82nd Academy Awards Nominees
I'm sure everybody has had a chance to look over this morning's Oscar nominations. It's a pretty good list overall, but I'm reminded of the Simpson's episode where Homer is recruited as a NASA astronaut and launched into space. "Get the rating" seems to be the mantra.
And if Hollywood wanted an Oscar drama to bring in the viewers, hoo boy, they got it. James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, divorced couple, in the lead for most nominations, for Best Director and Best Picture? It smacks of calculation, but it just may work. The expansion to ten Best Picture nominees was another attempt to attract viewers, and we can see an effort to pick movies outside of the art-house circuit.
Roger Ebert observes that the five Best Director films are the "serious" Best Picture nominees, the real contenders, and I'll have to agree with him. It's not that I expected Pixar's Up to be a credible contender; we're just happy to be nominated.
I do think the push for Avatar speaks more for Hollywood's desperation to sell expensive 3D movies than anything. Is Avatar really worthy of nine nominations? Is it really one of the year's best movies? I find that very hard to swallow. In all fairness, I have to see this movie, but it's not the kind of movie I'd want to see. Special effects blockbusters with video game graphics are not my thing. I need more than sugar in my diet. But I'll go watch one of these days and give it a fair chance. Maybe it won't feel like an Xbox version of Dances With Wolves (ugh).
Now let's get to the Animation categories. First, congratulations to Pixar for Up's Best Picture nomination. Hollywood has now officially apologized for snubbing Wall-E. I hope this bodes well for animation, and that it inspires studios to move beyond the safe boundaries of summer roller coaster rides and family formulas.
Now to Best Animation Feature. Ponyo wuz robbed. Boo!! That's an unacceptable omission, and either reflects the Motion Picture Academy's ignorance of animation, or bias against foreign movies. Perhaps they feel that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli received their praises for the Spirited Away Oscar, and that's enough. More "statement" awards. I'm really tired of that. It's as though everybody gets a nomination or a statue just for hanging around long enough. This year, it's your turn. Next year it's theirs.
I'll pull out this argument when Sandra Bullock wins over Meryl Streep. Sorry, but some film artists simply dominate, and that should be acknowledged.
Nominations for Best Animation Feature: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, and Up. Pixar is the easy favorite, as always. There is a possibility, however, that the Academy will consider Up's Best Picture nod to be "their award" this year, and hand this Oscar to someone else. I think Coraline could be a fan favorite, as it's a clever and charming movie that's skillfully hand-crafted. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a critic's favorite, but its appeal is limited. It's happy to be nominated. Disney could win for Princess and the Frog. That would be a plus for hand-drawn animation, but wouldn't that be a lazy win? Will it be seen as a box-office disappointment, of an overlooked classic?
Secret of Kells is the real shocker. I didn't expect this at all. I'm not even sure if it played in the Twin Cities. Another win for hand-drawn animation; in fact, this is a very solid collection of films. It shows the diversity of the animation artform, its vitality and creativity.
Still, Secret of Kells snuck in like some lucky wild card team. Ponyo deserved that spot. Hell, Ponyo deserved a Best Picture nod alongside Up, but that's an old speech of mine, and it's all water under the bridge. Life continues.
Up was also nominated for Music (Original Score), and I think they're the clear winner. Michael Giacchino brought the film to life, especially the emotionally-charged opening act. It's a beautiful score, reminiscent of Fellini's movies. The only possibility of an upset is if Avatar sweeps everything - and remember, Hollywood is desperate to sell us on 3D movies and 3D televisions. It's the battle between art and commerce.
Finally, Up received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and as a writer, I'm glad to see Pixar recognized for their work. Far too many animated movies are nothing more than video game demos, roller coaster rides. Pixar has wisely focused on the essentials of storytelling, focused on the craft of filmmaking, and that's why they're where they are today. The competition is too fierce in this category, so I couldn't expect a Pixar win. It's good to be nominated.
Don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to this year's Oscars. This should be fun. Just don't let Cameron walk away with everything. Please let there be some surprises for once.