Tuesday, January 25, 2011

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE OSCAR


 The 83rd Academy Award nominations were announced this morning at 7:40 central time and as always there are the expected, the pleasantly unexpected, and some real head scratchers. There are no terrible nominations this year, but rather some very worthy surprises. And my complaints are mostly in the technical categories where the egregiousness is stupid and obvious.

Let’s start with the good. There are no heinous nominations in any of the acting categories this year. As expected, the usual suspects were called and there were only four semi-surprises. The bitching by Sean Penn and Julia Roberts on behalf of Javier Bardem for being ignored this awards season for his lead role in Mexico’s BIUTIFUL must have persuaded enough members in the actor’s branch to make amends. His name was called this morning instead of Robert Duvall, who was expected to be recognized for his work in GET LOW. 
The other surprises in the acting categories were Michelle Williams for best actress for her lead in BLUE VALENTINE; John Hawkes for supporting actor in WINTER’S BONE; and Australian Jackie Weaver for supporting actress in ANIMAL KINGDOM. All have been figuring in other awards competitions or year-end critic’s best lists, but Oscar recognition this season was considered to be less of a sure thing. Nice to see that enough of the actor’s branch saw their work. And kudos to the acting branch for remembering Hailee Steinfeld for TRUE GRIT and Jennifer Lawrence for WINTER’S BONE. In years past these young talents might have been overlooked, but thankfully the Academy has gotten better about lauding newcomers.

The rest of the nominations in the lesser categories are mostly admirable but a few misses are really unfortunate. How Christopher Nolan was overlooked for his direction of INCEPTION, a film that got 8 nominations this morning, I do not know. Perhaps he’s too successful for many in the director’s branch. At least Nolan was recognized in the original screenplay category, but his direction work was a major achievement in 2010 and should have been noted. 



I also wish that Mila Kunis had matched her Golden Globe and SAG nominations for best supporting actress with an Oscar one as well, but she was not called this morning. BLACK SWAN got only 5 nominations when it was expected to be tapped for its original screenplay, costume design and sound design as well. Perhaps that horror movie was still a little too edgy for some voters. And the horror film genre always comes up short with the Academy.

Sadly, once again, the costume designers think that period pieces are the way to go with only one contemporary piece, I AM LOVE, scoring a nomination out of the five. THE FIGHTER and BLACK SWAN should have been recognized for their brilliant costume work done in the modern era but costumers love costumes that scream costumes like in ALICE IN WONDERLAND or THE KING’S SPEECH.

Perhaps the most amazing snub this year was the inexplicable exclusion of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN from the best documentary category. It was the heavy favorite to win there and I cannot imagine why it was ignored. It also missed out on a best song nomination that was considered a lock as well. Teachers just don’t get their due, even from the Academy. 



Of course, some love expressed for THE GHOST WRITER, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, SOLITARY MAN, NOWHERE BOY, I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD would have been wonderful, but those films were probably a little too outside the mainstream for most voters in the Academy.

Going into the Oscar nominations, THE SOCIAL NETWORK was considered the heavy favorite to win best picture and I think it still will. (But where’s Andrew Garfield’s nomination for best supporting actor?) Watch out for THE KING’S SPEECH though as it not only received the most nominations with a whopping 12 bids, but it is also a terrific “feel-good” film and those do well at the Oscars. It’s also Harvey Weinstein’s production and he always has a way of getting top Oscar wins for his films. (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, CHICAGO were all best picture winners.)


The show on February 27th should be an interesting one. The two hosts, Anne Hathaway and 127 HOURS nominee James Franco should give it a fresh and contemporary flavor. And at least there won’t be any cringe-worthy winners announced as this year’s nominees are, by and large, quite admirable. Now if the Academy would just drop that ridiculous best song category and replace it with a stunt work category I might be a happy camper willing to forgive them for their woeful ignorance of THE GHOST WRITER.

4 comments:

  1. Well done, Jeff. On the inexplicable INCEPTION omissions you have to add Film Editing. Are they kidding? And editors do the nominating... what happened there? The only nomination in the acting category that I honestly think is undeserved is Jeff Bridges's Rooster Cogburn. Obviously there is a lot of love for this film within the Academy and he is a beloved member of the fold, but either Duvall or Gosling are more deserving. WAITING FOR SUPERMAN's not getting nominated is the biggest head scratcher of them all, no doubt. Can't imagine what went awry there. Hope the horse race continues and the SAG awards throws a wrench in the works and helps keep everyone guessing. Anything to give the Oscars a bit more suspense.

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  2. Well said, Ronnie. The lack of a editing nod for INCEPTION is ridiculous. And why doesn't the Academy directors branch show Christopher Nolan some appreciation? The DGA has. A couple of times. What gives?

    Thanks for posting. Your insights and critiques are always expert. And welcome!

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  3. Love the Brothers Coen but I don't think they deserve the adapted screenwriting nomination for TRUE GRIT.

    Why?

    With the exception of a few cuts here and there, the screenplay was taken verbatim from the book. That makes it less of an "adaptation" and more like a filmed interpretation of the book.

    Great writing, indeed. But it's not their writing. They'll be the first to tell you.

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  4. One could argue, Mike, that good screenwriters retain a superb book's words. And the Coens did adapt the book to the screen, no easy feat, no matter how good the material. Still, I would have rather seen THE GHOST WRITER acknowledged in the adaptation category. What Roman Polanski and Robert Harris did with the latter's novel was wonderful, particularly when you consider they had to change it from a first person narrative.

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