“Slumdog Millionaire” surprises no one by dominating the Oscars

“Slumdog Millionaire” took home eight Oscars from the grandest and most prestigious ceremony, the 81st Annual Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. All of these honors were somewhat expected and the overall surprises were somewhat limited on a glamorous night where the stars were glimmering in expensive dresses and intricate makeup, anticipating the possible consequences the night’s outcome could have on the relevancy of their careers. Hugh Jackman hosted, Ben Stiller joked, Anne Hathaway sang, and Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black both spoke on important issues affecting our society, but simply viewing the ceremony through the limited prism of these events would do a disservice to the significance of the show, falsely illustrating it as another night when Hollywood congratulates itself for a job well done.

The first award handed out was for Best Supporting Actress, which was bestowed upon Penelope Cruz for her fiery performance in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Cruz spoke in both English and her native Spanish when accepting the honor, while asking if anyone had ever fainted on stage at the Oscars. She thanked many individuals, including, Woody Allen, the writer and director of the film, and seemed overwhelmed by receiving her first Academy Award. I was hoping Marisa Tomei would be given her second Oscar for her sympathetic and heartbreaking turn as a stripper with extraordinary obstacles to overcome in “The Wrestler,” but Cruz was a worthy recipient, having been a fascinating and riveting actress in both this film and in previous efforts.

Next, Dustin Lance Black was awarded Best Original Screenplay for “Milk,” and, although this was not my preference, watching him accept the Oscar on behalf of all the gay and lesbian people around the world who have been told they are subhuman was tremendously touching. Black was inspired as a child by both the words and actions of Harvey Milk to be true to himself, and the nature of the speech was appropriate because of this existential connection to the fallen political leader.

The crowd arose in applause when the emotional apex of the night was achieved after Heath Ledger was given the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Ledger’s father, mother, and sister were at the ceremony to receive the honor, with much of the room tearing up from the realization of the great work that perished with the even sadder loss of the enormous talent. Ledger’s place in film history will forever be intact because of this Oscar-winning performance, along with his astonishing work in such films as “Monster’s Ball” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

Kate Winslet finally won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in “The Reader” after being nominated for the sixth time. Winslet had a difficult time gathering her thoughts as she began to thank all the individuals that aided her progress to this point. For me, this was the most satisfying honor of the night because it gave the recognition deserved for the world’s greatest and most consistent actress.

Although Sean Penn brought extreme precision and passion to his performance as the famed political leader Harvey Milk, his award for Best Actor in “Milk” was probably the most disappointing moment of the night.

Sean Penn is the greatest actor of his generation and the two Oscars he has earned have come amongst a career that has lacked the deserved acknowledgement for his remarkable work, but Mickey Rourke created one of the most memorable characters in film history and was deserving of the Academy Award.

Rourke delivered easily the best male lead performance of the decade as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a man battling life more than any other opponent, which has left him alone and with nothing, attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter while nurturing a blossoming courtship with a stripper whose life revolves around her son. Rourke was heartbreaking, poignant, and truthful in “The Wrestler,” and, although Penn was terrific, it is still an injustice that he was not rewarded for committing everything for the sake of both the film and character.

Along with the expected Best Picture and Best Director for Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire” was also given awards for Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Original Score, and Original Song, “Jai Ho” instead of its other nominee “O Saya.” The film was nominated in nine categories and won eight with Sound Editing being its only defeat, which was taken home by “The Dark Knight.”

“Slumdog Millionaire” is a wonderful film about the enduring power of love, hope, redemption, and coming from the depths of hell and achieving a sense of heaven.

Although I still believe “The Wrestler” is the best achievement of the year, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a thrilling and fast-paced examination of a distressing world told with a sense of optimism rarely illustrated in today’s movies, and is a worthy recipient of the greatest honor of the year. Just like all movies, “Slumdog Millionaire” provides inpiration that cannot be found in any other medium, which is what makes this ceremony more meaningful and important than all the rest.

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