Thursday, January 22, 2009

That Time of Year, Again

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has come out with their annual list of Oscar nominees. And, it's the usual bit of fodder for water cooler conversations--the stuff of expectations, surprises, and, "damn, what we they thinking?" Unfortunately, it's not the stuff that it should be. I'm not ever short on opinions, especially when it comes to movies (and the awards certain groups choose to bestow upon them). Since I'm not a voting member, it's all I have to give--meager as that is. So, I'll take a moment to look over the list and attempt a bit of analysis. Hmm.... Though the Academy always has the best of intentions in awarding its members, I'll let Jules Winnfield of Pulp Fiction say it for me:


Right off the bat, it would have been one of the bigger shocks if Heath Ledger wasn't nominated for his great performance in The Dark Knight, but he was (to no one's surprise). Same could be said for the nominations of Sean Penn and Frank Langella, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep (God...again?) for the Best Actor/Actress categories. The Academy loves safe picks, especially for those in films that had the transparent ambition and studio guidance to win movie awards. Unfortunately, just like what happens in annual book awards, not all of the worthy get nominated. For Director, the safe bets were Gus Van Sant and Ron Howard. Luckily, for many of us, the great expectations for great film were realized: WALL-E was nominated for Animated Feature Film.  It was good enough to have gotten a Best Picture nomination, too, but the Academy is too stogy to give one to something animated. So, I have to give the Academy some credit for at least recognizing one of my favorites.


In this category, the surprises can be either positive or negative...and sometimes, both. Mickey Roarke (even though he won the Golden Globes) was a good surprise--and one I thought the conservative Academy would blow. He is extraordinary in the film (and his comeback). Although, the French have long admired him, for some reason... Same would go for his co-star Marisa Tomei. In Bruges did at least get a nod with its Writing (Original Screenplay), but little else. Long time character actor, Richard Jenkins, was recognized for his worthy actor role in The Visitor (a favorite among many critics who were among the few that took it in). Unfortunately, I feel that his nomination also took the slot that I hoped would have gone to Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino. To be upfront, I'll proudly stipulate that he's a favorite of mine, and a underrated actor (but no longer underrated as a director, though). And his movie could have picked up a Original Screenplay, but was totally snubbed. I knew I'd get to taking back whatever credit I gave the Academy! Anyway, at least Viola Davis was nominated. She had the least amount of screen time compared with the other nominees from the movie Doubt, but she's easily the best thing in it (and still shows up the vaunted Ms. Streep in the few screen minutes awarded her).

"What Were They Thinking?"

And, speaking about Doubt... It received way too many nominations (I'm just glad they didn't award it nods for Picture and Director--or sainthood). I hear it's a great play, but playwright John Patrick Shanley shouldn't have directed his own written work. It comes off too much as an adapted play and is way too stage-bound (negating the strengths of this medium). A good film director easily avoids this trap (see Ron Howard and his direction of the Frost/Nixon play). Next, we have The Curious Case of Benjamin Gump er...Button. I'm not the only one to slip and note this concerning the year's movie darling (13 frakking nominations for Forrest Button!). Way too many for this film--and one of the most blatant in its campaign for a Best Picture nomination. Too long, and too padded (criminy, the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is only 32 pages in paperback!). That would have been bad enough except the blessed Academy choose to ignore one of the best films ever in crime fiction just because it had a comic superhero/villain as its protagonist/antagonist! Easily one of the most successful and realized (not just for its genre) films in movie history, The Dark Knight should have gotten Best Picture and Director nominations (the Producers and Directors were at least bright enough to note this for their award nods). Sheesh...


  1. Let me guess... MWA is not only preparing the Edgar nominees but also the Oscar nominees now. How else could so many not-all-that-great selections have been made?

    A nom for Brad Pitt? And none for Eastwood? Clearly Hollywood inbreeding has once again been made manifest.

  2. Clearly Hollywood inbreeding has once again been made manifest.

    LOL. Well, at least Robert Downey, Jr. was nominated for Supporting in Tropic Thunder. He was the best thing in that.

  3. This year I haven't seen a lot of the movies, but I'm with both of you on the Clint Eastwood decision. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED him in Grand Torino. There isn't much I don't love him in. You're right Michael, he's definitely underrated. I always felt the same way about Ed Harris...nevertheless, I wonder if Clint, like Tom Hanks, has any chance of receiving attention again from the Academy again?

    Personally, my feelings on the Academy are usually quite negative. When they snubbed Russell Crowe for A BEAUTIFUL MIND that seeled the deal. And I kind of have this irritation about campaigning for nominations. There should be no campaigns. Either you deserve it or you don' don't campaign!

  4. Jen, we're in sync here. You might find Andrew Gumbel's opinion piece interesting:

    Oscar's Evil Influence

    His key point: All we want are a few good movies to love, but the Academy Awards' insane competitiveness warps our judgment.

  5. Corey: speaking about RD, Jr, did you happen to see this in the N.Y. Times today:

    Is That You, Sherlock?

    If I wasn't already looking for to it, I'm even more, now.