Oscar Nominations and Commentary

No messing around with clever titles and such today. I’m already late in posting this, so let’s get right down to it. The 84th Annual Academy Award nominees are as follows (commentary after every category):

Best Picture:

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Moneyball
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

Correctly Predicted: 7/9

Commentary: The story here, of course, is yet another critically derided, sentimental piece of middlebrow drama squeezing into the Best Picture race. Oh, Academy, you just can’t win. Stick to five nominees and you get “The Reader.” Expand to ten and you get “The Blind Side.” Make it flexible and you still end up with “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” But seriously, what is up with Stephen Daldry? Even Clint Eastwood can’t match this kind of Oscar track record. Why do Daldry’s baity prestige pictures always succeed where those by Sam Mendes (“Revolutionary Road”), Peter Jackson (“The Lovely Bones”) and Eastwood (“J. Edgar”) fail? I really don’t have the answer.

But, as the parallel inclusion of “The Tree of Life” proves, the new rules mean that all you need is a small group of fiercely loyal supporters to ride to an Oscar nomination. That’s probably ultimately why “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” couldn’t make the cut – it almost certainly had broad support (as evidenced by the Best Actress nod for Rooney Mara), but that support just didn’t have the passion behind it that makes people put it as #1 on their ballot. One wonders when the Academy will cut it out with this experimentation and just go back to five nominees: the expansion was intended to bring in more varied (read: populist) fare, but “The Tree of Life” notwithstanding, we’ve basically just ended up with more of the same.

Best Director:

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

Correctly predicted: 5/5

Commentary: The only major category (and one of only two overall) that I nailed. Wonderful to see the very rare instance of the Academy getting more daring than the Directors Guild, ignoring David Fincher’s keeping-in-shape genre work (let’s be honest here) in favor of Terrence Malick’s considerable achievement.

Best Actor:

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

Correctly predicted: 3/5

Commentary: Bichir’s underdog nomination is the first piece of evidence that you ignore the SAG nominations at your own peril (we’ll get to the others later). But amid all the whining over the Academy’s choices, let’s not forget the really glorious thing here: GARY OLDMAN IS FINALLY AN OSCAR NOMINEE. It happened, people! The Brit bloc apparently came through at last. Delightful. And as I hope I made clear in my review the other day, this is no sympathy nod: Oldman’s performance in “Tinker Tailor” deserves to stand up against “Sid and Nancy” and “The Contender” for the best work of his career. I’m disappointed that the Academy ultimately couldn’t find room for Michael Shannon’s tour de force turn, but I have yet to see “A Better Life,” so I can really make no judgment there.

Best Actress:

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

Correctly predicted: 4/5

Commentary: Whelp, turned out the Academy could only find room for one extreme, bare-bones performance, and they went with the ingenue over the industry vet. But oh well; Tilda Swinton already has one win under her belt, and was probably too busy organizing a Charleston flash mob in Buenos Aires or something to even notice the snub.

Best Supporting Actor:

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

Correctly predicted: 4/5

Commentary: It’s going to take some adjusting to all those upcoming Judd Apatow comedies starring “Oscar-nominee Jonah Hill.” But I won’t complain too much, especially since I’m glad that “Warrior” managed to stick in people’s minds at least a little bit. Again, it turns out that Albert Brooks’ SAG snub turned out to be a bigger piece of foreshadowing than anticipated. I’m pissed off for him, but again, at least he’s taking things completely in stride. And while most people are decrying any piece of love for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” I’ll stomach it if it means attention for the legendary von Sydow. By all accounts, he is the best part of the movie anyway, and honestly, I might have been MORE mad if “EL&IC” had made it into Best Picture and literally nothing else. That would’ve just baffled me to no end.

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
  • Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
  • Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
  • Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
  • Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Correctly predicted: 4/5

Commentary: So leaving Janet McTeer out of my last round of predictions was indeed a stupid decision. Somewhere, ABC starlet Shailene Woodley is seeing her career flash before her eyes.

