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And The Oscar Nominees Are…

The Oscar nominees have just been announced. In the next few hours, in-depth analysis from all manner of sources will take place and discussions will begin on whether the conversion of the Best Picture Oscar to a ten horse race has made the nomination phase anymore exciting. I don’t think it has – we’ve all been talking about the big five like it were any other year – Up In The Air, Inglourious Basterds, Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Precious – and that doesn’t really seem to have changed. However, there’s been a whole heap of discussion about the remaining places on the list. Though that doesn’t exactly ‘shake up the Oscar race’. Once we get a taste for how the Oscars choose the next five (and I suspect it will be on the same basis as the first five), picking ten will seem as simple as picking five did. But I digress. Nominees and  preliminary analysis below. Note I’ll probably offer a more in-depth look at the race tomorrow.

It's that time of year again...

There was a little bit of excitement earlier today when ABC seemed to have jumped the gun on announcing Oscar nominees – with such unlikely Best Picture contenders as It’s Complicated and The Hangover (which had been an outside bet at best). So much for that.

Best Picture

The expansion of the race seemed to come from a desire to move the Academy back in touch with popular culture, as bigger films mean more viewers and more viewers mean more cash. The original suggestion – which seemed loopy, to be honest – was that it would allow the Oscars to recognise more populist entertainment. Remember the days when Star Wars: A New Hope and Raiders of the Lost Ark picked up nominations? Yeah, they’re back. But not quite. I argued over the year that it was a case of demographics. The Academy is made up of old folks who like stuff like Crash and young independent-minded types who like Brokeback Mountain. You want to change that, change the membership.

In hindsight, this is a moot point. Avatar will dominate the ceremony and – like Titanic in 1999 – Avatar is the biggest movie of all time. This meant record viewing figures for the ceremony, and I imagine we’ll see something similar this year. Though, as I’ve argued before, I don’t think that this could be considered to be AMPAS re-engaging with popular culture. District 9 makes an interesting choice though, and one I hadn’t seen securing any awards credit. Good for it – and Up. It was pretty secure, but I hadn’t been too sure that snobbishness wouldn’t keep it confined to the Best Animated Film category.

Is The Blind Side what AMPAS considers a populist choice? If so, it appears that their prestige tastes might be as middle-brow and stale as their prestige picks have been. It’s undeniably financially successful, but is it a better film – or one more deserving of recognition – than Star Trek or The Hangover if voters want to recognise popular tastes? It seems a bit mean to question such choices when District 9 and Up – both deserving – got chosen, but it still seems like a poorly chosen tokenistic gesture. Look, AMPAS appreciates the same films that middle America likes! We swear!

The argument is that the ten-horse race doesn’t shake anything up too much, as there are still only five directing nominees. Any Oscarologist will tell you the odds of picture taking home that king of statuettes without a nomination in the directing category is statistically improbable. In the old days of the ten-picture system the odds increased dramatically, but I wouldn’t count on a surprise upset yet, until the Academy has grown comfortable with the new system.

It looks like myself and my brother chose well – we have €5 bet on the Best Picture winner. He picked Avatar, I picked The Hurt Locker. As those are the movies tied with the most nominations, it looks like they are the two frontrunners (of the pack of five) at the moment.

Best Director

  • James Cameron
  • Kathryn Bigelow
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Lee Daniels
  • Jason Reitman

Those are the five frontrunners, so there’s really little shock there. Looks like it’s still a predictable race.

And now the acting categories. I’ll look at these in more depth later in the week.

Best Actor

Best Actress

  • Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
  • Carey Mulligan (An Education)
  • Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
  • Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Matt Damon (Invictus)
  • Woody Harrellson (The Messenger)
  • Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
  • Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
  • Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Penelope Cruz (Nine)
  • Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
  • Anna Kendrick (Up In the Air)
  • Mo’Niqu (Precious)

As a side note, it’s interesting and somewhat refreshing to see Mo’Nique secure a nomination despite actively choosing not to engage with the typical awards season politicking.

The performance is on the screen! At what point am I still trying to prove something?

– Mo’Nique

My inner cynic tells me that that move itself was a shrewd political one, but it’s nice to see a performance recognised as quality without having to play into the typical Hollywood awards season games. Good for her – although being incredibly gracious in accepting the boatload of awards for other ceremonies probably helped a bit. Eddie Murphy is probably still trying to figure out if all those posters for the godawful Norbit dashed his Oscar hopes for DreamGirls.

And, finally, what could arguably be considered to be the real indicators of the year’s best picture, the screenplay categories. Seriously, look over the history of the categories and compare them to the film taking home the big gongs and tell me that there isn’t more quality on show here.

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay

I’ll let those sink in for a while and I’ll see if I have anything tomorrow.

2 Responses

  1. I always liked Mo’Nique, but I surely didn’t see “Precious” coming. She’s the frontrunner and the one I think deserves the win for sheer “wow!” factor … even though I dearly love Vera Farmiga.

    Still, I agree with what Ross McG wrote on my blog — what’s with Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep getting nominations for nearly everything they do? Neither one deserved a nomination this year.

    • I’ll confess that I haven’t seen either performance, but I do think there’s a tendency in teh Oscars to nominate the names we know. It’s good that – unlike the Golden Globes – the prizes themselves aren’t generally decided on that principle. I’m more surprised on the whole ‘The Blindside’ thing. It strikes me as a weird olive branch to the few Republicans out there who might be coaxed into watching the ceremony (the story follows a middle-class white woman taking in a poor black kid and “fixing” his upbringing).

      My predictions in August were way off, but I did have Precious pegged as a finalist, even though it has somewhat fizzled and earned a fair amount of backlash. I guess that’s what happens when you become a frontrunner in the previous Spring.

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