry directs his third film (The Reader) and receives his third Best Director nomination.  The Best Foreign Film winner is from Asia for the first time in 8 years; though it has been nominated 12 times since the category became competitive in 1956, this is the first time Japan has won (it won 3 times before it was a competitive award).  Though Japan had received 12 previous nominations and Germany 17, this is the first time since 1956 that both countries were nominated in the same year.  Only 31 feature films receive Oscar nominations – the lowest total since 2003 and tied for the lowest since 1991.

They really do a pretty good job with the winners.  There are 20 categories and I agree with 14 of the winners.  Everything else except Best Foreign Film makes it into my top 5.  On the other hand, they really chunked it by not nominating The Dark Knight.  With the additional snub of Wall-E, it lead to the expansion of the Best Picture category, so that critically acclaimed popular hits and animated films would start making it into the race.  It was a pretty big surprise that they ended up going for The Reader, but it was actually a better film to than two of the more expected nominees, so it’s hard to be bitter in that direction.  And of course, their rule about only one nomination per person per category in acting left one of the Kate Winslet performances out in the cold, once it was determined that The Reader would join Revolutionary Road in the Best Actress category.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Foreign Film for Departures
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Foreign Film for The Baader Meinhof Complex
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for Christoper Nolan for The Dark Knight
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Wanted
  • Best Eligible Film with No Oscar Nominations:  I’ve Loved You So Long
  • Best Eligible English-Language Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Burn After Reading
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted But Not Nominated:  Gomorrah
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Foreign Film
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Costume Design
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Original Song, Animated Film

Golden Globes:  Slumdog Millionaire wins Picture, Director and Screenplay, only the third film to do so since 1993.  All four of the films nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay (Slumdog, Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button, The Reader) end up with Oscar nominations for the same three, while Revolutionary Road (nominated for Picture, Director, Actor and Actress) gets none of them.  Milk and The Dark Knight are almost completely ignored – only earning nominations for eventual Oscar winners Penn (who loses) and Ledger (who wins).  Frost/Nixon and Benjamin Button are the first films since 2004 to get nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay and win no Globes; just like the last two films that did this (Finding Neverland in 2004 and The Insider in 1999), they are nominated for Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Score.  Kate Winslet makes history by winning Best Actress (Revolutionary Road) and Best Supporting Actress (The Reader).

Awards:  Though Wall-E actually wins the most Best Picture awards at the critics (LA, Boston, Chicago), it is Slumdog Millionaire that is the biggest winner.  It takes home Picture and Screenplay from the National Board of Review, Picture and Editing in Boston, Director and Screenplay in Chicago, Director and Score in LA and Cinematography from the New York Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics.  In 2nd place is Happy-Go-Lucky, which wins Actress from NYFC, LAFC, NSFC and BSFC, Director from NYFC and NSFC, Screenplay from LAFC and NSFC and Supporting Actor from the NSFC.  The final two Best Picture awards go to Milk (New York) and Waltz with Bashir (NSFC).  Waltz with Bashir would also be the only film to unseat Wall-E for a Best Animated Film award – oddly enough in LA, where Wall-E wins Best Picture.

For the second time, someone wins a SAG award and the Oscar, but in different categories; however unlike Benicio Del Toro in 2000, Kate Winslet wins for Supporting at SAG and lead at the Oscars.  Unlike the previous two times when Picture  and Director matched 5/5 at the Oscars, the DGA doesn’t match them 5/5, with The Dark Knight nominated for the DGA instead of The Reader.  Doubt becomes only the third film to earn five nominations at SAG – Ensemble, Actress (which it wins), Supporting Actor and two Supporting Actress nominations.  After a 13 year gap, Woody Allen extends his WGA record with his 19th nomination.  With 575 total points, The Dark Knight sets a new guild record for a film that fails to earn a BP nomination at the Oscars.  For the second straight year, a film with widespread guild support (Into the Wild – 10 noms, including SAG Ensemble, DGA, WGA, ACE; The Dark Knight – 16 noms, including PGA, DGA, WGA, ACE, ASC) are passed over at the Oscars for films with very little guild support (Atonement – only 4 noms; The Reader – only 2 noms).

