Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Take on All the Oscar Nominated Films

UPDATE 3/7/10

A Serious Man - Nearly made my Top Ten of 2009. Great film from the Coen Brothers. Both hilarious and sad at times. Should have been nominated for more than Best Picture and Screenplay.

A Single Man - Haven't seen it.

An Education - Another that nearly made my Top Ten. Wonderful story of a high school girl falling in love with an older man. Star-making performance from nominee Carey Mulligan.

Avatar - #10 of my Top Ten of 2009. A movie experience like no other to date. Fails in all of the usual areas that Cameron films are weak, but a film that is a must see in 3-D. In 2-D, everything that's wrong with the film would be that much more obvious.

Bright Star - Surprisingly effective romance from Jane Campion.

Burma VJ - Haven't seen it.

Coco before Chanel - In my NetFlix queue.

Coraline - One of those films that some people rave about and I just don't understand why. Rather macabre animated feature that just felt redundant.

Crazy Heart - Haven't watched it yet. Screener is sitting next to me.

District 9 - Clever, inventive sci-fi film that just felt like it was missing something. The weakest of the Best Picture nominees, in my opinion.

Fantastic Mr. Fox - One of the most fun films of the year. Sly and subversive. Makes you wish George Clooney and Meryl Streep would do a live action movie together.

Food, Inc. - If this film doesn't make you want to become a vegetarian, nothing will. Definitely makes you think twice about the food you're eating.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - Terrific chapter in the series. Like most of the series, repeat viewings makes you realize what all they left out from the book.

Il Divo - Had never heard of it. Only nominated for Makeup. Probably won't ever see it.

In the Loop - #9 film of the year for me. Outside of The Hangover, the funniest film of 2009. The British and American casts are terrific and play well off of each other.

Inglourious Basterds - #2 of the year for me. Only gets better on repeat viewings. Quentin Tarantino's most mature film to date.

Invictus - Inspiring, highly detailed film about the first days of Nelson Mandela's presidency. Amazing performance by nominee Morgan Freeman. Hit or miss, "keeps losing the accent" turn by Matt Damon.

Julie & Julia - Entertaining, if a tad long, story of Julia Child and a woman inspired by her. Meryl Streep as Julia is good at times, but wasn't really Oscar-worthy in my opinion. Felt more like an imitation, rather than a performance.

Nine - I made it about 5 minutes into this film and turned it off. Found those 5 minutes to rival any 5 minute span of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as far as irritation. Will try to push through another time.

Paris 36 - Had never heard of it. Only nominated for song. Probably won't ever see it.

Precious - Absolutely heartbreaking film. Just when you think things are going to be better, they get worse. And the main character perseveres anyway. #4 in my Top Ten of 2009.

Sherlock Holmes - Haven't seen it yet. Saw the first 10 minutes or so and it seemed pretty fun.

Star Trek - Does for the Star Trek series what Batman Begins did for Batman. May annoy some purists who aren't paying attention to why this Star Trek universe is different.

The Blind Side - Uplifting film, but pretty "by the numbers" overall. Sandra Bullock makes this film better than it should have been.

The Cove - #7 of 2009. Probably the most exciting documentary you will ever see. Could not have been better if it were scripted.

The Hurt Locker - #1. Hands down. Amazing film. Subtle in every place where other war films, like Saving Private Ryan, punched you right in the face.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - Haven't watched it yet. Have screener and will hopefully get to it before Oscar night.

The Last Station - Haven't seen it.

The Lovely Bones - Keep meaning to read the book. Have a screener copy. Haven't gotten around to either.

The Messenger - Came very close to being in my Top 10. One of my favorite kinds of film. The kind that show you the life of someone who has a very important job, but one you just don't think about very often. In this case, military personnel who tells families their loved one died in the War of Terror.

The Most Dangerous Man in America - Another documentary I haven't seen.

The Princess and the Frog - The best Disney traditionally animated film in a long time. If not for Up, this could have been a serious contender for the Best Animated Feature category.

The Secret of Kells - Had never even heard of it. Still haven't seen it.

The White Ribbon - Hope to see it soon.

The Young Victoria - Ditto.

Tranformers: Revenge of the Fallen - One of only 3 movies I actually gave F's to last year. (The other two: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) I guess if you want to win with me, don't have a colon in your title.

Up - #6 film of 2009. Pixar can seem to do no wrong. At times, both their silliest and most adult film to date. I can't imagine why anyone WOULDN'T love this movie.

Up in the Air - Another near miss for the Top Ten. Funny at times, romantic at times, sad at other times. A mirror to our society at this moment in time.

Which Way Home - Haven't seen it. Way behind (as always) on my documentaries.

MOVIES IN MY TOP 10 THAT GOT ROBBED:

#3 Where the Wild Things Are - Costumes, anyone? Turning a book that only had something like 72 words in total into a brilliant 90 minute film? This film has moments of such pure joy that it's amazing it didn't get a single nomination.

