This year it's a bit harder to pick what I think will/should win. Last year, I knew almost before the credits rolled that No Country for Old Men would be the winner, but this year I have two that are neck in neck in my opinion...and possibly the Academy voters', too! Milk and Slumdog Millionaire were the two best of the nominees. I really can't decide which should win Best Picture and Director. I'll be happy with either.
Milk was fantastic all around, and Sean Penn deserves to win his second Oscar for Best Actor. He really became Harvey Milk. My sister and I actually cried through a lot of it. I'm old to enough to remember his murder (and of San Fransisco's mayor), but I never really understood what it was all about. Penn had great support from Josh Brolin (as Dan White, who murdered Milk and the mayor- not because Milk was gay, but because White felt betrayed by both men), Emile Hirsch, and James Franco- who should have gotten a Best Supporting nod along with Brolin- as Milk's former love, Scott. This movie was put together so well.
Slumdog was the most original story I've seen in years- the tale of an uneducated boy from the slums who becomes a winning contestant on India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He is accused of cheating, and must describe how he knew the answers by using events from his life. It's hearbreaking, tragic, and even funny in places. I loved the music. I just loved the whole movie!
Next on my list is Frost/Nixon. I loved this one for the acting more than anything. It's a battle of wits between disgraced President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella, Oscar nominated for the role) and television host David Frost (Michael Sheen, who should also have been nominated). Frost wants to make Nixon admit publicly that he did, in fact, break the law with the Watergate cover-up. It's not really a history tale, but it's interesting to see what Americans wanted from Nixon after he resigned. Oh yeah- there's a nice treat for fangirls of Obscure British Actors- in one of the last scenes, Matthew MacFadyen (from 2005's Pride and Prejudice) strips naked and runs into the sea. :p Two thumbs up for that scene.
Fourth- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a wonderful fantasy with a great story and fine acting. Fantastic work by Brad Pitt as the title character, who is born an old man and ages backwards. It was nearly three hours long, but I was so into the story that it passed by quickly.
Finally, The Reader. This was a weird one, in a way, and maybe the weakest of the nominees. It's an interesting story- a teenager (wonderfully played by newcomer David Kross) becomes involved with a mysterious older woman (Kate Winslet) who loves to have him read to her. She disappears from his life suddenly, only to appear as a defendant in a Nazi war crimes trial years later. He realizes her big secret, one that could affect her sentencing, but is so disgusted by her crimes that he remains silent. As an older man (Ralph Fiennes), he reaches out to her again by sending her tapes of him reading. It was a very well acted movie, and the beginning is rather shocking (if you're squeamish about sex scenes and nudity, you need to skip this one). I think Kate Winslet was nominated for the wrong movie, though. This was more of a supporting role. She should have been nominated for Revolutionary Road instead.
I honestly think that Doubt or Revolutionary Road should have gotten a Best Picture nomination over The Reader. This was a tough year!
Useless trivia time- Four of the five movies were tearjerkers. Frost/Nixon wasn't, but there was one scene that made my mom and me a bit wistfully sad- in one of the airport scenes, there is a ticket counter for Eastern Airlines. That was our favorite airline to fly when I was a little kid, and we were all upset when they went bankrupt in 1991. Despite that, it was fun seeing all of that 1970's stuff in the film (and in Milk, too!).