The Season of Giving need not be over yet. Isn't it time for us to give to those who have so much already? It's time for the Oscars!
The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. The Hurt Locker and Avatar lead the pack with 9 nominations each. They're up against each other for best picture, director, cinematography, editing, sound mixing, sound editing, and original score. Avatar was also nominated for best visual effects (naturally) and art direction, while The Hurt Locker also received nods for best actor (Jeremy Renner) and original screenplay.
For the first time since 1943, the Best Picture category has ten nominees. The other nominees for best picture are The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air (hmm, could be awkward if one of those last two wins, like when two actors with the same first name are nominated and the loser starts to stand up before the name is finished being read...). These mirror the Producers Guild's 10 nominees with two exceptions: Invictus and Star Trek were traded out for The Blind Side and A Serious Man. At this point I have seen half of the Best Picture nominees: Up, District 9, Avatar, Inglourius Basterds, and An Education. Of those, I'm rooting for District 9, though I'm also dying to see Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. I hear Precious is good too, but I think it's too depressing for me to be rushing out to see it.
The best director nominees represent a selection of the best picture noms. In addition to Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker and (her ex-husband) James Cameron for Avatar, the nominees are Lee Daniels for Precious, Jason Reitman for Up in the Air, and Quentin Tarantino for Basterds. Cameron previously won best director for Titanic, and Reitman and Tarantino have both been nominated in the category before for Juno and Pulp Fiction, respectively. The two newcomers to the category are rare specimens: Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated in the category, and Daniels is only the second black man to be nominated (none of the previous minority nominees have won in either case).
I am very pleased with District 9's success. In addition to best pic, District 9 was nominated for best adapted screenplay, editing, and visual effects. Between it and Avatar, sci-fi made a good showing this year, though no acting nominations were received by either.
Up is only the second animated film to be nominated in the Best Picture category, after 1991's Beauty and the Beast, and is the first CGI film to receive a nomination (though Avatar is sort of half CGI...). Up was also nominated in the Best Animated Film category, where its chances of winning are better.
My biggest (pleasant) surprise of all the nominations? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was nominated along with Hurt Locker, Avatar, Basterds, and acclaimed German Foreign Language nominee The White Ribbon (aka Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, aka the movie with the title even longer than Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire) for best cinematography. I thought it was a great movie, but I had totally forgotten about it in terms of possible Oscar nominations. Good for Harry.
As usual, the only category for which I have seen all the nominees is Best Visual Effects: Avatar, Star Trek, and District 9. As much as I loved Star Trek and District 9, the award just has to go to Avatar. Star Trek was very smooth, and District 9 was extremely impressive considering the budget, but much like Spider-Man and Attack of the Clones up against Two Towers' Gollum, what can you do? Maybe there will be some huge upset, but seeing how revolutionary Avatar is in terms of visual effects, it's almost like the others were nominated merely as a formality.
See the full list of nominees here.
Well, I'm excited about Oscar season, and hopefully I'll get to see a few more contenders before the ceremony. Winners will be announced on Sunday, March 7; the telecast starts at 5pm West Coast time on ABC.