Friday, 5 February 2010

The BAH!scars #4: Nominational Debt Pt. 2

And, we’re back! Ladies and gentleman, what you are about to witness is the gradual descent of a blogger from rage and indignity to exhaustion and apathy. Thankfully, by the time he gets there, we’re talking about “Best Make-Up” and really, no other emotion is proper for such discussion.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
“The Hurt Locker” — Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” — Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” — Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
“A Serious Man” — Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Up” — Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

Well, let’s all breath a collective sigh of relief that Avatar at least did not get a nod for Best Original Screenplay. That nomination seriously would been the epitome of the Academy’s tendency just to fill out most categories with aspects from the best picture front-runners, regardless of actual quality.

A Serious Man I’m less than thrilled with, since I don’t think it’s too hard to write a script and just fill it up with a lot of bad things happening to one guy, some Jewish stereotypes, and a couple of shaggy dog stories. But at least (500) Days of Summer didn’t get nominated. Especially since, were it to get a screenplay nom, it should be under “Adapted” since the movie is essentially Hipster Annie Hall.

The Messenger however was a nice surprise and hopefully will get more people to see one of the stronger pictures of last year. Pity the academy though didn’t go all out in impressing me and add it into the Best Picture nominations as well…

BIG SNUB: Is it beating a dead horse (that may have tripped on a hidden wire) to say The White Ribbon for its haunting, enigmatic script that seems to scream for repeated viewings and hint at gems hidden under the surface of the initial viewing?

Fine then, The Brothers Bloom for being as quirky and original as people claimed (500) Days of Summer to be. In this witty script, lines between reality and fiction, acted emotions and genuine ones, personae and personalities, theater and crime, and play and lies are completely, joyously, and ominously disassembled. Add in a few healthy dashes of literary references and you have one of the cleverest, most rewarding screenplays of the year.

Animated Feature Film

“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Secret of Kells”

Let me begin with the question that was on everyone’s mind Tuesday morning, “What the hell is The Secret of Kells?” Apparently, it’s foreign and has been circulating the globe for the past year or so but only will get released in the states now, since it has a nomination. That being said, the film will probably only play in a few theaters in the country, because, well, it’s a foreign, animated film that takes place in the 9th century and is called “The Secret of Kells.”

Aside from that, no real surprises. One of the healthiest showings this category has had yet. Too bad we all know that there isn’t even the semblance of a genuine contest since only one of these is Up for Best Picture.

BIG SNUB: Er…is there one? I have yet to see Ponyo, but I’ve heard it’s not Miyazaki’s best. I’ll see it whenever it comes out on DVD…but right now, I think I can say that it seems that this category is the one that the Academy got right. Despite being a fake category.

Art Direction
“Avatar” — Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” — Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
“Nine” — Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Sherlock Holmes” — Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Young Victoria” — Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray

This assortment is an odd one. A bunch of movies that seem from the Island of Misfit Films and then there’s Avatar, just because it has to get a bajillion nominations. I tend to complain that these other categories are very often not “Best X” but “Best X that was in a movie we already liked.” This year the case seems to be a bit different. Well done Academy, I guess?

BIG SNUB: Are animated movies eligible for this award? They have art directors. If they are, Up for its absolutely breathtaking, fanciful, and thrilling environments, from the lush Paradise Falls to the elegant yet ominous dirigible of Muntz. Also, The Fantastic Mr. Fox would have been a worthy contender (but then again, most Anderson films are). If they are eligible, these are the snubs. If not…these are still the snubs and the Academy needs to do something about their rules.

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: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Joe Klotz

The presence of the incredibly average District 9 upsets me (I remember the camera/cuts being interesting for the first 20 minutes before completely not caring). But aside from that, this seems like we’re getting into the Oscar-nominee rut of the same few contenders over and over again.

BIG SNUB: The White Ribbon. Sigh. Blah blah blah this film was visually stunning in every way blah blah blah Oscars don’t like foreign movies blah blah blah. I know, I know, I’ll shut up now.

“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

First off, hurray for the slightest bit of The White Ribbon recognition outside the Foreign Film category! Secondly, Harry Potter?! Okay, this isn’t as egregious of a choice as my knee-jerk reaction led me to think. The movies do have a nice, distinct lighting tone to them and tend to be awfully pretty to look at. The problem is when Daniel Radcliffe opens his mouth (or Emma Watson opens her tear-ducts). A strange fifth candidate, but not horrendous. Overall, this seems a pretty decent showing, but I’m probably still just basking in The White Ribbon glow.

BIG SNUB: The White Ri – waitaminute! I can’t this time! Hm, this is tough. Do I go with Nine, which just has some beautifully, almost masterfully done shot interspersed with lots of average ones, or A Single Man, which had some very interesting techniques only to undercut them by overuse? Okay, neither of these are extraordinarily deplorable, though I would have liked to have seen A Single Man up there. It’s a snub, not a BIG SNUB.

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

Another case of Island of Misfit Movies. This time even odder as there’s no Avatar and instead we have some of those odd late summer/fall movies that are sort of Oscar contenders but a bit too small and forgettable to count. None of these five have a Best Picture nomination or a best screenplay. In fact, were it not for Cruz, they would have been completely shut out of every major category.

I was actually surprised when people were not mentioning Bright Star as a possibility for this category. Face it: it’s a movie that centers around a woman who designs elegant and extravagant clothes in the Victorian era. It was made to be nominated for this award. As was The Young Victoria. And Coco before Chanel. Okay, a lot of movies were made just for this award, but that often does seem the case, doesn’t it?

BIG SNUB: An Education. The movie does a great job of encapsulating the outfits from a time period without rubbing your face in “HEY! THIS TAKES PLACE 50 YEARS AGO!” Also, there is a perfect contrast of the slightly flashier (and much more elegant clothes) of the David-world vs. Jenny’s school world, all which help enhance the overall seduction in the film.

