Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The BAH!scars #3: Nominational Debt Pt 1

Note: This (two-part) entry is just my roundup of the nominees, what was picked, what was snubbed. I’ll get more specific on each category (what I want to win, what I think will win, what I don’t want to win) over the next month.

Every year the Academy manages to out-stupid itself. This year is no exception to the rule.

Best Picture
“The Blind Side”
“District 9″
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
“A Serious Man”
“Up in the Air”

Most of these are not all that surprising. Some people thought A Serious Man was not going to get it, but the film’s morose, seemingly intelligent, and from a team with enough clout that I knew it would get the nomination regardless of box office performance and quality. Then there’s District 9 and The Blind Side. I regret now posting that Star Trek entry…since about two months ago, when I was certain Star Trek wouldn’t get nominated, I was right. Back then, when I was wiser, I was saying that District 9 would get the Trek-spot. It had everything: it was a sci-fi blow-em-up flick to appease the fanboys still “so serious,” it was a little-indy-that-could, and it had a “very important” message that made us all think more about being nicer to each other and brushing our teeth (even if they are turning into acid-spitting tentacles). It’s like Star Trek while still being a typical Academic movie.

As for The Blind Side, last night I was talking to my friend, worrying that Crazy Heart would be this year’s The Reader. You know, the movie that has so much hype for the performance of one thespian that it manages to sneak into the Best Picture category. Well, I was close. That did happen. But it seems that accolade-laden actresses hoisting their subpar flicks to Best Picture nominated-status may soon be a perennial habit of the Academy.

To be fair, I haven’t seen The Blind Side. Or Precious. Correction, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire. I have seen Precious: Based on "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein and Precious: Based on "Barb Wire" Which is Based on "Casablanca" Which is Based on "Everyone Comes to Rick’s". I may have to see The Blind Side to fully justify criticizing it…but dear god, that movie looks like excruciation on nitrocellulose.

BIG SNUB: The White Ribbon. Hollywood’s hubris really is unfathomable. The idea that the Best Picture nominees were almost always American films when there were five films was egotistical enough (because, you know, directors like Fellini and Bunuel were only good enough to throw the token “Foreign Language” award to). Now, Hollywood has the gall to say that it makes not five, but ten films better than any other country can. Hell, they threw in a token animated film. They could at least now have the token foreign one every year. Though, I do not know if I could take seeing The White Ribbon lose to Avatar or District 9

Best Direction
“Avatar” — James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker” — Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds” — Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Lee Daniels
“Up in the Air” — Jason Reitman

No surprises here. The top three nominees are the true race…and that’s being extremely generous to Tarantino (who only has a shot if people don’t want to take sides in an ex-lovers’ quarrel).

BIG SNUB: Wes Anderson, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and Michael Haneke, "The White Ribbon." Up was a better animated movie, but Mr. Fox was a visual feast and a love letter to everything that computer animation is not (a welcome and rare message nowadays). And not every director can take his idiosyncratic style and make it not only work in stop-motion, but possibly work better in stop-motion.

I could probably labor the point that White Ribbon was better than almost every other film this year and that it deserves to be in most categories, but I'll stop after this category. Probably. We get the idea Hollywood: you don't play well with other children.

Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

I swear, Morgan Freeman can take a poop on screen and somehow people will find it Oscar-worthy. But what can I say? I’m not a Morgan Freeman lover. Maybe because he always plays the same roles, none of which are all that interesting. I thought all buzz around Invictus was dead, but I suppose Freeman’s Faustian contract got him this, and Matt Damon just hitched along for the ride. As for Bridges, I’ll wait for my actor post to tear him a new one.

BIG SNUB: Peter Sarsgaard, “An Education.” He played such a good villain/anti-hero/love interest...hell, can I just sum it up as "seducer?" He made love not only to Carey Mulligan, but to the camera and us and made us all want to go along for the ride no matter how horrible we could predict the inevitable crash to be. Mulligan is the breakout star of that movie, but Sarsgaard deserves formidable praise as well. I would have preferred to have seen Michael Stuhlbarg or Daniel Day-Lewis in Clooney’s, Bridges’ or Freeman’s spots, as both did a great job playing men having breakdowns in lackluster films.

Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

Trick for getting nominated (and probably winning) Best Actress: act like shit for years in dumb chick-flicks. Then play a serious role and don’t completely mess it up. You may even get your picture nominated for Best Picture. Hey, it worked for Julia Roberts! And I think I see a repeat here. In theory, with enough time and devotion, any not-horrendous actress can get a Oscar nod! Because the only thing superior to excellence is turning crap to halfway-decent.

I was hoping for the (unlikely) Meryl Streep duo. Pity. No huge surprises here.

