- MICHAEL CLAYTON
- NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
- THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Overall Thoughts: For the first time in as long as I can remember, the Top 3 films of the year (Atonement, No Country, There Will Be Blood) are also the best 3 films of the year. I love it, too, because it makes picking a horse for this race more fun than shoulld be legally allowed. More fun even than watching Christina Aguilera imitate Kim Catrall. Not only that, but all of these movies are high profile. People have actually seen them. Which means I get to have totes interesting Oscar convos with more than just my uber-geek friends. I felt like I was the only one last year who saw The Queen before the Oscars. Same with Babel. And I’d bet less than .00007% of the movie-going population can tell me ANYTHING AT ALL about Letters From Iwo Jima (and thank Jeebus for that. As always, suck it, Paul Haggis. Suck it long and suck it hard.). But this year, even the smallest movie on the list, box-office wise, is a freakin’ George Clooney movie (the only one I haven’t seen yet). I’d go so far as to call this the best race since 94, when Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump and Shawshank Redemption went head to head to head. It’s gonna be a great race, and I’m happy with all the entries.
Biggest Surprise: Michael Clayton. I was watching The Fugitive yesterday during a MLK movie marathon at The 209 and had a discussion with my friend Audie about how cool it was that the Academy nominated the movie for Best Picture. It was such a well made big-budget studio movie; the kind of film that is the bread and butter of the industry, yet usually never gets the recognition it deserves. Of course it helps that The Fugitive is utterly brilliant (You find that man. YOU FIND THAT MAN!). So it makes me smile that the Academy had the nerve to give a nod to a throwback film such as Michael Clayton. Expertly crafted star-driven thrillers are what going to the movies is all about. Well played, Academy.
Biggest Snub: American Gangster. Can Denzel and The Crowe get some love? This was the leading B.P. candidate in November and just disappeared off the face of The Envelope. I blame four films coming out that were better, The Great Debaters forcing the Denzel split vote, and mostly the fact that The Departed won last year. Ain’t no way the Academy is giving its Best Picture prize to a mob movie two years running. We probably shouldn’t have given it to a mob movie last year, but when Scorsese lines up that type of cast, you give him the prize as a thank you.
- Julian Schnabel, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
- Jason Reitman, JUNO
- Tony Gilroy, MICHAEL CLAYTON
- Joel and Ethan Coen, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
- Paul Thomas Anderson, THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Overall Thoughts: A standard list of nominees, intriguing only in how close they hew to the Best Picture nods, a pattern that has not held true the last few years. I like the courtesy nod for Diving Bell, a film that is apparently beautiful to look at and devastatingly hard to sit through. I’m not sold on Jason Reitman, mostly because he was working with such a low risk factor. And the Tony Gilroy love is odd because the movie should have done better at the box office. Something is wrong with that movie, and I’d bet the director’s chair is the reason.
Biggest Surprise: Tony Gilroy. Relating this back to my Fugitive analogy, Andrew Davis wasn’t nominated for Best Director (though he should have been). This nod reeks of the actor voting contingent pushing a nod for a director that likes to make star-driven movies instead of ensemble pictures. I get the feeling there’s about 150 A & B-listers sending him congrat notes today with P.S.’s that look like this: “I told ALL my friends to vote for you. Think of me for your next picture. XOXO, The Quaid!”
Biggest Snub: Joe Wright. Where is the Atonement love? I’m supes stoked that the film didn’t get the Dreamgirls snub this year, but good GOD, how do you NOT nominate someone after that brilliant five-minute tracking one-shot? Or for the library sex scene? Or for the letter typing sequence? Or for making Keira Knightley full-fledged? Or launching James McAvoy beyond Narnia? Or for discovering Saoirse Ronan? Or hello, for making a 1930’s British war story bloody watchable? Gah! You’re telling me that directing Atonement was easier than Juno? Please. The Rainn Wilson scene alone should have knocked Reitman out of contention. No director worth a damn would have let that fool drop that “home-skillet” bullshit.
