"And the Award Goes to . . ."


Publication Date: 1/28/2009

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "The Reader," and "Slumdog Millionaire" are this year’s big contenders for The Academy Awards. Who do you think will win?

Here’s what Dr. Rashna Richards, Assistant Professor of English and Director of Film Studies at Rhodes, had to say about the nominations. Richards grew up in Bombay watching old Hollywood movies, like "Casablanca," "Gone with the Wind," "It′s a Wonderful Life," and "The Birds," with her father. She is primarily an American film historian but her research interests also include Bollywood cinema and Postcolonial Studies.

Any comments about the nominations? What makes them top picks?
The Oscars tend to celebrate populist, feel-good films. That might seem especially desirable this year, with our economic woes and the looming actors′ strike. So I′m not surprised that most of the nominated films have been reasonable box-office successes. Also, there haven′t been any huge upsets at the award shows leading up to the Oscars. One might safely predict, I think, that Heath Ledger will be posthumously recognized; Kate Winslet, who has been nominated multiple times, will likely win, too. Hollywood likes a good underdog story, and they might have one if Mickey Rourke wins in the lead acting category. As for Best Picture, it looks like we are headed for a David versus Goliath battle between "Benjamin Button," which is the most nominated film of the year, and "Slumdog Millionaire," which appears to have become something of a sentimental favorite during the award season.
Have you seen any of the films nominated? 
I haven′t seen too many of the nominated films. That′s mainly because, as in previous years, most of the principal contenders were released in the last seven or eight weeks of 2008. I guess that explains the absence of such notable but earlier releases as "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," "Synecdoche," "New York," and "Happy-Go-Lucky."  

Why is the nomination an honor in itself?
Well, I think the notion that the nomination itself is an honor is something of a Hollywood cliché. But it may be an honor, especially for the youngest of nominees (like Ellen Page for "Juno" last year or James Dean for "East of Eden" in 1955 or Jodie Foster for "Taxi Driver" in 1976), because they are being recognized for excellence by their peers.

Can you think of any other great films that have received several nominations but didn’t win?
Many films that have become historically significant were not initially recognized as such. Some of the films that were nominated for multiple awards but didn′t win include "Citizen Kane," "Double Indemnity," "Taxi Driver," and "Pulp Fiction." Other terrific films that were almost entirely ignored include "Scarface," "Vertigo," "The Conversation," and "Mulholland Drive."

Is there a Bollywood equivalent to The Oscars?
There are two major annual award ceremonies in Indian cinema: the Filmfare awards recognize excellence in Hindi or Bollywood films and the National Film Awards include honors for Bollywood as well as regional language films. Unlike the latter, which are decided by a panel appointed by the Indian government, the Filmfare awards are determined by a dual voting system that includes the public and a panel of experts.        

The 81st Oscars will be presented February 22 in a ceremony airing on ABC from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.

For media interested in speaking with Professor Richards:
Phone: 843-3399  | Email: richardsr@rhodes.edu