Monday, January 30

Notes on Oscar Nominations

Ramblings... reflections... reckonings.  As usual the nominations me mean the recognition of some fine films, performances, etc., and the head-scratching over some that were nominated and some that were not and of course the sometimes laughable predictability of Hollywood.

I won't dwell on Hugo because I haven't seen it.  But I don't need to see it to know that Hollywood is always such a sucker for films about Hollywood or the movies.  And of course Martin Scorsese is the director and that means important.  Hollywood would certainly take notice, as it would for The Artist, a film I did see and found to be a bit of a yawn.  (Maybe it's because no one was talking!  Hmmm.)  I do not understand its acclaim but I certainly acknowledge that it is out there.  I sense a win as well for the film and its director, Michael Hazanavicius.

For best films, I also missed both of Brad Pitt's... and for some reason, I usually do.  Moneyball is about baseball and well, um, er, those types of movies don't make it to first base with me.  It may be good; I may not care.  The Tree of Life made me really nervous.  I went to a multiplex once to see another film and there was a hand-written sign on the counter that read: No refunds for Tree of Life after 20 minutes.  Oh-oh, you don't have to hit me over the head.  I know of a few people who liked it somewhat and more who hated it with a passion.  I was surprised to see its inclusion for best picture.  The last one I did not see was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  I read a number of unflattering reviews and yet it's up for grabs here.  Go figure. 

I am saddened and surprised that My Week with Marilyn didn't warrant some attention in this category.  It was my favorite film of the year.  Hey guys, heads up... it's about Hollywood.  It was also done well at every level.  I did see War Horse and found it entertaining but hardly an award winner (note its esteemed director was not acknowledged).  Midnight in Paris was adorable.  I quite liked it and I've been known to not speak that way about a Woody Allen movie.  But a best picture?  I dunno. 

So we've narrowed it down to The Help and The Descendants, both of which I loved.  If you and your neighbor were voting, it would probably be for The Help, an enormously popular movie to the masses.  I think for a change the masses are right.  While sanitized and sentimentalized a bit from the true events, it was an irresistible pastiche of female performances and a story that both tugged at your heartstrings and fired up your human rights juices.

The Descendants is beautifully done at every level but special attention must be given to acting, directing and writing, the mainstays of any good film.  As a family comes to grips with truths in the face of a wife/mother's impending death, we, as an audience, become invested in these characters.  We learn about them and bond with them at varying levels.  At its heart is George Clooney's glowing performance and he has never been better.  Alexander Payne superbly helmed the whole affair which is why he was nominated.  (Note the director of The Help was not.)

Jean Dujardin was not surprisingly nominated for best actor for The Artist but I found his performance both amusing and monotonous.  I did not think he held a candle to Leonardo DiCaprio's turn as J. Edgar and he wasn't nominated.  And why not?  Does Hollywood have a love-hate relationship with Leo?  Is he too big for their britches?  Does he make too many big films?  Does he need to marry like a politician needs to marry?  Is it because he's Scorsese's boy?

And Gary Oldman for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy... now there's a knee-slapper.  It's not that he was boring but the writers created boring characters.  Oldman is a very good actor, but his inclusion here is beyond the pale.  He was nominated and Michael Fassbender was not for his riveting, memorable performance as a sex addict in Shame?  Absolutely outrageous.  Have you no shame?  I think Ryan Gosling, too, deserved a nomination for The Ides of March.  Maybe Academy members didn't see it.  I have not seen Demián Bichir in A Better Life as a Mexican gardner trying to achieve a better life in L.A., but I suspect his greatest happiness will come from the nomination.

(By the way, and in case you don't know... when it comes to  establishing the nominations, only those who belong to a particular group vote in that category.  In another words, actors nominate actors, writers do the same for writers and so on.  Everyone nominates the best pictures.  When it comes to the actual voting, once the nominees are established, everyone votes for everyone.)

I want Michelle Williams to win for A Week with Marilyn and you can count on my objectivity.  LOL.  One measuring stick I have always used for a great performance is whether I think it was a stretch for the actor.  For a person like Williams to pull off someone like Monroe with whom she had next-to-nothing in common was an incredible stretch.

Most fortune tellers are extolling the virtues of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady and Viola Davis as a southern maid in The Help.  I suspect both are worthy.  Streep, I mean, come on.  Her face should probably go up on Mount Rushmore with those older guys.  Isn't she a force to always be reckoned with?  While she's won two Oscars already, she is clearly due again after a gazillion years of being a bridesmaid and not the bride.  Davis (Streep's costar in Doubt) was nothing short of brilliant in the kind of finely nuanced role that actresses usually dream of.

I haven't seen Albert Nobbs (but it will be Wednesday's posting).  I know that Glenn Close knows nothing about delivering anything other than award-winning performances.  A superior American actress who has been nominated five times before without a win.  If she gets a sixth no-win, she'll be part of Oscar trivia... tying with Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter for the most nominations without a win. 

And Rooney Mara... not happening.  Her performance, while completely acceptable, was more a tribute to makeup, tattoos and piercings than to being a student of Stanislavski.  And she's young, an up-and-comer.  What an upset this win would be.  And is she more deserving than Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin?

I think the supporting acting winners this year are fairly predictable.  We will be able to say Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer after February 26.  And if she and Viola Davis both win, you better settle in for mountains of internet and television buzz this one will cause.

And Christopher Plummer for Beginners seems a shoo-in to me.  I am not so sure this was a stretch for him, but Plummer, as a gay father who comes out late in life, gave a very effecting performance. I think Hollywood just wants to honor the cherished Canadian octogenarian with an Oscar.

I would be a lot happier about this Oscar business-- and awards in general-- if winners acquired that mantle because of superior work and not some popularity or non-popularity contest.  Of course, maybe there shouldn't be a contest in the first place.  What are they, greyhounds?  So, instead of saluting one winner, I say, despite the above, you are all winners to me.   

NEXT POSTING:  Review of Albert Nobbs

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