Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Best Picture and The Oscars. Same As It Ever Was?

In the end, didn't we basically end up where we always do with Best Picture: a mix of message movies, epics, dramas and war films. Same as it ever was only more diversely populated. We definitely did not end up where we usually do with Best Director: a woman, white men of different generations, a gay black man? It's still kind of amazing, right?


Things that got AMPAS all hot and bothered this year: the color blue and/or flying (Avatar, Up, Up in the Air), race (Avatar, Blind Side, District 9, Precious), thinly disquised allegories (Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker), young girls coming-of-age (An Education, Precious), existential crises (A Serious Man, Up in the Air), war (The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds) and illiteracy (Precious, Blind Side, Basterds).

Things that AMPAS dated but couldn't commit to: race dramas that didn't star aliens, Sandra Bullock or illiterate black kids (Invictus with 2 big nominations), stage bound musicals about cinema (Nine with 4 nominations)

Things that turned AMPAS off: literacy (Bright Star), manboy comedies (500 Days of Summer, The Hangover) the apocalypse (The Road) and live-action children with animated imaginations (Where the Wild Things Are, The Lovely Bones).

Predictions? I did pretty well on my complete predictions scoring 86% correct in the big eight categories, 77% if you count the technical categories. And if you include the shorts and the docs which most people aren't foolish enough to try and predict, it falls to a less impressive but respectable 72%. But I got the two hardest ones: The Blind Side and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart. So uh, "yay me!" he said sheepishly.

I am less concerned with statistics than most pundits because what I love best is trying to catch the weird detours or catching things really early. You have to take risks if you hope to do that. While I'm still proud that I never predicted and always doubted Daniel Day-Lewis making the Actor list for Nine (I took a lot of heat for that one), I was shaking my head today looking at my "year in advance" predictions. I totally fell for ALL of the majors that didn't pan out: Invictus, The Lovely Bones, Nine and Public Enemies. Oy. This is my way of saying that it was one of my least impressive "year in advance" showings so that either means I've lost it (possible) or the year was a bit hard to predict before it really got going (equally possible).

At least I never bought that weird media meme that 'ANYTHING could be a Best Picture nominee' (The Hangover! Star Trek!) as if there were 35 spots open and they had replaced the entire Academy membership with randomly selected moviegoers of mystery tastes.

Release Dates.
It's a quirk of mine that I care so much about these. Many movie addicts are content to just wait until December to see movies that hope to wow adults with a mix of subject matter, ambition, and big stars. I prefer to see that type of movie intermingled with all the other types of movies all year long. Can you imagine eating food the way movies are released: you may only eat grains in the spring, vegetables in the fall, desserts in the summer and sandwiches in the winter! BO-RING. So I thought I'd break down the release dates and how they're reflected in the Oscar nominations.


The chart to the left clearly shows that you don't need to be a December release to win the highest honor (a best picture nomination). In fact, you could argue that December is the likeliest time to fail if you have gold statues on your mind. The Lovely Bones, Nine and Invictus were all somewhat crushed by the weight of expectations implied by their release dates. But unfortunately, the chart to the right reiterates why the studios cram everything into one month. Even though December isn't hogging the best picture spotlight at all (The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds and Avatar lead the race and they're spread out:June, August, December) you're still more likely to win nominations in random categories if you come out late in the year. Even if people aren't that into you (see the three December failures again). Would The Young Victoria or Crazy Heart be up for 3 Oscars each if they'd been released in May? Would Bright Star be up for the tech prizes it definitely deserved had it opened in December?

Just about the worst news for we devout year-long moviegoers is that the dread "qualifying release" -- wherein a movie only pretends to come out but doesn't -- actually worked this year. It had been failing in recent years but I fear it'll be back with a vengeance after these successes. The Last Station managed two major nods, despite that "f*** you moviegoers!" tactic. The Secret of Kells, the surprise animated feature nominee, also refused to let you see it before seeking Oscar's seal of approval.

