Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Oscar Nominations Are Here!

I was trying to decide between "Here it is, lads -- 'Smell the Glove'" and "Hot off the press, strictly a mess" for a lead for this piece about the newly announced Academy Award nominations.

Neither is quite right, though. Yes, these nominations are a little odd and a little stinky in some ways (Where is Michael Fassbender? Where is Ryan Gosling? Why doesn't the Academy like Stephen Spielberg and what is this inexplicable love for Brad Pitt and "Moneyball"?) but these nominations aren't fun or irreverent enough for a "Spinal Tap" reference. And they're not really enough of a mess or related to Broadway or musicals for the "Follies" nod.

So I guess I'll just go with, well, here they are... Another year, another set of Oscar nominations that err on the side of the sad, sentimental or portentous ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "War Horse," "The Tree of Life"), love the screen veterans and comeback stories (Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, Gary Oldman, Nick Nolte) and overlook comedy that isn't Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris" or foreign ("The Artist"). It's not a surprise, really, but why no love for "Crazy, Stupid, Love"? Personally, I would take six "Crazy, Stupid, Loves" over one "Bridesmaids." And while "Moneyball" was okay, it was no great shakes, even in my household, where my husband once spent a great deal of time on Bill James and baseball Sabermetrics and still has a fondness for that general area, which is what "Moneyball" is about. It's a fine movie, a decent movie, and Brad Pitt is fine and decent. And that's it. No great shakes. Not really Oscar bait. Or clearly Oscar bait and I am once again not on the same wavelength as Oscar voters.

In a side note, this year's two big movies based on well-regarded stageplays --"Carnage," from Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage" and "The Ides of March," from Beau Willimon's "Farragut North," went away pretty much empty-handed. "Ides" earned a nomination for its screenplay, but otherwise zippo. Why so little love for products of the legitimate stage?

So, anyway... Here they are... Or at least the ones that interest me...

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

I loved "Hugo" and "Midnight in Paris," and "Hugo" would probably be my pick if I were voting. But "The Artist" is the odds-on favorite here. Overall, "Hugo" leads the pack with 11 nominations, while "The Artist" is right behind with 10. That can give a film momentum within the voting and create a kind of tsunami effect. If anybody is going to get a tsunami, it's "The Artist."

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)

Malick is a bit of a surprise; I expected to see David Fincher's name for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," since he got a Directors Guild nomination, or Stephen Spielberg for "War Horse," since Oscar prognosticators were trumpeting his odds. Still, I'm betting Hazanavicius will win.

Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Viola Davis (The Help)
Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

I'm expecting Meryl Streep to take this, although Viola Davis's heartfelt work in "The Help" might just knock Meryl (Oscar's most-nominated actress) off the podium. Glenn Close gets a nomination in the somewhat traditional "pretending to be a gender you are not" category, which earned an Oscar nod for Dustin Hoffman for "Tootsie," a SAG nomination for Nathan Lane for "The Birdcage," and a Golden Globe win for Robin Williams for "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Which of these things is not like the other? Brad Pitt in "Moneyball." Okay, I will stop ragging on Mr. Pitt. But he really doesn't belong. Not for "Moneyball," anyway, in which he was competent and cute, but hardly revelatory. Maybe this is really a nomination on the order of "We're sorry we didn't like you better in 'The Tree of Life,' so 'Moneyball' it is." Anyway, George Clooney is widely expected to take this, with some folks thinking that Jean Dujardin could ride "The Artist" train to victory if it builds up a big enough head of steam. Leonardo DiCaprio ("J. Edgar") and the aforementioned Michael Fassbender ("Shame") were considered likely to be nominated, but didn't get into that select group.

Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)

Just take that award over to Octavia Spencer right now. She was terrific in "The Help," she already won the Golden Globe and a spattering of critics awards for the role, and she is nominated for and expected to win the SAG award in this category, too. I suppose Bérénice Bejo (in what is really a leading role) or Melissa McCarthy (fresh off her Emmy win) could have a shot, but I really think this is Octavia Spencer's year.

Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Nick Nolte (Warrior)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)

Max von Sydow is always amazing, and longevity certainly seems to be a factor in Academy voting. That will also help Christopher Plummer, though, and he is getting a lot of notice for a showy role. And his character dies in "Beginners," which always helps garner sympathy from voters.

The Descendants (Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash)
Hugo (Screenplay by John Logan)
The Ides of March (Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon)
Moneyball (Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan)

Playwright Beau Willimon is nominated for his work helping to adapt his play "Farragut North" into "The Ides of March" for the screen, and playwright John Logan ("Red," "Hauptmann") is nominated for his work as a screenwriter on "Hugo." "The Descendants" was adapted from the book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, while "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" comes from the John le Carré spy novel of the same name, and "Hugo" began its life as a children's book called "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick. The oddsmakers think Clooney et al. will win for "The Descendants," but I am pulling for Martin Scorsese.


The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
Bridesmaids (Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig)
Margin Call (J.C. Chandor)
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)

Although I applaud the Academy for recognizing comedy, my preference would be more cerebral stuff than the girl-gross-out comedy in "Bridesmaids." Potty humor is not ma thang, not from the guys and not from the girls. So all the acclaim for "Bridesmaids" (Who knew women could be funny???? What a surprise!!!! Except, COME on. Women have always been funny. Sometimes even with poop.) strikes me as decidedly odd. Oh well. I would vote for Woody Allen's charming and creative "Midnight in Paris," and who knows? Maybe the Academy will agree with me and recognize that movie and Mr. Allen in just this one category, since they are figuring so much else will go to "The Artist."

All of my kvetching aside, I know when all is said and done, I will be tuning in on February 26th with a good chunk of the rest of the world to see whether Meryl Streep remembers her glasses, Marty Scorsese and his love of film preservation take him over the top, Viola Davis and her choice of gown knock 'em dead one more time, and Jean Dujardin brings the dog onstage if "The Artist" wins Best Picture. Maybe I should start a drinking game...


  1. Thanks for all the info and the personal take on it! I need to see more of these before the event! Aauugghh!

  2. Odd coincidence: I am currently renting a DVD of a 2008 movie called "The Nines." It's a very weird small indie film (barely released to theaters) with 3 leading players (Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy, each playing 3 roles) and maybe 3 more briefly featured actors (Octavia Spencer, Elle Fanning, Ben Falcone, each playing 2 roles). And as you can see, out of that small group two are currently nominated for Academy Awards for their acting.

  3. And both in the same category! Someday someone will be interviewing one or the other and asking what they did before the Oscar-nom film, and she will either say, "I was in this little movie with [the other one] and she was so fun to work with and then we were both nominated for supporting actress! What are the chances?" Or else they will forget about it entirely.

    Meanwhile, if you had told me two people from that group would be nominated for Oscars in the same year, I would've thought Hope Davis was the one sure thing and hoped against hope Elle Fanning wasn't the other one.