Slumdog Millionaire joins Brokeback Mountain as the only films since 1993 to win Picture, Director and Screenplay at the BAFTAs.  Slumdog earns 595 points (most since American Beauty) and wins 7 awards (most since Schindler’s List).  After 0 combined nominations for his Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby and his Oscar-nominated Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood is nominated for Best Director for Changeling – his only nomination from any awards group.  Changeling and The Dark Knight combine for 17 noms but none for Picture and they combine for only 1 win (Ledger).  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon lead the BAFTA longlist with 14 nominations each.  Australia and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are the least successful, earning none of their 8 longlist noms each.  After winning four critics awards and the Golden Globe, Sally Hawkins fails to earn a BAFTA nom.

Slumdog Millionaire becomes the first film since American Beauty to win Picture, Director and Screenplay from the Broadcast Film Critics Awards (and only the second film to date).  Like at the Globes, all the films nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay (Slumdog, Benjamin Button, Milk, Frost/Nixon) repeat at the Oscars, while the film nominated for just Picture and Director (The Dark Knight) fails to earn noms for either.  Benjamin Button ties Into the Wild for most BFCA noms without a win (7).

Best Director:  For the fourth straight year, the Consensus is a runaway, with Danny Boyle easily winning for Slumdog Millionaire.  He sweeps the awards (DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA, Globe, Satellite), takes two critics awards (LA and Chicago) and even wins the Nighthawk Award.  Following him on the Consensus list are David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (NBR win, DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA, Globe noms), Gus Van Sant for Milk (BSFC win, DGA, Oscar, BFCA, Satellite noms), Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon (DGA, Oscar, BAFTA, BFCA, Globe, Satellite noms) and Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky (NYFC, NSFC wins).  My own nominees are Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight (DGA, BFCA, Satellite noms), Van Sant, Sam Mendes for Revolutionary Road (Globe nom) and Jonathan Demme for Rachel Getting Married (Independent Spirit nom).  My 6 through 10 are Tomas Alfredsson for Let the Right One In, the Coen Brothers for Burn After Reading, Philippe Claudel for I’ve Loved You So Long, Stephen Daldry for The Reader (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, Satellite noms) and Martin McDonagh for In Bruges.

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Slumdog Millionaire easily wins here as well, taking home the Oscar, WGA, Globe, BAFTA, BFCA, NBR and CFC (and the Nighthawk).  It’s followed on the Consensus list by Benjamin Button (NBR win, Oscar, WGA, Globe, BAFTA, BFCA noms), Frost/Nixon (Oscar, WGA, Globe, BAFTA, BFCA noms), Doubt (Oscar, WGA, Globe, BFCA noms) and The Reader (Oscar, Globe, BAFTA noms).  My own 2 through 5 are Revolutionary Road (BAFTA nom), The Dark Knight (WGA nom), The Reader and Let the Right One In.  It’s a weak year for Adapted scripts and the rest of my list is just Doubt, Iron Man and Appaloosa (I don’t think Benjamin Button or Frost/Nixon are worth nominating).

Best Original Screenplay:  There is very little Consensus here at all.  At the Broadcast Film Critics Association, in their last year of a single Screenplay award, only one original script is nominated (Milk).  At the Globes, with their single Screenplay award, for the first time since 1980, no original script is nominated.  For the first time since the WGA and Oscars aligned their writing awards in 1984, only one Original Screenplay is nominated by both groups – Milk, which wins both awards.  The BAFTAs take Milk, one script from the WGA, one from the Oscars, and two that weren’t nominated by either.  So our Consensus list looks like this: Milk (WGA, Oscar, BSFC, plus noms from BAFTA and BFCA), Happy-Go-Lucky (LAFC, NSFC wins, Oscar nom), In Bruges (BAFTA win, Oscar nom), Wall-E (CFC win, Oscar nom) and a 5th place tie between Burn After Reading (WGA, BAFTA noms) and Rachel Getting Married (NYFC win).  Part of the problem is there was a lot of good scripts, but not a lot of great ones, so opinion was split.  But part of it is the growing number of films that don’t conform to WGA rules.  So, while from 1985 to 2007 usually 3 or 4 (and sometimes 5) of the WGA nominees would get Oscar noms and only twice would there be less than 3 (Adapted in 1987, Original in 1995), from 2009-11 only 15 of the 30 WGA nominees would earn Oscar nominations.  Personally, in this year, I split the difference.  My top 5 are Milk, Wall-E, Rachel Getting Married, The Vistor (WGA nom) and I’ve Loved You So Long (BAFTA nom).  My 6 through 10 are In Bruges, Happy-Go-Lucky, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (WGA nom), Burn After Reading and Frozen River (Oscar nom).

