February 27, 2009

Shout Out to: Found Item Clothing

Found Item Clothing designs and sells t-shirts from classic 80s and 90s movies, including Caddyshack Stripes, Revenge of the Nerds, Happy Gilmour, Teen Wolf, Tron, and a bunch more. They've been at this a long time and the quality, love and care they put into reproducing each shirt down to the last detail is top notch.

I've known about these guys for years and am a proud owner of one of their Real Genius "Gorillas" shirts. And back when I was Marketing Director for the Anything But Monday Show Podcast, I had Found Item's Adam on the show and we inspired him to create the Repo Man "Beer" shirt.

So click on over and browse around. And be sure to check out their blog.

Related Posts:
Shout Out to: The Sorels
Shout Out to: Dara Torres
Shout Out to: Lippy the Lion
Shout Out to: Found Item Clothing
Shout Out to: Force MD's

Shout Out to: "The Payback"

February 26, 2009

This Relationship Makes No Sense

"This relationship makes no sense... just like Marco Jaric being in the NBA."

This stinging but oh so accurate comment by an anonymous Yahoo Sports blog reader pretty much sums up exactly how we feel about the just released news that Brazilian Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima secretly married NBA "star" Marco Jaric of the Memphis Grizzlies in Wyoming over Valentine's Day weekend.

Okay, there's so much wrong with this, we don't know where to begin.

First, how in the hell are these two a match? She's from beautiful, tropical Brazil. He's from everyone's favorite vacation destination, war-torn Serbia.

She's one of the most successful and highest paid models in the world. He's currently averaging a whopping 1.8 ppg playing for a team that is last in their division and 26 games under .500.

Oh, and she's one of the most attractive women in the world, and he's not even one of the most attractive Memphis Grizzlies. 

You get the idea. When it comes to cute couples, we're not exactly talking Eva Longoria and Tony Parker here.

And to make matters worse, Adriana claimed to be a virgin, telling GQ magazine that, "Sex is just for after marriage."

Great... While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it.

So yeah, we're jealous. But we still say this perverse relationship is an affront against all of humanity and ultimately doomed. He's in Memphis, or on the road playing games seven months a year, and she's jetting all over the world doing photoshoots, runway work, or guesting on How I Met Your Mother and Ugly Betty.

We're thinking sooner or later Adriana's amnesia's gonna wear off, or she'll catch a glimpse of herself and Marco in a mirror, or perhaps the universe will self-correct itself in some way.

Until that time, Adriana and Marco's marriage officially goes to number one on our list of most inexplicable celebrity pairings ever, just ahead of Heidi Klum/Seal and Julia Roberts/Lyle Lovett.

February 23, 2009

The Photo That Launched the Nike Empire

Ever wonder about Nike’s famous "Jumpman" logo – the symbol of the world-renown Air Jordan brand basketball shoes and other Jordan-brand apparel? Want to know the story of how the logo was designed and selected? 

Take a look at this photo from the Pop Culture Fiend archives. It’s 25 years old and it’s had quite an impact on both the advertising world and the legacy of one of the world’s most successful companies. 

Back in 1984, Life magazine, then its second incarnation, ran a cover story on the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Photographer Co Rentmeester shot a spread on American gold medal hopefuls that included hurdler Edwin Moses, boxer Mark Breland and University of North Carolina basketball star, Michael Jordan. Back then, Jordan was a college junior and was most famous for making the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game. At the time the photo was taken, Jordan was the College Player of the Year but no one really had any idea he would go on to become the greatest player in NBA history.

Around the time Rentmeester’s photo appeared in Life, Nike signed Jordan to a contract -- after he decided to forgo his senior season at UNC -- and the company got to work on a signature shoe. 

