Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Blind Side Blinds Oscars

Now that I've posted the announced nominees, and the full list has been posted, I can give a more formal response. Looking over the ballot, there are quite a few surprises this year, including the very-populist nomination of The Blind Side (once again proving that Oscar loves a feel-good story, even if its schmaltzy and racist). However, not all of the surprises are terrible; in fact, many of them are quite pleasant. And they are...
BEST PICTURE
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air
I already gave my opinion of The Blind Side, but I'll say it again: boo! This was definitely chosen because it made a lot of money, and therefore was popular, which was the whole point of going to 10 pictures anyway. District 9 is a pleasant, and shocking, surprise for an award that usually goes out of its way to avoid sci-fi; instead, it nominated two in the same year (Avatar). Otherwise, its the same set of films that's been bandied around for the last few months. I should mention that I was 8/10 (A Serious Man turned out to be a good choice). Notable exceptions: Invictus (maybe Clint Eastwood's not such a golden boy after all) and Nine (I guess the Weinsteins decided to give up on this one and focus on Basterds). And, perhaps the best news in this, no upset by The Hangover!
BEST ACTOR
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Colin Firth, A Single Man
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
I'm glad the Academy decided to honor Renner for his fantastic, naturalistic performance in The Hurt Locker. This category hasn't really changed much in the past few weeks, so there's nothing really else to say about it.
BEST ACTRESS
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
To all you future actors/filmmakers, the best way to get the Academy's attention is to make a movie about driving around the ghetto, picking up black kids, and "turn their lives around." Just kidding (but seriously). This is Streep's 16th nomination, a remarkable feat indeed, but she hasn't won since Sophie's Choice in 1982. Helen Mirren is probably the least talked-about nominee this whole season, even though everyone predicted her nomination. And congrats to the newcomers, Mulligan and Sidibe, here's hoping your careers blossom after this.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Matt Damon, Invictus
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Plummer finally got his first Oscar nomination, which is great considering the monumental career he's had. This too is pretty much what everyone was expecting. Was predicting the Oscars really that easy this year?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo'Nique, Precious
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart must have some influential supporters, because Gyllenhaal has barely been mentioned this entire season, and has now suddenly earned an Oscar (she joins her brother Jake now, who was nominated in 2005 for Supporting Actor in Brokeback Mountain). I figured an upset would happen in this category, if anywhere, but I thought for sure one of the Basterds women would take the 5th spot. Another surprise here is Cruz; yes, I did pick her all year, but just recently I began to think it was a fool's errand. I'm glad I was wrong about that. By the way, I'm 19/20 in the acting categories. I'm proud.
BEST DIRECTOR
James Cameron, Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
I wonder if Best Picture hadn't expanded, would these directors' films have been the nominees? Who knows. This is a very diverse group, not only demographically (Bigelow's a woman, Daniels is black), but (more importantly) in subject matter: the rousing epic, the tense war drama, the gonzo revisionist war drama, the difficult inspirational drama, and the timely dramedy. It's a good selection of talent and material.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Terri Thatchell & Neill Blomkamp, District 9
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
This is certainly an interesting group for a number of reasons. First of all, District 9 and In the Loop are great surprises, though they replaced great work in Fantastic Mr. Fox (written by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach) and, surprisingly, kept Invictus out of another category. Fun fact of the day: Jason Reitman is the only writer in this category with a previous Oscar nomination, and none of them have ever been nominated for writing.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Bob Peterson, Pete Docter; story by Peterson, Docter, Tom McCarthy, Up
The Messenger is an interesting surprise here. But it also means that the biggest snub of the year belongs to (500) Days of Summer, which despite its support and quality and reinvention of the romantic comedy failed to receive a single nomination. Not cool, Oscar. It's otherwise a great set of nominees. And typical for a James Cameron feature: no nomination for Avatar.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up
I haven't seen (or really heard of) The Secret of Kells until now, so I'll have to check that out. Animation's banner year is well-represented here.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Ajami, Israel
El Secreto de Sus Ojos, Argentina
The Milk of Sorrow, Peru
Un Prophete, France
The White Ribbon, Germany
So the Foreign Language Oscar committee didn't screw up this year. Yay! Latin American cinema is well-represented here, with Peru earning its first Oscar nomination. And Israel and Germany continue to dominate the category as they have for the last decade, though if Israel doesn't win this year, they will move past Poland as the country with the most Oscar nominations without a win.