Biggest Snub 2: C’mon, no love for my boy Ben Affleck??? You suck, Academy! I hope you get forced into a crummy press conference with Billy Bush reading the winners while Bruce Vilanch rubs his unfunny beard fat all over the podium.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
- George Clooney, MICHAEL CLAYTON
- Daniel Day-Lewis, THERE WILL BE BLOOD
- Johnny Depp, SWEENEY TODD
- Tommy Lee Jones, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
- Viggo Mortensen, EASTERN PROMISES
Overall Thoughts: Gotta say, that’s quite the impressive list of men. Reminds me of the year that Jack, Nic Cage, Day-Lou and Michael Caine all got nominated. I’m grinding my teeth that Tommy got his nod for a Paul Haggis flick, but happy all the same for the one-time Deputy U.S. Marshall Sam Gerard (though he was better in No Country). I could go on and on about the rest of the guys in this category, but really? This is all a wash. It’s going to Daniel Day-Lewis. If acting were a game everyone else on this list should retire. Cause they’re not beating the Day-Lou.
Biggest Surprise: Johnny Depp? Really? We’re gonna reward him for dying his hair to look like Meryl in Prada? For working with the same Director for the 87th time? For giving the exact performance we expected him to give? For that talky-singy bullshit? Aren’t we over the J-Depp lovefest yet? The 96-hour Pirates 3 wasn’t enough for you people?
Biggest Snub: James McAvoy. If you’re not gonna nominate Ryan Gosling again for Lars and the Real Girl (which, btw, thanks! Cause aside from the scene where he throws the rose, it’s a bullshit performance in a bullshit movie), you should at least CONSIDER nodding his poor man’s version. J-Macs crushed in Atonement. For hitting all his marks in the tracking shot alone, he should have been nodded! But if his work in the first act wasn’t the best I saw this year besides The Day-Lou and maybe Josh Brolin (which, btw, I would have given him a nod for except I’m still pissed about him beating on wifey Diane Lane. Also, for Hollow Man.), then I don’t know what movies the voters were watching this year.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
- Cate Blanchett, ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
- Julie Christie, AWAY FROM HER
- Marion Cotillard, LA VIE EN ROSE
- Laura Linney, THE SAVAGES
- Ellen Page, JUNO
Overall Thoughts: Zzzzzzzzzz. Wha? Huh? Is there something I should be awake for here? No? Good, didn’t think so. Zzzzzz. Oh, wait, I do want to say something. As far as charm goes, I get the the Ellen Page nod. But as a performance I call shenanigans. The character of Juno has no emotional arc whatsoever. She learns NOTHING! Honest to blog I wanted to punch her in the face more often than smile at her. Besides, Amy Adams was eight Juno’s more charming in Enchanted AND made Patrick Dempsey’s Hair seem 46% less smug than normal, reason enough for getting a nod if I’ve EVER heard one. And that’s all BEFORE talking about the off the charts charm factor of Keri Russell in Waitress. I HATE how this race shook out.
Biggest Surprise: Cate Blanchett. Really? For Elizabeth 2: The Elizabething? Nobody liked the movie! Were voters high on the pot and thought it was 1998 instead of 2008? She got the Dylan nod, that wasn’t enough? I mean she’s great and all, but isn’t this kinda like the Emmy’s nodding Frasier every year just for showing up to work?
Biggest Snub: Angelina Jolie. Is Brangelina really that derisive to her career? Do movie-goers and Academy voters really hate watching war movies as much as me? Were they put off by Angie’s godawful spray tan? Or her crazes veiny arms? Or the notion that Dan Futterman could ever pull her kind of tail, even in a movie? I don’t know what it is. I was bored solid by the movie, but I had to give it up for Jolie. Girl was really damn good. Maybe Brad’s getting in the way of her career like that thrown cell phone got in the way of The Crowe’s.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Casey Affleck, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES…
- Javier Bardem, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
- Hal Holbrook, INTO THE WILD
- Phillip Seymour Hoffman, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
- Tom Wilkinson, MICHAEL CLAYTON
Overall Thoughts: The exact list everyone expected and wanted. All five guys are deserving and excellent in their roles. And none of that matters. This race is locked up tighter than the Jessica Alba’s nudity clause. It’s Javier all the way, friend-o.