Why did it take me so long to speak to you today? Real life interfered. Plus, in more related news, today marked my first ever live news interviews which were broadcast somewhere in London and Canada respectively. If you saw or heard me, I apologize! You see, I do a lot of talking. And I have a head. And but I am still learning to combine the two... don't call me for your documentary just yet!

Actor and Actress Trivia? You know you want it.
The Oscar Map. Find out which actors and movies you're closest to.

Now that you've had a few hours to think about the nominations, what's still bothering you? Or do you think the Academy basically done good?

42 comments:

Amir said...

The inclusion of The Blind Side will continue to hurt me.
I know, I know, it wasn't something that could happen at this stage, but thinking that 'The Blind Side' is nominated at the expense of such great movies as 'Bright Star' and one of my favorites of the year 'The Messenger' (which was clearly not far behind, given the script nod) makes me feel awful.
Also, even thought i love penelope, i would totally kick her and maggie out to bring samantha morton and julianne moore in.
needless to say, i'm not easily gonna forget the make-up snub for 'district 9' and david's wasco's snub.
(Did i mention i had no hopes for bright star at this stage? because if i didn't, then i should say i would totally nominate cornish, campion and fraiser as well.)

Amir said...

and by fraiser i mean greig fraser!

Carl said...

What really bothers me is not so much what was nominated, but that I did not get to see all of the films I wanted to see prior to the announcement so that I could make my own assessment of whether the Academy had its collective head in the dark. I am with you completely on this..."The Last Station" does not come out here until next week, the documentary field is spotty and under-publicized, and the foreign release pattern is an open scandal (no "Un Prophete" until TWO DAYS before the Steve & Alec show?) I could have made my predictions with a dart board and done as well. I see movies all year long - damn it, show me something Oscar-worthy in February!

Agustin said...

It still shocks me that Cotillard got replaced by Cruz..
I blame the Weinsteins for their greed
She's so good in Nine.. it's a pity
I'm glad, though, that she's handling her post-oscar career so much better than most best actress winners, just look at Berry, Witherspoon, Paltrow, Hunt..

rosengje said...

The Oscars hate literacy! It all makes sense now. At least Bright Star managed that lone Costume nod. Its absence there would have been almost as heartbreaking as The Blind Side's presence in Best Picture.

Ryan T. said...

The (500) Days of Summer complete snubbing is something that's going to take awhile to sink in. I mean Screenplay? Come on. That was a gimme to the Academy!

I am happy about District 9 getting in for Best Picture though. That was my ONE wish for nomination morning and I got it and then some with its three other very worthy nominations.

So like any other year, lots of bad... lots of good... whatever. Bring on the show. Oh, wait, we have a month left? Oh crap.

Karl said...

I'm excited that all the anti-Lee Daniels talk didn't pan out. (Remember? He was supposed to be the vulnerable one of the DGA five). In fact, with Precious nabbing director, screenplay and editing (!), it's showing support beyond the acting noms everyone expected. ...Gives me hope that some folks out there haven't been totally sucked into the embarrassing white-savior theme running through Blind Side, Avatar, Invictus, etc.

RobUK said...

I was utterly bored with the nominations. I kept hoping for a scrap of something that somebody somewhere had not anticipated, or for an oh-em-gee-Samantha-Morton-in-In-America style jawdropper, but... zip.

A bit of Tilda Swinton or Christian McKay or Abbie Cornish or Michael Haneke would have showed some semblance of individual thought, but as it was, the Academy just looked late submitting the exact same lists everyone had been anticipating from it for over a month.

The only glimmer of a raised eyebrow in a major category came from the Maggie Gyllenhaal inclusion, but I couldn't even enjoy that, having seen her passed over for better work.

"Next!"

Robert Hamer said...

Well, after hearing about The Blind Side and cleaning up the vomit, it *is* somewhat inspiring to see films like District 9 and A Serious Man up there. The inclusion of those films alone makes a strong argument for the ten-wide expansion.

