Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nominations Don't Leave Too Much Room To Grouch

Nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards--to be presented on Sunday, February 27--were announced this morning. While everyone with an opinion will share their thoughts about who was snubbed, who will win, etc.--and if you could give two hoots about mine, you probably should stop reading now--, excepting Christopher Nolan not getting a Best Director nomination for Inception, at first blush there doesn't appear to be too many egregious oversights.

Take the Best Picture category; while the expansion to 10 nominees--begun last year--still seems silly to me and I have some minor quibbles based on personal preferences, 9 of 10 noms matched Entertainment Weekly's  most recent predictions (with just The Town missing out to Winter's Bone).

8 of 10 Best Picture nominees also matched the composite Film Critic rankings (as tabulated by MetaCritic), as well as IMDB's composite user rankings for 2010 films.

Before I comment on the major categories--you can see the full list of Oscar nominees here--I'll draw attention to my own Seth Saith ranking of the 2010's Best English-language Feature Films. (I separately ranked Foreign-language Films and Documentaries.) Since compiling that list on December 29, 2010, I have seen nine more 2010 releases, of which one--Rabbit Hole--would make my Top 10 and three others--Another Year, The Ghost Writer and Blue Valentine--would make my Top 25.

These lists provide a clearer indication of the films I liked best from 2010--and really, as replicated by your own favorites, are much more important than Oscar nominations or awards. In fact, although I won't deny enjoying the Academy Awards, I do so more as conversation fodder about movies, rather than as a historically accurate arbiteur of film greatness or as a star-studded telecast. So while there were movies I really enjoyed that were seemingly too much of the "popcorn flick" variety for Oscar consideration--Unstoppable, Salt--or just not as universally beloved--It's Kind of a Funny Story, Fair Game, Mao's Last Dancer, Easy A, Nowhere Boy, Four Lions--I won't spend too much time here griping about how they were overlooked. I understand why most weren't given much consideration, so will leave my pontificating largely within the vein of realistic possibilities.

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

I think The Social Network should and will win Best Picture, although I imagine The King's Speech might resonate more with older, more traditional voters. In a way, I like that Toy Story 3 got a nom, as technically it was remarkable and although Steve Jobs' health issues were publicized too late for the "sympathy vote" to be a factor, what he and Pixar have done over the past 15 years certainly merits industry recognition. But I don't even think it's the best Toy Story movie, yet alone one of 2010's very best films. Though only 4 of my Top 10 got nominated, it's not a bad selection; I have no vehement complaints, but Rabbit Hole is certainly deserving.

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

I haven't seen Biutiful, as it hasn't yet been released in Chicago, but expect Bardem is typically great. So was Bridges in True Grit, yet particularly after finally winning for Crazy Heart, I think I might substitute Ryan Gosling for his performance in Blue Valentine. I also think Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception) and Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole) gave nomination-worthy performances. Of those above, I think Colin Firth will win, but would likely vote for Franco, who's also the co-host (with Anne Hathaway) of the telecast. He almost literally was the entire 127 Hours movie. 


Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Given their roles in The Social Network, it's interesting that Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield probably canceled each other out here. Bale was fantastic and both should and will win.

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

It never got much too press, but Naomi Watts was fantastic in Fair Game. I probably would include her here rather than Annette Bening, and actually think Julianne Moore was a bit better in The Kids Are All Right (I also liked what Moore did in Chloe). Hye-ja Kim, who was extraordinary in the title role of the Korean film, Mother, would have been a nice left-field pick. I think Portman will win, but feel Kidman, Lawrence and Williams--in that order--are more deserving.

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

I haven't seen Animal Kingdom, but having seen Another Year just yesterday can tell you that Lesley Manville deserves a nom (probably over Bonham Carter). One of the women from The Fighter should win, but might cancel each other out. I'm not betting anyone, but guess I'd put my money on Adams if forced to choose. 

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

I just saw The Illusionist and liked it a bit less than some other friends; haven't seen 'Dragon.' So I'll pick Toy Story as both should and will win.

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

I haven't seen Gasland or Waste Land, but of those I did, can't fathom why The Tillman Story, Waiting for Superman or the Israeli-doc Budrus (if it was eligible) were omitted. Inside Job should win and I believe in a just world would run on ABC immediately following the Oscarcast. Restrepo--which follows troops and tragedies in Afghanistan--may well win given its subject matter, but wasn't the best-made film.

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter

I'm no technical wonk, but what Christopher Nolan accomplished in making Inception comprehensible, let alone a mainstream blockbuster, definitely deserves a directing nom; astonishingly the film also wasn't nominated for Best Editing. Fincher should and will win.

Agree? Disagree? Join me and other film fans at the Chicago Film Discussion Meetup Brunch on Sunday, February 13 at Holiday Club, where we will be talking about the Oscars. Prior to that, there is also a more general film discussion Meetup brunch, on January 30 at Fat Cat. And I'm not yet sure if there will again be an Oscar party at the bar within the Century Theaters in Evanston, but I might be up for it if there is.

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