Oscars Gambling


I went 1 for 2 at this year’s Oscars. Kate Winslet won as expected but Mickey Rourke let me down (beaten by Sean Penn). Rourke firmed heavily before the show and Penn eased out to a peak of $3.50 so Penn’s win must have been a surprise to many other punters as well.


To quickly review my performance…

$400 on Kate Winslet to win best actress which returned $788.

$400 on Mickey Rourke to win best actor which returned $0.


So for $800 worth of bets, I got $788 back. That’s a loss of $12. I won $265 on the Golden Globes. So in the end, I wind up with a profit of $253 for this award season. Let’s now add that to the cumulative leaderboard…


1996 – profit of $750 – won on Susan Saranadon

1997 – profit of $300 (cumulative profit $1,050) – won on Frances McDormand

1998 – loss of $250 (cumulative profit $800)

1999 – loss of $250 (cumulative profit $550)

2000 – profit of $620 (cumulative profit $1,170) – won on Kevin Spacey and Michael Caine

2001 – loss of $190 (cumulative profit $980) – won on director Steven Soderbergh

2002 – profit of $480 (cumulative profit $1,460) – won on Halle Berry

2003 – profit of $275 (cumulative profit $1,735) – won on Catherine Zeta-Jones and Adrian Brody

2004 – profit of $150 (cumulative profit $1,875) – won on Sean Penn

2005 – profit of $214 (cumulative profit $2,089) – won on Hilary Swank

2006 – profit of $350 (cumulative profit $2,439) – won on Reese Witherspoon

2007 – profit of $1,463 (cumulative profit $3,912) – won on Eddie Murphy at Globes, Alan Arkin & West Bank Story at Oscars

2008 – profit of $268 (cumulative profit of $4,280) – won on Tilda Swinton and the Coen brothers

2009 – profit of $253 (cumulative profit of $4,533) – won on Mickey Rourke & Kate Winslet at Globes, Kate Winslet at Oscars


That takes my winning streak to 8 years on trot. I’m disappointed not to win a little more this year but hey, that’s gambling. I’ll use my winnings to help kick start the economy. K-Rudd will be happy.


Oscars Competition


And now to my annual competition. I gave you all a gimme this year by including best supporting actor as part of the 5 categories. I was going to do best actor but I copied and pasted the wrong bit. Lucky for some.


Now, we had a tie this year with 2 entrants getting 4 out of 5 – Solo Fogg and Gareth Hunter. It came down to the tie-breaker question with Gareth the closest to guessing the age of the best picture presenter. It was Steven Spielberg, aged 62. Well done Gareth!


If you were keeping score at home, here were the winners of those in the quiz…

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Best Supporting Actress – Penelope Cruz (Vicky Christina Barcelona)

Best Original Screenplay – Milk

Best Costume Design – The Duchess

Best Foreign Language Film – Departures


Not a single entrant got the best foreign language film category. It was a tricky one this year with Departures getting home from Japan.


Thanks to everyone who entered and make sure you try again next year.




There’s no question that the big winner of the night was Slumdog Millionaire. It dominated most categories and won 8 Oscars in total. That’s pretty staggering. It’s most significant wins were for best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay.


Also deserving a pat on the back was Milk which won best actor (Sean Penn) and best original screenplay. It’s a great film (better than Slumdog) and I’m glad it got some attention.


Even though I lost the cash, I can’t feel bad that Penn won. Hell, it’s a great performance and his speech was the best of the night. Penn is a class act.


Kate Winslet finally broke her Oscars hoodoo with her first win from 6 nominations. It was The Reader’s only win of the night. Well done Kate.


In the supporting categories, the two favourites saluted – Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight and Penelope Cruz for Vicky Christina Barcelona.


One of the nice wins of the evening for me was that of Man on Wire for best documentary. I’ve been talking it up since I saw it late last year.


There were very few upsets during the ceremony but perhaps the biggest would be the win of Departures, the Japanese film, in the best foreign language film category.


The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button won three awards in total – all in technical categories.


The Show Itself


They tried to reinvigorate the Oscars this year and I think they’ve done a great job. I loved the way they awarding the acting prizes – by getting 5 previous winners in the category to introduce each of the nominees. It was beautifully done and I think it was a better way of recognizing the actors rather than showing clips.