The Best Actor and Actress nominees are so unbelievably boring, with no surprises whatsoever, that I don't even feel that they're worth thinking about. The Academy clearly didn't.

The Best Supporting Actor category is, for my money, the most depressing of the "majors." Matt Damon got in for a completely forgettable performance, Stanley Tucci gets his nomination for awful work in an awful film, and though I'm happy that Christopher Plummer finally has a nod to call his own, I'll always believe that this was ten years too late. Meanwhile, Anthony Mackie and Christian McKay get screwed over. Well, maybe they'll get a Giamatti-esque "We're Sorry" nomination next year.

Yay, Maggie Gyllenhaal finally gets recognized! Granted, it's for one of her weakest performances, but she finally has one (and Mo'Nique is going to win, anyway)!

Thrilled that District 9 and In the Loop made it in Adapted Screenplay, even if it disappoints me that Fantastic Mr. Fox was left out. And Original Screenplay is pretty solid overall.

Gee, just like 1997, James Cameron's film gets a shitload of nominations, but no recognition for the screenplay. What a surprise. TAKE A HINT, JIM. YOUR SCRIPTS SUCK.

Disappointed in the techs. No makeup nod for District 9? No costume recognition for Where the Wild Things Are (in fact, *nothing* for Where the Wild Things Are!)? Fantastic Mr. Fox AND Coraline ignored for Art Direction? Anthony Dod Mantle not recog--wait, never mind, he was never going to be honored for Antichrist. Oh well, at least Bright Star actually has something.

Overall, it's the same as every year: Largely predictable, with more disheartening surprises than really cool ones. I am, however, surprised that "The Ten" ended up being not *that* bad, despite me only liking about half of them and outright despising one.

NoNo said...

Yeah, I didn't buy into Star Trek either. It's like you said about The Dark Knight...it's like the 7th film in a franchise. Although I liked it a lot more than some of the Best Pic nods.

By the way, when are you doing another podcast?

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

You're a talking head? Awesome! Can't wait for you to pop up on Australian entertainment news. Then I can say, yeah well, I was reading him from way back..

Robert Hamer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Know Nothing Know it All said...

I'm being totally utilitarian about the Maggie Gyllenhaal nomination. Having now seen "Crazy Heart" it's one of her weakest efforts. But I feel like this nomination is going to do such good things for her and I am 100% in her corner.

Re: "The Blind Side" for best picture...I'm choosing not to think about it. I'm choosing to think about the fact that even in a ten-wide field, they chose mostly respectable films. And if you look at what people are calling "the real best picture nominees," ("Inglourious Basterds," "Avatar," "Precious," "Up in the Air," "The Hurt Locker") those to me are five good films. Even "Up in the Air," which is far and away my least favorite, I liked. If it had a traditional 5-wide list, these films would rival 2007 and 2001 as one of the best lineups of the aughts, given what 2009 gave them to work with.

Lapearle said...

I will never get over the two noms The Blind Side got... I really don't care anymore. I've always known the oscars don't really care about quality, but the last few years they've been really bugging me. I'll probably watch and enjoy the show, but I will never again invest emotionally in whoever wins.

Anonymous said...

Ppppllleeaase. What happeend to your previous history predicted nominees!!! I wanted to write them down

jahs34 said...

I don't understand why so many commenters overrated 500 days of summer and are shocked that it isn't nominated. Did we see the same movie with the annoying precocious kid, dialog filled with hipster references, the idiot lead character, and the ending with the name of the other girl? ugh.

Glenn said...

Aah, but RobUK it's not the Academy who aren't thinking for themselves, but the precursors thinking for the Academy.

Stella said...

Everyone stop freaking complaining about the acting nominations? They aren't there just for your pleasure, you know. Blame the critics' precursor awards for being so unimaginative beforehand, but it isn't the Academy's responsibility to make them interesting for your ADD personalities, it's to make them count. Renner, Waltz, Farmiga, Plummer, Tucci - looking at these names alone should satisfy you. And they sure aren't boring to the nominees.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/02/oscar-nomination-reaction_n_445858.html

Javier-UY said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Javier-UY said...