The first two generations of Air Jordans featured a  basketball and a pair of wings (I had some exactly like the one above) -- but when shoe designer Tinker Hatfield and the Nike team decided to completely redesign the shoe for the third generation, they looked into the past and to Rentmeester’s photo for inspiration. The photo was reproduced in a studio and thus was born the Jumpman logo. The Air Jordan III’s went on to become the best-selling Jordans yet, and after Michael wore them in his now epic 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest win, the shoes became must-haves. (I should know, I was working at Foot Locker at the time.)

Largely due to the success of the Air Jordan brand (and this logo) Nike, which at the time was fiercely competing with Converse, Puma, and Adidas, would go on to become the most successful sportswear company in the world… and it’s all because of Rentmeester's picture.

Related Links:
Air Jordan Collection

February 20, 2009

Oscar Predictions (Part III)

Here's the last of a 3 part series:

Best Adapted Screenplay
In many ways, this year’s Slumdog Millionaire vs The Curious Case of Benjamin Button face-off is reminiscent of 1995, when the innovative and edgy Pulp Fiction ultimately lost Best Picture to the broader, more audience friendly modern-day fable, Forrest Gump. Back then, in the screenplay category, Gump was competing in the "Best Adapted" category, while Pulp Fiction was an original work by Quentin Tarantino. This year, Button’s epic, sweeping story goes against three dramatically intense (but more intimate) dramas (Doubt, The Reader, and Frost Nixon) and the gritty, cathartic Slumdog

Hollywood never seems to tire of Holocaust-related material (as Ricky Gervais alluded to at the Golden Globes this year) which gives The Reader a shot at this one. However, the Doubt script was so emotionally charged and rich with dialog, it could have easily had the most lasting impact on voters. Regardless, the official pick is cleverly-crafted Slumdog, with its finely weaved, poignant flashback-intensive narrative.

Should win: Slumdog
Will win: Slumdog

Best Original Screenplay
Apart from Milk, we’ve got some very unusual nominees this year. Frozen River scribe Courtney Hunt is a relatively new writer-director and she’s in against some very tough competition. Happy Go Lucky’s Mike Leigh was nominated previously for both Vera Drake and Secrets and Lies; and WALL-E co-writer Andrew Stanton previously brought us Toy Story and Finding Nemo (nominated for this award in 1995 and 2003, respectively.) Hunt won’t win against competition of this caliber and neither will Leigh’s script which, despite being a favorite among his fellow nominating writers, could be hindered by the fact that British humor is often not as broad as it needs to be to gain the appeal needed to win (as was the case with 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda and 1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral.)
Similar to the 2007 and 2006 winners in this category (Diablo Cody’s Juno and Michael Arndt’s Little Miss Sunshine) Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is an offbeat comedy that was hard not to appreciate. 

Milk’s only real shot at a major award is in this category but WALL-E has a wry story and an environmentally conscious theme, which Hollywood loves. Really tough call here…

Should win: In Bruges

Will win: Milk

Best Director and Best Picture
Since the nominated directors are all from the best picture nominees, let's cover everything together. 

Milk director Gus Van Sant is the quintessential Hollywood “outsider” that’s gotten to the point where he’s so respected and his films so highly recognized and successful, he’s now actually more of an “insider”. He’d be a fine selection, but once again, this is just not Milk’s year.

As for Ron Howard (winner for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind), Frost Nixon is a fine film, but nowhere near Howard's best work (see Apollo 13, Ransom, The Missing, Cinderella Man and the aforementioned A Beautiful Mind) so it’s a very long shot he wins here.

Deservingly, at this year’s ceremony, Slumdog and Button will be battling it out in several categories and these two are the toughest to call. Watch the telecast closely, as the winners in the Best Cinematography, Editing, and Art Direction categories may give an indication of who will take home the big prizes. 

As I mentioned, this year’s Oscars mirrors 1995’s Forrest Gump vs Pulp Fiction showdown when the grittier, edgier film (Pulp Fiction) lost Best Picture and Best Director to the broader, more accessible, more audience-friendly Gump (and its director Bob Zemeckis.) I’m going out on a limb by saying history WON'T repeat itself this year.