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
  • J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”
  • Asghar Fahadi, “A Separation”
  • Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
  • Annie Mumolo, Kristin Wiig, “Bridesmaids”
Correctly predicted:  3/5
Commentary: If Judd Apatow ends up getting invited to the Oscars, I’m going to punch my TV. However, with Gary Oldman, Terrence Malick and J.C. Chandor all ending up with nominations, I went 3/3 in terms of my (reasonable) dream picks. If I seem overall fairly passive and lenient towards the Academy this year, that’s why.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
  • George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March”
  • Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
  • John Logan, “Hugo”
  • Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball”

Correctly predicted: 4/5

Commentary: So “The Ides of March” manages to not go home completely shame-faced, and I’m fine with that. It was a lean, well-paced thriller, and honestly there wasn’t a heck of a lot of great options in this category. “The Descendants” probably has this one in the bag already, but watch out for “Moneyball” as a spoiler.

Best Cinematography:

  • Jeff Cronenweth, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
  • Janusz Kaminski, “War Horse”
  • Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Tree of Life”
  • Robert Richardson, “Hugo”
  • Guillaume Schiffman, “The Artist”

Correctly predicted: 4/5

Commentary: “War Horse” ended up rallying its campaign at the last minute and scoring a Best Picture nod to go along with Kaminski and a healthy haul of other tech nods. The fact that neither the Director no Cinematography categories ended up lining up 5 for 5 with their respective guilds is a testament to what a strange and unpredictable year this really was.

Best Art Direction:

  • The Artist
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • War Horse

Correctly predicted: 3/5

Commentary: Seriously, I don’t know if I was just better resigned to the inevitability of mediocrity this year or what, but the fact that I consider no “Tinker Tailor” in Art Direction the second biggest snub of the year (after Albert Brooks) means that I am unusually zen right now. I suppose I should’ve considered the idea that the glamorous interiors of “Midnight in Paris” would be more in the Academy’s wheelhouse than the dingy offices of “Tinker Tailor.” Bah.

Best Costume Design:

  • Anonymous
  • The Artist
  • Hugo
  • Jane Eyre
  • W.E.

Correctly predicted: 3/5

Commentary: Year after year, the costumers more than anyone else (except perhaps the makeup artists) to rescue critically reviled work from total obscurity, so long as they feature plenty of hoop skirts. I’m pretty sure I had this exact lineup predicted a little while back, and am kicking myself for listening instead to In Contention’s Gerard Kennedy. Seriously, any film set later than 1945 might as well not even bother submitting their work to these guys.

Best Film Editing:

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball

Correctly predicted: 4/5

Commentary: And this year’s prize for “competently edited film that manages to score an Editing nomination strictly on the basis of being one of the year’s top frontrunners” goes to… “The Descendants!” Thanks for playing, “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris” and “War Horse.” Basically no film ever wins Best Picture without also scoring a Best Editing nod, but that trend didn’t really clear anything up this year, with front three “The Artist,” “Hugo” and “The Descendants” all able to say they’re still in it (HINT: it’s going to be “The Artist”).

Best Original Score:

  • Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”
  • Alberto Iglesias, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
  • Howard Shore, “Hugo”
  • John Williams, “The Adventures of Tintin”
  • John Williams, “War Horse”

Correctly predicted: 4/5

Commentary: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross missing here is generally considered one of the biggest snubs of the slate, but even though I awarded them the EMO, it doesn’t personally bother me that much. It’s not like their work on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was leaps and bounds ahead of the competition the same way their score for “The Social Network” was last year, and Alberto Iglesias’ work on “Tinker Tailor” was really equally atmospheric, though in a less overtly “WE ARE BEING MOODY BY MAKING WEIRD OFF-TONAL MUSIC” way.

Best Original Song:

  • “Man or Muppet,” from “The Muppets”
  • “Real in Rio,” from “Rio”

Correctly predicted: 1/2

Commentary: OK, NOW you’re making me mad, Academy. What the hell is going on here? Who is deciding the nominees for this category? Why would you nominate TWO songs? Why bother??? You obviously watched “The Muppets.” I’m very confused as to how you could watch “The Muppets” and think that ONLY “Man or Muppet” was worthy of nomination. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing deal with that movie. And I haven’t seen “Rio,” but even people who have say that can’t for the life of them remember that song. If you want to get rid of this category, get rid of it. Stop trying to undermine it from within or whatever the hell it is you’re doing. It’s an embarrassment.

Best Makeup:

  • Albert Nobbs
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • The Iron Lady

Correctly predicted: 1/3

Commentary: I feel like the Academy was just as bored voting for this category as I was predicting it.

Best Visual Effects:

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • Hugo
  • Real Steel
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Correctly predicted: 3/5

Commentary: Considering the rejection of Douglas Trumbull’s work on “The Tree of Life,” subtlety clearly has no place in this race. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” should win this one in a cakewalk, unless the actors, in their perpetual war against motion capture, rally behind “Harry Potter” or something.

