Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar reax

Is there anyone out there who really thinks that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is hands-down the best movie of the year? Other than people who got a paycheck from it, that is?

I mean, 13 nominations? That's "Return of the King" numbers. Since Oscar members tend to vote in packs, the sheer number of nominations is indicative of their ardor for a particular film. Based on this morning's nominations just announced a little while ago, "Benjamin" is king of the mountain.

I was glad to see "Slumdog Millionaire" get 10 nominations. I put it number two on my Top 10 list, and it's certainly the most original among the big contenders.

Other observations:

Kate Winslet, widely expected to receive two acting nominations, lead for "Revolutionary Road" and supporting for "The Reader," was shut out for "Road" and nominated for leading role in "The Reader." Studios push actors for particular categories, but voters are free to choose whomever they wish. Today's results indicates a lack of regard for "Revolutionary Road" -- well placed in my opinion. And I would argue that her job in "Reader" is also a leading role. Does this make her a favorite to win the statuette?

I was really happy to see Frank Langella get an acting nomination for "Frost/Nixon," since I think his performance makes that movie. Ditto for Melissa Leo in the little-seen "Frozen River," which I put as the best performance by an actress in 2008. (Bully for Courtney Hunt for nabbing an original screenplay nod.)

The big surprise was Richard Jenkins, a largely obscure but extremely well-respected character actor, getting an acting nod for "The Visitor."

I was neither surprised or disappointed that "The Dark Knight" was shut out of the major categories except for Heath Ledger's written-in-stone nomination for supporting actor. It got eight nominations total, but in technical categories except for Ledger's. Even though it was a monstrous box office hit and was reviewed very well and a favorite of the fanboys, I think in the months since its release Academy voters had a chance to look at it again and realized what a mess the plot is, particularly the last half. Face it: it goes on a half-hour too long, and should have ended with Harvey Dent's maiming.

I'm ecstatic that "The Reader" had such a great showing, with surprise nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. I had it number 3 on my list, so I'm hopeful this great showing will spur more people to go see it. It got five nominations in all.

I was glad to see Robert Downey Jr. get a supporting nod for his quirky and brave performance in blackface in "Tropic Thunder," although not for the obvious reasons. I don't think it's particularly deserved, nor was I big fan of that over-praised movie, but it's just all too rare for comedies to be given their due by the Oscar folks.

Also glad to see Angelina Jolie nominated for the largely missed "Changeling." For once she's not playing the brave, bold woman, and it pays off.

Watch for the envelopes to be opened Feb. 22. I'll be live-blogging the event that night, so tune in.

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