A few random thoughts on this morning’s Academy Award nominations, from your 19th-favorite Oscar prognosticator:
* The nominations, with a few exceptions, were fairly predictable — so predictable, in fact, that in one case I actually predicted them. No kidding. Last Wednesday, I handed my son Sean’s occupational therapist (with whom I’ve had numerous movie-related discussions) a slip of paper with ten film titles on it and said, “here are next week’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture.” Today, I checked and realized I’d gone 10-for-10, even nailing the two I’d admitted I wasn’t totally sure about (Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right). Sean’s next O/T appointment is tomorrow; can’t wait to get her reaction …
* Likewise, there were no real shockers among the acting nods. A lot of people are apparently disappointed that Mila Kunis didn’t get named for Black Swan, or Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter, or Andrew Garfield for The Social Network, or et cetera, et cetera … but if they’d been keeping track of the awards season so far, I think they would have realized two things. One, no one got chosen who didn’t deserve to be, so if their candidate had gotten in, it would’ve been at the expense of another equally qualified candidate. There are, after all, only five nominations per acting category, so putting in Kunis would’ve meant bumping Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), including Wahlberg would be excluding Javier Bardem (Biutiful) and so on.
And two, it won’t matter anyway, because none of the spurned actors were legitimate contenders to win their respective awards. Oscar nominations are earned; Oscar wins are based on an amalgam of performance, campaigning strategy, relationships with one’s peers in the industry, age, previous track record and which way the sociopolitical winds are blowing in Hollywood that given year. That’s the way it’s always been, and to argue ex post facto that someone should/shouldn’t have won is to deny a basic reality about how the system works. No, it’s not really fair. Life isn’t fair.
* There were a few surprising omissions, though, once you got farther down the slate. My top six “wait, what happened?!?” non-nominees:
- “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” (from Burlesque) for Best Song — everyone I’d heard or read not only thought it would be selected, but had a good shot at winning.
- Alice in Wonderland for Best Makeup — ditto.
- Waiting for “Superman” for Best Documentary Feature.
- The Tillman Story, also for Best Documentary Feature — granted, we’re in the middle of a historically great era for documentary films, so there were a ton of worthy ones to choose from. But I’m really shocked these two didn’t make the cut.
- Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan) for Best Original Screenplay — no idea why they weren’t; any theories?
- Christopher Nolan (Inception) for Best Director.
* That last one was such an upset that there are pundits publicly asking if the Academy voters have a grudge against Nolan — after all, he’s never gotten an Oscar nom for directing, even though his peers have nominated him for the Directors Guild Awards three times (for Memento, The Dark Knight, and now Inception). I doubt that’s the case; he made the short list this year for Original Screenplay (he wrote Inception as well as directing), and like the snubbed actors above, none of the directors who did get in were undeserving. But you have to wonder …
* I’m rooting for one nominee to win more than any other, and it’s someone that you’ve probably never heard of. Roger Deakins is an incredible cinematographer who’s best known for his creatively wacky camera work with the Coen brothers — I think he’s worked on every film of theirs since Barton Fink 20 years ago — but also was behind the lens for 1984, Sid and Nancy, The Secret Garden, The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, Doubt, The Reader and about 50 other beautifully shot movies. This year, he’s up for the Coens’ re-adaptation of True Grit. It’s his ninth Oscar nomination, he’s never won, he’s 61 years old and you have to wonder when the Academy is going to get off the schneid and give him the darn trophy. He’s in what looks to be a tough three-way battle with Wally Pfister (Inception, fourth nomination) and Matthew Libatique (Black Swan, first-timer), but I sure hope he wins it.
* For once, the Academy didn’t screw up the Foreign-Language Feature nominations … too badly. It would have been nice to see the Korean murder-mystery/family drama Mother in the mix, or Cannes Film Festival winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives from Thailand … actually, it would have been nice to see any movie from the booming Far Eastern film scene. But all five nominees have been critically well-received, and this time the generally acknowledged favorites (in this case, Biutiful and In a Better World) weren’t left out. A step in the right direction?
* At this point, only two Oscar races appear to be over — Adapted Screenplay (The Social Network‘s Aaron Sorkin has won everything possible so far) and Animated Feature (Best Picture nominee Toy Story 3,unless Woody and Buzz get caught using steroids or something). A handful of others have clear favorites (such as The Fighter‘s Christian Bale for Supporting Actor) or appear to be down to two-way races (most notably Best Picture, which looks to be The Social Network vs. The King’s Speech). Perhaps the most interesting of the latter is Natalie Portman and Annette Bening for Best Actress. Natalie (Black Swan) is a previous nominee and has been winning most of the critics’ awards; she’s beloved in Hollywood and does three or four films a year (voters love hard workers, historically). But this is the fourth nomination with no wins for Annette (The Kids Are All Right), she’s 52, is just as popular as Natalie, and is one of the actors’ representatives on the Academy Board of Governors. Plus, she’s married to Warren Beatty (a Best Director winner for Reds), and traditionally the Academy likes to give his-‘n-hers statuettes when it can. It’ll be fun to watch, above and beyond the fun of just looking at either of them … wait, did I just say that out loud?
And then some races are a total crapshoot. Supporting Actress could go to any of the chosen five easily, as could Original Screenplay or Costume. And anyone who claims at this point to know who’ll win the short-film categories (documentary, animated, live-action) is either delusional or trying to sell you something. Some of these will sort out in the coming weeks; some won’t.
* If you want to follow the ramp-up to the Oscars, here’s as complete an award schedule as I can manage:
- 1/29 – Directors Guild Awards — the DGA winner almost always wins the Best Director Oscar, and their film usually wins Best Picture.
- 1/30 – Screen Actors Guild awards — helps sort out the acting races, plus the Best Ensemble award is a Best Picture indicator.
- 2/1 – Visual Effects Society Awards — like most guild awards, the winner becomes the automatic Oscar favorite in that category.
- 2/5 – Art Directors Guild Awards — ditto; Writers Guild Awards — who’ll win Original Screenplay while Sorkin wins Adapted?
- 2/13 – BAFTAs (the British Oscars); has little to no correlation with the Academy selections, but is still a pretty big deal.
- 2/13 – American Society of Cinematographers Awards.
- 2/19 – American Cinema Editors (film editing) “Eddie” Awards; Cinema Audio Society (sound mixing) Awards.
- 2/20- Motion Picture Sound Editors “Golden Reel” Awards.
- 2/22 – Costume Designers Guild Awards.
And then on February 27, the orchestra will play, the glitterati with walk the red carpet to their designated seats, hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway will walk on stage … and it will be time for the film industry to pat itself on the back, for the edification of the moviegoing public. Should be a fun ride.