#5 The Hangover - The number one R-rated comedy of all time and not even a nod for screenplay. My God, they nominate Beverly Hills Cop, but not The Hangover. This was a travesty.

#8 (500) Days of Summer - Just one of those movies that is VERY good in every aspect, but only outstanding as a whole. Wasn't surprised that it missed out for anything except screenplay.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Who's Going to Win.....

BEST PICTURE:
The Hurt Locker

At the beginning of the Oscar race, it seemed like it would be a battle between The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. Until Avatar came out. Then the box office records started falling to the wayside. There were even articles in major entertainment magazines asking how any film could beat Avatar at the Oscars. And that was only 2 weeks ago. Now? Avatar has fallen by the wayside, as has Up in the Air. Sure, Avatar won the Golden Globe, but that becomes a less reliable indicator every year. The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, recently hit the trifecta: The Producers Guild, The Directors Guild and The American Cinema Editors awards. Slumdog Millionaire did it last year. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won all three. So did Chicago. And Gladiator. BUT, there has been ONE instance where a film won all three and lost Best Picture. In 1998, Saving Private Ryan. Coincidence, that both SPR and The Hurt Locker are war films? We'll see.


BEST DIRECTOR:

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

There's some talk that Avatar may lose Best Picture, but James Cameron will win here. I would argue that the opposite is more likely. Avatar is no more extraordinary an achievement by a director than Jurassic Park was for Spielberg. Take away all the groundbreaking, 3-D special effects and you have a B-movie. And because so much of the film is CGI, I would argue that James Cameron deserves no more consideration for Best Director than Pete Docter would for Up. At least the performances in Up seemed natural.


BEST ACTOR:

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

I'm giddy at the thought of this. Jeff Bridges has been one of my favorite actors since Starman. Even more so as Jack Lucas in The Fisher King. It's amazing that this is only his 5th nomination and only his 2nd in the last 25 years. AND, he's never won. His first nomination was for The Last Picture Show, where he lost to his costar, Ben Johnson. He was nominated again, four years later, when teamed up with Clint Eastwood in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. He lost to Robert De Niro in The Godfather Part II. Nomination number 3 was Starman. That was the year F. Murray Abraham won as Salieri in Amadeus. His fourth nomination came 16 years later for The Contender. Unfortunately, he was nominated against Benicio Del Toro for Traffic. After almost 30 years of being a bridesmaid, Bridges WILL be heading to the altar. If they took bets on the Oscars, this is about a sure thing as any category.


BEST ACTRESS:

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

She's going to win here for several reasons and none having to do with her actual performance. One, she's very popular in Hollywood. Her sweet, nice girl roles are supposedly never far from her own personality. When she plays against that type, it's usually with horrific results. This year will be the proof as Sandra Bullock will likely have the distinction of winning the Oscar and the Golden Raspberry (for All About Steve) in the same year. And she's going to be there to accept both awards. Because she doesn't take herself that seriously. Which leads to point number two. Sandra Bullock rarely gives performances worthy of Oscar consideration. Lord knows she's tried. 28 Days, Crash, Infamous. Just didn't happen. There's a strong possibility this will be the only nomination of Sandra Bullock's career. Which leads to point number three. The other contenders. Meryl Streep was terrific in Julie & Julia. This is her SIXTEENTH nomination. Her fourth in the last 10 years. It's a pretty safe bet she'll be nominated again at some point. Then there's Carey Mulligan who gave a performance in An Education that I would equate to Audrey Hepburn's Oscar winning performance in Roman Holiday. It's one of those where you just know this girl will be around for a long while. It was that belief that cost Kate Winslet the Oscar for Sense and Sensibility. You just knew she would be nominated again soon enough.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

I haven't seen the statistic yet, but I'm guessing Christoph Waltz has about as much screen time in the movie as anyone else. But, with Tarantino flicks, who's the lead, who's supporting can be tough to tell. With Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson had more dialogue that John Travolta, but Travolta was on screen more. So who's the lead? The first 10-15 minutes of Basterds is almost entirely Waltz talking. But then he disappears for a long part of the film only to come back and take over the film again. So, basically, Inglourious Basterds has no lead. But the same could be said about Woody Harrelson. Calling him supporting is like calling Susan Sarandon supporting in Thelma & Louise. Technically she was since the film is a little more about Geena Davis' journey than hers, but they're almost always on screen together. Stanley Tucci is the next contender and the one traditional supporting role. The other two, Matt Damon and Christopher Plummer, are just lucky to be there. Damon sucked in Invictus.

