January 23, 2007

MOVIES: Oscar nominations

Goodness, a nominations announcement with some actual surprises. No Best Picture or Director spot for Dreamgirls, which becomes the first film to lead the year's pack in total nominations without being nominated for Best Picture; no Best Foreign nomination for Volver; no nomination for Jack Nicholson (that one makes me happy). On the other hand, Ryan Gosling gets in, as does Jackie Earle Haley (that one makes me very happy).

At least one gay blogger is already spinning the Dreamgirls omission as proof of the Academy's homophobia. I guess because it's a musical, and who likes musicals more than gay men, and aren't we all still pissed off that Brokeback didn't win last year, and yada yada yada. It seems a flimsy argument to me. And for the record, no, we are not all pissed off about Brokeback; some of us were quite pleased that it didn't win (not that I was exactly giddy about Crash, mind you). It's going to be even harder to spin it as evidence of racism in a year that set new records for nominating black actors (5) and minority actors (8), with black actors the current favorites to win three of the four acting awards.

There's a striking disconnect this year between the Best Picture nominees and the rest of the slate. The five Best Picture nominees generated only six acting nominations, and only one in the Best Actor/Actress categories. Further, as David Poland notes at The Hot Blog, "In the categories of cinematography (0), art direction (0), costume (1), editing (2), make-up (0), score (2), song (0), sound editing (1), and sound mixing (0) combined, there are a total of 6 nominees from the group of Best Picture nominees."

Interesting tidbits from the Academy's press kit:
  • Kate Winslet has become the youngest 5-time Oscar nominee.
  • Alan Arkin's 38-year gap between nominations is not a record. Helen Hayes went 39 years; Henry Fonda went 41 years. Both Hayes and Fonda won their post-gap nominations (hers for Airport; his for On Golden Pond).
  • "I Need to Wake Up" is not, as I would have guessed, the first nominated song from a documentary; "More" from Mondo Cane was nominated in 1963.
  • It's a year to be either a veteran or a novice; ten of the acting nominees have never been nominated, and the other ten have 49 nominations among them.

Looking at the top categories:

BEST PICTURE: I haven't seen Letters from Iwo Jima, and I probably won't; I have very little stomach for that sort of realistic war footage. I'll be rooting for Little Miss Sunshine, but I think it will come down to a battle between Babel and The Departed. The only one that would truly annoy me would be Babel.

BEST DIRECTOR: Scorsese's gotta be nervous; he keeps losing to actors-turned-director, and lord knows Hollywood loves Eastwood. Still, I think Scorsese wins.

BEST ACTOR: I really do have to finally get around to seeing The Last King of Scotland now, and I may even have to try again to get through Half Nelson, which I walked out of after half an hour in utter boredom (oh goody! it's a junkie movie and a noble teacher movie! yawn...). I'm glad that Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for Blood Diamond over The Departed; Will Smith's nomination is the most inexplicable acting nomination of the year. (Is it the most inexplicable nomination of the year? No, but we'll get to that.) Of the three I've seen, Peter O'Toole is clearly the most deserving, and I think he's the only one who has a chance to beat Forest Whitaker.

BEST ACTRESS: We've known that this would be the field for at least a month now, and if anyone other than Helen Mirren wins, it will be one of the greatest shockers in Oscar history. If there is an upset, I hope it comes from Judi Dench; if Kate Winslet wills, I will kick things.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: The only acting category this year where none of the nominees makes me wince. Before the nominations were announced, I'd have said that Eddie Murphy was the clear favorite; the omission of Dreamgirls from the top categories suggests that its support isn't terribly strong, and makes this, I think the most competitive of the top categories. The only winner that would surprise me would be Djimon Hounsou. I think it's probably a tight race between Murphy and Alan Arkin; I will be rooting for Jackie Earle Haley.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett doesn't belong here; she's a co-lead with Dench in Notes on a Scandal. The much-overpraised performance by Rinko Kikuchi doesn't belong here, either. The other three nominees make me very happy, but I'll be rooting for Jennifer Hudson, who I expect will win.

A few thoughts on other categories:

  • Yay, Monster House for Animated Film!
  • I've only seen two of the documentaries; I'd vote for Jesus Camp over An Inconvenient Truth, which is remarkably informative, but let's face it, it's 90 minutes of Al Gore giving a slide show/lecture and it's more boring than dirt. Gore's going to win, though.
  • Very strong Best Score field this year; I'd vote for Thomas Newman's The Good German.
  • Best Song: I don't remember the song from Cars, and didn't like the song from An Inconvenient Truth. (Aside from the giggle quality of ending an Al Gore lecture with a song called "I Need to Wake Up," that is...) Of the Dreamgirls choices, "Love You I Do" is the best choice. Yes, it's throwaway fluff, but it's very skillfully done throwaway fluff.
  • Very unusual to see two contemporary films among the costume nominees, which is usually reserved for period pieces.
  • The year's most inexplicable nomination in any category? That would be the Adapted Screenplay nomination for Borat, because a) adapted from what? and b) if the movie was (as we were repeatedly told) improvised, then what screenplay?
  • I've seen three of the animated shorts. "The Little Match Girl" is beautiful hand-drawn animation in classic Disney style; "Maestro" goes on a bit longer than is justified by its punch line (which, I grant you, is a pretty nifty punch line); "No Time for Nuts" stars Scrat, the squirrel from the Ice Age movies, and is hilarious.

Your thoughts?

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