Henderson: Oscar will shine bright on 'Sunshine'

Reporter Lance Henderson, who's been authoring an Oscars blog for The Bellingham Herald this month, provides his picks for Sunday night's Academy Awards:


“Little Miss Sunshine”

This year’s best picture field has been wide open, so I feel I just have to go with the best movie. This portrait of a dysfunctional family’s insane cross-country road trip has a lot of heart. This movie could have been about any family and at times I found myself cheering for them just like I would for my own family. “Little Miss Sunshine” won the Screen Actor’s Guild award for Best Picture and I hope the Academy will honor it as well.


Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”

Whitaker delights with his brutally honest and emotional portrayal of one of the world’s most savage dictators, Idi Amin. He had the difficult task of humanizing Uganda’s vicious third president and I felt genuine sympathy for this horrible man. For that, Whitaker deserves an Oscar.


Helen Mirren, “The Queen”

Helen Mirren does a fabulous job portraying a private woman in one of the most public positions in the world. “The Queen” offers a vision of the Queen of England in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death juggling her family’s need for privacy and her country’s desire to mourn with the royal family. On screen, Mirren is a model of restrained grief and sober, private mourning—the perfect English queen.


Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”

I absolutely loved Alan Arkin as “Little Miss Sunshine’s” wisecracking, heroine-snorting, grandfather. Everyone in that movie was crazy, but Arkin’s character was too old to care how he looks to the world. This quality gives him freedom to bring the wisdom that really inspires this family to stick together even after his untimely passing.


Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”

Hudson steals every scene in “Dreamgirls.” She has been the critic’s favorite right out of the gate but I had to see it for myself. Hudson has come a long way from that hideous, pink, homemade dress she wore on her first episode of American Idol. Now she is shining on the silver screen. This former idol should snag a statue by the end of the ceremony.


Clint Eastwood, “Letters from Iwo Jima”

Eastwood should walk away with the Best Director statue because “Letters from Iwo Jima” is a masterpiece. The film takes on the task of humanizing America’s WWII foe and the shear emotion this film generates is amazing. Scenes that depict Japanese soldiers committing suicide after their disgrace in the battlefield were so powerful and demonstrated the iron will Eastwood sought to capture. Eastwood’s finesse and patience built a truly astounding, Oscar-worthy film.


“Pan’s Labyrinth”

Guillermo del Toro’s epic fantasy is a dreamy wonder full of idealism and possibility. I really enjoyed this film because I didn’t feel like I was watching a foreign film. The classic themes of good versus evil uphold this extremely imaginative gothic fairy tale even for someone who would never normally see a foreign film.


“Monster House”

This movie was just plain fun. The exploits of D.J. and Chowder still have me giggling. But that’s not all—the animation was top notch. The movie was only the second to employ Sony Pictures Imagineworks’ Imagemotion™ Performance Capture innovation, which allows new creative avenues by allowing filmmakers to capture every detail of a facial and body performance with high-speed, high-resolution cameras. The quality pushes the movie onto another level.


“The Departed”

Scorsese takes a hugely popular Hong Kong cop drama, “Infernal Affairs”, and does an excellent job adding his own touch. He leaves a great story largely intact and adds great performances by a start-studded cast plus his own little touches. No one does mob dramas like Scorsese. Although not his best, “The Departed” is reminiscent of some of his earlier works like “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” I also love how Scorsese incorporates music into his films. A little Pink Floyd never hurt anybody.


“Little Miss Sunshine”

This film really connected with me. A portrait of a dysfunctional family is right at home on the American screen. Michael Arndt creates some amazingly loveable and flawed characters but that is the genius—there are like real members of a real family. Everyone is screwed up and this film shows that it’s only when a person can embrace those failings that they become truly free to be who they want to be.