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Reaction to the Best Picture Oscar Nominations…

Well, it’s been a week since the nominations were announced. I think I’m as adjusted as I’ll ever be to this year’s crop of Oscar contenders. Am I happy? Relatively. Am I delighted? No. Am I as filled with disappointment and rage as I was last year? Not nearly. Does this mean we can judge the ten horse race a success? I’m not so sure. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the worse of this year’s nominations, snubs and just inexplicable nods. I’ll be taking a look at the acting nominations later in the week, because this post just ballooned. Rather fitting given the expansion of the category, no?

Let the speculating and analysis and moaning begin...

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Nazi-ploitation! Or How We Treat Nazi Germany in Modern Cinema…

I moaned last week about the loss of the two-dimensional evil Nazi. Brushed aside in a tide of political correctness or extreme sensitivity. I think it’s time to talk about what Hollywood has presented us with in its stead. I think it’s interesting to discuss the general trend in the presentation of the Third Reich that we’ve seen emerge in the past year or so.

Tom Cruise played a vision-impaired conflicted German during the Third Reich... Where's his Oscar?

Tom Cruise played a vision-impaired conflicted German during the Third Reich... Where's his Oscar?

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Going Nutz Over Nazis…

Ah, Nazis. The most typical of Hollywood villains. It seems that whenever you want the audience to cheer at what your morally ambiguous hero is up to, just stick his opponent in a Nazi uniform and you can guaruntee that the viewers will know which side they’re on. It used to be in the old days that simply putting a villain in a Nazi uniform was a regular past time for any big director. You didn’t need characterisation or complexity. If they’re German between 1941 and 1945, they’re a bad guy. Well, at least that used to be the way. In recent years it seems that we have accepted that things may be slightly more complex than those black and grey uniforms that they wore. There are many shades. So much so that the ‘thoughtful Nazi flick’ has pretty much become guarunteed Oscar bait. Given the minor furore which surrounded the release of Inglourious Basterds, is the time of the one-dimensional cardboard cutout passed into history? And has political correctness gone too far?

Don't make a song and dance about it...

Don't make a song and dance about it...

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Looking Back at This Year’s Best Picture Race

I’ve finally gotten to see all the five Best Picture nominees for the 81st Academy Awards. I’m honestly disappointed it took me so long, but that’s what happens when a flood of prestige movies hit the cinemas over three weeks in January and the Academy doesn’t even pick the good ones. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about the contenders, in retrospect. The previous year’s awards featured a fantastic line-up – Juno, No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood – that hit just about every demographic and represented the awards at their best. This year, we got a closed shop.

The statuettes are actually quite creepy when you get to looking at them...

The statuettes are actually quite creepy when you get to looking at them...

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Welcome to the Academy!

Wow.

The Academy might actually be serious about changing things. I was indifferent about the expansion of the Best Picture category, and a bit miffed about the demotion of the Honorary Awards to an event outside the regular show, but today’s list of new members of the Academy gives me a little cause for hope. These are the people who will vote on the nominees in coming years and I’m actually surprised: I recognise most of the names. Don’t get me wrong, these are only 134 new members in an organisation of 5000. This announcement by itself won’t move the Oscars back to the centre of popular culture where they belong, but – if the Academy can stick to its guns on this one – it may prove a better way of incorporating mainstream tastes than simply doubling the size of the Academy’s net.

Marlon Brando with his trophy... and his Oscar...

Marlon Brando with his trophy... and his Oscar...

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Non-Review Review: The Reader

The first of the big Oscar nominees to be released on DVD/Blu Ray in Ireland, it’s little surprise that Dad came home with The Reader this weekend.

I like to think I’m an open-minded sort of guy. I can watch controversial films without blinking. I can even stomach the occassional political diatribe and acknowledge its well-crafted artistry (I enjoyed Lions for Lambs despite its hamfistedness). Yet The Reader just irks me. Perhaps it’s the way the film tries so hard to pass itself off as a ‘big idea’ film (and evidentally succeeded, securing a Best Picture nod). Perhaps it’s the way that it acts like it has got guts, asking tough questions when all it does is dance around them and undermine them with shameless Oscar-baiting (let’s look at german post-war guilt – but let’s make the subject of this examination an illiterate, uglied-up, pedophilic Kate Winslet).

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