EDIT: I did find the statistic and Christoph Waltz is on screen more than "lead" actor, Brad Pitt. Go figure.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Mo'Nique, Precious

This is another lock. It goes to show you that you can't tell the actor by their role choices. Especially, if they don't have movie star looks and are black. At that point, you take the work you can get because they aren't going to look to you to star in Avatar. Mo'Nique previous three films? Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Beerfest and Phat Girlz. In Precious, she just owns the screen when she's on it. She makes you absolutely hate her and just when want her to just drop dead, she delivers one of the made-for-Oscar speeches that so rarely happens anymore because today's audiences know when they're being manipulated. But Mo'Nique pulls it off so well, that you actually feel sympathy for a character you've hated the whole film.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Inglourious Basterds

Of the Big Eight categories, this one is the toughest. The Academy likes to give an Oscar somewhere to all of the Best Picture nominees, but now that there's 10, it's a little tougher. Especially since the three top contenders will win in other categories. A Serious Man shouldn't be taken very seriously. It's nomination was surprising enough. The Messenger is a brilliant script, but don't expect it to win. That leaves The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds and Up. The Hurt Locker is a stellar film. It just doesn't have a flashy script, which was kind of the point. Up is going to win in other categories and is a brilliant piece from Pixar. I can't think of any film this year that rode that fine line of mixing humor and pathos. If any film beats out Tarantino, this will be it. I just don't think it will. Tarantino shows with this one that he's grown up a bit.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Up in the Air

Another case of "where else are we going to give it something?" This will be Up in the Air's only win all night. An Education is brilliant, but just doesn't carry a lot of excitement with it. Precious falters because an unwittingly racist Academy who probably had never heard of nor read the book and they'll write it off here. District 9 will be the "we were lucky to be nominated" film all night and won't win squat. This is In the Loop's only nomination and those films NEVER win here, despite the fact that it's actually the best script out of either writing category. Nope. It's Up in the Air's category, one hundred percent.


BEST FILM EDITING:

The Hurt Locker

I'm probably wrong here and therefore, defeating the purpose of the title of this blog entry. I'm strictly going with my gut that this will be the one tech category where it beats out Avatar. In my opinion, it's the one technical category where it's actually better than Avatar. The Hurt Locker became what it is in the editing room. The rest of the nominees (District 9, Basterds, Precious) are just filler. Mainly because of having 10 nominations, but this is one of the rare years where all Film Editing nominees are up for Picture. It's also worth mention that NO film has won Best Picture without an Editing nomination since 1980. So, you can rule out any upsets from A Serious Man, An Education, The Blind Side, Up in the Air or Up right here.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Avatar

I'm just not sold on it. I think we could be reaching a point where CGI will actually starting hurting films come Oscar time. It's not like Mauro Fiore (Avatar's DP) had to figure out how to light the Home Tree. Come to think of it, how often was he even behind a camera? So how much is a DP actually doing in a film like this. It's not like there was a bunch of Na'vi standing around waiting for magic hour. So what did he actually do here? James Cameron's a cinematographer also so I don't think he'd want another one to help decide how to light a CGI rock. That said, I'll go with it anyway. I haven't seen The White Ribbon yet, but I've seen the other four nominees. It really should be The Hurt Locker.


BEST ART DIRECTION:

Avatar

The Art Director, on the other hand, does play a big part, even when it's CGI. And they got so wildly inventive with Avatar that I can't imagine not giving it to them here. They deserve it.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

Nine

I haven't commented previously on Nine in any blog entry. I would like to say right now what an utter piece of crap it is. Or, what an utter piece of crap the first five minutes are since I turned it off during the opening credits. Or, at least, where the opening credits should have been since it would have justified taking so long to strut the entire cast out one by one. I may try and watch it again and skip those first few minutes. The costumes were nice though. And in large number and that's usually the best indicator of how the Academy will vote. Not by the best costumes, but the most.


BEST MAKEUP:

Star Trek

Yeah. Let's go with that one.


BEST SOUND EDITING and BEST SOUND MIXING:

Avatar

Some years, they just needn't bother nominating 5.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Avatar

Could you imagine a bigger travesty in the history of the Academy Awards if Avater DIDN'T win here?


BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION):

The Door

Because that's what people who've seen them keep saying.


BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED):

A Matter of Loaf and Death

Two words: Nick Park. Three more words: Wallace and Gromit. Nick Park has only ever lost once at the Oscars. And who did he lose to? Nick Park.


BEST DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE LENGTH):

The Cove

This is actually a tough category this year. Food, Inc. is very disturbing. I haven't seen The Most Dangerous Man in America, but it sounds fascinating, although how relevant is a Vietnam War documentary anymore. Burma VJ sounds like a documentary about making documentaries. Which Way Home follows the plight of illegal immigrants into America. The Cove is just one of those stand out films that transcends the documentary style of filmmaking and deserves it.


BEST DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT):

The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant

Hell if I know. These categories are impossible to predict. The general rule of thumb is: If it sounds Jewish, it'll win. Otherwise, go with the most topical.


