Oscar Nominations ~ 2011

Ah…this is one day I look forward to every year.  I can’t remember the last time I missed watching the Oscar nominations live on television.  Back in the day 7:30 seemed so early and crazy dark that it felt like a special occasion.  Now that I’m a “grown-up”, watching them live actually made me a little late for work 🙂

Even if I think I know who will be nominated for an Oscar I am always surprised by something.  I do get goosebumps when they start to announce the names/titles of who are the lucky nominees of the year.  While the Oscars are pretty political when you get right down to it, there’s something about the prestige and history of the awards ceremony that I can’t get enough of.

The full list of nominees is here but I wanted to go through my initial reactions in my update for today.  Over the next few weeks I’m going to delve deeper into these categories and highlight some movies/performances you need to see before the big day.  Also…check out my entry detailing the movies you need to see before Oscar night…they are pretty spot-on.

Here we go…are you ready?

Best Picture:  (I’ve seen all 9 of the movies nominated)

The Artist (The Weinstein Company), Thomas Langmann, Producer
The Descendants (Fox Searchlight Pictures), Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros. Pictures), Scott Rudin, Producer
The Help (Touchstone Pictures), Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
Hugo, Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
Midnight in Paris (Sony Pictures Classics), Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
Moneyball (Columbia Pictures), Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight Pictures), Nominees to be determined
War Horse (DreamWorks Pictures), Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

OK…so I finally was understanding why they moved from 5 nominees to 10…but this year we knew beforehand that anywhere between 5 and 10 films would be nominated.  This year the number turned out to be…9.  Why they couldn’t do a solid 8 or full scale 10 is a little strange — even though the final list wasn’t a huge shock…there are still some interesting choices. 

The year belongs to The Artist and while I liked The Descendants better both are ideal candidates for a Best Picture win.  I’m leaning toward The Artist if I were a betting man — it embodies Hollywood’s Golden Age and while it is touched with melancholy it’s much more lighthearted fare than The Descendants.  Not taking anything away from the beauty of The Artist but I was more moved by the family at the center of The Descendants

As for the other nominees, I enjoyed The Tree of Life but the polarizing nature of that movie is visceral.  I’ve met people who had teeth-gnashing disdain for Terrence Malick’s strange movie but the more I think about it and analyze it, the more it makes a lot of sense.  Moneyball and War Horse are critical favorites but don’t stand much of a chance here.  Hugo has a lot of steam behind it but I’ve a feeling it won’t get itself into the Oscar station.  Midnight in Paris is a fun little movie and Woody Allen’s biggest hit in years — it deservedly earns a spot here.  The Help was a blockbuster (that for some reason people were surprised was as big of a hit as it was…the movie had everything going for it) but it’s performances were the real selling point here. 

While I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this was clearly the shocker of the list.  Reviews have been mixed (not mine!) and it’s failure to gain nominations in other award ceremonies didn’t bode well for it.  I’m glad it’s included here.

Still…it all comes down to The Artist or The Descendants…and I’ve a feeling that the little silent film that could will be holding Oscar gold.

Best Director: (I’ve seen all five movies nominated)

Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Martin Scorsese – Hugo
Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

No real shockers in this category…with the possible omission of Steven Spielberg for War Horse.  The nomination would have been a courtesy anyway so it’s best that Malick took his place.

Usually the Best Picture/Best Director winners go hand in hand so Michel Hazanavicius should win it for The Artist.

Best Actor: (Oscar always slips one in on me…I’ve seen four of these performances)

Demián Bichir in “A Better Life”
George Clooney in “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”
Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”

 The nomination of Demián Bichir for A Better Life is not from out of left field as you may imagine.  There has been a strong campaign for his work in the film and the nomination is quite similar to Javier Bardem’s surprise nomination for Biutiful last year.  I’ve yet to see this movie (review coming soon) but from what I’ve heard it’s a deserved nomination.  Unfortunately, that put Ryan Gosling out in the cold.  The actor had a great year and could have snagged a nomination for his work in The Ides of March or the superior Drive…but after being snubbed for Blue Valentine last year it’s another year at home for Gosling.

A surprise snub here was Michael Fassbender for Shame.  Gary Oldman’s understated turn in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy probably edged out Fassbender which is a…for lack of a better word, shame.  As good as Oldman was in the movie, Fassbender was better. 

Much like the directing and acting categories…this will come down to Dujardin or Clooney.

Best Actress: (I’ve seen four of these performances)

Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis in “The Help”
Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”

Undoubtedly the surprise here was Rooney Mara’s nomination for her take no prisoners performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Worthy of a nomination, it does make me sad that Charlize Theron in Young Adult and Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin were passed over.  Swinton especially had a lot of push going into today so to come out without a nomination was a disappointment.

Glenn Close’s performance is one I’m seeing this week and I’m happy to see her up here.  It’s too bad that she’s nominated against Streep and Davis…one of whom will surely take the award.  Odds are on Streep but don’t be shocked if Davis is picking up the award.  As much as Streep wants to win it, I secretly think she wants Davis to win it more and that may be the deciding edge when voters are considering who they choose.

Best Supporting Actor: (I’ve seen all five of these performances)

Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte in “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”
Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

The supporting categories are always the most fun and the most ripe for upsets.  This year, I think these categories are already locked up with Plummer in line to take home his first Oscar.  He may have some competition from Nolte’s powerful turn and Von Sydow’s lovely work.  I just don’t think, though, that Plummer’s excellent work will be ignored (nor should it). 

The snub here was for Albert Brooks in Drive.   I kind of choke when I hear that Hill will now be able to add “Oscar Nominee” before his name but he wasn’t too bad in his nominated film…he wasn’t better than Brooks though.

Best Supporting Actress: (I’ve seen four of these performances)

Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain in “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Let’s get the snub right out of the way…Shailene Woodley was robbed of a nomination for The Descendants and that’s really a bummer.  Going toe-to-toe with Clooney while creating a nuanced and interesting teenager is no small feat and she rose to that challenge.  It was a heart-breaker for me to see her name missing from this list.  As much as I loved Chastain in everything she did this year, a nomination for The Help isn’t what I would have gone with. 

Going into today, this was Spencer’s award to lose.  I still think she’ll take Oscar gold but don’t count out McCarthy just yet.  I favor Spencer’s performance but what McCarthy did what that role is what Oscar upsets are made of.  When I saw Bridesmaids the day it opened back in May I said to myself “She’s going to get an Oscar nomination for this movie”…and I was right 🙂  Does she deserve to win?  Not over Spencer but I wouldn’t be totally sorry to see it happen.

More observations:

I loved seeing two foreign films competing for the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar.  In years past they’ve stuck us with some pretty lame movies nominated here…this makes/keeps things interesting.

I was happy to see Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo get nominated for Bridesmaids which could be an upset win.  If an Affleck/Damon combo won this award previously, why can’t too funny ladies win it too?

The cinematography nominations are spot-on.  All five did wonderful work and are deservedly recognized.

Only TWO songs are nominated this year for Best Original Song.  When your choices are tunes from Rio and The Muppets you know there is a problem in this category.  The rules for this category are pretty cruddy which disqualified many valued contributions.

The Documentary Short Subject, Short Film (Animated) and Short Film (Live Action) were categories we used to just guess at.  This year I look forward to seeing them all in their showings at The Riverview of The Lagoon.  Serious movie-goers will make sure to catch these…it just may help your overall office pool 🙂

That’s it for now friendly readers…I’ll be going into more detail about the nominations in the coming weeks as we lead up to Oscars Big Night.