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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Academy Award Nominations: Official Report

I’m well aware that the Oscars don’t mean shit. In today’s world, where studios buy wins with unofficial bribes and the show is only separated from a popularity contest by one layer of pretensions, the Academy Awards are as meaningless as any other award. Especially to a horror fan like me, where my favorite films of the years are usually excluded. (We then have to expect the completely retarded Saturn Awards and the fucking Scream Awards to pick up the slack.) And don’t even get me started on how small independent films are pushed out by big studio fare’s massive campaigns.

Despite all this, I can’t help but love the Oscars. Don’t ask me why. Maybe I just get swept up in the glitz and glamor. Maybe I love to play the game. For whatever reason, this time of year is like Christmas to me. Perhaps better, because I have no obligation to see my family.

On this chilly Groundhog’s Day, the nods were announced. You can find a complete list here. I have not seen several of the films listed below and my comments, naturally, have less to do with my personal taste then with buzz and politics.

Best Picture:

A lot of hoopla was made over the decision to expand the Best Picture category to ten nominations. The whole idea seemed silly to me and I don’t much see the point, since it’s easy to pick out the top five contenders anyway. “Avatar,” “Up in the Air,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and “Precious” are the clear challengers and the other five picks are simply bonuses.

Granted, I was happily surprised to see “District 9” get a nod. (It was either that or “Star Trek,” I suppose.) It was sweet for the Academy to throw “Up” a bone, but when it has such a clear shot in the Best Animated Film category, the gesture seems unnecessary. I’ll expand on my disgust with “The Blind Side” below. The main surprise with “A Serious Man” is that it got a mention here, but not one in the Actor category.

Official Predictions: While its unending popularity and its surprise win at the Golden Globes might have pushed “Avatar” to the front of the race, it’ll be a cold day in hell before the Academy gives Best Picture to a sci-fi film. “The Hurt Locker” takes it all the way.

Best Actor and Actress:

Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, and Jeremy Renner all seemed like shoe-ins. Colin Firth’s nod was a bit in question but not a surprise. The main surprise was Morgan Freeman for “Invictus” The film’s lukewarm reception from critics and the fact that Freeman pretty much plays the same part in every movie made it seem an unlikely choice. I suppose the “Playing a historical figure” shine and the fact that he’s just so damn lovable pushed him ahead.

As for the Actress category… That Sandra Bullock, the face of meet-cute romantic-comedy mall-crap, has managed to gain any momentum at all, is disheartening. “The Blind Side” is a cynical, formulaic, subconsciously racist, feel-good bit of pap and Bullock’s wide mouthed, orange tanned caricature of a Suddin’ Lady with Attitude is maybe her broadest, blandest performance yet. (At least when Julia Roberts did it, she had a solid director backing her up.) I remain in utter disbelief that Bullock not only received the nomination but is currently the front-runner for the win. I’ve made an official, Werner-Herzog-ian bet to eat my hat should she win. Currently, considering the hype, I’m thinking of ways to make a wool cap slightly more digestible.

The rest of the category yielded few surprises. Emily Blunt not receiving a nod for “The Young Victoria” is disappointing and, in a perfect world, it would be Tilda Swinton’s brave role in “Julia” that would currently be the top pick. I can’t believe a day has come where I actually want to see Meryl Streep take the gold. For playing Julia Childs no less, for fuck’s sake.

Official Predictions: Jeff Bridges is the likely choice but, considering how much everyone loves George Clooney and how this role is far more indicative of his style then his previous win for “Syriana,” don’t be surprise if he takes it instead.

As for actress, I’m rooting for Carey Mulligan in an upset or, a slightly less upsetting upset, the fat chick from “Precious,” however you spell her name.

Supporting Nods:

Both of these are foregone conclusions. Christoph Waltz’ Col. Handa might be the most iconic screen villain from the previous decade and Mo’Nique, Mo’Nique of all people, a comedian whose shtick has never risen above “Sassy fat lady,” has been gunning for the statue since Sundance.

