Thursday, January 22, 2009

Academy Awards Nominations!

Don't be sad, the Season of Giving is not over yet: the 81st Annual Academy Awards nominations were announced this morning! And I, um, still haven't seen any of the nominees in the six major categories (i.e., picture, director, and lead and supporting actors and actresses), save for Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. In a somewhat poignant coincidence, his nomination for Best Performance by and Actor in a Supporting Role (isn't it diplomatic that the official title doesn't say who is actually the best actor, just who gave the best performance of the year) comes exactly one year after his untimely death. And he is one of the surest bets of the year; it would be a huge upset if he doesn't win. In any other year, I would be rooting for Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, but not this year. Not against Ledger.

Well, the fact that I haven't seen many of the nominees puts me in a strange position. I am always reading about the movie business, so I feel well acquainted with the nominees and want to talk about them like everyone else. But I don't actually have informed opinions of my own about any of them. I guess I will talk about what opinions I have, anyway, as well as whatever I find interesting about the nominations.

Benjamin Button was the big winner in the Oscar nominations, with a hefty total of 13--the same number that Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King received (though it is not expected to win all of them, as RotK did). The Best Picture nominees are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Milk, and Frost/Nixon. They all also received nominations for their directors and screenwriters (Milk for original screenplay, the others for adapted). Revolutionary Road, which had fared well at the Golden Globes with nominations for picture, director, and lead actor and actress (for which Kate Winslet won), received only one major category nomination for supporting actor Michael Shannon. Leonardo DiCaprio was the only actor who received a Golden Globe nomination for leading role in a drama who did not get an Oscar nod; Richard Jenkins received the honor instead for The Visitor. Similarly, Kate Winslet's Golden Globe-winning performance in Revolutionary Road was ousted in the Oscar nominations and replaced by... Kate Winslet in The Reader, for which Winslet had actually won a supporting actress Golden Globe. As has happened before, the Golden Globes and Oscars disagreed on what constitutes a lead and a supporting role. Also in the lead actress category, Melissa Leo was nominated for Frozen River in place of Golden Globe nominee Kristin Scott Thomas.

Wall-E received a nomination for Best Animated Feature, but it also received nominations in original screenplay, original score, original song, sound, and sound editing, setting a Pixar record in number of nominations and tying Beauty and the Beast as the most nominated animated film. I hope they cook up something cute for the awards show when Wall-E accepts its animated feature award (which there is little doubt it will do).

The PGA and DGA nominations got my hopes up about The Dark Knight, but The Reader slipped into its place. Or Milk stole Revolutionary Road's place, if you're looking at the Golden Globes, but that would be silly... even though I just did that a whole bunch in my discussion of the acting categories above. Anyway, Dark Knight did get a respectable 8 nominations. In addition to best supporting actor, it received nods for cinematography, film editing, art direction, makeup, sound, sound editing, and visual effects. After all the fuss over whether it should be eligible for best score (it was disqualified, then requalified), it didn't end up with a nomination in that category.

A Best Picture and/or Best Director would have been nice for The Dark Knight, and it might have helped the Oscar show's lagging ratings of late. I would never support the Academy pandering to the masses by throwing in a nomination for a huge box office hit just to get more viewers--their job is to give the recognition for achievement in film that box office dollars cannot give. Nor would I even suggest that the Academy is shamefully out of touch with mainstream tastes; judging by last weekend's box office receipts, mainstream tastes can themselves be shameful. I would just feel better knowing that the Academy is not prejudiced against comic book films simply because of lingering fanboy stigma. They showed that they could accept a great fantasy film, but RotK was a full five years ago. Since I haven't seen any of the actual Best Picture nominees, I can't say which should give up its place to The Dark Knight (though the DGA and PGA say The Reader). Still, the five nominees all ooze Oscar bait. It would have been refreshing to see a dark knight on the list with them.

No comments: