Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oscar Nomination Reactions

I collaborated with news editor Jobe Close for an Oscar Reaction piece over at IEF. I expect it will be published sometime today or tomorrow. But in the meantime I'll post here in case you'd care to browse through my thoughts on the major awards. Overall, I thought the Academy did a decent job. There are some EGREGIOUS ommissions and a ridiculous nomination or two but with the exception of ignoring 50/50, Drive, and (to a lesser extent) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I thought they did a decent job of navigating a difficult sea of potential nominees. 

Three reactions to the other categories:
1.) The ommission of The Adventures of Tintin from the Best Animated Film category is as big of a snub as you will find on this year's lists. That film made a number of top 10 lists and was far and away the best animated film of the year in my book.
2.) Only two entries were nominated in the Best Song category. What's the point of having two nominees, Academy? Mary J. Blidge probably deserved a nod for her work on The Help but if nothing else, just fill up the category with other songs from The Muppets so that it at least looks like a legitimate category.
3.) I'm more than a little surprised that Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol didn't pick up any nominations in the technical categories. I thought it featured an exquisite sound mix and some outstanding special effects. Somehow the Academy found room for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which received three nominations (if you're keeping track at home that's three for Transformers, none for Drive, and a slightly suicidal blogger), but not for MI4.

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicus, The Artist
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
JC Chandor, Margin Call
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Asgnar Farhadi, A Separation

More often than not, the Best Screenplay categories are used to throw a bone (as it were) to filmmakers whose films have been largely overlooked despite their merits. Still, I’m glad to see Bridesmaids get a nod here; a truly hilarious film that deserves some recognition.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, Moneyball
Peter Straughan and Bridget O'Connor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Two entries stand out in this category for me, one in a good way and one…not so much. I’m thrilled that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy got an unexpected nod. One of my favorite films of the year, I think Straughan and O’Connor did a magnificent job of fleshing out a complicated and dense subject matter here and set up the outstanding cast for success. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of The Ides of March. The acting was great, sure, but the story is dull and reused. Why honor a film by nominating its worst element?

Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

I’m shocked (along with most followers of Award Season) that Albert Brooks wasn’t nominated for his against-cast dark performance in Drive. I’d long ago lost hope in Ryan Gosling getting a nod for leading that film but thought for sure Brooks would get a, “sorry we didn’t care about your awesome movie” nomination. This is the one real snub that this year has to offer in my opinion. At the same time, Max Von Sydow was probably the last man in and despite the fact that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is mostly a hot mess (more on this later), MVS is excellent. This is usually the toughest category to whittle down and I’m guessing this year was no exception. (Then again, Drive was completely shut out by the Academy so maybe they didn’t care at all. Boo to them, in that case.) Last, the Academy is catching a lot of flack for the nomination of Hill. To my colleagues who have complained: back off on this one. I've never been a Jonah Hill fan and I'd love to see Brooks in this category but Hill was outstanding in Moneyball and absolutely deserves his nod. I wouldn't have nominated the film for Best Picture but it contains some great acting and Hill leads the way.

Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

In many ways, it really doesn’t matter who else is nominated behind Spencer. She’s as close to a lock for a win as you can find this year. That said, I’m thrilled to see McCarthy pick up a nod and disappointed that Shaliene Woodley missed the cut. Yes, it’s early in her very young career but many a talented actor has crumbled under the pressure of going toe-to-toe with George Clooney while Woodley came through with shining colors.

Best Actor
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Demian Bechir, A Better Life

I spent the majority of 2011 telling anyone who would listen that this would be the year that Gary Oldman could FINALLY add “Academy Award Nominee” to his resume. But by the time I went to bed on Monday night, I had resigned myself to his being left out once again. When I heard that he had been nominated, I probably celebrated more than the man himself did. Sure, it would have been nice if Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ryan Gosling had received attention for their brilliant work in 50/50 and Drive, respectively. But I’m more than content to ignore these slights if it means the Great Chameleon gets his due. Now if he could just win…

Best Actress
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Viola Davis, The Help
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

This was a six woman race and I assume Close just beat out Tilda Swinton from We Need to Talk About Kevin. All I really have to say about this category is the following: if Viola Davis doesn’t take home the hardware, I will kill a drifter. Let that serve as a warning, Academy.

Best Director
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicus, The Artist
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Terrence Malick, Tree of Life

For me, 2011 was a weak year for director; plenty of great films but not too many that set a high standard for work behind the camera. That said, that is quite the collection of Hollywood power players! Scorsese, Allen, Malick, etc…that’s a serious group right there. I’d have loved to see Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), or Jonathan Levine (50/50) score a nod but of course I knew none of those would happen. Great to see Malick recognized, though. No matter what you think of Tree of Life, you have to appreciate the boldness of the man’s vision.

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

This category brought the only real shocks of the day. Most experts anticipated six or possibly seven nominations and I don’t know anyone who expected nine. What this means is that there is no clear cut favorite to take home the award next month. Beyond the initial five nods, any film that receives a nomination has to have garnered at least five percent of the first place votes in the category. With nine nods on the board, that means at least 20% of the total first place votes belong to the bottom four contenders, making this a much tighter race than anyone might have expected. More shocking in my book, however, is the inclusion of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a film that has been bashed by most critics and which features the lowest Rotten Tomatoes rating of any film EVER nominated for Best Picture. I wanted to love EL&IC but I found it to be a poorly executed mess of a film. I can think of at least 20 films which deserve a nomination more than EL&IC, a list that includes Warrior, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Muppets, and Thor. I'm serious.

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