Nomination Rumination

I feel like a bad movie fan.  I had no idea the Oscar nominations were being announced this morning.  I’d seen some talk about them in the last few days, but I thought that was just part of the preliminaries, the run-up to the reveal.  So as I read my Facebook feed this morning and saw posts like, “Good for Jonah Hill,” and, “The Coens got shafted,” it dawned on me that I’d totally missed the announcement.  I’m usually the guy being late for work so I can watch on TV, and here I am reading the list of nominees a good hour after they were read.  I must be slipping.  Or maybe I’m just getting a little tired of the game.  The Oscars are still important — I’ve called them the Super Bowl of Hollywood, because even if you don’t have a favorite in the contest, you’re still watching, and who wins will still be a big deal — but my fervency over them has definitely waned.  Maybe it’s the expanded field of Best Picture nominees removing some of the luster from the category, or maybe it’s just not really being all that invested anymore in pitting one film against another.  Do I enjoy a film less because it didn’t win Best Picture?  Is a performance somehow better to me if it earns a statue?  My rooting interest has become more historical in nature; I just want to see who wins to know who wins, not to be upset about anything.  It’s just not worth it.

But it’s definitely worth it to those whose careers will be enhanced or solidified by their nominations today.  So let’s take a look at how things shook out.

  • I can’t say I’m all that surprised by the Best Picture field.  All the usual suspects from the precursor awards are fairly well represented, with Inside Llewyn Davis being the sole buzzed-over film not making the cut.  But that seemed like such a small, personal project for the Coens, it doesn’t come as much of a shock that voters shared that opinion, nomination it only for Cinematography and Sound Mixing.
  •  Most expect Best Picture to come down to the two Golden Globe winners, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave.  However, the two films are such polar opposites — you’ve got the rousing actors’ showcase versus the powerful Big Issue film  — that I can see the possibility of a split that allows another film to sneak in and grab the prize.  And if I had to guess, that film would be Gravity.  As a huge success on both a technical and artistic level, it could muster support from numerous different branches and slip in at the last minute.
  • Matthew McConaughey’s win at the Golden Globes derailed the seemingly inevitable Chiwetel Ejiofor win for Best Actor.  Bruce Dern’s nomination seems like the traditional nod thrown at a Hollywood veteran, Leonardo DiCaprio always gets nominated but doesn’t win, and this is Christian Bale’s first nomination in the category, so I’d say it’s down to McConaughey and Ejiofor here as well.  McConaughey is awfully well-liked, and had another showy role in The Wolf of Wall Street, so this could be a  year like 1987, when Michael Douglas won for Wall Street but arguably also for having a really good year with Fatal Attraction.  Then again, this might be where voters make sure to honor 12 Years a Slave if they decide not to go for it for Best Picture.
  • Meryl Streep could probably do a screen test and get a nomination for it at this point in her career.  I really doubt she’s much of a threat in the Best Actress category though.  I had Sandra Bullock locked into this the second Gravity ended, but Cate Blanchett’s Globe win firmly puts here in the running as well.  Of course, the Hollywood Foreign Press is a much different animal than the Academy, so to expect Oscar to go the same way isn’t necessarily automatic.  Bullock has also won fairly recently (although Gravity is a much better performance than The Blind Side).  And if American Hustle has a sweep in it, it could carry Amy Adams on to victory.  Really tough category to crack.
  • That’s a really good mix of actors in the Supporting Actor category.  It’s a little hard to believe Jonah Hill is now a two-time Oscar nominee, but there’s no denying he was great in The Wolf of Wall Street.  I’m pulling for Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips, but for him, the nomination is the win.  Jared Leto’s got his Golden Globe win, Michael Fassbender is in one of the main Best Picture contenders, and Bradley Cooper is in the other.  Again, it’s a really strong field and a hard pick, but this might be where the Academy chooses to award the prickly Wolf of Wall Street, since I think it’s unlikely to garner wins in many other categories.
  • Best Supporting Actress really feels like it’s going to be the We Really Want Jennifer Lawrence to Give Another Speech award.  She’s been hauling in awards for this role throughout the award season, and let’s face it, people just love her, which has as much to do with winning as actual talent.  Lupita Nyong’o strikes me as her main competition, but it feels like if American Hustle has anything locked down, it’s this one.
  • Nobody made a more purely cinematic movie this year than Alfonso Cuarón.  This could easily be a year like 1998, when Steven Spielberg won Best Director for the amazing technical feat of pulling off the D-Day opening in Saving Private Ryan, but Best Picture went elsewhere.  What Cuarón did with Gravity is a similar feat.  The other directors in the field have all done solid work, both this year and in the past, but I get the feeling this is the one spot where the Academy will definitely want to reward Gravity, and it’s a deserving spot in which to do so.
  • Some notable omissions:  Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips and Emma Thompson for Saving Mr. Banks.  Thompson I’m not all that surprised about; although it was a well-liked performance, the film didn’t really hit as big as expected.  I’m kind of shocked by Hanks though.  He’s the heart and soul of Captain Phillips, and his final scene is among the best work he’s ever done.
  • The star-struck win at the Golden Globes for U2’s song from Mandela notwithstanding, I think it’s going to take an extinction level event to keep “Let It Go” from Frozen from winning Best Original Song.  Frozen also seems to have Best Animated Feature sewn up; if the more internationally flavored Golden Globes didn’t go for Hiyao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, I doubt the more home-bred Academy will either.
  • The Academy, like  movie-going audiences, seems to be officially out of love with Middle-earth; only three technical nominations for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, in categories where you might as well just give the statues to Gravity and be done with it.

We’ve still got some major precursor awards like the Producer’s Guild and the Director’s Guild that could indicate a change in the landscape.  Remember, the Argo momentum last year really didn’t seem to kick in until after the nominations came out and Ben Affleck was conspicuously absent from the Best Director race.  There’s a little over a month left to vote, and lots can change in that time.  I just need to remind myself the ceremony is on March 2nd, or I might end up reading the winners online the next day and look really stupid.


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