The nominations for the 84th Annual Academy Awards were announced yesterday. And they were… shall we say… uninspired. Several of the year’s best films were ignored outright, while the movies and performances that played to Oscar sentiments were rewarded with nominations, regardless of originality or creativity. Here are 12 observations, or reactions if you will, to the movies that will compete at this year’s Academy Awards.
- Hugo gets 11 Oscar nominations.
I have rarely felt as out of touch with both critics and regular moviegoers as I do with Hugo, a movie that has earned heaps of praise for reasons I still can’t fathom. I’ve considered watching the Martin Scorsese movie again to see if I was just in a bad mood the first time around, but the thought of re-watching a film I found to be dreadfully boring and inconsistently written (the movie was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, which boggles my mind) is not at all appealing. I know I’m in the minority, but I dread the very possible scenario that the movie wins Best Picture.
- The Artist deserves, and may receive, the glory.
The Artist was not my top-ranked movie of 2011. However, it was #4 on my top ten movies of 2011 list, and is the highest-ranked movie on the list that received any kind of real recognition from the Academy. Accordingly, it deserves to take home the gold. I suspect time may look back on The Artist as a gimmick film, and it is a gimmick film, but it is also daring in many ways (a silent film? Really?). It is also a movie that Oscar voters love, a feel-good film that has comedy, drama and romance presented in a way that immediately stands apart from the rest.
- The Best Picture category resorts to defaults and snubs some better movies. No surprise.
Some of the films chosen to compete for Best Picture are very deserving, but some are not, at least when considering what was left on the cutting room floor. I’m not surprised that my top three films – Drive, Shame and Martha Marcy May Marlene - were not nominated for Oscars, even though they are much more interesting and dynamic than most of the movies chosen. I’m not surprised that movies like War Horse, which is far from Spielberg’s best, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which has received mixed reviews at best, were nominated, because these were both films that were pretty much designed to jerk off Oscar voters. That doesn’t mean I should respect their choices, which are extremely safe and generally uninspiring.
- Woody Allen doesn’t deserve Best Director. Steve McQueen does.
Did you see Midnight in Paris? Lots of people loved it. But did anyone walk away from that movie talking about how awesome the direction was? No! It looks like every other damned Woody Allen movie from the last eight decades. There’s nothing wrong with that, but nothing about Midnight in Paris should have compelled voters to give Allen a nomination for it. Sadly, the two best directors of the year, Steve McQueen (Shame) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) were left out in the cold. Let’s also not forget David Fincher, who delivered the goods with the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- The best actor of 2011 wasn’t nominated
Michael Fassbender (Shame) was better than any of the men nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but was denied recognition. For that matter, Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) was also excellent.
- Rooney Mara gets a much-deserved nomination
She won’t win, but Mara was simply awesome as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The rest of the choices were bread-and-butter Oscar choices.
- Albert Brooks is no where to be found
Best Supporting Actor is the one category where Drive really had a shot at winning. That is, of course, until nominations were announced and Albert Brooks was absent from the list. Jonah Hill was very good, but better than Albert Brooks?
- Four of the five actresses nominated for Best Supporting Actress were from lighthearted movies.
- An interesting mix for Best Animated Feature, and no Pixar
Cars 2 was a critical and box office disappointment, a rarity for Disney-Pixar. I was worried the Academy would nominate the deficient movie anyway, as I figured any Pixar movie came pre-selected on the ballots. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. While it’s a shame that the entertaining Adventures of Tintin wasn’t nominated, it’s good to see a couple unknown quantities on the list. Of the five nominated films, I’ve only seen Rango, and it better win: it was one of the best animated movies I’ve seen in years.
- What happened in the Best Original Song category?
Apparently the Academy’s revised algorithms for selecting nominations resulted in only two songs being selected. At least that cuts out about 15 minutes of the Oscar telecast. Then again, that also means there will be no breaks to save us from the awful jokes the inept Oscar writers will force upon host Billy Crystal.
- The Academy nailed the Best Visual Effects category
Hugo aside, the other four movies nominated in this category had awesome special effects. I am going to predict Rise of the Planet of the Apes as a very indirect nod to Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar the chimp, but this one is completely up in the air.
- This is one of the sorriest groups of movies in a long time
The real groundbreaking movies were denied meaningful Oscar nominations, and there weren’t many of those to begin with. 2011 was just a bad year for movies, and the films nominated reflect that statement. Aside from the return of Billy Crystal, this could be one of the dullest Academy Awards in recent memory.