There’s zero viable competition in the Actor zone. (Sorry Woody Harrelson.) A win for Vera Farmiga is not impossible in the Actress Zone, especially if the judges pull an Eddie Murphy again and decide they’re afraid of black people this year. And, considering its down-right acidic reviews, how the hell did “Nine” manage anything, much less a placement in a top-tier category?

Official Predictions: Waltz and Mo’Nique.

Best Director:

Now this could get interesting. Will the Academy reaffirm James Cameron’s status as King of the World? I mean, they’ve made it clear that they love the guy. But how can they pass up the chance to make his ex-wife the first woman to win Best Director? Folks in Hollywood love to pretend they’re proactive like that. If Bigelow gets it, Best Picture chances for “Avatar” increase by half, and vice-versa.

While it’s tempting to throw my support behind the director of “Near Dark” and “Point Break,” the fan boy in me can’t help but hope for the slight chance that Mr. Tarrantino will finally receive his long overdue statue as a director.

Official Prediction: Katheryn Bigelow.


What the heck was “District 9” an adaptation of? A short film you say? Whatever, it won’t win. Smaller, quirkier indie picks like “Precious” or “Up in the Air” are usually the winners in this category. The Academy likes to recognize smaller pictures like that but don’t have big enough balls to give them the main treat. It worked for Diablo Cody anyway, demon-tongued hack that she is.

Despite all of this and not receiving a nomination in any other category, my money’s on “In the Loop.” It’s widely been recognized as the “Dr. Strangelove” of its day and, that it has zero other shots, actually seems to increases this spunky flick’s chances here. It should win anyway.

As for original material… Pixar and the Coen Brothers are both beloved and, if “The Hurt Locker’ doesn’t get the top prize it might win here, but, as far as I’m concerned, Quentin Tarrantino reigns supreme.

Official Predictions: “Precious” and “Inglourious Basterds.”

Animated Film:

Am I the only one surprised by the lack of a nod for “Ponyo?” The Academy isn't anywhere near nerdy enough to "get" anime but Miyazaki is respected even around these parts. I have no idea what “Secret of the Kells” is or where it came from. I have to say, aside from the elephant in the room, I love that CGI animation is barely represented at all.

Disney’s triumphant return to traditional animation could’ve won in another year, and I’d love it if unconventional fare like “Coraline” or “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” wins, but, let’s face it. This is a foregone conclusion. Pixar will take home another Oscar.

Official Prediction: “Up”


The folksy, intimate country theme from “Crazy Heart” is the probable choice in Best Song but the Academy has never exactly warmed up to that style of music. Either of the choices from “The Princess and the Frog” might be more to their liking.

As for score, the whimsy of “Up” might push through but expect the epic orchestration of James Horner’s score to make this another easy win for “Avatar.”

Official Predictions: “Crazy Heart” and “Avatar.”


Cinematography is a straight mix-up between “Basterds,” “Avatar,” and “The Hurt Locker.” The Iraq War film’s focus on sound and tension might give it a go against Cameron in Sound Editing and regular Editing. “Avatar” is destined to swipe every other technical nod its up for.

The fact that the creatures of “Avatar” where all created in a computer makes “Star Trek” the prime choice in Make-up. It’s a toss-up between “The Young Victoria” and “Coco Before Chanel” in Costumes.

I can’t much comment on Foreign or Documentaries, other then “The White Ribbons”’ Golden Palm seems to make it a likely choice in the former. And I can’t comment at all on the Shorts, seeing as how they remain both obscure and unseen to the general public.

I am happy to see “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” got any recognition at all but am disheartened that the fantastic creature effects in “Where the Wild Things Are” received zero nods. I have few other snubs to report, seeing as how the movies I like usually don’t get any nominations anyway.

On March 7th I will attempt a live-blog of the ceremony and, failing that, expect a big write-up the next day. See you then, ya’ punks and losers!