Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Academy Award Nominations 2011!

I haven't talked about the movie awards season so far this year--I guess other things have been on my mind (I usually talk about the Golden Globes). But that ends today! The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. Pretty exciting, but really there were relatively few surprises.

The King's Speech led the pack with 12 nominations, but other top nominees included True Grit with 10 nods and The Social Network and Inception with eight each. All four received nominations for best picture along with 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, and Winter's Bone. These nominees almost match exactly the PGA nominees, with the exception of The Town, which the Academy exchanged for Winter's Bone. The Social Network and The King's Speech are the front-runners in this category, as The Social Network has gathered the most wins so far (including the Golden Globe), but The King's Speech just won the PGA award this past weekend. This is the second year in a row that ten best picture nominees have been selected, instead of five. I have to say I like it, since it gives less traditional Oscar bait, such as sci-fi (last year's District 9, this year's Inception) and animation (last year's Up, this year's Toy Story 3) a chance in the category. They are worthy movies as well, but I would guess that they would not have been nominated if there were only five nominees.

The directors receiving Oscar nominations were Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, Joel and Ethan Cohen for True Grit, David Fincher for The Social Network, Tom Hooper for The King's Speech, and David O. Russel for The Fighter. I have to say that I was disappointed that Christopher Nolan did not get a nomination for Inception, as he did for the DGA Awards (the Cohen brothers did not get a DGA nomination this year). It was my favorite movie of the year, and I thought Nolan's direction was innovative enough to deserve a nomination here. But at least it was nominated for best picture and original screenplay.

The acting nominations held a few surprises, deviating from the SAG nominees in three cases: Javier Bardem (Biutiful) was nominated for the lead actor Oscar alongside Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Colin Firth (King's Speech), James Franco (127 Hours), and Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network) in place of Robert Duvall (Get Low); Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) got an Oscar nod for lead actress along with Annette Bening (Kids Are All Right), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), and Natalie Portman (Black Swan), while Hilary Swank (Conviction) was left out; and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) was nominated for the supporting actress Oscar with Amy Adams (The Fighter), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (King's Speech), and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), where Mila Kunis (Black Swan) had received the SAG nod. Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush (King's Speech) are the nominees for the supporting acting Oscar, as they are for the SAG award.

Whew, sorry for that dense paragraph. There were only three nominees for best animated feature this year (the number of eligible films was just short of the minimum required for there to be five nominees). Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon got two of the slots as predicted, and The Illusionist received the third, as some had speculated but was not a sure thing (Despicable Me had received the third PGA nomination).

I think the biggest surprise was that Waiting for Superman failed to receive a nomination at all in the feature documentary category, as it just won the PGA award in that category. I had to read the list three times before I was certain it wasn't there. I'm not disappointed, since my impression was that it was overrated (a bit of controversy came up when it was discovered that a key scene was staged, though maybe that's a small thing and other documentaries do it too and just don't get caught). I've perhaps a slight bias against the film having happily gone to public school and having a mother who taught in public school, though just because they neglect to include important established facts that might contradict or complicate their message doesn't necessarily make it a bad documentary, just a one-sided one. I did like The Cove, after all, and it was certainly one sided and probably left out some details that the opposing side would have liked to include. Anyway, I was hoping Waiting for Superman wouldn't win, but I was still very surprised to see it not nominated.

You can find the full list of nominees here, among other places.

The lesson I take away from these nominations is that I need to see more movies. I feel like I've seen a lot this year, but I've seen less than half of the best picture nominees, and I haven't seen all the visual effects nominees (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter 7, Hereafter, Inception, and Iron Man 2), which makes me worse off than I was last year. But I have seen four of the ten best picture nominees, as well as three of the five nominees for visual effects, cinematography, sound mixing, and score. So I'm not totally hopeless, but those aren't considered the "major" categories.

I hope that Natalie Portman wins for Black Swan. Annette Bening was delightful in a nuanced role, but Natalie Portman blew me away. I hope that Inception wins some gold, particularly best original screenplay (though it's competing against The Kids Are All Right, again, which I thought was wonderful). I don't think it has a chance in best picture, but with nominations in cinematography, art direction, original score, sound mixing, sound editing, and visual effects, hopefully it will be able to pick up a few. Beyond that, though, I sadly haven't seen enough films to have a strong--or informed--opinion. Still, I look forward to seeing more movies on these lists, and to finding out the winners. The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 27.

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