Oscar Rewrite: 2008


Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire  Let the Right One In

The same year Twilight set the genre flick back 20 years, Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish masterpiece showed how a vampire movie should be done. The plot of a child vampire in love was one of those “why didn’t I think of that” ideas, featuring a commentary on bullying, gender-bending subtext, stylized blood-letting against white snow and a harrowing swimming pool finish. Voted No. 15 on Empire‘s 100 Films of World Cinema, between Tokyo Story (1953) and the Three Colors Trilogy (1993-94). Remade as Hollywood’s Let Me In (2010).

Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York)

Charlie Kaufman has written some of our most original scripts, from Being John Malkovich to Eternal Sunshine. Still, none were as bizarre as his directorial debut, painting Philip Seymour Hoffman as an obsessed theater director (a la Fellini’s 8 1/2) in a movie Roger Ebert called “the film of the decade.”

Best Actor: Sean Penn (Milk) Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Mickey Rourke as a down-and-out brawler was the perfect marriage of actor and part, a bruising life chronicled by the gritty tracking-shot transitions of Darren Aronofsky, the lunch-pail strumming of Bruce Springsteen and the endlessly fascinating bond between pro wrestlers and their fans.

Best Actress: Kate Winslet (The Reader / Revolutionary Road)

Perhaps it was fitting that so many young fans got to fall for Kate Winslet when she too was green in Titanic. Together, they got to watch her develop into an Oscar-winning actress over the next decade, delivering two knockout performances in 2008, wooing another young beau in The Reader, then returning with Leo DiCaprio in Sam Mendes’ harrowing suburban critique Revolutionary Road.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) Taraji P. Henson (Benjamin Button)

Best Original Screenplay: Milk (Dustin Lance Black) WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire (Simon Beaufoy from Vikas Swarup’ novel)

Jamal’s journey from Mumbai slum-dog to game-show millionaire would have seemed far-fetched in any other era, but in today’s world of rags-to-riches reality shows, it charmed the pants off everyone. Danny Boyle mixes the flashy visual style of Trainspotting with the game show morality of Quiz Show, while incorporating the dance of India’s Bollywood tradition. Years from now, we may look back at Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi as the period Indian culture went mainstream across the globe, setting the Rudyard Kiplings and Pather Panchalis free with one giant scream: “Jai Ho!”

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