Best Actor:  In retrospect, the race for Best Actor between Sean Penn (Milk) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) is not as close as it looked at the time.  Yes, Rourke wins the CFC, shares the BSFC with Penn and wins the BAFTA and Globe (plus SAG, Oscar and BFCA noms).  But Penn had won the SAG and BFCA (and earned BAFTA and Globe noms).  So, going into the Oscars, they had gone head-to-head four times and split them.  But they had shared one critics award and while Rourke had won one other, Penn had won three others (NYFC, LAFC, NSFC) and he of course went on to win the Oscar (rather deservedly in my opinion).  They are followed by the losers at every awards ceremony: Brad Pitt for Benjamin Button and Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon (both lose the Oscar, SAG, BAFTA, Globe and BFCA).  That leaves the fifth spot and on the Consensus list that goes to Richard Jenkins for The Vistor, who was the final nominee at SAG, the Oscars and the BFCA (which had six nominees).  My own list is Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road (the fifth Globe nominee), Rourke, Jenkins and Christian Bale for The Dark Knight.  My 6 through 10 are Langella, Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino (NBR winner and the sixth BFCA nominee), Brendan Gleeson for In Bruges (Globe – Comedy nom and a BAFTA nom as Supporting), Dev Patel for Slumdog Millionaire (the fifth BAFTA nominee and a SAG nominee for Supporting) and Javier Bardem for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Globe – Comedy nom).

Best Actress:  If the Oscars had decided that Kate Winslet’s performance in The Reader was Supporting, she would have come in a tie for 4th place for her performance in Revolutionary Road (assuming an Oscar nom for both, which I think is likely) in the Consensus Best Actress list.  Instead, they get lumped together and she wins the Consensus, winning the Chicago Film Critics for Supporting, SAG for Supporting (and a nom for lead for Road), the Oscar, the BAFTA (plus a nom for her performance in Road), wins in both categories at the Globes, and a win in Supporting at the BFCA.  What didn’t happen in this case was the first Consensus winner of Best Actress to not have an Oscar nomination since 1973.  As it is, Sally Hawkins earns more points for Best Actress without an Oscar nomination than any previous actress in history for her performance in Happy-Go-Lucky.  She is the first person since Liv Ullmann in 1973 to win more than two critics awards and fail to earn an Oscar nom and she actually wins 4 (NYFC, LAFC, NSFC, BSFC) and adds the Globe – Comedy for 5 total wins.  And that’s it.  She not only didn’t get an Oscar nom, but she didn’t even get a BAFTA nom.  And I only have her fourth, but at least she’s on my list – and two of the performances above her on my list also weren’t nominated for the Oscar.  The last three spots on the Consensus list go to Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married (the last two critics wins – CFC and NBR, as well as SAG, Oscar and Globe noms and a tie for the win at the BFCA), Meryl Streep for Doubt (SAG, BFCA wins, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe noms; there was also a Globe – Comedy nom for her performance in Mamma Mia) and Angelina Jolie for Changeling (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA noms).  My own list is Winslet (for Road), Hathaway, Kristin Scott-Thomas for I’ve Loved You So Long (BAFTA, Globe noms), Hawkins and Winslet for The Reader.  My 6 through 10 are Streep, Jolie, Melissa Leo for Frozen River (SAG, Oscar, BFCA noms), Frances McDormand for Burn After Reading (Globe – Comedy nom) and Rebecca Hall for Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Globe – Comedy nom).

Best Supporting Actor:  What became an instant rumor once Heath Ledger died in January became fact – he would become a huge posthumous winner.  He would sweep all five awards groups and win three critics awards (LA, Boston, Chicago) for his performance as the best comic book villain ever (by far).  He’s followed on the list by James Brolin for Milk (NYFC, NBR wins, SAG, Oscar, BFCA noms), Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt (loser to Ledger at all 5 awards), Robert Downey, Jr. for Tropic Thunder (same as Hoffman) and Eddie Marsan for Happy-Go-Lucky (NSFC win).  My own list is Ledger, Brolin, Emile Hirsch in Milk, James Franco in Milk (BFCA nom) and Hoffman.  My 6 through 10 are Downey, Brad Pitt for his one great performance of the year – his hilarious turn in Burn After Reading (BAFTA nom), Gary Oldman in The Dark Knight (the downside to Ledger’s performance is that he’s so good that you forget how good the other supporting actors are), Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road (Oscar nom) and Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight.

