I’m not gonna lie, folks: I’m very disappointed with this list of nominees. Yes, a few nominations did go to the right people, but the Academy did at least two things wrong for every one thing they did right. And I’d stake my wallet that most of the things they got right will be screwed over come February 26th. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look.
- The Artist
- The Descendants
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
- The Help
- Midnight in Paris
- The Tree of Life
- War Horse
For the most part, I can appreciate this list. A lot of these movies were among my favorites of the year, or got an honorable mention from me at least. I’m especially pleased to see that The Tree of Life didn’t turn off too many Academy voters, which was an all-too-plausible scenario.
And even those nominees that I didn’t like — for the most part — I can at least respect. I’m not a fan of War Horse, but I get that it’s a Spielberg movie into which he visibly poured every ounce of his considerable talent. As much as I didn’t like The Help, I can see how it was such a scrumptious piece of flavorless cinematic comfort food that Academy voters and common moviegoers alike made it one of last year’s most profitable films.
But for the life of me, I cannot understand the presence of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I know that a lot of internet commentators have talked about this already, and I’m going to talk about it some more.
Full disclosure: Extremely… Close is the only film on this list that I haven’t seen yet. I didn’t think there was any need. As of this typing, the film has only made $11.4 million worldwide, and it holds a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nobody saw this movie, and the critical reception is tepid at best, so what the sweet and sour fuck is this movie doing here? Who the hell decided to give this movie a nod instead of Drive? Or Take Shelter? Hell, it could just as easily have gone to Bridesmaids, Super 8, Beginners, or even 50/50.
But no, the Academy decided to waste a nomination on a movie that has no chance of winning, just so they could pander to no one. Bite me.
- Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
- Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
- Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
- Alexander Payne – The Descendants
- Martin Scorsese – Hugo
I’ll admit that I enjoyed Midnight in Paris, but I’m still pretty sure that Woody Allen only got the nomination for being Woody Allen. As much as I would’ve preferred a nod for David Fincher, I can still call this a very good list. It’s great to see Malick getting some recognition for his opus, though the odds are far better for Hazanavicius’ brilliantly-made silent film. Then again, Scorsese did a fantastic job on Hugo, which is incidentally the movie that wrangled the most Oscar nods. Payne is quite deservedly the dark horse in this category, though certainly not for lack of talent or effort.
- Demián Bichir – A Better Life as Carlos Galindo
- George Clooney – The Descendants as Matt King
- Jean Dujardin – The Artist as George Valentin
- Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as George Smiley
- Brad Pitt – Moneyball as Billy Beane
I confess that A Better Life flew completely under my radar. However, his performance was apparently good enough to warrant nominations from four other prominent awards, including those of the Screen Actors Guild. Plus, the movie itself is rocking an 85% Tomatometer, so there’s that. Still, the question must be asked: Was Bichir’s performance really that much better than every one of Michael Fassbender’s leading turns in 2011?
Giving Bichir the benefit of the doubt on that question, this looks like a damn fine list. I’m naturally rooting for Dujardin, though I certainly wouldn’t mind a win for Oldman either. In fact, I’d be perfectly happy with a win for any one of them.
- Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs as Albert Nobbs
- Viola Davis – The Help as Aibileen Clarke
- Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) as Lisbeth Salander
- Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady as Margaret Thatcher
- Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn as Marilyn Monroe
Still haven’t seen Albert Nobbs, but the 48% Tomatometer doesn’t look promising. Additionally, I don’t like that — much like Meryl Streep — Close is a seasoned actress who’s clearly showboating for no better reason than to win an Oscar. Still, though Close has been nominated six times, she’s never actually won a golden guy. I can appreciate this slightly more than Streep, who’s now eligible for a third Oscar to put in the library where she presumably keeps her other awards.
Then there’s Michelle Williams. She’s a great actress and she deserves some Oscar gold, but not like this. When Williams finally gets her statue, it should be for a better movie in which Williams stars as a character uniquely her own, and not in futile imitation of some established larger-than-life character. In a similar vein, The Help was a movie totally undeserving of Viola Davis’ wonderful performance. Davis and Williams are both going places and I wish them both all the awards in Hollywood, just not right now and not for these movies.
My favorite for this award is Rooney Mara, though not just by default. Mara really devoted her body and soul to this character, delivering a young woman who’s passionate yet withdrawn, intelligent yet eccentric, strong yet vulnerable, and beautiful in a punk sort of way. Of all the actresses on this list, Mara feels like the only one who played her role in the service of a greater story, and not just to impress Academy voters. That’s probably why she won’t win, but it’s a big reason why she’s my favorite of the bunch.
Best Supporting Actor:
- Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn as Laurence Olivier
- Jonah Hill – Moneyball as Peter Brand
- Nick Nolte – Warrior as Paddy Conlon
- Christopher Plummer – Beginners as Hal Fields
- Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as The Renter
As bad as the reception for Extremely… Close has been, I’ve yet to hear a single bad thing about von Sydow in this movie. As much as I and all the other movie geeks of the world would’ve liked to see Albert Brooks get the nod instead, I think we all knew that was just a pipe dream.
Even so, this is a wonderful list. Branagh was the best part of his movie, Plummer’s character was simply marvelous, Nolte played his role splendidly, and Hill turned in a performance with more talent than I ever thought he had. It’s great to see them all get some amount of recognition.
