It’s only a few days after the Academy Award nominations and I already feel as though the subject has been talked to death. However this is one of the few years where I’ve actually seen a nice handful of the movies that are nominated, so I still feel like giving my two cents. I’m sticking to the major eight awards (plus Best Animated Feature) for now, and the films I haven’t seen, I’m basing my opinions on what I’ve heard. Dig?
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
For the first time since 1943 there are 10 nominees in this category, a move that both delighted and scared film enthusiasts. Before the nominations were announced, some feared this move was a ratings grab and that the extra five slots would be filled with undeserving blockbusters that would guarantee a large audience for the telecast. Others feared that five more slots would simply mean five more movies no one has ever heard of would be nominated, possibly sealing the fate of the broadcast once and for all. It turns out, a little bit of both happened.
Somehow, somewhere between the rule change and the actual nominations, America’s tastes, the mass critics’ tastes and the Academy’s tastes all fortuitously coincided. Five of the Best Picture nominees have made over $100 million, all but three had a wide release in theaters and all 10 films are Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Usually when award nominees say “it’s an honor just to be nominated,” it’s simply tripe, but this year it is an actual sentiment. A few years from now the choice to nominate The Blind Side might seem a little wonky, but otherwise I’d say this is a fair and accurate representation of the Best Pictures of the past year.
The contenders: While it’s awesome to see nominees outside the norm like District 9 (one of only three other sci-fi flicks ever to be considered for the honor) or Up (only the 2nd animated feature ever up for this category), the real race is between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. While Avatar picked up a Golden Globe for Best Picture and may or may not be essentially saving the movie industry, it has yet to pick up any major guild awards (Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild, Directors Guild, Writers Guild) – while The Hurt Locker has won two. And no film has ever won Best Picture without winning at least one guild honor. So while Avatar has the buzz, I say The Hurt Locker has the edge.
The forgotten: Early on in the awards season it looked as if (500) Days of Summer or Where the Wild Things Are might’ve been able to sneak into the category but I’m not devastated by their omission. Also, I know there was major drama concerning Sony Pictures’ decision not to campaign for Moon, otherwise I’d be complaining about that.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Even without having seen any of these films, I can still tell you that a month from now, Jeff Bridges will be an Oscar winner. This win is as much of a sure thing as there ever was.
The forgotten: This group of nominees has been pretty locked up for a while but I’m still wondering why Brad Pitt’s performance in Inglourious Basterds hasn’t been recognized for anything. I thought it was fairly brilliant.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Like the Leading Actor category, this list of nominees repeats the SAG nominations exactly. Unlike the Leading Actor category, the outcome of this category may prove harder to predict. While Sandra Bullock took home this category at the Golden Globes and the SAG awards, she tied with Meryl Streep at the Critic’s Choice Awards. And therein lies the problem: will Academy voters have a problem voting for Bullock, the woman we will forever know as Miss Congeniality, over Streep, a woman who is largely considered to be one of the greatest actresses of all time? Right now I’d say Bullock has the edge, as the love for her performance wooed the Academy enough to nominate The Blind Side for Best Picture – while Streep’s nod was Julie & Julia‘s only nomination. But this race is definitely the one to watch.
The forgotten: I don’t know what happened here, but my god did Melanie Laurent deserve a nomination for Inglourious Basterds. Seriously.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Again, this is much of a sure thing as there could possibly be. Inglourious Basterds was released all the back in August, extremely early for a major awards season contender, but even then people were predicting that Christoph Waltz was well on his way to a major awards sweep.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Another foregone conclusion, it would appear. If Mo’Nique doesn’t win come Oscar night. . . well, there’s a 99.9% chance she will win so I can’t even come up with an alt-universe concept. The surprise here was the inclusion of Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose role in Crazy Heart had yet to be nominated for anything this awards season. Some say the resounding love for Crazy Heart caused her to go from zero to Oscar nod, but since said love couldn’t nab the film a Best Picture nod, I think the Academy simply thought it was time to finally recognize Gyllenhaal and her fairly consistent body of work.
Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Cohen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Up
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
The forgotten: While I admit it would’ve been bizarre for it to be nominated, The Hangover really was one of the best written movies of 2009. Speaking of long-shots, a Funny People nod would’ve been nice. But if we’re talking in realistic terms, I am actually disappointed that (500) Days of Summer was edged out.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
Neil Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Two big (but welcome) surprises turned up here: the inclusion of In the Loop, a little-seen but much loved British political comedy and also the inclusion of District 9, a much-deserving nomination but a film that is decidedly not the Oscars’ cup of tea (intensely violent sci-fi thriller with no stars and social allegories? Doesn’t scream Academy to me). Also, I am a huge fan of Nick Hornby’s novels so I love that he is now an Oscar-nominated screenwriter. Alas, all is for naught, as Up in the Air is essentially guaranteed a win here.
The forgotten: Wide belief is that In the Loop snuck under the wire and eliminated Fantastic Mr. Fox‘s chance at a nod, which makes me a bit sad. Also, was Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are adaptation over the Academy’s heads or something?
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Everyone knows this is a showdown between Bigelow and Cameron. What’s fascinating (and more than a little tell-tale) about this race is that the media feels the need to classify Bigelow’s journey, whether it be “indie vs. big budget” or “ex-wife vs. ex-husband” or even “woman vs. man.” Yes, it would be rad for Bigelow to become the first woman ever to win this trophy but can’t it just be about who did the best job? With Bigelow having taken home this honor at the Director’s Guild Awards, the Critic’s Choice Awards and the Satellite Awards, I think there’s a good chance she could prevail here.
Best Animated Feature
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
While I think the overall better film is Fantastic Mr. Fox, this honor is almost certainly going to Up. This award has been in play since 2001 and the honor has only gone to non-Pixar features FOUR times, with only two of those wins actually being over Pixar flicks! (How Shrek won over Monsters, Inc. I will never understand)
And that’s my stop, folks. For the full list of nominations, head over to Oscars.com and let me know what your picks are in the comment box below! The 82nd Annual Academy Awards airs live on Sunday, March 7 on ABC.