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

The White Ribbon

It's supposed to be good? I have a hard enough time keeping up with American films.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

Up

Because it's Up.


BEST SCORE:

Up

Because there's nothing ethnic for the Academy to vote for. I mean that seriously. Avatar's score was too derivative of Titanic's (further proof that James Horner sucks.) I remember the songs from The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Not so much the score. Hans Zimmer never wins unless it's for Disney. The Hurt Locker's score was just okay. Michael Giacchino's score for Up was outstanding. So was his score for Star Trek. Even his score for Land of the Lost was notable. Winning here will make up for not even nominating his electric score for The Incredibles and as a consolation for not awarding his score for Ratatoiulle because the score for Atonement was just that brilliant.


BEST SONG:

Crazy Heart

I care so little about this category, I can't even be bothered to look up the name of the song. The one category that usually adds nothing to a film. Okay, last year was an exception, but this decade has sucked as far as song nominees go. Thankfully, this year, it's a slam dunk. This will win.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

If They Had Ten Nominees for Best Picture During the 1990s......

To clarify how I'm coming up with these lists: Obviously, the five Best Picture nominees remain. I then go to the Best Director category and look at the nominees that aren't tied to a Best Picture nominee. If the Director nominee's film also received a screenplay or acting nominations, it is automatically included. If not, did the film have multiple nominations in the technical categories? If there were at least two, it makes the list. (Example: Robert Altman was nominated for the film Short Cuts, but that was the film's only nomination and was left off the list.)

Then I skipped to the screenplay nominees. Again, how many other nominations did the film get, with added weight for acting nominations.

Then I went to the acting categories, since most Best Picture nominees get at least one. Were there multiple technical nominations as well?

Most likely, that would cover most years, although, you will see, that I had to cheat in at least one year.

And the Best Picture nominees for 1990 could have been.....

Avalon
Awakenings*
Cyrano de Bergerac
Dances with Wolves**
Dick Tracy
Ghost*
The Godfather Part III*
Goodfellas*
The Grifters
Reversal of Fortune

Ten nominees would not have looked good for 1990. That Ghost and Awakenings made the top 5 told us that. That forgettable films like Avalon and Cyrano are here just add insult to injury. But it was amusing to look back 20 years later, not realizing Dick Tracy was that well represented at Oscar time with 7 nominations. Eventual winner Dances with Wolves was the only nominee with more noms than Dick Tracy.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1991 could have been.....

Barton Fink
Beauty and the Beast*
Boyz N the Hood
Bugsy*
The Fisher King
JFK*
The Prince of Tides*
The Silence of the Lambs**
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Thelma & Louise


YES! I KNOW! I CHEATED! Terminator 2 was not nominated for ANY of the top 8 categories. I base its inclusion on two factors. One, the only other movie that came close to qualifying under my rules was Fried Green Tomatoes. It was FGT's 2 noms vs. T2's 6. Two, I vividly recall the Oscar night during the acceptance speech of one of T2's FOUR Oscars, the winner exclaiming that James Cameron should be given an Oscar for his film and the thunderous applause the comment received. One thought that keeps recurring in my mind: What if John Singleton had directed a Best Picture nominee? Would his career have turned out differently? It's a thought I have again later with Oliver Stone.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1992 could have been.....

Chaplin
The Crying Game*
Enchanted April
A Few Good Men*
Howards End*
Husbands and Wives
Malcolm X
The Player
Scent of a Woman*
Unforgiven**


One thing I'm discovering, going back and breaking down the Oscar of the early 1990s: There's just not a lot to choose from. Unforgiven is a classic. As is The Crying Game. I'll even throw in The Player. But good Lord, the drop off after that. Eeek. I can't help but wonder if this era is what gave rise to the independent film boom that hits two years later.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1993 could have been.....

The Age of Innocence
The Fugitive*
In the Line of Fire
In the Name of the Father*
Philadelphia
The Piano*
The Remains of the Day*
Schindler's List**
Shadowlands
What's Love Got to Do with It

This was another tough year. Films like What's Love.... and Shadowlands scored multiple nominations in major categories but were left out everywhere else. I can't help but wonder if Jurassic Park might have come close to making this list.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1994 could have been.....

Bullets over Broadway
Forrest Gump**
Four Weddings and a Funeral*
Little Women
The Madness of King George
Nobody's Fool
Pulp Fiction*
Quiz Show*
Red
The Shawshank Redemption*


It's funny how one's memory can fail you on trivial things. I TRIPLE-CHECKED to make sure I had my actual Best Picture nominees correct. I totally remember Bullets over Broadway being a nominee. Shocking that it received 7 nominations and not Best Picture. Especially considering that Four Weddings... only had 2 nominations.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1995 could have been.....

