Monday, February 15, 2010

Thoughts on Oscar Nominations

For this post I’m stealing something from Emma over at All About My Movies: My take on some of the 2010 Academy Awards nominations. I’ve left out the short films categories because I haven’t seen any of them, but if that changes I’ll be sure to post about those as well.

Best picture

Avatar (James Cameron and Jon Landau)

The Blind Side (Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson)

District 9 (Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham)

An Education (Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey)

The Hurt Locker (Katheryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicholas Chartier and Greg Shapiro)

Inglourious Basterds (Lawrence Bender)

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness)

A Serious Man (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)

Up in the Air (Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman)

Up (Jonas Rivera)

I’m looking forward to what the expanded nomination list for Best Picture brings us in the future, but I have to say I cannot imagine why something as obvious and overrated as District 9 got a Best Picture nom over the far more entertaining sci-fi blockbuster of the year: Star Trek. Also: The Blindside? Really? I know its got old-school Hollywood behind it, but it really looks like nothing more than a Lifetime original movie with Sandra Bullock in the lead (I’ll admit I haven’t seen it, but it is the only Best Picture nominated film I have yet to watch). Everything else here is pretty much as expected. I’m rooting for Up, my favorite of the year, but it’s looking like Avatar and The Hurt Locker are the favorites (although I wouldn’t count Precious out of the running). Personally I feel that Up, The Hurt Locker and Up In the Air are the best films on the list, in that order.


Avatar (James Cameron)

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)

Precious (Lee Daniels)

Kathryn Bigelow is easily the best choice for Directing in my opinion. Rietman and Tarantino both pulled off some fine films, and Cameron brought us some stunning technological innovations and thrilling spectacle, but I wouldn’t give him another statue for it. Also, Lee Daniels? Wasn’t his direction one of the problems even critics who loved Precious have with that film?

Actor in a leading role

Morgan Freeman in Invictus

Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

George Clooney in Up in the Air

Colin Firth in A Single Man

Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

I’ve seen every performance here save for Freeman’s in Invictus. Bridges gets my vote, with Firth and Renner coming in at a close second. I love George Clooney in Up In the Air as well. Everything here seems quality, although Invictus looks suspiciously like filler, especially with this year’s performances from the likes of Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutenant) or William Dafoe (Antichrist).

Actress in a leading role

Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia

Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side

Helen Mirren in The Last Station

Gabourey Sidibe in Precious

Carey Mulligan in An Education

This is one of the weakest categories unfortunately. I know I’m not the only person the feel that Bullock’s nomination is a sure sign of the apocalypse, but the sheer lack of quality leading roles for women this year was depressing. I haven’t seen The Last Station and although Mirren’s precsence here feels like filler, I can’t help but feel it must be better than Bullock and at least on a par with Streep in Julie & Julia. Mulligan was exquisite in An Education but that doesn’t mean that film wasn’t one of 2009’s most overrated. I have a feeling this one will come down the Gabourey Sidibe and Oscar darling Streep. I love Streep, but I don’t think Julia Childs is one of her best performances, so I suppose I’ll go with Sidibe, who rally came from out of nowhere to deliver a quality performance.

Actress in a supporting role

Mo'Nique in Precious

Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air

Penélope Cruz in Nine

Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart

Mo’Nique has this one in the bag, no question. Gyllenhaal was excellent alongside Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart though and has been deserving Oscar attention for years now. Both Farmiga and Kendrick were delightful semi-surprises this year, and it looks like Cruz was actually filler this year, seeing as Nine was pretty much panned for being a kitschy remake of 8 ½/Broadway adaptation.

Actor in a supporting role

Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds

Christopher Plummer in The Last Station

Matt Damon in Invictus

Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones

Woody Harrelson in The Messenger

Alright, here I’ve only seen Inglourious Basterds but I think it’s safe to say Waltz is just as safe, if not more so, than Mo’Nique. Out of the other nominations I have a feeling Harrelson’s is the next best and, although this is his first nomination in a career that more than deserves Oscar attention, I doubt Tucci in The Lovely Bones will bring him any gold.

