Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

My first reaction is a resounding WHAT THE HELL? Of course, this happens every year, so let's get the positives out of the way before I start ranting.

"Hello Rabbi? I got nominated for an Oscar! Life doesn't suck so bad after all!"

I was thrilled that the Coen brothers' A Serious Man made the Best Picture cut, and is now the only nominee that really deserves to win. It won't. But it should.

And...that's all I've got really. I mean most of the acting categories went according to plan so I can't really get excited about those. For me, the biggest surprise (and disappointment) was the inclusion of The Blind Side in the Best Picture lineup. Never underestimate the Academy's love for films with themes about how all black people need to succeed is a rich white person to help them out. OK, so the film isn't THAT bad, but it's still a film with reductive, simplistic racial politics made safe for middle America.

"Pssst, grandma, I have a potato in my vagina."

The Best Foreign Language Film list is also a bit strange. I can't decide if the failure to nominate The Netherlands' WWII drama Winter in Wartime is a step in the right direction for the Academy or not. It's not a great film, pretty standard coming of age, WWII fare, but it's a better film than at least two of the films they did nominate - the bland crime procedural, El Secreto de sus Ojos, and The Milk of Sorrow, a film about a woman with a potato in her vagina. Milk of Sorrow is the kind of film that gives art house fare a bad name, and I can't help but feel that it's inclusion is an attempt to seem edgy and cool, instead it just seems annoyingly pretentious. I was most disappointed that Bulgaria's wonderful The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner failed to get a nomination. I'm not sure what that means for its chances of getting US distribution.

I'm also very disappointed that Abel Korzeniowski's gorgeous score to A Single Man, in my opinion the best score of the year, got snubbed. I thought for sure it would make it, but instead they nominated the score to The Hurt Locker. I mean really, who saw THAT coming?

Other bizarre occurrences - District 9 got nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, but not Best Makeup, which was arguably one of its strongest assets. Even its detractors would acknowledge that.

"Hey, have you seen our movie, THE SECRET OF KELLS?"
"Nope."
"Me either."


I was very surprised to see The Secret of Kells nominated for Best Animated Feature, but since I haven't actually seen it, I can't complain. I wish it had been Mary & Max though.

I think at this point, with Avatar and The Hurt Locker tied for the most nominations with 9, with Avatar getting less than expected and The Hurt Locker getting more, that Hurt Locker is now the front runner to win Best Picture. The out of left field score nod indicates far reaching support.

Overall, I feel like this is the weakest slate of Best Picture nominees in a decade. The widening of the field to 10 nominees has severely diluted the pool and cheapened the brand. But it is what it is, and we'll just have to live with it this year. When they wanted to open up the field to more populist choices, I don't think The Blind Side was what they meant. District 9 maybe, but not The Blind Side.

But what is done is done, and there is no use in complaining about it now. But for the first time in a decade, I feel completely ambivalent about pretty much all of the nominees. Sorry Oscar, you finally lost me.

4 comments:

Sam Juliano said...

"I'm also very disappointed that Abel Korzeniowski's gorgeous score to A Single Man, in my opinion the best score of the year, got snubbed."

Yup, the minute I walked out of the theatre after seeing this film, I knew we had teh score of the year, though Michael Giacchino's does push close.

The BRIGHT STAR omission in Best Pix (expected) and non-nominations for Ms. Campion, Ms. Cornish and Mr. Schneider as well as cinematography, well, it's criminal. But what else is new?

Yes, A SERIOUS MAN is one in the ten that deserves to win. But for me, I'd add AVATAR and UP to that scenario, as both are great films, finishing in my own Top 5.

Bostons Obscurity said...

Milk of sorrow was one of the best indie world films I've seen in a long while.

I totally agree with you on 'the secret in their eyes' tho. Average 2.5 stars fare at best.

M

nate said...

I just saw A SINGLE MAN (finally) and the score really enhances the movie. About half the time I don't even hear the music, except for those rare occassions (THERE WILL BE BLOOD is an example) and A SINGLE MAN was that best of those rare occasions in terms of last year movies.

I don't particularly agree with your statement about the expanded 10 nominees, diluting the pool because it is the weakest slate of contenders. It just has to do with not having stronger contenders overall this past year. Had the list remained as before: AVATAR, BASTERDS, PRECIOUS, UP IN THE AIR, and LOCKER would had been the eventual 5 nominees and your fave pick: A SERIOUS MAN wouldn't have made it. So to me, the expanded list does more good than hurt the category.

In regards to THE BLIND SIDE, every now and then a movie gets in that shouldn't. It's happened many times before when there were only 5 nominees, so I don't necessarily blame it on the doubling of the list.

Matthew Lucas said...

I would rather see A SERIOUS MAN get snubbed than see them dilute the name of Oscars with the likes of THE BLIND SIDE. It's not like it was my favorite of the year, it's just my favorite of the nominees. If it hadn't made it, I would have been pulling for AVATAR.

My problem is that nominating 10 films makes it easier to get nominated, and therefore it's a less exclusive and less prestigious award.