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Ah, yes, so it arrived with much fanfare, and some choices have left me puzzled, other delightfully surprised. More on that later. But first, the list.

BEST PICTURE
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Gus Van Sant, Milk

BEST ACTOR
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin, Milk
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Frozen River , Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh
In Bruges, Martin McDonagh
Milk, Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E, Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Roth
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
The Reader, David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
WALL-E

BEST ART DIRECTION
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Australia
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Milk
Revolutionary Road

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness — From the Balcony of Room 306

BEST EDITING
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)
The Class (France)
Departures (Japan)
Revanche (Austria)
Waltz with Bashir (Israel)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
Manon on the Asphalt
New Boy
The Pig
Spielzeugland (Toyland)

BEST MAKEUP
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Alexandre Desplat
Defiance, James Newton Howard
Milk, Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman
WALL-E, Thomas Newman

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
”Down to Earth,” (WALL-E)
”Jai Ho,” (Slumdog Millionaire)
”O Saya,” (Slumdog Millionaire)

BEST SOUND EDITING
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E
Wanted

BEST SOUND MIXING
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E
Wanted

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Notes on the nominees:

1) Pleasant surprises: Richard Jenkins and Melissa Leo’s nominations for two very small indie flicks that were much revered ( Frozen River was a Sundance 2008 fave and award winner). They were also early 2008 releases and i was afraid they’d both be lost to later, showier parts. Leo you may remember from Homicide: Life On the Street. Jenkins is one of those ” That guy” actors ( I remember him as the psychiatrist Ben Stiller talks to at the beginning of There’s Something About Mary).

2) Stunned- STUNNED- but overjoyed by Michael Shannon’s nomination for Revolutionary Road. He had little buzz due to the Heath Ledger noise. He also has no shot, nor do Robert Downey Jr., Phillip Seymour Hoffman, or Josh Brolin, although Brolin has an outside shot ( he has actually won some critics awards). But if he was noticed by the Academy, Shannon’s odds might be better than we realize.

3) Expect Wall-E to win Animated. The other two flicks don’t stand a chance.

4) Dance With Bashir will win the Foreign Language award, even though Italy’s Gommorra was by far the best foreign film of the year ( it wasn’t nominated. What up?)

5) Peter Gabriel will be an Oscar winner for best song.

6) Best Doc Feature is a toss up between the stunning and engrossing Man On Wire, which has dominated pre Oscar shows. But do not count out the moving Trouble The Water. It’s about Katrina and the aftermath.

7) Robert Downey Jr’s nomination is only his second. Seriously.

8) Kate Winslet was nominated for the wrong movie. Therefore she will lose to Anne Hathaway unless they give it to Meryl, who gave what is possibly my least favorite performance of these nominees, but it’s MERYL.

9) Expect Mickey Rourke, Penelope Cruz to win for their categories. Cruz is a supporting actress nominee in a Woody Allen film. It worked for Mira Sorvino and Dianne Weist ( twice).

10) Benjamin Button leads with thirteen, Slumdog has ten, Frost/Nixon five, Milk eight, The Reader five, Doubt five, The Dark Knight  eight ( mostly in lesser tech categories), and Wall-E five.

11) Movie that gets to call itself an Oscar nominee despite being crap- Hellboy II.

12) Viola Davis is onscreen in Doubt for about five minutes.

13) Apparently the Academy preferred the turgid, lumbering The Reader to the astonishingly acted, but cutting and depressing Revolutionary Road, which is clearly the superior film. Kate was resplendent in the latter, and as much as I love her, her performance in the former left me cold. RR picked up a few nods in lesser categories.

14) All the best directors have their pictures nominated as well. Remember, the Academy has a tendency to have a best picture nominee that apparently directed itself in the mix.

15) If Slumdog does indeed prevail, it will have done so without a single acting nomination. I can’t recall the last time that happened off the top of my head.

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10. My Winnipeg

Canadian oddball surrealist Guy Maddin creates a masterpiece about his hometown, leading me to believe that if you live in Winnipeg, you must think like this man. Astonishing visuals and a surprisingly warm feeling.

9. Standard Operating Procedure

Errol Morris takes on the current mindset that torture is okay because the ends justify the means. Or do they? Morris, the legendary documentarian, makes a strong case that maybe, just maybe, what happens in Iraq should not stay in Iraq, and that those who excuse the methods as necessary need to think about what is ultimately more important- humanity or being right.

8. In Bruges

A sleeper, this droll little film about two hit men in the titular Belgian city is honestly one of the most charming, funniest films of the entire year. And Colin Farrell is actually good in this one!