Foreign Language Film
“Ajami” — Israel
“El Secreto de Sus Ojos” — Argentina
“The Milk of Sorrow” — Peru
“Un Prophète” — France
“The White Ribbon” — Germany

Sadly, I’ve only seen The White Ribbon. But I’m very happy I’ve seen that. I don’t even remember any of the other movies playing anywhere near me (I know for a fact that A Prophet has not even been released in the states yet). I am a bit surprised that there was no Broken Embraces, as Pedro Almodovar just seems like one of those safe-bets. Though, I’ve heard the movie is just okay.

BIG SNUB: No comment.

Sound Editing
“Avatar” — Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
“The Hurt Locker” — Paul N. J. Ottosson
“Inglourious Basterds” — Wylie Stateman
“Star Trek” — Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
“Up” — Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

Sound Mixing
“Avatar” — Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
“The Hurt Locker” — Paul N. J. 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

I really don’t get the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. People have explained it to me and I understand it to an extent, but I don’t really know how you can judge it all that separately. Granted, I don’t think 95% of the viewership (at least) is any more informed than I am. Thankfully, neither does the Academy, as year after year, they nominate almost the exact same films for both categories. They probably do all five initially, then realize that people will catch onto the fact that the Academy is as unable to distinguish between the two categories as the average viewer is, they change one or two. And only give the award to the same movie about 50% of the time. It’s a conspiracy I tell you!

BIG SNUB: While I had many problems with District 9, it did have very nice sound. I think. I often don’t walk out of a movie and immediately comment on the sound, but what I remember seems to hold up pretty well. I know…this isn’t this blog’s proudest moment.

Music (Original Score)
“Avatar” — James Horner
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” — Alexandre Desplat
“The Hurt Locker” — Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
“Sherlock Holmes” — Hans Zimmer
“Up” — Michael Giacchino

Can I make this one “Choose Your Own Adventure?” I have absolutely nothing to say or add that doesn’t venture into “predictions and what I want to win” land.

Music (Original Song)
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36” Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
“Take It All” from “Nine” Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

I found none of the music from Crazy Heart all that memorable. To me, it sounded very much like “written for a movie” music, where we just have to assume that for this reality, that is amazing music. There is always a problem when a screenplay calls for good music. Only Simon Cowell can manufacture a hit. Though, at least Jennifer’s Body explains it away with some good old Satanism.

I think the Academy chose two of the more boring songs from The Princess and the Frog. “Friends on the Other Side” was by far the best song. But there are two facts about Disney villain songs: they’re always the strongest or pretty darn close, and never ever ever will get an Oscar nomination. Of course, it was also undone by the long talking parts. So I guess it’s not too grave of an injustice. Maybe it’s just a better scene than song. However, “Dig a Little Deeper” is all nice and Oscar-y and is still better than the two nominees.

But let me at least commend the Academy on choosing the surprising and right choice for Nine. “Cinema Italiano” got all the attention when Nine was coming out, but ultimately “Take It All” (when listened to on its own and not after two excruciating hours of boredom) perseveres as a great song. It’s powerful, angry, heartfelt, and violent. And there’s a line about “pasties.” I do so hope that when it’s performed at the Oscars, it’s done as a striptease. Not going to happen, but one can dream.

BIG SNUB: I would have loved to see “Petey’s Song” from The Fantastic Mr. Fox among the nominees, for its sheer oddness and how much it would have implanted some real life and genuine confusion into the ceremony.

“Il Divo” — Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
“Star Trek” — Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
“The Young Victoria” — Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

I tried and tried but I can’t think of anything to say about this category. I think I may have blogger’s exhaustion. I could labor the Single Man point and talk about Julianne Moore’s eyes in that movie, but even I’m getting fed up with myself.

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

I think this is the one category movie buffs (or buffs-in-training like me) are not allowed to complain about. It’s essentially the “who threw the most money at their movie” award and the “let’s give the dumb movie an award” award. Except, right now, we have a 30 million dollar flick and two best picture nominees, along with another one that was very close.

BIG SNUB: I'm not allowed to complain, but I feel like I should throw something in. Fine. Julie and Julia, for making Meryl Streep look the size of a giraffe.

Now for the rest:

Documentary (Feature)
“Burma VJ”
“The Cove”
“Food, Inc.”
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
“Which Way Home”

Documentary (Short Subject)
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
“Music by Prudence”
“Rabbit à la Berlin”

Short Film (Animated)
“French Roast” Fabrice O. Joubert
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)” Javier Recio Gracia
“Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
“A Matter of Loaf and Death” Nick Park

Short Film (Live Action)
“The Door” — Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
“Instead of Abracadabra” — Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
“Kavi” — Gregg Helvey
“Miracle Fish” — Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
“The New Tenants” — Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

As I haven’t seen any of these, I’m not going to weigh in.

BIG SNUB: Granted, I can’t juxtapose this against the nominees, but I’m sad there is no shout-out for Anvil!: The Story of Anvil for Best Documentary. I heard it wasn’t even on the short list, pre-nominees. Yes, on one hand, it seems a very unAcademic movie: all about metal bands and there’s a part about playing guitar with a vibrator. On the other hand, it is a film about the power of friendship and how one should never give up on one’s dreams, no matter the adversity. That message seems to have “Oscar nominee” written all over it.

Coming soon, I take a nap. Coming a little bit after that, I post a lighter, fluffier, and not 7-page entry on something unOscar related. After that, predictions!


  1. Meryl Streep was SOOOO tall...

  2. So are you trying to tell me I should see The White Ribbon?

  3. Oh man, there's this movie called 'The White Ribbon'. You should totally see it, I think you'd like it Devin.