Apollo 13*
Babe*
Braveheart**
Dead Man Walking
Il Postino*
Leaving Las Vegas
Mighty Aphrodite
Nixon
Sense and Sensibility*
The Usual Suspects

I don't buy this list at all. THIS was a crappy year for film. But there wasn't much else to put on the list. Dead Man Walking and Leaving Las Vegas were gimmes. Both had directing and screenplay nominations as well as nominations for the lead acting categories. But after that? Ouch.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1996 could have been.....

The Crucible
The English Patient**
Evita
Fargo*
Hamlet
Jerry Maguire*
The People vs. Larry Flynt
Secrets & Lies*
Shine*
Sling Blade

Another case where once you get past the obvious contenders, there is a HUGE drop off. Evita makes the list for its five nominations, despite none in an major category. Most of the nominees in the Big Eight were either nominated for a Best Picture contender or were its film's only nomination. It didn't make it easy. At least Hamlet was up for screenplay. So was The Crucible, which had the benefit of its only other nomination being for Supporting Actress. But we are talking about a year where Oscars went to films like Independence Day, The Nutty Professor and The Ghost and the Darkness. Not exactly a banner year.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1997 could have been.....

Amistad
As Good As It Gets*
Boogie Nights
The Full Monty*
Good Will Hunting*
L.A. Confidential*
The Sweet Hereafter
Titanic**
Wag the Dog
The Wings of the Dove


It's years like this one that I'm even doing this research. A lot of people bitched about Boogie Nights being passed over for lighter fare like The Full Monty or As Good As It Gets. But when you look to see where the other nominations landed, it becomes apparent that Boogie Nights probably came really close. Films like Wag the Dog and The Wings of the Dove were also considered strong contenders. The Sweet Hereafter, with only two nominations (Director and screenplay) would have been a nice surprise. I think people would have griped about Amistad making the list, arguing "Of course it's there. It's Spielberg."


And the Best Picture nominees for 1998 could have been.....

Central Station
Elizabeth*
Gods and Monsters
Life is Beautiful*
Out of Sight
Saving Private Ryan*
Shakespeare in Love**
A Simple Plan
The Thin Red Line*
The Truman Show

I really had to stretch on this one. It's funny to me because it's one of the few years where I really liked all five nominees (although William Goldman's article for Rolling Stone about how much he hated all five is still a classic.) The fact that I had to resort to a film like Out of Sight and it's whopping two nominations (Screenplay and Film Editing) or A Simple Plan (Screenplay and Supporting Actor) shows what a weak year it was overall and makes the argument why there SHOULDN'T be ten nominees.


And the Best Picture nominees for 1999 could have been.....

American Beauty**
Being John Malkovich
Boys Don't Cry
The Cider House Rules*
The Green Mile*
The Insider*
Magnolia
The Sixth Sense*
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Topsy-Turvy

This last one would have not made Kevin Smith very happy. But Magnolia aside, the four other add-ons could have replaced a film like The Green Mile. Boys Don't Cry and Topsy-Turvy each won more awards than the Green Mile, The Talented Mr. Ripley had more nominations and Spike Jonze was nominated for Best Director over Frank Darabont. It had to have been close.

Thanks for reading. It was a fun way to kill a dull Saturday waiting for the Super Bowl.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What If The Ten Nominees Rule Came Ten Years Ago.....

There was a fascinating article in USA Today on Friday explaining how the new Best Picture rules could shake things up. I won't go into detail, but they had a valid point. What else is interesting, in particular, were the comments of director Jane Campion (The Piano, Bright Star) who doesn't seem to like the idea of 10 Best Picture nominees. She claimed that it was the major studios who pushed for it since "their movies weren't getting nominated." She also seemed to feel that it somehow diminished the award itself.

I'm not quite sure what beef Ms. Campion has with the studios. They seemed to go out of their way to get her latest film, Bright Star, seen. In theaters, the film was distributed by Warner Bros. In the U.S., the DVD is being distributed by Sony and, in the U.K., by Fox. That's three different studios shelling out money to get her $8 million film seen. (The film grossed $4 million in the U.S.) She might consider that it was a collaborative effort of several studios just so her movie could get out there. It's not like the studios thought there was a huge demand for a movie about John Keats. She had a story to tell. They did what they could to get an audience to see it. And her little movie's whopping ONE nomination (Costumes) makes it seem a little bitter.

Another thing she should consider is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is its own entity and does not answer to the studios. If the major studios had any say whatsoever, this rule would've gone into effect back in 1996 when the one Best Picture nominee from a major studio was Jerry Maguire. While the argument is valid that having more than 5 nominees allows for more audience friendly films to make the cut, I think they were more likely trying to avoid the discussion that an important film got snubbed and thus, the argument that the Academy is too high brow for the general public. Expanding to ten nominees, in a way, shows how close the more mainstream movie get to being legitimate contenders without showing how many votes each one got. Hence, why "The Dark Knight Rule" went into effect.

