Chicago Sees Globes As No Joke

Did the Dark Knight get shafted?

Now that the Golden Globes ceremony is almost upon us, it's time to ask a question that is of interest to and the city alike and that is: what did Chicago want from the Golden Globe nominations?

The answer is simple. Chicago wanted: The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight.

Ten movies were nominated for Best Motion Picture across the two categories (Drama and Comedy or Musical) and none of them were The Dark Knight. It's not like Chicago was asking that much. The Dark Knight was one of the most anticipated and publicly celebrated films of the year. Its performances and art direction were receiving praise months before the film was released.  It made over $500 million and stood tall as the biggest money maker of 2008.

But while some Best Motion Picture nominees may have slipped in through the back door of the Comedy or Musical category, The Dark Knight sat with Doubt and Milk at the "we were pretty good but what happened" table.

As a Chicagoan and as someone who loves movies, when looking at the list of Best Motion Picture nominees initially, it was difficult to wonder if I would really see anything that was inventive and new. Granted, after watching The Dark Knight an additional time after the list came out, I'll admit it's not a perfect movie. But it is still an entertaining movie and what it did was it showed countless viewers that they could see something they had likely never seen before even though they were watching a 70 year old story unfold in a barely concealed Chicago. The film took an idea that had been floating around pop culture for decades and made almost all previous incarnations practically irrelevant (sorry, Cesar Romero fans).

However the Chicago-ignoring omission happened, it happened. The Dark Knight wasn't a nominee but that doesn't mean Chicagoans can't enjoy the 10 movies that were nominated so I took some time to see as many of the films as I could before the ceremony to see which ones pass the Chicago test. In Chicago it's not just about being good -- it's about being Chicago style good.

So if you're wondering which of the nominees have just the right amount of celery salt and neon green relish and which ones are just drowning in ketchup and chopped lettuce then read on to find out:

Frost/Nixon: The film succeeds in being an entertaining movie without relying on strictly mimicking history. I don't know much about the original tapings but if you're really into history I'd suggest watching the original tapes instead of the movie. But if you're like me and you want to sound smart by watching a fictional movie instead of reading a book, or if you want to see some really great performances, then definitely go see it.

Burn After Reading: I know I would have been disappointed if I saw the movie during its opening run but waiting a while before watching it calmed my expectations and that worked in the film's favor. Overall it was a nice blend of classic Coen brothers storytelling, unruly comedy, and a confirmation of that uneasy feeling that Washington DC might really be a much weirder place than Chicagoans might think.

Revolutionary Road: Kate Winslet shined brightly in this film and is deserving of her Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of a deeply flawed person whom the audience is asked to watch as her world erodes around her. Revolutionary Road is a great movie but it is nowhere near all fun and laughs. Be prepared for intense drama as some of the scenes look like Mad Men ate the second half of the War of the Roses and washed it down with Ibsen's A Doll's House.

Mamma Mia: I try to never be that entirely critical of movies, especially ones that have a decent shot of making people happy, but Mamma Mia was so terrible in parts it made me wonder if I should retroactively withdraw my enjoyment of the stage play from when I saw it seven years ago.  With sets, costumes and direction that made the film feel like an adult version of the From Justin to Kelly trailer, with the exception of a few decent scenes, the film was just colorful and flat.

The Reader: The Reader tells the story of a young German man who falls in love with an older woman whom he later finds out was once a guard at a concentration camp. The movie was easily the most dramatic and intense film I've seen all year and it handles a startling number of complex emotional themes. While I certainly would not write this is a movie fit for everyone's tastes, I personally loved it and I guarantee some part of the movie will haunt me for weeks to come (that's something that tends to happen with some really good movies).

Happy-Go-Lucky: This movie was already out of theaters by the time I got around to the Golden Globes nominee so I watched the trailer instead of the whole film...and I think it did the trick. The movie looked entertaining enough and the idea of a story centered around an unquestionably happy and optimistic protagonist could be well crafted if done with the right mixture of British cinematic realism and grit.

In Bruges: Upon remembering how tired and forced the trailer looked, I was initially pretty annoyed that this film got nominated, but once I saw the film I was convinced it deserved a spot on the nominee list.  The imaginative plot development techniques and a number of devoted performances (notably Golden Globe-nominated Brendan Gleeson) helped make the film engaging but I don’t know if I could recommend it as a must see.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: I have to be honest here. I didn't watch this movie either. I realized it wouldn't be out in time for this article so I rented the Woody Allen/Scarlett Johansson collaboration Scoop instead...and it was actually fairly decent.  The performances were fine, the running time wasn't too much to handle and the creative plot line was just right for a Wednesday night rental. I'm not sure why it got nominated for Best Picture though...

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Every year around the big awards shows, for some reason I trick myself into believing that there's one movie that year that defines cinema and life itself. This year it was Benjamin Button and as I should have predicted, it did not meet my expectations that it would be the greatest film ever. It's still a superb movie with an excellent cast, beautiful images and several interesting points to make. It is a super long movie but if you have the time to spare and want to make a real commitment to an inventive story this year then I'd say go for it.

Slumdog Millionaire: The film was great but it did have some disturbing scenes so I wouldn't recommend to any queasy viewers. The most shocking thing to me, though, was that whoever sat behind me in the theater closely watched the end credits to declare to her friend "there's *another* Patel!" As far as the movie goes, it was an imaginative, full of life film that gives a peek to a place in the world I hadn't heard much about before November. As another warning: if you go see it just to see if the protagonist wins the money I'd say watch a few episodes of Deal or No Deal before going and then focus on what's really important in the film: all the Patels.

Make sure you watch the Golden Globes presented on NBC5 on Sunday January 11 starting at 7pm.

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