I don't buy the expansion to 10 nominees is more of the same old same old. A movie as out there as DISTRICT 9 would have never gotten in in another year, and that's not to mention gems like UP or even small auteur efforts like A SERIOUS MAN (though those two are more traditional). Sure, you get a BLIND SIDE to go with them, but that movie is loved and if we think of the Oscars as snapshots of their time, its nomination makes perfect sense. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that the ten nominees allow them to paint a larger, more complete picture of the movie year with all its idiosyncrasies and peculiarities. And you can't say a single one of those movies isn't loved. I'm all for this experiment.

Javier-UY said...

Not to mention, if it was more of the same those last spots would have been filled with LAST STATIONS, INVICTUSES, NINES etc.

NATHANIEL R said...

Javier... well i did use a question mark rather than an exclamation point.

I'm happy that District 9 made it even if it's not one of my favorites of the year (on account of i hate their usual aversion to genre)

but i worry that the 10 wide thing only increases their problem with not being discerning so long as they like a message or type of film (the blind side?)

it's weird that the precursors are always so anger-making for narrowing the field in such uninteresting ways. But what'cha gonna do. They also get things like The Hurt Locker nominated so... ya take the good ya take the bad ya take them both and then ya have the facts of

troyhopper said...

I would love one year for all of the awards-giving bodies to announce their nominees and winners on the same day at approximately the same time, just for the sake of experimentation. It would be the perfect way to get everyone to think for himself or herself for once and stop being so lazy. How exciting the possibilities would be.

Jim Berg said...

I am impressed with the categories you got 100% right.

Anonymous said...

The academy still has a month to overcome the media steamroller that has become Sandra Bullock's prom-queen likeablility, popularity, box office, etc. and realize that quality should rule and award Streep the Oscar...

Let's hope for a little sanity.

CanadianKen said...

Remove the names of Kendrick,Gyllenhaal and (especially) Cruz from the supporting actress lineup. Substitute Melanie Laurent(Basterds) and any two of
Mimi Kennedy(In the Loop),Paula Patton,Maria Carey(Precious) or Jill Hennessey(Lymelife).
Perfect.

OtherRobert said...

I'm only upset that every morning news program called District 9 a "mindless popcorn film" that only appealed to "males in their 20s," only to turn that description around as a positive for why there should be 10 nominees. My brain, it's busted.

BoB K. said...

More pissing on "The Blind Side" I see. Oh well. Plenty of people loved it and found worth to it, so that's reason enough to celebrate for me. Hopefully something will come of its BP nod with Sandra Bullock winning the Oscar.

A comedy in the lineup would have been nice (like "The Hangover"), but other than that, this is a strong top ten, and more than I thought voters would come up with. I was fully expecting to see "Nine" in the list still, and "Invictus", maybe "Julie & Julia", or even "Sherlock Holmes". They reached into their hat a bit more than usual (I was pretty shocked by "A Serious Man" making the cut, though maybe I shouldn't have been b/c of the Coens factor). I like that by this expansion, it gives films like that added exposure that it never would have had in a top five beyond an original screenplay nod. I'll co-sign that it blows that "(500) Days of Summer" was snubbed entirely for anything. That film was such a gem that deserved better treatment.

I think the top ten is here to stay now, especially with the ratings this year sure to increase due to the populist fare in the field (like "Avatar," "TBS," "Basterds," & "Up").

NATHANIEL R said...

BoB K... well, i agree that if you see a major uptick in ratings they'll probably keep up. But one year isn't much to go on. For all we know, next year's top ten will be all small films and no blockbusters.

