In Contention


Oscar might go for “Button”

Posted by John Foote · 8:29 am · February 5th, 2009

Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThere is no good reason for me to think this, of course.  Call it a gut feeling, but I have a sneaking feeling the Academy might ignore “Slumdog Millionaire,” despite its countless awards, and go for homegrown studio product this year.  Let’s face it, the Academy has proven they march to their own drummer over and over again.

“Slumdog” has already become a pop culture phenomenon around North America and Britain, making far more money than the filmmakers ever thought it would. Hell, before the festival season started the film was doomed, set for direct-to-DVD distribution.  Yes, Danny Boyle has won the DGA award, a solid predictor, but I’m not convinced.  Hollywood loves to congratulate itself, which we saw in 1997 with “Titanic” somehow winning a record 11 awards over the vastly superior “L.A. Confidential.”  David Fincher’s “Button” has been around for years, waiting for the right director, the right effects, the right time.

So often in the past the Academy has gone for a film that is conservative and offends no one, ignoring the better work.”Driving Miss Daisy” over “Do the Right Thing” (which wasn’t even nominated), “Gandhi” over “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Oliver!” over “2001:A Space Odyssey.”  The list goes on and on.  “Button” is a handsomely mounted project, beautifully shot, meticulously crafted, with strong performances from the cast,and rock solid direction from Fincher.

“Slumdog” may well prevail, but as a devil’s advocate, I am throwing it out there that “Button” could surprise, taking wins for both Best Picture and Best Director.  Am I crazy?




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27 responses so far

  • 1 2-05-2009 at 8:41 am

    Joseph said...

    No, I think there’s a good chance that Button could perform a decent sweep this year. (Or maybe I’m just still pissed that Zodiac was shafted last year)

  • 2 2-05-2009 at 9:02 am

    Speaking English said...

    That would be A-MA-ZING. As would “Milk” taking it. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. :(

  • 3 2-05-2009 at 9:06 am

    The Z said...

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Button” pull out an ‘upset.’ It has all the trappings of a Best Picture winner, which may be too difficult for older members to resist.

    I’m still holding out for split vote and a “Milk” win. If that scenario were to play out, though, I’m sure that Boyle would still win for his direction. I think the key is costume design – if “Milk” pulls it out (doubtful, but it is nominated) I’d look out for it to win.

    However, if “Button” gets it, expect a sweep, or for it to take at least 5 or 6 – all technical and possibly Henson. In that case, it’s a toss up for “Slumdog” and “Button.”

    But if “The Reader” picks up cinematography… Look out.

  • 4 2-05-2009 at 9:08 am

    T.S. said...

    No, you’re not crazy. In fact, I think Fincher should win Best Director, and if I had a ballot, I’d cast it for him. (I’d cast “Milk” as Best Picture, too.)

  • 5 2-05-2009 at 9:12 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yeah, pretty crazy.

    I kid, I kid. But I don’t see any way “Slumdog” loses this. As you say, they frequently gravitate towards the conservative, but “Slumdog” is hardly controversial. It’s old-fashioned, warm-hearted, thoroughly inoffensive storytelling, dressed up with some exotic trappings. It’s in the bag.

  • 6 2-05-2009 at 9:14 am

    Scott Ward said...

    I don’t see how anyone can say it wouldn’t be a surprise if Slumdog lost, but with that said, I don’t think Milk or CCoBB is completely out of the picture.

  • 7 2-05-2009 at 9:19 am

    Derek 8-Track said...

    Oliver! is the worst Best Picture winner by far, But I haven’t seen Wings yet, so I guess I can’t say that for sure.

  • 8 2-05-2009 at 9:27 am

    Chris said...

    I was going to write what Guy already said. It’s not like “Slumdog” wasn’t pretty conservative – no profanity, no sex scenes, happy ending. Additionally they spiced it up with some Indian hipness, and the Academy loves to look cool when they can. So, I think you don’t really state your point in a convincing way here, John.