Button director David Fincher has the credentials (Seven, Fight Club, The Game, Zodiac) and a reputation as one of the most talented filmmakers in the business. It’s hard to imagine the Academy would deny him in favor of Slumdog’s Danny Boyle or The Reader’s Stephen Daldry. It's just that Slumdog has had so much more buzz, better legs at the box office, and is clearly the more socially conscious choice. Hollywood is like the rest of America right now and mainly just wants to be entertained and made to feel good again. Button does that quite well, but Slumdog just has too much momentum and will walk away with a Best Picture win.

Best Director 
Should win: Danny Boyle (Slumdog)
Will win: Danny Boyle

Best Picture
Should win: Button
Will win: Slumdog

Related Posts:

February 18, 2009

1990 Academy Awards: A Look Back

The Oscars are this Sunday, so I searched the Pop Culture Fiend Archives and found this -- an episode of Entertainment Tonight from 19 years ago where they cover the Academy Award ceremony. 

The night's big winners were:

Best Picture: Driving Miss Daisy
Best Director Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July)
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot)
Best Actress: Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy)
Best Supporting Actor: Denzel Washington (Glory)
Best Supporting Actress: Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot)

When I dug this up and watched it, the things that stood out to me were:
  • How young Daniel Day-Lewis looks.
  • How hot Michelle Pfeiffer, Candice Bergen, Raquel Welch, and Lena Olin were.
  • That Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Milton Berle, Charlton Heston, Swifty Lazar and Jack Lemmon have all since passed away.
  • That Melanie Griffith & Don Johnson, Julia Roberts & Keifer Sutherland, Geena Davis &Jeff Goldblum, and Nicole Kidman & Tom Cruise are no longer together.
  • The fact that Edward Zwick's Glory got robbed. The real Best Picture for 1989 (Leonard Maltin agrees with me and comments on this toward the end of the video) wasn't even nominated.
  • The smart-alecky answers Leeza Gibbons gets from both Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Tandy during their interviews.
Related Links: The 62nd Academy Awards

Pop Culture Fiend Service Message

It was brought to my attention yesterday that comments were not not working on the blog. Frankly, we just kinda figured no one was commenting because no one was reading. (It's okay, that's not I'm doing this.) 

Anyway, I looked into it and it turns out comments were enabled but... Oh nevermind the details, the issue has been resolved and comments now work. (Thanks to Kelly.)

February 17, 2009

Is Chris Brown's Career Over?

No one seems to be broaching this subject, but it's entirely possible.

Dude beat up Rihanna. And by all indications, it was particularly horrific. We’ve all heard all the gruesome details. He threatened to kill her, split her lip, and choked her unconscious.

So where will Brown go from here?

It seems the public is fairly apt to forgive all types of celebrity misbehavior these days. Why in just past year or so, we’ve been momentarily appalled by and then quickly re-embraced stars caught in scandals involving sex tapes (Kim Kardashian), gambling (Charles Barkley), expletive-filled tirades aimed at their children (Alec Baldwin), racism (Don Imus), husband stealing (Denise Richards), perjury (Lil’ Lim), assault and battery (Naomi Campbell), drunk driving (Heather Locklear), anger issues (Christian Bale), plus plain old fashioned drug abuse and marital cheating (too many to list.)

But this thing with Brown seems a little different. Those who batter and abuse women are judged very harshly by the public. As the D.A.'s office builds its case against Brown, each day it seems more and more details are leaked, the alleged severity of Rihanna's beating gets worse, and this entire episode gets uglier and uglier. Some evidence even suggests that this wasn’t an isolated incident and that Brown had a history of abusing his girlfriend.

But beating up Rihanna in particular, the darling of the R&B/hip-hop world, could prove to be career-suicide for Brown. With Rihanna’s popularity, her beauty and her image being what they are, if this was 1960, this would be like someone beating up Doris Day.

The two incidents this draws comparison to are when Sinead O’Connor tore up the picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live, and Mel Gibson’s sexist, anti-semitic rage after he was stopped for drunk driving. 