I think Hugh Jackman was terrific as host. We didn’t see a lot of him but his two main musical numbers gave the show some life.


There were some cool presenters too. Steve Martin and Tina Fey were great early on. I’m still hopeful that Martin will get to host the Oscars again one day. He’s just too funny. Seth Rogen and James Franco were also terrific in their clip. I heard someone suggest that they should host the Oscars next year and I have to admit, you could do a lot worse.

The stage set up also deserves praise. There was a cool little inner-circle where you could see all the big name stars and it made for some innovative new camera angles. I hope they keep it in years to come.


The Full List


If you’re interested in a full list of winners, here they are…


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 Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black (Milk)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Animated Feature: WALL-E
Best Foreign Language Film: Departures (Japan)

Best Documentary Feature: Man On Wire
Best Documentary Short: Smile Pinki

Best Animated Short: La Maison en Petits Cubes
Best Live Action Short: Spielzeugland

Best Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Song: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire
Best Sound Mixing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Sound Editing: The Dark Knight
Best Art Direction: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Best Visual Effects: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Best Costume Design: The Duchess

Best Makeup: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button


For those who followed my form guide, I finished with 17 out of 24. It was a fairly predictable year.


Please Close The Book


I’ve been covering the Oscars for 13 years now and this would to be the most boring list of winners and nominees. I’m glad the year is over to be honest and we can move forward.


I don’t want to begrudge Slumdog Millionaire, but there are some truly amazing films which have come along in recent years and have not even come close to winning 8 Oscars. 1994 always comes to mind with the 5 best picture nominees being Four Weddings & A Funeral, Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show and The Shawshank Redemption.


Let’s hope 2009 is a lot better.


That’s it from me. To all, a good night. And don’t forget, we’ll do it all again in 12 months time.


Before I get into my super-dooper Oscars form guide, I have to make mention that last Tuesday, I wrote my 1,000th full length review (as opposed to just giving it a standard grade with nothing more). I started writing detailed reviews back in January 2000. When you consider that a standard review is around 600 words in length, we’re talking about 600,000 words in all. What a waste of time and effort. :-)


For the record, review number 1,000 was for He’s Just Not That Into You.


Now, it’s on with the Academy Awards and as I like to do each year, here’s a form guide for all the categories with my picks as to who will win (with some quick commentary).

History has been made this year in Australia in that the ceremony is being televised live for the first time. You can see it on Movie Extra (through Foxtel) or on Channel 9 (if you don’t have pay-tv) starting from 11:30am. The red carpet arrivals are before this.


If you’re looking to do it in style, both the Palace Barracks and Dendy Portside are having a special Oscar bash. At the Palace Barracks, tickets are $25 and include a live screening of the ceremony, light brunch and a glass of champagne on arrival. At the Dendy Portside, tickets are $20 and this includes a champagne brunch, bottomless coffee and unlimited popcorn.


It’s a tragedy that I have to work or else I’d be at one of these functions. If you’re looking to head along, you can get further information from their respective websites or by giving the cinemas a call.


There have been huge changes made to this year’s ceremony but they’re all being kept hush-hush by new producer, Bill Condon. I’m a huge fan of Condon – especially for his 1998 film, Gods & Monsters. Here’s an artist’s drawing of what the stage may look like…


If you’re tuned into 612ABC radio on Monday morning, you can hear my last minute thoughts on how things should pan out.


Also, don’t forget to enter my Pick The Winners competition. All the details are contained in a separate email.


Ok then, let’s get to the form guide…


Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire


I’ve been saying it all along and I’m not changing my tune now. Slumdog Millionaire will win best picture. Period. Matt’s Pick: Slumdog Millionaire.


Best Achievement in Directing

Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

Stephen Daldry for The Reader

David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon

Gus Van Sant for Milk


The winner of the best director prize almost always win the best picture Oscar. There have been only a handful of exceptions. I can’t find any reason to suggest an upset this year so Danny Boyle should have this one in the bag for Slumdog Millionaire. Matt’s Pick: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Richard Jenkins for The Visitor

Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn for Milk

Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler


This is the race that has everyone talking. Who will win? Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke? Behind Penn is the fact that this film has been nominated for best picture, he’s imitating a real life person (always a positive) and he won the Screen Actor’s Guild Award. Behind Rourke is the fact that he’s a Cinderella-like comeback story (which Hollywood loves), he’s never won before (the Academy likes to share their love around) and he won the British Academy Award. I’m sticking with my guns and going with Rourke. I think the fact that Penn won a few years ago (for Mystic River) will hurt him and the Rourke bandwagon has picked up momentum in the last few weeks. Matt’s Pick: Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married