Best Supporting Actress:
- Bérénice Bejo – The Artist as Peppy Miller
- Jessica Chastain – The Help as Celia Foote
- Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids as Megan Price
- Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs as Hubert Page
- Octavia Spencer – The Help as Minny Jackson
So, let me get this straight. Elizabeth Olsen comes onto the scene with Martha Marcy May Marlene, and critics everywhere applaud her as one of the year’s breakout starlets. Meanwhile, Jessica Chastain appears in no less than four — count ‘em, four — movies over the course of 2011, racking up critical acclaim with each and every one. But neither of them can win Best Actress because Glenn Close and Meryl Streep have decided that they each need another statue on their respective mantlepieces. So Chastain gets bumped down to Best Supporting Actress for her least impressive role of the year while Olsen gets left out in the cold.
Sometimes, I really fucking hate the Academy.
To be clear, I don’t really have a problem with Spencer or Chastain getting nominations or even awards. After all, the only reason to watch that film was its cast. McCarthy did a fine job in Bridesmaids, though I think that her character was a little too one-note to really warrant an Oscar. I certainly won’t complain if she wins, but I don’t think she’s quite earned it yet. No comment on McTeer, since I haven’t seen the movie and I don’t know a thing about her character.
I wish that Chastain could get this award, simply because a mere nomination is not a sufficient consolation prize for all the outstanding work she did this year. On the other hand, Bejo did a marvelous job at portraying a character without dialogue, making it look effortless all the while. Moreover, she kept lighting up the screen in such a way that you just know she’s the real deal.
Best Original Screenplay:
I completely missed out on Margin Call and on The Separation, though I’ve heard great things about both. Bridesmaids and Midnight in Paris both had decent — though very flawed — scripts. The Artist is my favorite by default.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
The best one of the bunch is Moneyball, but the Academy won’t give Aaron Sorkin a second consecutive statue. Failing that, I think that The Descendants is the nominee with the most effective dialogue and pacing, and its effective balance of tragedy with comedy gives it a distinct advantage over Ides of March and Tinker Tailor.
Best Animated Feature:
The good news is that the Academy temporarily kicked its Pixar addiction so that Cars 2 didn’t get an undue nomination. The bad news is that The Adventures of Tintin got totally snubbed. I don’t know why Academy voters are so allergic to motion-capture films, but every year they don’t get over that is another injustice waiting to happen.
The only two nominees I’ve seen are Rango and Kung Fu Panda 2. I know that I’m in the minority who thinks that Rango is overrated, so I’m pulling for Kung Fu Panda 2 to win the Oscar. And I can’t believe I just typed that.
Best Original Score:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) didn’t get nominated. Which means that for the second year in a row, the Academy has failed to so much as nominate the year’s greatest score. GAH!!!
Anyway, instead of nominating Reznor and Ross once, the voters nominated John Williams twice. The same John Williams whose awards library is even bigger than Meryl Streep’s (five Oscars and twenty Grammys!). On the positive side, at least Williams got nominated for Tintin and War Horse, two movies whose scores have absolutely nothing else in common. And as much as I hate to admit it, both of them were really damn good. Likewise, Hugo, Tinker Tailor, and The Artist all had phenomenal scores as well.
I still think that Reznor and Ross turned in far better work than any of the nominees, but if they have to lose to anyone, I’m glad they’re losing to one of this bunch.
Best Original Song:
Of all the categories in the Oscars, this is probably the one with the widest gap between the good years and the bad years. Some years we get such great songs like “The Weary Kind,” “Jai Ho,” or “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow.” Other years, we get “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” or… well, does anyone out there have any of the songs from Dreamgirls or Country Strong on their mp3 player? I rest my case.
Even so, this has to be the worst crop of nominees in Oscar history. One of them is “Man or Muppet,” here getting the recognition that should have gone to “Life’s a Happy Song.” The other nominee is “Real in Rio,” which is admittedly very catchy until the singers open their mouths.
Those are the only two nominations this year. This is so bad that it makes me yearn for the days when “My Heart Will Go On” got an Oscar. Dead serious.
Best Sound Editing / Best Sound Mixing:
Transformers: Dark of the Moon will probably get both of these awards, and God knows I wouldn’t complain about that. Still, Hugo and War Horse both had some damn good sound editing, and the sound mixing on Moneyball was very effective. It seems a shame that Drive should get nominated for sound editing when it was really the sound mixing that made the movie work, but I’ll gladly accept whatever the Academy gives that film.
Best Art Direction:
Bellflower really deserved this award in my opinion, but there’s a pipe dream if ever there was one.
That aside, War Horse, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris all did great jobs with period settings, and Harry Potter delivered more of the same spectacular fantasy. Yet Hugo had great period settings and spectacular fantasy, so that’s my choice.
The Tree of Life deserves this award more than any other movie this year, but hoping that it actually wins seems a little too good to be true, especially given how all the other categories have panned out this year. All of the nominees for this list are great, make no mistake, but anything other than The Tree of Life would be a shame.
The Iron Lady would have had absolutely nothing if not for the makeup. Even Meryl Streep would have been left floundering if not for the fantastic job of making her look older and younger.
Best Costume Design:
Of the three nominees I’ve actually seen, the best of the bunch (and probably the winner as well) is Jane Eyre.
Best Film Editing:
These are all phenomenal choices. It’s a tough call, but I’m going to side with Moneyball and its surprisingly effective montages.
Best Visual Effects:
As great as the CGI was in Real Steel, this has to go to Rise of… the Apes. If Andy Serkis can’t get an acting award and if Weta can’t win for Tintin, they should at least win this.