O’Connor was massacred by the press and the Catholic community especially, and her career was never the same. The jury is still out on Gibson, but Brown would do well to take a page from Gibson's book by doing the following:

  1. Issuing a statement accepting responsibility for what he’s done and face up to any punishment levied against him. And not that weak-ass apology he made yesterday where he stated he was, “sorry and saddened over what transpired.” No, Brown needs to get specific, get sincere, and get truly repentant.

  2. Admitting he has a serious problem and enter treatment. Real, professional treatment, not “counseling from his family and his pastor.”

  3. Completely disappearing from public view -- for at least a good year and a half. Dropping out of the public eye (a la Mel Gibson) will go a long way towards stemming the tide of public outrage that’s engulfing Brown right now.
And even if he does all this, Brown will almost certainly have to face the judgment of the music community, which might not be as forgiving as the general public. Consider this: Rihanna, who is just turning 21, is like a little sister to many in the R&B/hip-hop realm. Chris Brown and her were poised to take their places as the crown prince and princess of the hip-hop kingdom. After what’s happened, many of hip-hop’s “elders” (including Kanye' West, Timbaland, and others Rihanna’s worked with) may feel protective of her and collectively, they could effectively black-ball Brown and squash any hopes he might have for a comeback. 

Kanye' (who toured with Rihanna) has already referred to her his “baby sis” and stated that he would do anything and everything for her. And Jay Z, who was largely responsible for Rihanna’s breakout record, "Umbrella", is rumored to be furious with Brown. 

Jay Z has been one of hip-hop’s biggest names for a decade and no doubt wields considerable influence in the industry. Could Jay Z (together with Kanye' and others) use their power to get Brown “blacklisted” in the hip-hop world? 

Brown needs to hope that no further revelations come out about this, that he can somehow avoid jail time, and that the press doesn’t get their hands on the police photos of Rihanna’s injuries -- three things that would make an already nearly unfixable situation even worse. Brown has already lost endorsement deals, had performance offers rescinded, and lost a ton of fans. And because Brown’s smoother, sexier singing style appeals more to women, he’s bound to lose a good deal of this, a large portion of his following.

Anyone else remember another musical couple, Ike and Tina Turner, and the similar scenario they went through years ago? Ike used to beat on Tina routinely. How’d that turn out? 

Tina went on to multi-platinum albums, multi-Grammy wins, and multi-millions. Ike died in 2007, his contribution to music (which was not insignificant) largely forgotten and having never shed his reputation as a wife-beater. 

Though he’s just 19, with a lot of time to reshape public opinion, if Chris Brown doesn’t play his cards right, he may be facing a similar fate.

February 12, 2009

Oscar Predictions (Part II)

Best Actor
This is one of the more competitive categories this year, so the list of nominees regrettably does not include Michael Sheen’s turn as desperate yet debonair TV host David Frost in Frost/Nixon, nor Leonardo DiCaprio as resigned to his lot in life (but occasionally raging) husband, Frank Wheeler, in Revolutionary Road.

Sean Penn’s performance as the title character in Milk was heartfelt and compelling and in a lesser year, he might run away with this award. Penn won the statue previously (for 2004’s Mystic River) and Hollywood’s infatuation with films with gay and lesbian themes and characters, and its penchant for handing out Oscars to actors appearing in these types of films (e.g., Charlize Theron in Monster, Tom Hanks in Philadelphia) could work in Penn's favor.

Brad Pitt gave a sensitive portrayal as the title character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but Pitt too often seems to be a bit subdued and understated in his performances (from True Romance, to Sleepers, to Meet Joe Black to the Ocean’s movies). And though in this case, soft-spokeness suits the character of Benjamin well, Academy voters might feel that this performance wasn’t quite “stirring” enough.

Richard Jenkins, as fine as it he may have been in The Visitor, is handicapped by the fact that probably no one outside of the Jenkins family saw this movie.