Angelina Jolie for Changeling

Melissa Leo for Frozen River

Meryl Streep for Doubt

Kate Winslet for The Reader


Kate Winslet has gone 0 for 5 at the Academy Awards. She’s arguably the greatest actress never to win. That will probably change on Monday but her big danger comes in the form of Meryl Streep. Meryl has won twice before but her last win was in 1983. Will the Academy choose to honour Meryl over Kate because of all of her great work in the last 25 years? I’m sure she’ll win one again soon but I don’t it’ll be this year. The Academy clearly likes The Reader (by nominating it for best picture) and the fact that Kate has given two great performances this year (also in Revolutionary Road) should give her the edge. Matt’s Pick: Kate Winslet for The Reader.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin for Milk

Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt

Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight

Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road


And the Oscar goes to Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Matt’s Pick: Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for Doubt

Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis for Doubt

Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler


Here’s a fun contest. When it comes to the 4 acting categories, the one which throws up the biggest surprises is best supporting actress. Last year for example, Tilda Swinton got up and I had a small bet on her early in the piece at 20-1. Penelope Cruz is this year’s front-runner but she is as vulnerable as the New South Wales Labor party. Her film, Vicky Christina Barcelona, has been nominated in no other categories. That doesn’t show a lot of passion for the film from Academy members. There have been a few whispers that Viola Davis has a big shot at decent odds for her role in Doubt (which earned a total of 5 nominations). I wouldn’t vote for her myself (just wasn’t a big enough role) but I think there’ll be an upset here and Davis is the best chance to cause it. Matt’s Pick: Viola Davis for Doubt.


Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire


This year’s adapted screenplay category is interesting as 4 of the 5 best picture nominees are adapted. The other inclusion is Doubt which has earned 5 nominations of its own accord. With all the hype behind Slumdog, I expect it to win here too as part of its sweep of the picture, director and screenplay categories. Matt’s Pick: Slumdog Millionaire.


Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Frozen River


In Bruges




Milk deserves to be the favourite here as the only best picture nominee of the bunch. This will be a great opportunity for Academy members to give the film an award. There are dangers however. WALL-E was a huge hit at the box-office and will have its supporters. In Bruges won at the British Academy Awards and could also cause a boilover. I’ll stick with Milk. Matt’s Pick: Milk.


Best Achievement in Editing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight



Slumdog Millionaire


There’s a long running tradition that best picture and best editing go hand in hand. There are a small number of exceptions – usually when a classy action film pops on the scene. So once again, I find myself tipping Slumdog Millionaire in this category. It also won the guild award in this category to add further weight to my prediction. Matt’s Pick: Slumdog Millionaire.


Best Achievement in Cinematography


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire


Ditto here. I think Slumdog is a certainty here given that it won the guild award and it boasts beautiful cinematography. It doesn’t matter that any of the other films may be more deserving. Wow, I just realised that Slumdog is going to win a lot of awards. Matt’s Pick: Slumdog Millionaire.


Best Achievement in Art Direction


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

The Duchess

Revolutionary Road


Look out! Slumdog Millionaire is not nominated in this category so it can’t win. But which film will? The Academy tends to favour period piece flicks which would give weight to The Duchess. However, Benjamin Button might be a shot with its beautiful setting and many Oscar noms (showing some popularity amongst voters). The Dark Knight also has a shot. Hmmmm. I’m going with Benjamin Button here. Matt’s Pick: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.


Best Achievement in Costume Design


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Duchess


Revolutionary Road


The same applies here which I said above for art direction. The Duchess will be the front-runner with its elaborate costumes and I’m not going to argue here. Matt’s Pick: The Duchess.


Best Achievement in Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Hellboy II: The Golden Army


This is one of the easiest categories of the night. Benjamin Button’s great make up work was evident to anyone who saw the film and in this weak category, it’ll triumph easily. Matt’s Pick: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.


Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



Slumdog Millionaire



One of my favourite categories is best original score. I love movie soundtracks and have a huge collection myself. Thomas Newman is one of my all time favourite composers. He’s now been nominated 10 times and is yet to win. He’s an outside chance here but I think he’ll have better luck in the best song category. The score in Benjamin Button was nice but in keeping with the Slumdog sweep, I think it’ll take this one. Matt’s Pick: Slumdog Millionaire.


Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Slumdog Millionaire: "Jai Ho"

Slumdog Millionaire: "O Saya"

WALL·E: "Down to Earth"


There are only 3 nominees for best song this year. Two come from Slumdog Millionaire and the other from WALL-E. I don’t know how Bruce Springsteen wasn’t nominated for his song in The Wrestler. It’s an outrage! In the past, when a film has more than one song nominated, we tend to see a vote split and both songs lose. This is possible this year with Slumdog but Fox has launched a sneaky campaign to promote one song (Jai Ho) at the expense of the other. This is a tricky one. I know conventional wisdom says that WALL-E should win this but something tells me that the music in Slumdog resonated with audiences. I’m tipping Jai Ho from Slumdog. Matt’s Pick: Slumdog Millionaire: “Jai Ho”.


Best Achievement in Sound

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Slumdog Millionaire




Sound can be a tricky category. This is usually where the action films come to shine but you also have be wary of a Slumdog sweep. Slumdog did win the guild award in this category but for both sound and sound editing, I’m going to lean towards The Dark Knight. Matt’s Pick: The Dark Knight.


Best Achievement in Sound Editing

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

Slumdog Millionaire




See comments above for sound. What do I know? Matt’s Pick: The Dark Knight.


Best Achievement in Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Iron Man


Here’s another easy one. As much as I criticised Benjamin Button, I can’t fault the wonderful special effects. Matt’s Pick: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.


Best Animated Feature Film of the Year


Kung Fu Panda



WALL-E has won almost every award to date in this category. However, in one of the biggest shocks of this year’s Oscar season, it lost the Annie Award (the big prize of animation) to Kung Fu Panda. I liked that upset because I think both films are equally good. I don’t know people have been going ga-ga over WALL-E to be honest. It’s a good film but not a great film. The promising opening is lost by a sub-par ending (up in space). I’m not brave enough to tip another Kung Fu upset so I’ll go with the feisty little robot. Matt’s Pick: WALL-E.


Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (Germany)

Entre les murs (France)

Revanche (Austria)

Okuribito (Japan)

Vals Im Bashir (Israel)


I’ve only seen two of these films personally – Waltz With Bashir and The Class. I think Waltz is the better of the two films and it’ll pick up the Oscar. It’s won numerous awards in the lead-up and the subject matter is timely given the recent battles between the Israelis and Palestinians. There can be upsets in this category though as the winner is picked by the small group of Academy members who have been to the special screenings of each film. With a smaller pool of voters, anything can happen. Matt’s Pick: Waltz With Bashir (Israel).


Best Documentary, Features

The Betrayal - Nerakhoon

Encounters at the End of the World

The Garden

Man on Wire

Trouble the Water


Man On Wire has been the documentary hit of 2008 and whilst I haven’t seen the other nominees, I’d have no complaints if it won in this category. It’s a great movie. Like the foreign language film category however, only a small group vote on this award so surprises are possible. Matt’s Pick: Man On Wire.


Best Documentary, Short Subjects

The Conscience of Nhem En

The Final Inch

Smile Pinki

The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306


Well this is clearly the most wide open race of the night. Everyone will be glued to their screens to determine the winner. To use the words of Mike Meyers, it’ll “send shockwaves through the industry”. Getting back to reality, virtually no one has seen any of these nominees and so your guess is as good as mine. Matt’s Pick: The Final Inch.


Best Short Film, Animated

Maison en petits cubes, La

Ubornaya istoriya - lyubovnaya istoriya



This Way Up


See comments above re: documentary short subject. This is the part of the ceremony where it’s best to take a toilet break or go out in search of drinks/food. Matt’s Pick: Presto.


Best Short Film, Live Action

Auf der Strecke

Manon sur le bitume

New Boy




Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Matt’s Pick: New Boy.


A full wrap of the Oscars will be included in next week’s Film Pie newsletter. I’ll see you then.




I believe this was the subject of a Seinfeld episode but I’m really not sure about cinema etiquette when it comes to shhhhhhhhhhhhing someone.


