Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar Nods '10

The nominations for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards were announced early this morning, and leading the pack was a tie between James Cameron's "Avatar" and Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" with 9 nominations each, which heats up the already-brewing competition. Close behind was "Inglourious Basterds" with 8 nominations and "Up in the Air" and "Precious" each with 6.

This is, I believe, the most interesting Oscar race we've had in a while with a heightened drama at its center. The reality-based, low-grossing film on the war in Iraq, "The Hurt Locker," is faced up against the mammoth success story of "Avatar," a film also about war, except far detached from reality. And both of these films come from directors who used to be married. And now they're tied for nominations.

The big change this year was the expansion of the Best Picture category from 5 nominees to 10. The nominated films were "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker," "Up in the Air," "Precious," "Inglourious Basterds," "Up," "A Serious Man," "An Education, "District 9," and, yes, "The Blind Side." How this last selection managed to sneak its way into the top category is beyond me. The fact that it did better at the box office than expected probably has something to do with it, along with Sandra Bullock's performance. She now, more than ever before, is a lock to win the award for Best Actress now that the film she starred in is nominated.

In my prediction, I had "The Blind Side" swapped out for "Invictus." The snubbing of Clint Eastwood still surprises me since usually the Academy views his work as Oscar-worthy. His film, however, didn't make the cut even with 10 slots available.

This brings us to Best Director and also to the reason why the 10 nominations don't really matter because there's still a clear real 5 nominees. Nominated for directing were Jason Reitman for "Up in the Air," Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds," Lee Daniels for "Precious," James Cameron for "Avatar," and Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker." Clint Eastwood is absent in this category as Lee Daniels appears to have taken his place, which makes Daniels the second African American to be nominated in the category. Everyone is rooting for Bigelow, especially her female comrades. Since her DGA win, she's a surefire front-runner.

So, take a look at those directors and the movies with which they match up. Those are the five Best Picture nominees that would've been chosen if the category hadn't been expanded. So, why the expansion? One can only wonder. To give popular movies like "The Blind Side" some more credit? Maybe. But I wouldn't say that "The Blind Side" is this year's "The Dark Knight." No way.

It's nice to see "A Serious Man" nominated along with its nomination for screenplay. And with the nomination for "Up," it finds itself in two categories but only winning in one. It has also gained the honors of being the first animated film nominated for Best Picture since "Beauty and the Beast."

This also marks a big year for sci-fi genre films. "Star Trek," "Avatar," and "District 9" all got note-worthy nominations. Usually comedies are the genre film to make a statement, but "The Hangover" and "(500) Days of Summer" both got snubbed. I was really expecting at least "(500) Days of Summer" to gather a Best Original Screenplay nomination. Guess not. Or even a Best Picture nod. "The Blind Side," really?

And, hey, whatever happened to "Where the Wild Things Are" and the musical score by Karen O? No honors there.

"Up in the Air" received some snubs, as well, most notably for Best Editing where "Precious" replaced it. In my opinion, "Up in the Air" had some really sharp editing. The lack of a nomination in this category sadly bumps it further behind in the competition. Other nominees for Best Editing included "Avatar," "District 9," "The Hurt Locker," and "Inglourious Basterds." It's a toss-up between "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" for this one, and it could be arguably stated that the winner of this one determines the winner of Best Picture.

No love for "Up in the Air" in Best Cinematography, either, as the nominees were "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker," the black-and-white "The White Ribbon," "Inglourious Basterds," and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" as a nice addition. The latest in the "Harry Potter" series really was gorgeous.

There were zero surprises in the category for Best Actor. The nominees were, as expected, Jeff Bridges for "Crazy Heart," George Clooney for "Up in the Air," Jeremy Renner for "The Hurt Locker," Colin Firth for "A Single Man," and Morgan Freeman for "Invictus." Renner's nomination here puts "The Hurt Locker" one notch ahead "Avatar" as the latter received no acting nods.