Everything seems to be setting up nicely for Mickey Rourke. His personal story is the kind everyone loves. Once a slightly dark and brooding but super-talented young actor (in the line of James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Christopher Walken) he earned critical praise early for his roles in Diner, Body Heat, and The Pope of Greenwich Village, then fell into substance abuse, made a seemingly neverending string of crappy movies (Harley Davidson and The Marlboro Man, Wild Orchid), slid from the A- to the D-list, lost his looks, and was completely written off in Hollywood before being resurrected first by Quentin Tarantino (who cast him in Sin City) and then by The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky. Further boosting Rourke’s Oscar hopes is the fact that this real-life journey in some ways mirrors that of Rourke’s character in the film, Randy “The Ram” Robinson. 

Frank Langella is a Hollywood veteran who, in Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, gives a wonderful depiction of the former President and all the dimensions of his personality -- intellectual, cocksure, condescending, bullying, and finally (during his dramatic final confrontation with Frost) cornered, broken, disappointed and sad.

Should win: Langella
Will win: Rourke

Supporting Actress
Historically, supporting actress has been the Oscar category where underdogs have the best shot at taking home the prize. In the past, we’ve seen such unlikely winners as Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Tatum O’Neal (Paper Moon), Anna Paquin (The Piano) and Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny). That being said, Sophie Okonedo gave the best of many strong supporting performances in The Secret Life of Bees and deserved a nomination for her role as "May" in that film.

By upsetting the far more accomplished Judy Davis, Vanessa Redgrave, and Miranda Richardson in 1993, Tomei probably had the most stunning Oscar win in the last two decades (with the possible exception of Three 6 Mafia who won Best Song in 2006 for for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”.) Tomei has branched out nicely in her career since, mixing mainstream roles with gritty performances in offbeat films and arty independents like Slums of Beverly Hills, Unhook the Stars, and Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Though Tomei was solid in The Wrestler, as stripper and object of Mickey Rourke’s affection "Cassidy", her role didn’t have as much meat on it as those of her competitors and Evan Rachel Wood, who played Rourke’s daughter in the movie, was far better.

Viola Davis’ strong performance in Doubt could be overlooked because in the movie, she acts alongside heavyweights Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Both she and her co-star and co-nominee Amy Adams would have shined more if Streep and Hoffmann both hadn’t been so great.

Taraji P. Henson gives perhaps the most authentic performance in this category in her role as the strong, sassy, nurturing but no-nonsense mother to Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button.

Penelope Cruz is a pleasant surprise in the sadly overlooked Vicky Christina Barcelona. But though her acting may be getting increasingly better, doesn't her thick accent and, dare I say, ultra-irritating voice get in the way of her performance?

Again, it’s Supporting Actress, and history has shown anything can happen. Henson is probably the favorite; Tomei has the best pedigree; but the prediction is that Davis sneaks in here, aided by the fact that Doubt is likely to be shut out in all the other major categories and voters will likely want to honor the film somehow.

Should win: Henson
Will win: Davis

Best Editing
A film that’s not “tight” has no shot at winning in this category and The Dark Knight has been fairly criticized for being overlong with a final 30 minutes or so that seemed tacked on.

Editing Frost/Nixon no doubt posed an interesting challenge insofar as the film’s most important scenes consists of a sit down interview between the two title characters in a dimly lit room. Keeping those scenes taunt with tension was certainly an achievement, however, the smaller scope of this picture will prevent it from winning a Best Editing Oscar over a film like Benjamin Button, which traces an 80-year long story across two continents and is filled with wonderfully creative and entertaining flashbacks (such as the scene where Benjamin recounts how Lily had her accident.) Over the course of Button’s two and half hours, never once do you feel antsy, and as it winds down, you truly feel as if you’ve been on a journey. All that spells good editing, my friend.

Despite its eight nominations, Milk will largely be passed over on Academy Award night. That'll certainly prove true in this category.