Best Animated Feature:

  • A Cat in Paris
  • Chico and Rita
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Puss in Boots
  • Rango

Correctly predicted: 3/5

Commentary: Nice to see the animators rejecting mediocre but high-profile work from Pixar (“Cars 2”) and Aardman (“Arthur Christmas”) and opting instead for obscure independent works that I haven’t even heard of. “Rango” is still an easy call here, though.

Best Documentary Feature:

  • Hell and Back Again
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  • Pina
  • Undefeated

Correctly predicted: 3/5

Commentary: Documentary feature is a weird category. Every year, the committee that votes for these nominees are roundly criticized for ignoring the most high-profile, acclaimed works; whether it’s “Tyson,” “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” or this year’s duo of “Project Nim” and “Buck,” the bloggers are sure to get up in arms about something and use this category as an example of how hopelessly out of touch the Academy are with “real audiences.” I will actually defend the Academy with two arguments: 1) the people who watch ANY documentaries, including “Project Nim” or “Buck,” are not “real audiences;” when it comes to talking about the relevancy of the Oscars and how “in touch” they are, the Documentary Feature category is by far the least of their worries. 2) I haven’t seen “If a Tree Falls” or “Undefeated” and I’m pretty sure NONE OF ANY OF YOU HAVE EITHER. The members of the committee are required to watch all the entrants on the shortlist before casting their vote. Who knows? Maybe they’re right, maybe those simply are better films. I’m not going to judge.

Best Foreign Language Film:

  • Bullhead (Belgium)
  • In Darkness (Poland)
  • Footnote (Israel)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  • A Separation (Iran)

Correctly predicted: 5/5

Commentary: At last, the only other category that I got completely right this year! Oh, if you’re wondering, this year’s obligatory WWII drama entry in this category is “In Darkness.”

Best Sound Editing:

  • Drive
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse

Correctly predicted: 1/5

Commentary: I am really not very good at predicting the sound categories.

Best Sound Mixing:

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  • War Horse

Correctly predicted: 2/5

Commentary: No, really, I’m bad at this. What the hell is “Moneyball” doing here?

If you’re looking for the various short film categories, check out the Nominations page. That’s all for now. Phew. It’s been a long but fun season. Will throw out some winner predictions at some point. Thanks for reading if you’re crazy enough to be all the way down here.

4 thoughts on “Oscar Nominations and Commentary

  1. So which of the five Best Picture nominees that I haven’t seen yet do you recommend seeing (on the basis of their being worth watching, and not just for Oscar-predicting purposes?): Moneyball – War Horse – Help – Descendants – (Sorry – don’t think I can watch Extremely Loud, not even for the great Max Sydow)?

  2. 1. I don’t have Facebook (still!!!) so I’m commenting here.
    2. Still mad about snubs for Michael Fassbender, Carnage (both Polanski and Waltz), and Michael Shannon.
    3. Man or Muppet is by far the best song from the Muppets. It is the most unique (even though “Life’s a happy song” is catchy, I feel like all musicals have that big exposition number with everyone singing and dancing around). Plus, you really feel the loneliness and the self-doubt and Man or Muppet (and the dude from the big bang theory sings too)
    4. Enjoy your last semester!

  3. I personally recommend “Moneyball” the most, followed by “War Horse,” although “Moneyball” will play extremely well on DVD, while “War Horse” should be a priority to catch while it’s still in theaters. “The Descendants” is worth watching at some point, but again I’d probably just Netflix it. Still haven’t seen “The Help,” so I can’t really offer any recommendation on that front.

    I understand the argument that “Man or Muppet” is the best song from “The Muppets.” I went back and forth between it and “Life’s a Happy Song” when I was picking the EMO winner. But we’re talking nominations here; why not just include both? I’ve listened to that song from “Rio.” The music itself isn’t memorable in the least, and I’ve heard no evidence that it was employed in a particularly unique manner. The catchy exposition number may be an overused trope in musicals, but at least “Life’s a Happy Song” served its purpose. Or what about Alan Menken’s “Star-Spangled Man,” which may be purposefully stale and trite musically, but is actually used quite creatively in “Captain America?” No matter what criteria you use to decide what the “Best Song” is, their nominations don’t make sense.

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