BEST ART DIRECTION
Avatar
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria
Now that we're down to the technicals, expect Avatar to show up everywhere possible. This is a good set of nominees, I think. They all certainly had a visual flair about them, particularly Parnassus and Avatar.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon
I actually expected Harry Potter to be an Art Direction nominee, but the cinematography in it was fantastic (remember the bridge scene?). Again, I think all of these are solid choices.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria
I'm a little sad to not see Inglourious Basterds in here, but happy to not see Avatar's CGI loincloths here (the Costume Designers Guild nominated it- look it up!). But of course this is mostly standard period-piece work, nothing out of the ordinary.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Eisenberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home
The usual relevant topics are covered (environmentalism, US government, immigration, consumerism, human rights issues), and the set looks good. I personally enjoyed Food, Inc., and thought it was eye-opening. I love a good documentary from time to time, you know. Notable absences: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which was ignored for who-knows-why, Capitalism: A Love Story, which was not released in the eligibility period, and Religulous, which was released in the eligibility period but may have been too far back to be remembered. Shame.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Shichuan Province
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit a la Berlin
Again, the subjects are relevant, and the Short category usually has some interesting stuff in it. I'll have to check these out.
BEST FILM EDITING
Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
These are all fantastic choices, with each one utilizing the editing process in a creative way that best services the movie. I love the cuts in Precious (though most people would disagree) and the tension created in The Hurt Locker. And of course there's always great editing in any Tarantino film.
BEST MAKEUP
Il Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria
No The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus? Interesting. Also interesting is Star Trek; I'm trying to think of something other than Nero's tattoos that made it so great. I don't really know how I feel about this category.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Avatar
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up
Up's score was beautiful, especially during the "life montage" scene. Holmes and Avatar's were exciting, and The Hurt Locker's added to the tension of the film. I haven't heard Fantastic Mr. Fox's (though I will soon).
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"Almost There," The Princess and the Frog
"Down in New Orleans," The Princess and the Frog
"Loin de Paname," Paris 36
"Take It All," Nine
"The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)," Crazy Heart
First of all, the fact that this category has five nominees is amazing (this is such a random, difficult, and frustrating category). The new rule that a single film can't have more than two nominees here can be seen in effect, since otherwise The Princess and the Frog would probably have three, if not more, nominations instead; Oscar loves Disney here. I have never heard of Paris 36, so there's another one to look up.
BEST SHORT FILM - ANIMATED
French Roast
Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
Logorama
A Matter of Loaf and Death
I like short films, and I'll try to find these somewhere. On a sad note, there's no Pixar here this year.
BEST SHORT FILM - LIVE ACTION
The Door
Instead of Abracadabra
Kavi
Miracle Fish
The New Tenants
I'll have to find these too.
BEST SOUND EDITING
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up
The sound awards usually go hand-in-hand, with only one or two differences between them. All of these films have exceptional sound quality, so I'm content with them.
BEST SOUND MIXING
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
And so Transformers earns more Razzies than Oscars this year. Easy come, easy go, I suppose.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avatar
District 9
Star Trek
These are all great nominees. The effects in Star Trek were spectacular, but really didn't extend beyond standard blockbuster level. District 9 was innovative in its integration of the aliens into documentary-esque footage, which was amazing. And everyone knows that Avatar has some of the most jaw-droppingly wonderful images ever put to film.
Like them? Hate them? Comment please.

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