When the nominations were announced last year, there was genuine shock among Oscar enthusiasts that The Dark Knight failed to be nominated for Best Picture. It was considered a "sure thing" and a possible contender to win. In particular, I was quite shocked when The Reader was nominated for Picture and Director over Christopher Nolan's masterpiece that set a new standard for the superhero genre. The Reader, which isn't a bad film, didn't resonate with many people and just doesn't stand out in my mind.

But what The Dark Knight Rule has eliminated is the "who got snubbed?" discussion. There has been little talk at all about ANY film that got left out of the Best Picture race. The only film that jumps out to me was the Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy or Musical, The Hangover. Is The Hangover typical Academy material? Hardly. But it is a well made film from an artistic standpoint. Watch the technical aspects of the film and you'll see it is beautifully shot and edited very well, has a nice score and notice how much the costumes tell about each character. The writing is outstanding and even Mike Tyson gives a good performance. But you don't hear anyone crying foul over its snub. In fact, the articles I've read about this year's snubs fail to mention a single one involving Best Picture.

Which brings up the point of this posting: What if they'd made this rule ten years ago? What would the ten nominees have been? What complaints could have been avoided?

Well, I set some ground rules. It will happen eventually, I'm sure, but this year, there weren't any movies nominated for Best Picture as its only nomination. Every film had at least ONE other nomination in one of the other eight major categories. So, the first rule I set was that each of the "bottom five" had to be nominated in at least one other category of the "Big Eight", OR be the winner in another best film category (Animated, Foreign or Documentary.) After that, I noted the presence of a particular film in other categories. The more nominations, the greater the likelihood that a film "just missed" being one of the Best Picture nominees. Basically, I tried to take my own opinion of a film out of the picture and chose movies that looked like they had the nominations that normally go along with Best Picture. So let's see how the first decade of the new millenium could have looked like.

*=Was actually nominated

**=Best Picture Winner

And the Best Picture nominees for 2000 Could Have Been.....

Almost Famous
Billy Elliot
Cast Away
Chocolat*
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon*
Erin Brockovich*
Gladiator**
Pollock
Traffic*
The Wonder Boys

2000 was considered a bad slate of Best Picture nominees. But tack on the "The Other Five" and, all of a sudden, that's not such a bad group of films after all. In a group like that, it's hard to imagine a movie like Gladiator even winning. See the difference having ten nominations would've have made when looking back?

Other Possibilities: Quills, You Can Count on Me

And the Best Picture nominees for 2001 Could Have Been.....

Amelie
A Beautiful Mind**
Black Hawk Down
Gosford Park*
In the Bedroom*
Iris
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring*
Memento
Moulin Rouge*
Shrek

Not quite the same effect that the extra nominations of 2000 had. But certainly, films like Black Hawk Down, which was also nominated for Best Director, and Amelie, which had the most nominations that year of any film NOT nominated for Best Picture, deserved to be in the same class as those that did get picked.

Other Possibilities: Ali, Monster's Ball


And the Best Picture nominees for 2002 Could Have Been.....


Adaptation
Chicago**
Far from Heaven
Frida
Gangs of New York*
The Hours*
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers*
The Pianist*
Road to Perdition
Talk to Her

Once again, a MUCH more well-rounded group. It certainly has the feel of a more wide open Oscar race.

Other Possibilities: About Schmidt, Bowling for Columbine, Catch Me If You Can


And the Best Picture nominees for 2003 Could Have Been.....

City of God
Cold Mountain
Finding Nemo
In America
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King**
Lost in Translation*
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World*
Mystic River*
Seabiscuit*

One of the downsides of having just 5 Best Picture nominees is when a relatively weak film slips through the cracks. The all-time greatest example was the nomination of The Towering Inferno for Best Picture in a year that also saw Chinatown, The Conversation, Lenny and, the eventual winner, The Godfather Part II nominated. Seabiscuit, while a good film, just didn't feel like it belonged with the rest of the group that was nominated. But when you add the other five, it seems a bit more legit.

Other Possibilities: The Barbarian Invasions, House of Sand and Fog


And the Best Picture nominees for 2004 Could Have Been.....

The Aviator*
Closer
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Finding Neverland*
Hotel Rwanda
The Incredibles
Million Dollar Baby**
Ray*
Sideways*
Vera Drake

Now THAT'S a Best Picture slate! Ten very different films on ten very different subjects. Even the biopics were very different in tone and style. It does go to show what an AMAZING job Pixar does with their films that they would have pulled consecutive Best Picture nominations, even with using the rules for choosing. I do, however, have a hard time believing Closer would have made this list, but it was nominated enough not to presume it wouldn't.

Other Possibilities: The Motorcycle Diaries


And the Best Picture nominees for 2005 Could Have Been.....