7. Wall-E

It’s brave to use silence in film. It’s braver still when you use it in an animated film designed to get kids thinking. Entire stretches of Wall-E have no dialogue. But visually, it makes an impact that no Pixar film has done since Toy Story.

6. Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist

So sue me, I love this joyful little film about two people connecting over music. Possibly because that’s how I meet everyone myself. Charming, funny, and perfectly shot. Kat Dennings is one of this years great discoveries.

5. Rachel Getting Married

This tragic tale of family and pain remains the one film that truly made me feel all year long. Anne Hathaway’s Kym is a revelation. Rarely have I wanted to be a part of such a family. But I really wanted to be there. Props to Bill Irwin’s devoted, broken father, and Debra Winger’s astringent, vicious mother.

4. Tropic Thunder

Yes, the plot is more confusing than a Joyce novel. But I enjoy Joyce. And the performances are as such as I didn’t care the film made no sense, particularly Robert Downey Jr.’s amazing performance as method man extraordinaire Kirk Lazarus, Matthew McConaughey’s surprisingly sharp turn as the world’s most devoted agent, and a stunning Tom Cruise cameo that made me forget I now hate him.

3. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan has done the impossible- make an accessible superhero film that doesn’t distract from the mythology, but actually adds to it. Christian Bale is by far the best, most believable Bruce Wayne in cinema history, and Heath Ledger’s Joker is a villain for the ages.

2. Slumdog Millionaire

This delightfully charming film tells a story of class and achievement, hope and despair, and game shows. An Early front runner for best picture during this award season, it would have been my number one, if not the fact I had more fun and totally adore one other film more. No other list will have it at number one, but I can’t help myself.

1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Jason Segel did the impossible- he took the Judd Apatow formula and made it sweeter, raunchier, and funnier. This charming little love story/ break up disaster tale balances the sad story of Peter with the destructive overtures the world throws at him. Mila Kunis shines as the girl he meets in Hawaii, Kristin Bell is a perfect bitch, and Russell Brand’s star making turn is the greasiest, funniest thing on the big screen all year.

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”It’s very simple. Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and, as it always has, rock crushes scissors.”
—Sheldon (Jim Parsons), explaining his new game of Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, on The Big Bang Theory

” I never have any normal fans.”

Dr. Spencer Reid ( Matthew Gray Gubler), lamenting the fact yet another serial killer is a fan of his work, on Criminal Minds

“I hate New York! I’m sorry, but it’s true! Today, I was walking around PriceCo. Have you been there? It’s huge! All the stores in New York are so cramped! Every time I turn around I knock something over. I’m like some huge monster that came out of the oceans to destroy bodegas! …I’m too big for New York, okay! I’m always trying to fit into cramped little subway seats, or duck under doorways that were built a hundred and fifty years ago. “Hey, people are bigger now! Build bigger doorways! What the hell is wrong with you?” …And it’s so loud. All the time. Yes, I know it’s the city that never sleeps, but guess what? I like to sleep! I’ve been tired for eight years! Tired and scared, with black and blue marks on my elbows from trying to fit into all these tiny elf doorways! New Jersey’s great! It’s got huge stores, and lawns, and you never have to carry a cup again! For the rest of your life! I’m not afraid to say it: I love New Jersey! ”

– Marshall ( Jason Segel), ranting after spending time at Stella’s New Jersey home, on How I Met Your Mother

” I can see Russia from my house.”

-Sarah Palin ( Tina Fey), giving a press conference with Hillary Clinton ( Amy Poehler), on  SNL

”I am Shiva the destroyer and your harbinger of doom for this evening.”—Kym (Anne Hathaway) in Rachel Getting Married

Penny: Sheldon, it’s me.
Sheldon: You’re in my bedroom.
Penny: I need your help.
Sheldon: People aren’t suppose to be in my bedroom.
Penny: Well, can we talk in the living room?
Sheldon: I’m not wearing any pajama bottoms.
Penny: Why?
Sheldon: I spilled grape juice.
Penny: Well, can’t you put on other pajamas?
Sheldon: I can’t put on other pajamas, these are my Monday  pajamas! Penny, people really aren’t supposed to be in my bedroom!

– Penny ( Kaley Cuoco) and Sheldon ( Jim Parsons), after she enter’s his room in the middle of the night for game playing advise, on The Big Bang Theory

Penny: I know this is none of my business, but I just… I have to ask — what’s Sheldon’s deal?
Leonard: What do you mean, “deal”?
Penny: You know, like, what’s his deal? Is it girls…? Guys…? Sock puppets…?