On the weekend, I was at a movie screening and there was a couple sitting nearby who felt it necessary to talk throughout much of the movie. What is the appropriate thing to do in such a situation? Should you just try to ignore them? Should you politely ask them to keep quiet? Or can I just sneak in a quick “shhhhhhh”.


Now I’ve been told that shhhhhhing is rude and abrupt. Perhaps it is. But is it justified if someone is rude enough to talk through a movie? I think it is but I’m sure we’ll all have differing points of view.


The bottom line is that I didn’t shhhhhhhhh in the end. I’m not really a shhhhhhing kind of guy – despite the fact that I have used the word shhhhhhhhhhhhh (with varying numbers of h’s) throughout this entire email. There’ll come a time though when I’ll feel compelled to do it. Hopefully I don’t get beat up as a result…




On to more positive news and the British Academy Awards were announced overnight. I was very pleased to see the wins of Mickey Rourke and Kate Winslet. They make my Oscar bets look a little sweeter.


Here’s a wrap of the major winners…


Best Picture – Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director – Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Actor – Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Best Actress – Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Best Supporting Actress – Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)


I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again, I’m getting tired of Slumdog Millionaire winning so many awards. What I’d give for a huge boilover at the Oscars! I’d love to see Milk or The Reader spoil the show.


In next week’s huge Film Pie issue, I’ll have my full form guide and you can enter my annual pick the winners competition. Start thinking ahead…


US Audiences Taken About Taken?


I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before in all my years as a critic. On the weekend, a film called Taken topped the U.S. box-office with a tidy sum of $24m. That’s not bad considering its Superbowl weekend. That’s not the point I’m trying to make though.


The strange thing is that Taken was released in Australian cinemas almost 6 months ago – on 14 August 2008. It was released in France, its country of origin, back in February 2008. According to the Internet Movie Database, the film has also been released in countries such as South Korea, Poland, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, Croatia, United Arab Emirates, Iceland and Egypt. It was released on DVD in Australia a few weeks ago.


Now, having gone all around the world, the film is being released in the United States. I speak of the country where movies are usually released first. What’s just as surprising is the number of people who paid to see it in its opening weekend. Those U.S. residents really keen could have ordered it on DVD from France months ago. Instead, they’ve waited and come out in droves. It makes you wonder why 20th Century Fox has been sitting on it for so long. Ah well.


Post Award Season Depression


Now that most of the major award season films have been released, I’m starting to worry about the films being released over the coming months. There’s always a “dead zone” between late February and early May each year. Virtually no big blockbusters are released and the award season has long passed. It’s a quiet time for cinema owners.


As I look ahead, those films to get excited about in February would be Changeling (which earned Angelina Jolie an Oscar nom), Rachel Getting Married (which earned Anne Hathaway her first Oscar nom) and The Reader (which is the only best picture nominee I’m yet to see). There are some others of interest which were largely overlooked in the award season including W. (a look at George W. Bush’s life story) and Last Chance Harvey (with the great Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson). I’m mildly interested by the Watchman (the trailer is great) but there’s something about it which makes me think I’ve seen all this before (e.g. X-Men, Batman).


Aside from the aforementioned flicks, the cinematic outlook is just as bad as the economic outlook. I speak of The Pink Panther 2 (please kill Steve Martin for doing this), New In Town (a romantic comedy with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr), Paul Blart: Mall Cop (a comedy starring Kevin James which took $32m in its opening weekend in the U.S.), Dance Flick (yet another god damn spoof movie from the Wayans brothers) and All About Steve (a Sandra Bullock comedy – say no more).


I’m already thinking about what I’ll say to the cinema employees when I ask for a ticket to see these movies. I don’t want them thinking ill of me so I’ll have to disclose that I’m seeing it strictly in a “critic’s capacity”. Hopefully, they’ll believe me.


Director’s Guild Awards


My only major piece of award show news is that director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) took home the big prize at the Director’s Guild Awards over the weekend. He can start working on his Oscars speech now. Well done to Danny.


Rory McIlroy


In my Film Pie newsletter from 9 December 2008, I did my annual catch up on the golfing careers of Oliver Fisher and Rory McIlroy.


I make reference to Rory once again as he broke through for his first win as a professional yesterday in the Dubai Desert Classic. The win lifts him to a phenomenal 16th in the Official World Golf Rankings. Not bad for a 19 year old. Let’s hope it’s the first of many wins this year.


I’ll see you all next week.