  • 9 2-05-2009 at 9:33 am

    mike said...

    I had this feeling for some time (any maybe even that The Reader could surprise us too, I hope not).

    I think/hope Buttons wins it and Fincher too, esp after Zodiac and Fincher where snubbed last year for a nom (Though Jesse James was my best pic and PTA was my best director)…

  • 10 2-05-2009 at 9:34 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    If Slumdog were to lose it’ll be the Academy wanting to be different from all the other award shows that have gone before it.

    Milk may upset to make-up for BM and Prop 8 passing.

  • 11 2-05-2009 at 9:39 am

    michael mckay said...

    L.A. Confidential (a very good film) is not VASTLY superior to Titanic.

    What a ridiculous statement…

    I’ve never understood the back lash some folks (primarly critics) have against Titanic. It’s got a story for the ages, a terrific cast, superior direction, and near impeccable craftsmanship.
    I don’t know why it seems so fashionable to pick on Titanic just because of it’s budget, and the fact that it has an old school Hollywood feel about it.

    Do you feel the same way about Gone With The Wind, and Ben-Hur also??

  • 12 2-05-2009 at 9:42 am

    Ryan said...

    While Slumdog Millionaire is a virtual lock and I think it would be a HUGE UPSET if it doesn’t win, the reality is other than Frost/Nixon, I can see all of the other nominees win as well. Yes, they don’t have the precursor support because Slumdog took them all but they all have their aces in the holes:

    Button – Most nominations/Technical wonder.
    Milk – Brokeback Mountain guilt/Topical.
    Reader – Winslet love/Weinstein campaign.

    Again I hope hope hope Slumdog Millionaire wins it. But if any of the other three wins, then there are your reasons.

  • 13 2-05-2009 at 10:12 am

    Roger Ebert said...

    Oh , you are as crazy as the Joker.

    Pretty stupid article , by the way .

    The one thing that fails you : NOBODY gives a damn about ben button.

  • 14 2-05-2009 at 10:14 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I don’t really get the “Brokeback guilt” theory. Surely most of the AMPAS members who feel bad about the film losing are the same people who voted for it in the first place?

  • 15 2-05-2009 at 10:49 am

    Scott Ward said...

    Michael M,

    Titanic the film was not exactly “a story for the ages.” Don’t confuse the actual historical event with the plot of a movie. L.A. Confidential was certainly a better achievement and a much more refreshing cinematic tale. And there is a reason Titanic gets bashed because of its budget. Because with a lot of money, anybody with one drop of creative talent can create impeccable craftsmanship (see Michael Bay -visually and technically astounding movies that have horrid plots). But to be a great achievement, the story has to hold under that weight.

    Also, you make the claim that we are comparing Titanic to such films as Ben-Hur and Gone With The Wind and then criticize us for something we never even said. What is that? Classic cinema is certainly, in an overall sense, in no way inferior to modern day cinema, but comparing films fifty or sixty years apart, due to the vast array of changes in film, is wise in very few situations, and this is not one of those rare instances.

    And it’s rather ironic that you say that Titanic’s budget and grand spectacle shouldn’t be held against it, yet you clearly mention that very same aspect of the film in your praise, while failing to utter a word on the many areas of not just cinematic greatness, but overall greatness and depth of mere storytelling that L.A. Confidential so wonderfully exudes.

    If ridiculousness in our world means anything not in concurrence with one’s opinions, then every single thing ever created is ridiculous, because not everyone likes everything. Think next time before you use that word.

  • 16 2-05-2009 at 11:26 am

    Ginger Garver said...

    One of the fun things about Oscar season is seeing the upset predictions in which writers or bloggers become seized with a particular conviction that seems contrary to the conventional wisdom about the race. Last year Mr. Tapley remained unconvinced until the last that the Academy would reward NO COUNTRY. Over at THE ENVELOPE Mr. O’Neill worked himself into a frenzy over a possible Clooney upset over Day-Lewis. Nothing of the sort happened, of course. It’s just the nature of Oscar watchers to attempt to create interest and suspense, and every now and then (CRASH OVER BROKEBACK) the Academy gives them the ammunition for upset possibilities.