Best Supporting Actress:  Penelope Cruz is a distorted big winner on the Consensus list.  Yes, she wins four critics awards (NYFC, LAFC, BSFC, NBR) and the Oscar and BAFTA.  But it’s because Kate Winslet, who beat Cruz head to head at SAG, the Globes and the BFCA for The Reader was pushed into lead at the Oscars (and that’s how I determine placement).  The next three spots, far distant, are Amy Adams and Viola Davis for Doubt and Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler.  All three are nominated at the Oscar and Globes while Adams gets SAG and BAFTA noms, Davis gets SAG and BFCA noms and Tomei gets BAFTA and BFCA noms.  The final slot goes to Taraji P. Henson for Benjamin Button (SAG, Oscar, BFCA noms).  But I go with several un-nominated performances over the Consensus list.  Yes, Cruz is my winner (and would have been even if Winslet had been Supporting – Winslet would have been 2nd), but she’s followed by Debra Winger for Rachel Getting Married, Tomei, Hiam Abbass for The Vistor and Rosemarie DeWitt for Rachel Getting Married.  Then, in my 6 through 10, we get Adams, Davis, Henson, Tilda Swinton for Burn After Reading (BAFTA nom) and Cruz again, this time for Elegy (which she was also cited for in her LAFC win).

Two sisters who share a dark secret in I’ve Loved You So Long.

Under-appreciated Film of 2008:

I’ve Loved You So Long  (dir. Philippe Claudel)

One of the things that is so often unappreciated about foreign actors is how we expect them to learn English.  Becoming a big foreign star a lot of the time means you want to become a bigger star, and there is no bigger place to be a film star than in Hollywood.  Since the time of Greta Garbo, many of our best actors have come from around the world and have shown how they learn to speak English better than so many people who were born and raised here.  But what about the opposite?  Let’s face it – Americans aren’t the best about learning other languages, especially since so many people around the world speak English.  So it’s much rarer to find a star like Kristin Scott Thomas, a British actress who also speaks exquisite French, having lived in Paris since she was 19.  And so we not only get wonderful performances from her in English, ranging from witty (Four Weddings and a Funeral), beautiful and tragic (The English Patient), bitter (Gosford Park) or slyly sardonic (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) or even fiercely protective (Nowhere Boy), all of which she is wonderful in, but also a magnificent performance like the one she gives in I’ve Loved You So Long, a French production that was the best Foreign Film of 2008.

Scott Thomas is one of the few actresses who could convincingly play Juliette, a woman who has spent 15 years in prison and has now been released and comes to live with her younger sister.  Her sister is much younger and struggles to understand what has gone on — too young to know what happened at the time and her sister’s refusal to open up hampers their relationship.  Scott Thomas has a great way of playing distant without seeming like it’s an act.  She is distancing herself emotionally for a reason, and she has played this kind of role well before – whether because she is in love with a someone who doesn’t return it (Four Weddings) or in love with a man she shouldn’t be (English Patient).  Here, the problem is that the person she loved most deeply is also the one she committed the crime against.

I won’t say exactly what it was that she was in prison for.  If you already know, you know.  If not, you deserve the watch the film and see how the revelations of it unfold.  Because the way the film slowly reveals its back story, the way the two sisters interact, the way Scott Thomas slowly forces herself to come back to life are all strengths of the film.  The film is a reminder of many things.  The first is that family is the hardest thing to deal with, for while they might take you in at a time when everyone else would push you away, they are also the ones who might judge you most fiercely, even without admitting it.  The second is that sometimes even the most horrible things that you can imagine actually have reasons below the surface, reasons that seem so important to those involved that those who are not directly involved would never be able to even conceive what they would do under similar circumstances.  Third, that prison is not just a physical place – that sometimes we imprison ourselves within our minds and our emotions, shutting ourselves down because we believe that we deserve punishment.

All of these things work together in the film, drawing slowly to the conclusion.  And as we watch Scott Thomas slowly give us more and more information, you wonder how anyone else could possibly play this role, let alone play this role in a language other than the one they were raised.  That the film was passed over for a nomination is a result of the flawed Academy process for selecting the Best Foreign Film award.  That Scott Thomas was passed over is a result of those filmmakers who either didn’t see or didn’t recognize one of the best performances of the year.

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