– Penny ( Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard ( Johnny Galecki), after witnessing a girl fawning over an oblivious Sheldon ( Jim Parsons), on The Big Bang Theory

Penny: Sorry the napkin’s dirty, he wiped his mouth with it.
Sheldon: I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy?!
Penny: Well…yeah, I guess. But look, he signed it!
Sheldon: Do you realize what this means?!?! All I need is a healthy ovum and I can grow my own Leonard Nimoy!
Penny: Okay, all I’m giving you is the napkin, Sheldon.

– Sheldon ( Jim Parsons) and Penny ( Kaley Cuoco), after Sheldon opens his Christmas gift, on The Big Bang Theory. This is followed by Sheldon giving her a half dozen gift baskets and the funniest hug in the history of television.

” I kissed a girl and I liked it/ the taste of her cherry chapstick.”

– Katy Perry ” I Kissed A Girl”

 “Denny is my best friend. I love him with all my heart. If I could yank that horrible disease out of his body, I would fight it and I would win. I would use every ounce of my strength and I would win, if I could — but I can’t.” 

– Alan Shore ( James Spader), in front of the Supreme Court, on Boston Legal

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American Film Institutes Top Ten of 2008:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Frozen River
Gran Torino
Iron Man
Milk
Wall-E
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler

The Boston Film Critics Circle ( runner-ups in brackets)

Film:WALL-E” and “Slumdog Millionaire” (“Milk”)
Director: Gus Van Sant “Milk” and “Paranoid Park” (Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Foreign Language:Let the Right One In” (“Waltz with Bashir”)
Ensemble:Tropic Thunder” (“The Visitor”)
Actor: Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler” and Sean Penn in “Milk” (Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” and Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”)
Actress: Sally Hawkins in “Happy-Go-Lucky” (Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married”)
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight” (Robert Downey, “Tropic Thunder”)
Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (Viola Davis “Doubt”)
Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, “Milk” (Mike Leigh “Happy Go Lucky”)
First Film: Martin McDonagh “In Bruges” (Courtney Hunt, “Frozen River”; Lance Hammer, “Ballast”)
Documentary:Man on Wire” (“Young@Heart”)
Cinematography: Christopher Doyle and Rain Kathy Li, “Paranoid Park” (Anthony Dod Mantle, “Slumdog Millionaire”)
Editing: Chris Dickens, “Slumdog Millionaire” (Gus Van Sant, “Paranoid Park”)
Animated Film: “WALL-E” (“Waltz with Bashir”)

Best Movie Series of 2008
The Complete Joseph Losey (HFA)
Minnelli’s Melodramas (HFA)
No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action & 60s Japan (Brattle)
Return to the Grindhouse (Brattle)
Unseen Noir (HFA)

Best Revival of 2008
Taking Off (The Films of Milos Forman, MFA)
Noon Wine (Sam Peckinpah, Blood Poet, HFA)
The Exiles (MFA)
Underworld (Somerville Theatre)
Lola Montes (Coolidge Corner)

Special Awards
The BSFC would like to commend Bo Smith on the occasion of his departure as film curator of the Museum of Fine Arts. In his more than two decades at the helm of the film program, Bo brought a remarkable collection of film series and film artists to Boston and had a strong hand in making it one of the leading cities in the country to view non-mainstream and especially foreign film.

Stefanie Lubkowski, who has recently left the Museum of Fine Arts film program after several years there, catered tirelessly to our needs as Film & Concerts Press Coordinator, and, as Friends of Film Coordinator, brought that program online by encouraging and disseminating feedback about their special sneak previews.

Kelly Teer, manager of the Museum of Fine Arts’ auditorium for film exhibition, put a welcoming human face on a cultural institution. Before relinquishing her post this past summer after an 8-year tenure, Ms. Teer never did less than make a difficult job look easy, always ensuring smooth operations, from the box-office straight on to your seat.

Joe Zina leaves the Boston film scene immensely richer than when he stepped into the post of Executive Director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre in 1998. With tireless energy and flair, he oversaw the theater’s physical upgrade, the launch of a $2.5 million capital campaign, the institution of the Coolidge Award, and the sustaining of the Coolidge as a beloved and necessary neighborhood cultural fixture.

To Paul Sherman, for researching, authoring, and self-distributing
an instantly indispensible, one-of-a-kind film history, “Big Screen Boston: From Mystery Street to the Departed and Beyond.” For the fascinating story of Boston filmmaking, from imported blockbusters to tiny, heartfelt independents, Sherman’s book is the place to look.

To the Harvard Film Archive’s Steve Livernash, the unofficial dean of Hub 35mm projectionists, for setting a sterling example of film projection as a serious, aesthetic calling, and for extending his job definition to include film preservation. Generations of filmmakers are indebted to Steve for taking time at work to patch and mend their prints, so that the films can be projected in the proper way.

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