Slumdog Millionaire is the clear winner here. Like Button, the film has a larger scope and a journey-like feel, as it interweaves the life stories of the three protagonists. The pacing is perfect as well, seamlessly leaping back and forth from gritty action, to tense drama, to tender love story. And of course, Slumdog timeshifts, with the bulk of the story told in flashbacks. And although this is a much more ostentatious example of editor Chris Dickens' prowess, the film demonstrates other, more subtle but no less brilliant editing in the slum scenes that chronicle Salim and Jamal growing up, and also in the very suspenseful final act, when Salim helps Latika escape and then prepares for his confrontation with his boss -- all juxtaposed with Jamal being reinstated and facing the final question.

Should win: Slumdog
Will win: Slumdog

February 9, 2009

Top 10 Rain Songs

We’ve been deluged with rain here for the last three days and I’m getting a little sick of shining my damn shoes. (And don’t even get me started on how my living room carpeting and floor mats of my car look.) 

Anyway, the foul weather got me thinking about rain-related songs, so, with apologies to James Taylor's "Fire and Rain", Blind Melon's "No Rain", The Dramatics' "In the Rain", Gene Kelly's "Singin' In The Rain", Madonna's "Rain", The Doors' "Riders on the Storm", and of course the gay anthem “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls, here are the Top 10 Rain Songs:

10. "Have You Ever Seen The Rain"
This mournful Credence Clearwater Revival entry reached #8 on the Billboard charts in 1971.

9. “I Wish It Would Rain”

One of the lesser known Temptations hits features the stirring vocals of David Ruffin as he laments a lost love.

8. “Run Between the Raindrops”
The lyrics of this haunting, little-known gem from Pat Benatar’s Seven the Hard Way album urge us to carry on even through the hard times.

7. “Rhythm of the Rain”

San Diego’s Cascades gave us this masterpiece of easy listening.

6. “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”

B.J. Thomas cut multiple versions of this adult contemporary classic that was featured in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

5.“The Rain, The Park, and Other Things”

This psychedelic blend of dreamy harmonies, trippy arrangements, and a unique strong structure came to us courtesy of The Cowsills, a singing family from Rhode Island that served as the basis for TV’s The Partridge Family.

4. “Rainy Days and Mondays”
The sweet, sweet voice of Karen Carpenter sings about two things that depress us all.

3. “Here Comes the Rain Again”
This 80’s synth-pop classic from The Eurythmics blends Dave Stewart’s “plinky” keyboards and an eerie Annie Lennox vocal.

2. “Purple Rain”
The power ballad’s crushing, orchestral sound is superbly complemented by Prince’s scorching guitar licks.

1. “November Rain”
And speaking of an orchestral sound, Guns N’ Roses’ surging, soaring (nearly nine minute) opus mixes gentle strings and lush piano with explosive drums and virtuoso solos from guitarist Slash.

February 6, 2009

Deal Or No Deal Girls Branching Out

We recently noticed that Deal Or No Deal briefcase model Hayley has a role in the new movie Fired Up, opening February 20th. Judging from this trailer, looks like Bring it On meets Sorority Boys with a smattering of American Pie Presents
Band Camp.

In any case (no pun intended) it seems Hayley is a trained actress with a number of screen credits on her resume. Who knew?

It's nice to see the DOND girls are getting more exposure. For the record, we'd like to see more of...





and Anya.

Anya, by the way, is featured in this commercial for Skinit.com.

February 3, 2009

Oscar Predictions

The Academy Awards are February 22nd. Here are some predictions you can bank on:

Best Actress
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Meryl Streep, with 15 Academy Award nominations (for both dramatic and comedic roles) and two wins (and it probably should be more) is simply the greatest actress in history of cinema -- period. She’s amazing yet again in Doubt, but it’s what we’ve all come to expect, isn’t it?

Though she’s previously won a supporting actress statue for Girl Interrupted, Jolie is still somewhat underrated because of her looks and high-profile life with husband Brad Pitt. She shows off her acting chops in The Changeling, which should have replaced The Reader as a Best Picture nominee. But the there’s so much going on in the film and it’s not as dialed in on Jolie’s character as it needs to be to elevate her performance above those of her competition.