  • 17 2-05-2009 at 12:05 pm

    N8 said...

    Oliver, Gandhi, and Driving Miss Daisy are all good examples of “relatively safe” choices the Academy has made…

    They’re also good examples of choices the Academy made 20+ years ago! Get with the here-and-now. I know you enjoy raising grievances about past mistakes, but they are in no way a barometer for predicting what will happen this year.

  • 18 2-05-2009 at 12:09 pm

    Tom said...

    I would be thrilled to see Button win picture and director, but I really don’t think it has a chance. I actually think that Slumdog is almost a safer choice than Button. Think about the endings of each movie.

  • 19 2-05-2009 at 12:26 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Slumdog will win. It’s got no haters.

  • 20 2-05-2009 at 12:40 pm

    malevolentmuse said...

    The scenario you’re speaking of would fall under the same scenario that lead to Crash defeating Brokeback Mountain. There’s only one thing different and it’s major: Slumdog doesn’t make people uneasy which is what Brokeback Mountain did. The morning of the show, Joel Siegel was saying not to rule out Crash because he kept hearing from voting members how much they loved the movie. That made it an easy still-liberal-but-not-tainted-by-gayness vote for many members of the Academy. There is no such issue with Slumdog. The Academy’s membership doesn’t want to have to explain itself twice this close together. They’re taking enough heat on Dark Knight’s snub. They don’t need any more grief by passing over another movie widely loved by moviegoers and critics.

  • 21 2-05-2009 at 1:20 pm

    Jordan Raup said...

    It’s definitely going to be between Slumdog and Button. Check out this feature I did:

    Top 25 Best Picture Nominees That Didn’t Win: http://thefilmstage.com/2009/02/04/top-25-best-picture-nominees-that-didnt-win/

  • 22 2-05-2009 at 1:58 pm

    Jason said...

    i would be ecstatic if ben button took best picture, but i don’t think it’ll happen. i think the academy loves movies to be emotional in a big way, with huge payoffs, and a certain broadness, dramatically, i.e. Million $ Baby or Rain Man or Dances with Lame-os. Ben Button wears its emotions in a minor-key, more melancholic that bombastically tragic or feel-good or whatever. slumdog will win.

  • 23 2-05-2009 at 3:09 pm

    KA.TO said...

    I can see Button picking upwards of five technical noms

    Visual Effects
    Makeup
    Costume
    Cinematography
    Art Direction

    … but no BP

  • 24 2-05-2009 at 4:51 pm

    John Foote said...

    Michael McKay — wjile “Titanic” is technically superb and contains one of the greatest musical scores in film history the script is weak, (Jack! Rose!), some of the effects do not quite work, and Cameron’s direction is certainly not flawless as was that of “LA Confidential” — hey man, the critics groups, every single one of them agreed with me, so I cannot be that ridiculous. ‘Titanic” is a good film, not a great film, and for the record I love “Ben Hur” and believe “GWTW” to be one of the most over praised films in movie history — to think it won over ‘The Wizard of Oz”??

  • 25 2-05-2009 at 6:09 pm

    Sound Designer Dan said...

    Agree with John^ that Titanic is a good film but hardly a great one.

    Paraphrasing Principal Skinner, “Prove me wrong, Academy!!!! Prove me wrong!!”

  • 26 2-05-2009 at 9:31 pm

    Neel Mehta said...

    If anything, OLIVER! and GANDHI are the spiritual forefathers of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. So I find it curious — pun intended — that you’d use them in an argument against that film.

  • 27 2-06-2009 at 11:36 pm

    Andrew said...

    I dont why any SERIOUS writer would peddle this crap. without a SHRED of evidence. Yes, you ARE crazy