Animated feature film

Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)

The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker)

Coraline (Henry Selick)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)

The Secret of Kells (Tomm Moore)

This category is one of the more interesting. Obviously I feel that Up would deserve the Best Animated Feature award the most, but I would rather see it win Best Picture and give Fantastic Mr Fox the animation award. Both Coraline and The Princess and the Frog had their unique charms, although I think Coraline would deserve the Oscar for it’s originality and dark tone over Disney’s return to 2D. As for The Secret of Kells, which I had never heard of before the nominations announcements, I can only go by the trailer, which looks a little underwhelming.

Foreign language film

Ajami (Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, Israel)

A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, France)

The Secret of Her Eyes (Juan Jose Campanella, Argentina)

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, Germany)

The Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa, Peru)

Documentary (feature)

Burma VJ (Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller)

The Cove (Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens)

Food, Inc (Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein)

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith)

Which Way Home (Rebecca Cammisa)

Here I’ve only seen Food, Inc which I was pleased to see get nominated. I’ve only heard excellent things about The Cove and consider it the frontrunner since I’ve heard little to nothing about the other titles. Glaring omissions: Anvil! The Story of Anvil and Capitalism: A Love Story

Writing (adapted screenplay)

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell)

An Education (Nick Hornby)

Precious (Geoffrey Fletcher)

Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)

In the Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche)

Having seen all of these films I would pick In the Loop for it’s Strangelove-esque portrayal of world politics and razor-sharp expletive filled dialog. Up In the Air had a nice Capra-esque tone to it, and although An Education has Nick Hornby going for it, I see Precious as the favorite in this category. Shame on District 9 for wasting more than one important nomination.

Writing (original screenplay)

The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal)

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)

Up (Pete Docter and Bob Petersen)

The Messenger (Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman)

This group is a closer one to call. Both the Coens and Tarantino are personal and Academy favorites, but Pixar’s delicately scripted Up deserves the gold here. Tarantino’s Basterds was fun, but Christoph Waltz was the best thing about it. Surprisingly, this is one year where I don’t think the Coen brothers are the obvious choice.


Avatar (Mauro Fiore)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel)

The Hurt Locker (Barry Ackroyd)

Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson)

The White Ribbon (Christian Berger)

I have yet to see The White Ribbon, but these nominees look disappointingly drab. Sure all the films look good, but Avatar for Cinematography? Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was good, but a few steps behind Prisoner of Azkaban both visually and emotionally. The Hurt Locker is the best choice here, capturing some frighteningly realistic and action-packed visuals while maintaining visual continuity and emotional connection.

Music (original score)

Avatar (James Horner)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat)

Up (Michael Giacchino)

The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders)

Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer)

With the exception of Horner’s fairly standard adventure score this is another diverse but deserving selection of nominees. Fantastic Mr Fox carried some typical Wes Anderson charm with it, although when considering the soundtrack to an Anderson film I tend to think less about the score than the sumptuous pop selections. Beltrami and Sanders’ score to The Hurt Locker worked perfectly alongside Bob Murawski and Chris Innis’ editing to really get audiences’ adrenaline pumping. Sherlock Holmes managed to both get the job done as an action/adventure blockbuster and create a 21st Century updated Victorian atmosphere that, alongside Downey Jr.’s performance felt right at home with the character. But Michael Giacchino’s score for Up is surely the best of the lot, just watch that dialog-free opening montage without the sound and tell me if it has half the impact as it should with Giacchino’s score.

Music (original song)

Almost There”, from The Princess and the Frog by Randy Newman

Down in New Orleans”, from The Princess and the Frog by Randy Newman

Loin de Paname”, from Paris 36 by Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas

Take it All”, from Nine by Maury Yeston

The Weary Kind”, from Crazy Heart by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

I haven’t seen Nine or Paris 36 but I have listened to “Take It All” and “Loin de Paname” thanks to the wonder of YouTube. Still, I think “The Weary Kind” deserves this one. The only omission I can think of would be the hilarious “Stu’s Song” from The Hangover, which would been a welcome replacement for one of the two adequate songs from The Princess and the Frog.

Visual effects

Avatar (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R Jones)

District 9 (Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken)

Star Trek (Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton)

Alongside Supporting Actor and Actress I think this is the category that already has a winner. Unless the Academy has some bizarre take on what constitutes visual effects Avatar has this one down.