Biggest Surprise: None.
Biggest Snub: None. (Though I would have been pleased to see John Travolta get some love for his work in Hairspray. My rule of thumb is this: Johnny-T goes against the Scientologists to put on a fat suit, play a woman and dance with Christopher Walken, you give him an Oscar nomination. Period.)
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Cate Blanchett, I’M NOT THERE
- Ruby Dee, AMERICAN GANGSTER
- Saoirse Ronan, ATONEMENT
- Amy Ryan, GONE BABY GONE
- Tilda Swinton, MICHAEL CLAYTON
Overall Thoughts: Always my favorite race of any year, due to it’s complete and utter unpredictability. I like all of these nominees and LOVE that none of them is the clear winner. Hackles have been raised all over the place for Blanchett, but I don’t think she has a chance in the world. She already got this award for imitating Katherine Hepburn, she’s not going to be rewarded for playing another real person; especially not one as weirdly beloved as Bob Dylan. And even more especially when NO ONE has seen the movie. Saoirse Ronan in Atonement was a revelation, but I though Romola Garai was just as good as the older Briony. Amy Ryan gets my sympathy vote because it would mean some mad love for my boy Ben Affleck by proxy. But I’m thinking that Michael Clayton gets shut out everywhere but here, with Tilda getting the sympathy/ pity love.
Biggest Surprise: That the Academy was strong enough not to give Julia’s waxy “performance” in Charlie Wilson’s War a nod. Beyond picking apart her matted eyelashes with a pin and looking surprisingly bangable coming out of a pool, she coasted in the movie. And she was horribly miscast. Also, I don’t know if it’s just me, but seeing her bed down Tom Hanks is something I just can’t stomach. Sometimes big name stars should NOT share the screen. Seriously. The image of the Pretty Woman grabbing Forrest Gump’s butt will haunt my dreams forever.
Biggest Snub: Marisa Tomei, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. For the t-balls alone, people! For having the dignity to let The P.S. Hoff nail her from behind on camera. And for making us think about Marisa Tomei again at all, beyond wondering what the hell happened to her!
Biggest Snub 2: Jennifer Garner, Juno. Watch the movie again. She’s doing some really beautiful, subtle character work. The scene in the mall where J-Garns talks to Juno’s belly? Captivating. The Academy really screwed the pooch on this one.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
- LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
- MICHAEL CLAYTON
- THE SAVAGES
Overall Thoughts: I know A LOT of people who hate Diablo Cody. I’m not necessarily one of them, but I will say this: girl wrote a great first draft of a funny comedy that could ONLY have gotten made as an indie. Every studio would have sent it back with this note attached: “Make it less obnoxious in the first act, quit it with the too-cutesy words and cut the Rainn Wilson character. Also, consider doing ANYTHING with your main character” Moving on, I’m glad to see Ratatouille get some love, I couldn’t care less about The Savages and I’ve already told you my stance on Michael Clayton. I’m more bummed about The Darjeeling Limited and Waitress not getting any love here. I know everyone in the world is over Wes Anderson, but I thought it was his best writing in a long time. In fact, I thought the acting actually failed the writing here, which is a first for a Wes Anderson picture (see Life Aquatic for the inverse result).
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
- AWAY FROM HER
- THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
- NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
- THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Overall Thoughts: Probably the strongest and most difficult race of the year. Bourne Ultimatum, Gone Baby Gone and Hairspray could have all been on here. It’s easily the second most interesting race after Best Picture. Odds are that the big prize and this one won’t go to the same movie, but I don’t see how No Country DOESN’T win both of them. The scene in the gas station where Anton Chigurh flips his coin is the scariest piece of writing since Buffalo Bill asked Clarice Starling “Wait, was she a great big fat person?”.
Here are my early predictions: No Country, The Coen Brothers, The Day-Lou, Julie Christie, my friend-o Anton Chigurh, Tilda Swinton, Ratatouille and No Country again.
Should be a great Oscar night, if it happens at all!
Tell me what you all thought of the nominations by leaving a comment. Did your favorite films get recognized? Was your favorite actor snubbed? Let me know…