Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Nominations Review

Check Out The Official 2007 Oscar nominations here

The year of 2007 was a wonderful year for movies, and it seemed almost obvious that with all the great films coming out (particularly the rush of films released in December) that the Academy Awards will go and snub one of them. It was only natural, for it happens every year; years with much less competition than 2007. This was not the case. The awards were pretty well spread, led by two seething dramas which each got eight nominations: No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. They both were nominated for Best Picture, along with Juno, Atonement, and Michael Clayton.

Except for the enraging snubs that I'm used to seeing ever year, there were actually two pleasant surprises: both in the lead acting categories. Tommy Lee Jones stellar performance in the less-than-stellar In The Valley of Elah labored it's way to a nomination for Best Lead Actor, despite his excellent work beginning to be forgotten (and somewhat overshadowed by his work in the much superior No Country). Jones was nominated with the much-predicted Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood) and George Clooney (Michael Clayton). Rounding out the category were two very strong performances: one by an actor who seems to be ripe for nominations lately (Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd), and one who is finally getting his much-needed attention (Viggo Mortenson, Eastern Promises).

The other surprise came with Best Lead Actress, where Laura Linney came out of left field and snagged a nomination for her funny, but touching portrayal in The Savages. Linney, an actress who has been consistently amazing for the last five years gets her third career nomination in a role she quietly dominates. Two shoe-ins made their inevitable appearance on the Actress shortlist, first the 66-years-old Julie Christie (Away From Her) and the 20-years-young Ellen Page (Juno). The rest of the nominations came from films that weren't particularly favored by critics: Marion Cotillard's portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose is one of lots of skill, if not a lot of make-up and mimicry. Most notable was Cate Blanchett's nomination for Elizabeth: The Golden Age despite it being one of the least-favored films of the year.

In the Best Director category, the one surprise was Jason Reitman for Juno. Only Reitman's second film, little attention was paid to his work on the film (at least not as much as there was for Page's performance or Diablo Cody's screenplay). The Coen Brothers get there much deserved nomination for No Country and Paul Thomas Anderson receives his first ever career Best Director nomination for There Will Be Blood (hard to believe that it took this long). Julian Schnabel's visionary work in the French film The Diving Bell and The Butterfly was also nominated (the only foreign film to crack the nominations). Last on the shortlist was Tony Gilroy's exceptional work for the incredibly fluid Michael Clayton.

In easily the most predictable category, Best Supporting Actor was filled with dominant performances. Javier Bardem, the threat to win, was nominated for his soulless killing machine in No Country, and Casey Affleck was nominated for his performance in the dubiously titled The Assassination of Jesse James By Coward Robert Ford. Both performances have been said to actually be lead roles, though both are exquisitely portrayed. Hal Holbrook (Into The Wild) and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) were both nominated for their brilliant performances, each leaving the audience wanting more of them. The last nominee was Philip Seymour Hoffman for his bruising performance in the pleasant Charlie Wilson's War, no doubt a nod to the incredible year Hoffman has had (also was in Before The Devil Knows You're Dead and The Savages).

In the Best Supporting Actress category, the three leaders, or shoe-ins, came out nominees: Amy Ryan's irresponsible mother in Gone Baby Gone; Tilda Swinton's nerve-wrecked corporate executive in Michael Clayton; and Cate Blanchett's surrealistic portrayal of Robert Zimmerman in I'm Not There. Also, Soiarse Ronan was nominated for her portrayal of the young, precocious Briony--of which she is the heart of the film--in Atonement. The last nomination went to veteran actress, and sentimental favorite, Ruby Dee for her performance as the morally misguided mother in American Gangster.

Both screenplay awards were also filled with heavy favorites. Original Screenplay nominating Juno's Diablo Cody and Michael Clayton's Tony Gilroy. Nancy Olivier (Lars and The Real Girl), Tamara Jenkins (The Savages), and Brad Bird (Ratatouille) were also nominated. With Adapted Screenplay award, there were three Best Picture nominees: Christopher Hampton (Atonement), Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), and Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men). The last two nominations went to former Oscar winner Ronald Harwood (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) and first-timer and former actress Sarah Polley (Away From Her).

Peguin domination continued with a surprising nomination going to Surf's Up for Best Animated Feature, along with the two much more expected Ratatouille and the French Persepolis. Best Foreign Language Feature faced controversy when they redacted 4 Weeks, 3 Months, and 2 Days from the final list, leaving the most intriguing film nominated Israel's Beaufront, a film little saw hope for. Best Documentary was loaded with whistle-blowing films, including three on the War in Iraq: No End In Sight, War Dance, and Operation Homecoming. Also nominated was Michael Moore's fire-sale on American Health Care, Sicko.

Overall, this year's Oscar nominations were not all perfect. I would have liked to see Sean Penn recognized for his writer-director work in Into The Wild, as well as Emile Hirsch's performance in that film. I would have liked to see Leslie Mann nominated for her seething performance in Knocked Up, as well as any recognition for that hilarious film at all. Also, a nomination could have easily gone to any member of Juno's supporting cast (particularly J.K. Simmons and Jennifer Garner). That aside, other than Elizabeth: The Golden Age, there was no film nominated for a major award that I was particularly unenthusiastic about, and in a year filled to the brim with exceptional movies, it's nice to see that the Academy tried to acknowledge as many as they could.

NOTES: It's easy to be frustrated with Cate Blanchett's seemingly "default" nomination for The Golden Age, particularly with Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd) and Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart) having such good efforts as well, but ponder this: Cate Blanchett has competently portrayed Queen Elizabeth I, Bob Dylan, and Katherine Hepburn in a span of four years, as well as portraying numerous fictional characters, such as in Babel and Notes On A Scandal. Even if it seems like a throwaway nomination (and it is), you have to admit, the girl's got talent. Also, it seems like forever ago when the Academy wouldn't touch anything by Johnny Depp with a ten-foot pole. After Captain Jack, it seems like anything he does turns into an Academy Award nomination (which is well deserved).

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