Brokeback Mountain*
Capote*
Cinderella Man
The Constant Gardener
Crash**
Good Night and Good Luck*
Memoirs of a Geisha
Munich*
Syriana
Walk the Line

A more well-rounded race, for sure. The Constant Gardener and Walk the Line had to have come close to getting nominated. In fact, if you had asked me what films were nominated in 2005, I probably would have guessed Walk the Line and not Munich. Cinderella Man and Memoirts of a Geisha, not so much. Syriana is kind of in between.

Other Possibilities: A History of Violence


And the Best Picture nominees for 2006 Could Have Been.....

Babel*
Blood Diamond
The Departed**
Dreamgirls
Letters from Iwo Jima*
Little Children
Little Miss Sunshine*
Notes on a Scandal
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen*

I like that list a lot. And that's assuming other multiple nominees like An Inconvenient Truth or Children of Men didn't sneak in. A very competitive year, for sure.

Other Possibilities: Children of Men, An Inconvenient Truth, United 93


And the Best Picture nominees for 2007 Could Have Been.....

Atonement*
Away from Her
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
Juno*
Michael Clayton*
No Country for Old Men*
Ratatouille
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
There Will Be Blood*

This is one of the years where the ten nominations fail slightly. Not many of the Other Five pulled in more that 2-3 nominations in total. And the five that they did choose were pretty solid. This is definitely one of the years that support the argument of what it would look like if there weren't enough to fill out 10 slots.

Other Possibilities: Away from Her, La Vie en Rose, The Savages

And the Best Picture nominees for 2008 Could Have Been.....

The Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button*
The Dark Knight
Doubt
Frost/Nixon*
Milk*
The Reader*
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire**
Wall-E

It's easy to write off the ten Best Picture nominee rule as being "The Dark Kinght Rule". But when you consider great films like Doubt (5 noms), Revolutionary Road (3 noms), and Wall-E (6 Noms), along with The Dark Knight (8 noms), one can't help but wonder just how close the voting was last year for Best Picture.

Other Possibilities: The Wrestler

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's Oscar Time Again!

BEST PICTURE:

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

THOUGHTS: I was one of the few who didn't think District 9 would be here. I was wrong. I WAS, however, one who thought The Hangover would be. Again, wrong. Eight of the ten were mortal locks. District 9 and A Serious Man were the toss ups. Crazy Heart, Invictus or The Messenger (judging by their presence in other categories) could have easily filled those slots. I certainly would've taken Invictus or The Messenger (and, of course, The Hangover) over District 9. A Serious Man is the only one I haven't seen yet. I would like to say this: People have said what a crappy year it was for movies. Not for me. Of the 9 nominees I've seen, I gave EIGHT of them an A or A-. (Gave District 9 a B) Not a bad year at all. The Hurt Locker, FTW!!!!!

BEST ACTOR:

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

THOUGHTS: None. Exactly as predicted. Jeff Bridges is a lock.

BEST ACTRESS:

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

THOUGHTS: Again, no surprises. Maybe Helen Mirren over Emily Blunt, but not a big surprise. Earlier, I predicted Meryl Streep would win since it's been 25 YEARS and her TWELFTH nomination since she last won. Her FIFTH nom in the last 10 years! But, no. Sandra Bullock is very popular in Hollywood and she just doesn't do "Oscar-worthy" very often. In my opinion, it shouldn't go to either of them. Watching Carey Mulligan in An Education was like watching Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. An enchanting, star making performance.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

THOUGHTS: Well, Damon and Plummer were surprises, I guess. I thought Damon sucked and I like Matt Damon as an actor. I was hoping for Anthony Mackie to be nominated for The Hurt Locker. But all the other nominations are irrelevant. Christoph Waltz will win. This is a case of a performance being called "Supporting" even though he's only called that because his name's not Brad Pitt. Practically the entire first 15 minutes are just Waltz talking.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo'Nique, Precious

THOUGHTS: No real surprises here. Utter joy that the "Zoe Saldana should be nominated for Avatar" hype was exactly that. I would like to say that this SHOULD have been Vera Farmiga's third nomination. I loved her in The Departed and she stole Nothing but the Truth. Up in the Air was another role that seemed tailor made for her. And she'll lose. This award belongs to Mo'Nique.

BEST DIRECTOR:

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

THOUGHTS: ZERO surprises. If this had been a five nomination year for Best Picture, these would have been your nominees. Now that the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild have spoken, you will see the first woman to win Best Director. The woman who brought us Point Break. JOHNNY UTAH!!!!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man
Up

THOUGHTS: Excited to see the love for The Messenger. Terrific film. Won't win. Of the 8 major catergories, this one is the most exciting. It's a three horse race among The Hurt Locker, IB and Up. I think I predicted a Tarantino win here before, so I'll stick with that. It'll be the only chance to give a brilliant film some props.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Precious
Up in the Air

THOUGHTS: District 9 was a small surprise. In the Loop was a HUGE one. Being the Oscar dork I am, I actually WHOOed in the car when I heard it called out. Props to the Academy for recognizing a movie that was seen by so few people, the MPAA didn't even give it a rating. That said, this will be Up in the Air's only win of the night.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

THOUGHTS: Anyone else remember when there was talk of Harry Potter being nominated for Best Picture? Anyway, the most deserving film of the bunch is The Hurt Locker, although I haven't seen The White Ribbon. This is probably one of the few tech categories where Avatar could lose.

