The nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards have been announced.
Not very many surprises in there, but here goes with my thoughts.
Avatar is a good blockbuster. It was the most enjoyable blockbuster of last year in my estimation, but is it an Oscar calibre film? No! I suspect the Academy disagrees, nominating it as they have for nine awards. It's tied only with The Hurt Locker for the most nominated film at this year's ceremony. The thing is, with its $2bn box office receipts and the massive hype surrounding it pre-release, people are determined to be polarised on the matter.
Internet message boards are full of fanboys who declare it to be the best film ever, and if you don't agree with that to the letter, you must hate it, and thus be blind in some way or other. And vice versa- if you don't despise the film, that makes you its biggest fan in certain quarters. It's an OK film, everyone! And it's OK that it's OK! Story-wise, it's certainly not perfect, and it does suffer from Cameron's seeming inability to cut the flab from the running time of his films. Hell, you can find my original review here. Most of what I said still holds true for me, except for one sentence in the last paragraph.
"It's probably not going to win an Oscar for Best Picture"
Sorry, past Mark, but you were wrong. That was a key case of me underestimating James Cameron's ability to dress Dances with Wolves up as a Direhorse and convince everyone that it the best film of the year. So sadly, with the voters blinded by the 3D-abetted box-office receipts instead of remembering they gave Best Picture to this very film 20 years ago, I predict that Avatar will win Best Picture on March 7th. Not because it's the best film nominated, but because that's what the Academy's like.
The only two films I haven't seen out of the other nine nominees are The Blind Side and Precious, both of which are yet to be released in the UK. Five of my top ten favourite films of last year made the shortlist, but I was most pleased to see A Serious Man, Up and District 9 in there. However, I can't see any of those films beating the sheer hype juggernaut of that blue-cat-people film. Let's just hope Kathryn Bigelow beats her ex-husband to Best Director for her excellent work on The Hurt Locker, which Kevin Smith says would be "a victory for ex-wives everywhere".
To the acting categories, I can't say an awful lot, because I haven't seen The Blind Side, Precious, The Last Station, Crazy Heart, A Single Man, Invictus, The Lovely Bones or The Messenger yet. The momentum seems to be in favour of Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart, Carey Mulligan for An Education, Mo'Nique for Precious and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds, in their respective categories. A further Avatar related annoyance is in the fact that they didn't nominate the film in one of the categories they actually should have- Zoe Saldana for Best Actress, seemingly opting for old favourite Meryl Streep holding her nose and gurning through Julie & Julia.
As an aspiring writer, I was very interested in the screenplay categories, and was delighted to see In The Loop and A Serious Man get noticed. Up in the Air and Inglourious Basterds are both awards darlings this year, but both will likely be overshadowed in the other major categories by the Battle of the Exes. Expect them to win their respective screenplay categories, though I'd personally have said In The Loop for Best Adapted and A Serious Man for Best Original. But then I don't get to pick- there's probably a good reason for that.
To wrap up then- some of the overlooked films...
(500) Days of Summer
Should have been nominated: For Best Original Screenplay
Why for? It's the most original entry to its genre in years. Besides which, in amongst the bluster (blue-ster?) of Avatar, there wasn't another film this year like Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. Up in the Air was seemingly a de facto entry to that role, but I preferred this film. Good screenplay, well acted- shamefully overlooked.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Should have been nominated: For Best Animated Picture
Why for? Because Fantastic Mr. Fox was rubbish! I know it probably appeals massively to middle-aged voters, but it also excluded Roald Dahl's target audience completely. Also, Cloudy should be up there because it's a lot better than you'd think- a genuinely funny script with some great voice acting and no pretension about itself. It's a film by "a lot of people", not a vanity project for Wes Anderson.
Should have been nominated: For Best Actor (Sam Rockwell), Best Visual Effects and Best Picture
Why for? Sam Rockwell is amazing in Moon and this really should have been the role that got his consistently great work in supporting roles some kudos from the industry. It also used visual effects to less showy effect than Avatar and on a smaller budget. The Best Picture thing is probably a stretch, but in an enlarged category, it's a real shame this didn't make it into the top ten, in a year where the stigma against sci-fi has been dulled by the likes of District 9.
Me and Orson Welles
Should have been nominated: For Best Supporting Actor (Christian McKay) and Best Cinematography
Why for? Christian McKay is Welles in that film. Maybe they satisfied their real life figure quotient with Matt Damon in Invictus, but I think McKay brought to the screen all of what made Welles the imposing and legendary figure he is. More than that, this is one of the few films that makes you feel like you're in the theatre for reasons that aren't to do with poor pacing- it's down to the excellent cinematography.
A Serious Man
Should have been nominated: For Best Actor (Michael Stuhlbarg)
Why for? OK, so two nominations, one of those for Best Picture, is hardly a snub. On the other hand, Stuhlbarg hasn't been getting the love he very richly deserves for his breakout role as Larry Gopnik. The Coen brothers have enough gold on their mantle and won't lose too much sleep over losing to the prestige pictures. Stuhlbarg will hopefully go on to do more great things, but I'd really have liked to see him get nominated here.
With that dirty business over for another year, the next bit of Oscars coverage will probably be on March 8th, the day after the ceremony. Maybe I'll don a tux and do my own bloggy awards. As far as reviews go, the next post will probably cover The Princess and the Frog and/or Youth in Revolt.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't give an Oscar to an anti-corporate film if it makes more money than Jesus feasibly could.