Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Nominees: My Reaction

The Oscar nominees were announced today, proving once again the truism that when it comes to the Oscars, there are always surprises. Nobody ever predicts exactly how the academy will vote. The best surprise for me today was to see my favorite film from last year, Atonement, get the best picture nomination I was afraid it wouldn't, along with six other nominations. No surprise that No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood dominated, with eight nods each. Eight is actually a pretty small number for the leading film (it's usually like 11 or 12). Overall I was pleased with the best picture race. Atonement, No Country for Old Men and Juno were my three favorites from last year, so I was pleased they all made it in. Michael Clayton is good too. I'm not a big fan of There Will Be Blood, but it's not bad, and I expected to see it. Here's my take on the surprises and snubs:

Atonement, despite few awards from the guilds, still managed to pull off seven nominations, including best picture and a supporting actress nod for Saoirse Ronan as the young Briony. At 13, she's the youngest nominated actor this year, sharing the category with the year's oldest actor nominee, Ruby Dee (83). Ruby's nomination was a bit of a surprise, as I was expecting the academy would go for Catherine Keener in Into the Wild. That film was actually largely snubbed, despite it having the actor-as-director cache Oscar loves. No nods for picture, Sean Penn as director, Emile Hirsch for actor, or screenplay, which effectively adapted a nonfiction account of a missing person's death of unknown cause into a well-rounded character. The movie did pick up a nod for Hal Holbrook's fantastic supporting role, as well as film editing.

The biggest surprise of the acting races was the actor nod for Tommy Lee Jones from In The Valley of Elah. A well-deserved nod that likely pushed out either Hirsch or Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl). On the actress side I was a bit surprised (but not disappointed) to see that Laura Linney (The Savages) and Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth the Golden Age) both made the cut over Angelina Jolie (A Mightly Heart). I would have loved to have seen either Keira Knightley (Atonement) or Amy Adams (Enchanted) in the race. Blanchett is actually a double-nominee this year, picking a supporting nod for here turn as Bob Dylan in I'm Not There. She was nominated for playing Queen Elizabeth I in 1999 for Elizabeth, the current film's prequel, and has been nominated twice before in the supporting category, last year for Notes on a Scandal and in 2005 for The Aviator, which she won. The last time an actress was a double-nominee was 2003, when Julianne Moore snagged a best actress nod for Far From Heaven and supporting nod for The Hours. In 1994, Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson were both double nominees.

Jason Reitman (Juno) is a surprise nominee in the directors category. Not that a best picture nominees wouldn't deserve to have its director also nominated, but that Sean Penn had been presumed to get a nod. Juno follows closely to the Little Miss Sunshine template, garnering relatively few nominations (four) for a best picture candidate. Diablo Cody's screenplay is the favorite for the original screenplay category, a list of mostly comedies that includes an animated film (Ratatouille) and one drama (Michael Clayton). Michael Clayton actually made out rather well, tying with Atonement for the third-most nominations (seven). On the adapted screenplay side, Away From Her was a surprise, nominated over Into the Wild.

The animated feature category offered up the surprise nomination of Surf's Up over the Simpsons. If the foreign films look unfamiliar it's because most of the year's popular foreign films either didn't qualify (Lust Caution, The Kite Runner), weren't submitted (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), or were eliminated before the final round (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days; Persepolis). The Diving Bell and the Butterfly did however get four nominations in other categories, for director, adapted screenplay, cinematography, and film editing, a pretty good showing for a foreign film. Persepolis was also an animated feature nominee, where the quirky French hand drawn animated film will compete with the polished computer-generated Pixar front runner, Ratatouille. Two of Pixar's previous four nominated films won this award (Finding Nemo and The Incredibles).

FYI -- the picture up above would make a nice background for your computer.

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