Art direction

Avatar (Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg and Kim Sinclair)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Dave Warren, Anastasia Masaro and Caroline Smith)

Nine (John Myhre and Gordon Sim)

Sherlock Holmes (Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer)

The Young Victoria (Patrice Vermette and Maggie Gray)

In this category I’ve only seen Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. All the films look exquisite from the stills and trailers I’ve seen. However, I have a feeling Avatar will win IF the Academy considers computer generated sets art direction. Avatar does boast possibly the most immersive and impressively crafted digital worlds ever put on film.

Costume design

Bright Star (Janet Patterson)

Coco Before Chanel (Catherine Leterrier)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Monique Prudhomme)

Nine (Colleen Atwood)

The Young Victoria (Sandy Powell)

Both Bright Star and Coco Before Chanel are about clothes and both has some beautiful costumes, but having only seen those two films I can’t really form a strong opinion on this. I will say Nine has the lavish Broadway costumes that the Academy has shown love for in the past, but The Young Victoria has the lavish period costumes the Academy also seems to adore.

Film editing

Avatar (Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron)

District 9 (Julian Clarke)

The Hurt Locker (Bob Murawski and Chris Innis)

Inglourious Basterds (Sally Menke)

Precious (Joe Klotz)

Out of all these only Inglourious Basterds and The Hurt Locker really deserve and Editing award, The Hurt Locker being my choice, for reason that run alongside both the Best Directing and Music categories.


Il Divo (Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano)

The Young Victoria (Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore)

Star Trek (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow)

Sound editing

Avatar (Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle)

The Hurt Locker (Paul NJ Ottosson)

Inglourious Basterds (Wylie Stateman)

Star Trek (Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin)

Up (Michael Silvers and Tom Myers)

I don’t know much about sound editing or sound mixing, but if I had to choose among these films I would say it’d be a toss-up between Up’s rich mixture of sounds, ranging from talking dogs and thousands of balloons to old men dueling and old fashioned newsreels and The Hurt Locker’s tight yet encompassing sounds of warfare.

Sound mixing

Avatar (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson)

The Hurt Locker (Paul NJ Ottosson and Ray Beckett)

Inglourious Basterds (Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano)

Star Trek (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J Devlin)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Greg P Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson)

Again, I don’t know much here, but I would say Avatar, Star Trek and Inglourious Basterds sport the most impressive soundtracks.

So, other omissions? Well, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Ponyo and Coco Before Chanel deserved Best Picture nominations, not to mention the Best Documentary Feature/Best Animated Feature/Best Foreign Film categories. World’s Greatest Dad would have made an awesome dark horse for Best Picture although a Best Original Screenplay would probably be more likely. Alec Baldwin in It’s Complicated got some early buzz for Supporting Actor, and even though he doesn’t compare to Chistoph Waltz it would have added an interesting element to the show come March 7. The Brothers Bloom, Adventureland and Where the Wild Things Are were all deserving of screenplay noms, Watchmen had some amazing visual effects, Public Enemies’ editing was superb, and from what I’ve heard Two Lovers got shut out unjustly.

So, what do you think of the 82nd annual Oscar nominations? Any films you think got snubbed? Any films you think got some undeserved attention?


Ryan said...

I was very upset Moon was left out of any of the nominations. It was the perfect contrast to the over-the-top style that Avatar had.

I don't know if the Academy is joking but nominating Transformers 2, FOR ANYTHING, should be punishable.

Maybe the Hurt Locker was lost on me but I did not like this movie. I can sympathize with a lot of characters in situations I will most likely never be in but when a person lacks regard for their own safety especially as arrogantly as the main character in Hurt Locker did I do not care either. I feel this movie makes no effort to put you in the right mindset to sympathize with the main character either. When the plot is driven by such an unlikable cast of characters it does not make a good movie.

Anonymous said...

up was garbage. what was so great about it exactly? the talking dogs? or was it the tired plot about his hero becoming his enemy for wanting to prove he hadnt lied about finding that creature? it just all seemed really forced to me.
Hurt Locker was just youre basic action movie devoid of any emotion. which is what bigelow is brilliant at but, I walked out of that movie only thinking how boss the main character was.
Avatar's story was unoriginal but i still thinks it deserves best picture for changing the way films will be made and watched from here on out.
The whole point of the best picture category is to give an award to the film that encompasses all components of what makes a movie great. and avatar did so brilliantly