Now speaking of The Reader, try and follow this: Kate Winslet gets a Golden Globe best supporting actress nomination for her role in the movie and a best leading actress nomination for Revolutionary Road. She wins in both categories. Kate then gets a nominated in the same two categories for the same two roles at the SAG awards. She wins supporting actress but loses lead actress to Streep. Then the Academy Award nominations come around and Winslet gets nominated as lead actress for The Reader (which finally gets it right because she’s clearly the lead in that film) but then gets completely ignored for Revolutionary Road, which is actually the stronger performance. In The Reader, Winslet is sober, somber, and pensive, and while she’s excellent in the film, in RR, as tortured suburban housewife April Wheeler, we get to see her character’s angst, lust, wrath, and anguish explode on the screen. It was obviously a much more demanding role and Winslet not getting nominated for it was baffling. Academy voters will no doubt feel the same way, giving Winslet a great shot at being honored (if for nothing else) her combined work in the two films.

With her role in Rachel Getting Married (as well as her 2007 film, Becoming Jane) Ann Hathaway is just now starting to gain her reputation as a “serious” young actress.

Melissa Leo’s nomination for her quirky role in Frozen River was one of the Oscars annual change-up pitches, designed to show that Academy members are independent thinkers and not slaves to the Hollywood establishment or the studios’ publicity machines. Unfortunately, nominations like Leo’s usually come off as manufactured attempts to shake things up just for the hell of it.

Should win: Winslet (for Revolutionary Road, for which she wasn’t nominated)

Will win: Winslet (for The Reader)

Best Supporting Actor
Michael Shannon had two scene stealing appearances in Revolutionary Road, and was irritatingly good in his role as a slightly unbalanced dinner guest who gets under the skin of reluctant suburbanites Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. But a lack of screen time (maybe 15 minutes total) is bound to hurt Shannon’s chances here.

2008 was a comeback year for Robert Downey Jr. He was perfectly cast as Tony Stark in Iron Man, but his comic turn in the mix-reviewed Tropic Thunder is just not Oscar material.

Phillip Seymour Hoffmann has established himself as one of Hollywood’s most reliable and versatile actors. Unfortunately, his performance in Doubt may be unfavorably (and unfairly) measured against his Oscar-winning role as the title character in 2005’s Capote.

In The Dark Knight, Ledger gives an unforgettable performance as the maniacal Joker, in the spirit of how the character was reworked in Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, which by the way was the inspiration for the “original” Batman movie back in 1988. And of course, Ledger died just before his film's release, making him a virtual lock in this category.

After fine performances in No Country for Old Men, American Gangster, W, and now Milk, Josh Brolin has reached a point where he will now be on the short list (along with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and a few others) for every plum leading actor role that comes along. If not for Ledger, he’d be the winner here.

Should win: Ledger
Will win: Ledger

Best Cinematography
No nomination for Baz Lurhmann’s Australia was a surprise, as he’s known for stunning visuals (his Moulin Rouge was a nominee in this category back in 2002) and the photography in Australia was Out of Africa-esque. The Reader’s stark, barren look nicely complemented the film's subject matter and the bleak circumstances of the two protagonists, but nothing about the photography in The Changeling seemed exceptional.

So what we’re left with is pretty much a three horse race. Slumdog Millionare was maybe the most visually exciting of the nominees, but are folks tiring of steadicam shots that follow characters as they race through crowded streets?

The Dark Knight’s cinematography may have been the best part of the movie, but too many people will only remember the heavy use of CGI and pyrotechnics.

That leaves The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which has the sweeping, majestic photography of a Titanic or a Reds (both previous winners in this category) combined with state-of-the-art rotoscopy and other visual effects, and wonderfully moody and shadowy, sometimes sepia-esque camerawork in and around the New Orleans.

Should win: Button