Best Animated Feature:
The animators at Pixar got it right — again — this year: one of the most endearing characters in film was the septuagenarian widower of Up who just wanted to fly. With his walking stick stabilized with tennis balls, his crowning glory of rich silver tresses and oversized eyeglasses Ã la Michael Caine circa Alfie, 78-year-old Carl Fredericksen stormed Cannes and the cinemas this past summer. We love it in Zoomerland, of course, as we nominate Fredericksen for our Hall of Famous 45+ Action Heroes. He joins the likes of Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan, at 70, wields a mean staff), Indiana Jones (sixty-something Harrison Ford still cracks that whip) and just about anyone Samuel L. Jackson plays (’nuff said!).
Building on the momentum of Thank you for Not Smoking and last year’s sleeper hit, Juno, Canadian director Jason Reitman’s third feature, Up in the Air, is a profound statement on life and could slip in as the dark horse, canceling out the dead heat that Avatar (directed by another Canadian, James Cameron) and The Hurt Locker (directed by Cameron’s ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow) seem to be in. All three deserve the nod, for their own reasons, and we especially like them because they’re either star Oscar-nominated Zoomers or are helmed by veteran directors and producers. Their innovative ideas, use of technology and emotional depth prove that auteurs of a certain age still have something to say to our current youth-obsessed culture.
It’s the film that almost didn’t happen, and it’s the one most worthy of taking the top Oscar. With a movie adaptation of the videogame Halo dead from a bloated budget, Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp – both slated to work on the gaming film – allowed creativity to lead, rather than a fat wallet. District 9 was born.
Set in South Africa, the film beautifully interchanges “interview footage” with live shots as the city of Johannesburg tries to diplomatically deal with an alien shantytown. It’s a chilling commentary on apartheid and humans’ treatment of those who are considered “outsiders.”
Films like Avatar (perhaps too slick for Oscar) and The Hurt Locker (definitely praiseworthy) seem to have all the momentum leading up to the Awards, and don’t count out Inglourious Basterds (the first scene is perhaps the best piece of film last year), but District 9, in a perfect world, would take home the statue.
Actor in a Supporting Role:
Is this even a contest? The Academy would have been better off crowning Christoph Waltz when they announced the nominees. It could have saved them 10 minutes in a broadcast already an hour or two too long, and they would have gained the public’s trust – letting them know they can make the right choice. Heck, they could have skyrocketed their number of viewers with a stunt like that. But Waltz must wait to receive the award for his memorable performance in Inglourious Basterds. To the other nominees: Matt Damon, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Plummer and Stanley Tucci, we enjoy your work but better luck next year.
photo credit: Keystone Press (Christoph Waltz, Jason Reitman)