Best Actress contained no surprises as Sandra Bullock got her nod for "The Blind Side," alongside Carey Mulligan for "An Education," Gabourey Sidibe for "Precious," Meryl Streep for "Julie & Julia," and Helen Mirren for her role as Leo Tolstoy's wife in "The Last Station."

Christoph Waltz led the way for Best Supporting Actor along with nominees Stanley Tucci for "The Lovely Bones," Matt Damon for "Invictus," Woody Harrelson for "The Messenger," and Christopher Plummer as Leo Tolstoy in "The Last Station."

Best Supporting Actress is where things get complicated. The nomination for Maggie Gyllenhaal for her role in "Crazy Heart" seemed to come out of left field. She probably bumped Julianne Moore of "A Single Man" right out of the last spot. Alongside Gyllenhaal is, of course, the front-runner Mo'Nique for "Precious," the two ladies of "Up in the Air," Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, and, as another surprise, Penélope Cruz for her role in "Nine." My question: Why wouldn't Cruz get nominated for her role in "Broken Embraces" instead? But wait. Why wouldn't Marion Cotillard just get nominated for "Nine" instead? But wait again. What about either of the lovely ladies of "Inglourious Basterds" who both got snubbed?

For Best Original Screenplay, the nominees were Mark Boal for "The Hurt Locker," Quentin Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds," Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman for "The Messenger," Joel and Ethan Coen for "A Serious Man," and a slew of people for "Up." Pixar has found its spot among the writing category for the third time in a row, which is nice. "(500) Days of Summer" and "The Hangover" got squeezed out for "The Messenger," so it seems. This nomination for "The Hurt Locker" is another up it has over "Avatar" which got skipped out for writing. Did James Cameron crank out a too cliché of a script? Let's not go there.

The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay were Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for "District 9," Nick Hornby for "An Education," many writers for "In the Loop," Geoffrey Fletcher for "Precious," and Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for "Up in the Air." The last nominee in this category should be taking home the gold.

The sci-fi trio got nominated for Visual Effects: "Avatar," "District 9," and "Star Trek." It's no mystery who will win.

It's interesting to note, too, that both "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" got nominated in the categories of Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Among the other nominees were "Up," "Star Trek," "Inglourious Basterds," and look at that, "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." I'm going to say that everything technical "Avatar" gets nominated for, it will win.

Foreign Language Film curiously left out "Broken Embraces," for "Ajami" from Israel, "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" from Argentina, "The Milk of Sorrow" from Peru, "Un Prophète" from France, and of course, Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" from Germany.

"Avatar" also found itself nominated for Art Direction along with "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," "Nine," "Sherlock Holmes," and "The Young Victoria." There's another category it'll probably win.

Another completely random surprise came in the category of Animated Feature Film. Among the nomination for "Up" was "Coraline," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Princess and the Frog," and something nobody has even heard of, "The Secret of Kells." What in the hell is that? Apparently it premiered somewhere just in time to be considered. Somehow this thing beat out "Ponyo."

The song "I See You" of "Avatar" remained absent from the category for Original Song while "The Princess and the Frog" got the love with two nominations for "Almost There" and "Down in New Orleans." Others included "Loin de Paname" from "Paris 36," "Take It All" from "Nine," and expected winner, "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart."

"The Hurt Locker" received acknowledgement in Original Score for Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, which proves perhaps the Academy's, dare I say love, for this film. Other nominees were James Horner for "Avatar," Alexandre Desplat for "Fantastic Mr. Fox," Hans Zimmer for "Sherlock Holmes," and Michael Giacchino for "Up."

So, what does it all mean? Well, it means that this year is going to be interesting. The playing field has been leveled as "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker" each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. My prediction? While "Avatar" will win more awards in the end, "The Hurt Locker" is going to be taking home the bigger prizes.

Go here for a full list of the 82nd Annual Oscar nominees, and be sure to stay tuned for more updates on the nominees and predictions.

And we're all looking forward to when this all comes to a close during the telecast of the 2010 Oscar ceremony on March 7. Yes, even me.

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