I was looking at past oscar lineups for the article i wrote for tribeca and it does vary from year to year... 2003 was a pretty populist year with the average take being over $100 million. But most years are closer to $60 million once you average out the BP contenders. This year it's wayyyy up there (given that 3 of the top ten box office films made the top ten Oscar list: AVATAR, UP, THE BLIND SIDE)

but one reason i'm doubting that 10 is here to stay: few changes that they've made in the past few decades have stuck beyond a few years of experimentation.

Kev said...

As long as Tom Sherak is the Academy president, that top ten ain't going nowhere. Bet money on it. This is his icing on the cake year.

Ready For My Close-Up said...

The lack of Julianne Moore still stings like a bee. I thought her work as Charley was heartbreaking and memorable, and resonated with me more than any other supporting performance I've seen this year. A haunting, complex, characterization from one of the greats.

Ian said...

Being snubbed could have been the best thing that happened to Julianne Moore. If she's really good down the line, voters will remember this role as one of those "IOU"s of theirs ("oopsy on the 'A Single Man' snub there Jules, no hard feelings!"), and that will further the momentum not only for a fifth nomination but a first win. That's how I like to see it anyway. Voters cash in those IOU's all the time. That had to be the way that Maggie Gyllenhaal got her nomination this year ("yeah, our bad on skipping over you for 'Sherrybaby,' "Secretary,' and "The Dark Knight' -- here's a filler nod for you!").

Diana said...

The thing that makes me mad is that Cruz - who essentially played a watered down version of her VCB character, was nominated over Cotillard, who was flawless in Nine. Of course, it's the greedy and oblivious Weinsteins' fault. Cotillard's role was NOT a leading role - all the women in that movie were there to support Guido. She was absolutely robbed. At least she has a Globe nod, and widespread critical praise. She's been doing great since the Oscar win - and I look forward to seeing many more nominations for this exceptional actress.

NATHANIEL R said...

Ian... i'd like to believe that about Moore but lately I've been storing her in that place in my heart reserved for people like Michelle Pfeiffer and Sigourney Weaver and Glenn Close and all of them... who were too consistently good to ever 'SURPRISE!' the voters enough to shake them from their complacency to give them a win.

It REALLY helps to be a mediocre actor and have one stellar performance on your filmography. That's the way to win Oscars. The other way (deserving it unquestionably or building up enough momentum to make them feel like they owe you -- hi, Winslet) is generally extremly time consuming and extremely hit and miss in terms of success rate.

Anonymous said...

How is IB about illiteracy and THL an allegory?

Bryan said...

I'm tired of people saying that Streep should win over Bullock because they should go with the best quality performance. If voters were going by quality, neither one of them would win-- it would probably go to Sidibe.

NATHANIEL R said...

anon 6:08 Basterds isn't "about" illiteracy. I'm just saying that the title suggests that Lt Aldo Raine might be illiterate... kinda like how the words in Precious's credit sequence are misspelled because Precious is illiterate.

AND though i didn't mention it, UN PROPHETE also has an illiterate protagonist.

Bizarre trend of Oscar!

adam k. said...

Do people get that Penelopé Cruz is now closing out the decade with more oscarization than Nicole Kidman?

Just think about that for a minute.

That, AND Sandra Bullock is about to be the latest PYT to deny Streep an oscar.

Crazy how things work out, isn't it?

Lucky said...

adam, does that mean that if Katie Holmes breaks up with Tom Cruise she will end up being nominated at least 5 times this decade?!

adam k. said...

Lucky, I doubt she's smart or adventurous enough to find out.

Dimi said...

I'd like to point out something from EW's 25 Oscar Snubs gallery. One knowledgeable reader wrote this:

"They didn't recognize Clint Eastwood [for Best Director] again! The Academy is so biased against him! First Gran Torino and now Invictus! You have got to be kidding me!!!"

Oh we can only hope.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Sandra Bullock bothers me. i want to give her a chance, but i usually don't like her so much. I'm going to see the late show with Dave Letterman next week, and she's the guest!!!! So f she wins me over live, I'll see her movie and give her another chance.