BEST FILM EDITING:

Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious

THOUGHTS: Precious is a shock! Small movies RARELY get nominated here. I could've taken guesses at the nominees for an hour before guessing Precious. I thought Up in the Air was done very well. And a year that also saw Harry Potter, Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes, it's even more surprising. But again, The Hurt Locker deserves it. Avatar will probably get it.

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Avatar
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

THOUGHTS: Avatar.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria

THOUGHTS: I hate this category. Unless there's a movie nominated for Best Picture that has thousands of costumes, you never know who will win this. I mean, LOOK at this list! The only movie to even get a wide release was Nine. Screw it. Let's go with Nine. In my "Calling My Shot" posting, I picked Inglourious Basterds.

BEST MAKE UP:

Il Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria

THOUGHTS: None. I usually miss this one. I picked Avatar in the "Calling My Shot". I guess computer generated makeup still doesn't count. They must think it's a computer programmer who comes up with the look.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Avatar
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up

THOUGHTS: Fantastic Mr. Fox was a pleasant surprise. I loved that film. This is the one category I disagree with nominating The Hurt Locker. The score, what little there is, feels like it was lifted right off the There Will Be Blood soundtrack. But I am excited for this category. Michael Giacchino will win the Oscar he should have won for The Incredibles. To go along with the Emmy he won for Lost. In my opinion, he's the best composer in film right now.

BEST SONG:

Crazy Heart
Nine
Paris 36
The Princess and the Frog
The Princess and the Frog

THOUGHTS: I HATE this category. Not because it's hard to pick, but because it shouldn't even exist. There used to be a category called Best Song Score. THAT, to me, made sense. Award a movie for having great songs, not a great song. It's would be like having a separate writing category for Best Line of Dialogue or a sound effect category for Best Use of the Wilhelm Scream (which would go to Up this year. You don't expect a Wilhelm Scream to come from a dog.) Crazy Heart will win this. At least it's easy this year.

BEST SOUND MIXING:

Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transfomers 2

THOUGHTS: Why the face?! ANOTHER year without a nomination for 20-time nominee, never winner Kevin O'Connell?! He hasn't gone this long without being nominated since the Drought of '93-'95. Apparently, the Academy didn't like how Public Enemies sounded. Perhaps he'll be back next year for his work on Prince of Persia. Or not. Avatar deserves this one and will win.

BEST SOUND EDITING:

Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up

THOUGHTS: Avatar will win. The Hurt Locker deserves it.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Avatar
District 9
Star Trek

THOUGHTS: If there was EVER a category that was so unquestionably going to a particular movie, it's this one. 100% to Avatar. The ONLY reason there's even another nominee is because the voters had to pick three. I doubt even the people who worked on the other films would have voted against Avatar.

BEST ANIMATED PICTURE:

Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

THOUGHTS: Gee. Let's see. One of these films was actually nominated for Best Picture. So, I pick the Secret of Kells. Kidding. I'd never actually heard of that one until this morning. I didn't care for Coraline. Haven't seen the P & the F yet. But I will say this: I liked The Fantastic Mr. Fox ALMOST as much as I liked Up. But Up will win and deservedly so.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

Ajami
Das weisse Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (The White Ribbon)
El secreto de sus ojos
Un proph├Ęte
La teta asustada

THOUGHTS: It's rare when I've actually seen one of these and 2009 was no exception. When filling out your ballots on Oscar night, go with the one that's been nominated outside of the catergory. I choose the White Ribbon since my pick in "Calling My Shot" wasn't even nominated.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

THOUGHTS: Like the foreign language category, it's rare when I've seen one of these, much less two. The Cove and Food, Inc. are the two heavy weights, but I can't imagine The Cove losing, barring some scandal that it was faked in any way. If you haven't seen The Cove, go rent it. It's a documentary that was more exciting to watch than the last Indiana Jones and a VERY important message.



HAPPIEST SURPRISE: In the Loop for Adapted Screenplay

UNHAPPIEST SURPRISE: The Hangover for NOTHING

NOM THAT MADE ME YELL "WHY THE FACE?!": Matt Damon for Invictus

MOST BEWILDERING SNUB: An Education for Best Costume Design. Those clothes were just cool.

P.S. I don't actually say "Why the face?" For the purposes of writing a family friendly blog, I just prefer to not actually say WTF?