BIG SNUB: Apparently Tarintino was pushing for Melanie Laurent in Inglourious Basterds to be nominated for Best Actress instead of Best Supporting Actress. This sadly may have been her undoing. I think her role was about as big as Waltz’s, but maybe Quentin just really enjoyed her feet. If this is the case though, I think she deserved a nomination for her performance that acted as one of the only emotional anchors in an otherwise anarchic (but brilliant) film.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

See prior entry about Waltz. See earlier paragraph about Damon. I haven’t seen most of these movies (only saw The Messenger and Basterds, and Tucci in Julie & Julia, which he seems to be half-nominated for in spirit here), but again, none of that matters since Waltz will waltz home with it. No, that doesn’t really count as a prediction.

BIG SNUB: Anthony Mackie, "The Hurt Locker." He and Renner played brilliantly off of each other, and I would have a hard time nominating one without the other. Also, I would have loved to see more An Education presence with a Molina.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Who’s there?
Best Supporting.
Best Supporting who?
Best Supporting Actress Nominees.
I don’t get it.

I don’t either. But these nominees are indeed a joke. (Apparently Mo’Nique is great, and if so, good for her, she’s about it). Farmiga was blandly good in Up in the Air (which is a fitting description for the entire film actually). Kendrick was probably the strongest part of that whole movie, but she only accomplished that by not acting in tone with the rest of the film. I have said repeatedly that Up in the Air would have been better if written, directed, and played as a screwball comedy. Kendrick does that in her breakup scene (which is very reminiscent of a part in My Man Godfrey).

Let me say this about Nine: Nine is a film where the whole is superlatively less than the sum of its parts. The movie is one where many things are going right and many people are doing a good-to-stellar job, but ultimately are stuck with an absolutely ill-conceived and flat-out heinous concept (let’s remake one of the most personal movies ever filmed!). Thus, the movie itself is just bad. As for Cruz, she did a good job…but if you are to pick a supporting actress from the movie, she is definitely the wrong one. She certainly hits the proverbial ball out of the equally proverbial park with her one song…but her acting scenes are only good. Marion Cotillard, however, was able to convey such pain, sorrow, anguish, frustration, and rage both in her songs and her performance. Even when the Academy went and picked a bit of a long shot (an actress from a much-criticized film), they still managed to be quite Academic. They go for Cruz because of short-term memory (hey! We nominated her for the same category last year!) and she’s…exotic!

Maggie Gyllenhaal…

I don’t want to relive her performance. Asking me to do so is like telling a guy from Nam just to think back to how it felt being woken up by machine gun fire. It’s not fair! I won’t go back! Every moment that Gyllenhaal was on-screen in Crazy Heart was a violation of the Geneva Convention and the 8th Amendment and probably some treaty they established at the end of a Justice League episode. That she got nominated for this instead of a Razzie belittles not just category, but this entire year of Oscars. I don’t know how Bridges doing a “great” job somehow caused Gyllenhaal to get Academy love…but that’s what it looks like. Last time I checked, these acting categories were for singular performances, not spill-over praise.

BIG SNUB: Uh, everyone. The aforementioned Cotillard, Julianne Moore for her incredibly nuanced (albeit short) performance in A Single Man, and Samantha Morton’s powerful, multi-faceted, yet deceptively simple role in The Messenger had more skill in a single frame than Maggie Gyllenhaal has had in her career.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
“District 9” — Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
“An Education” — Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop” — Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
“Up in the Air” — Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

District 9? Really? I must have seen District 9 ¾, because the film I saw was pretty much Standard Sci-Fi Flick #7 with a dash of overly heavy-handed commentary. Jeez, the writers didn’t even have the brains, the balls, or the trust of the audiences’ brains to move an allegory about apartheid out of South Africa.

BIG SNUB: Fantastic Mr. Fox for turning Dahl’s children’s book into only Act II of a three-act madcap adventure that somehow also managed to be a meditation on lost youth and dreams, middle age, and the eventuality of mortality.

Also, A Single Man, because anytime you can turn that internalized of a novel into something that works on screen, I think you deserve a nomination. I’m probably going to mention A Single Man a few more times next entry, so I’ll just get my conspiracy theory out of the way now: I think it was too gay for the Academy. Yes, I know people call the Oscars “Gay Superbowl” (or at least one of my friends does), but the Academy does not really tend to take risks with what it picks. It will give the illusion of being open-minded/liberal…but only so much as to still not isolate Red America. Hence, the queer as a three-dollar cliché A Single Man got the Aronofsky treatment.

ANYWAY, I know no one wants to read 10 pages in a row of Oscar stuff…and I need to get to sleep. Tune in Thursday (probably) for the rest of the categories! Yes, I could have done Original Screenplay now to get all the major ones out of the way…but I need to give you all a reason to tune in next time!

1 comment:

  1. You know, people keep telling me District 9 was a metaphor, and I keep telling them that I don't know what they're talking about, seeing as I've seen plenty of illegal aliens.