Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And the nominations have arrived...

Yesterday morning, alongside the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, a very vivacious and enthusiastic Mo'Nique stood upon a stage in front of a flood of reporters announcing the nominations for 2011 Academy Awards. Not many surprises overall. Much has been made of The King's Speech and True Grit being the big winners, thanks to their total number of nominations (12 and 10, respectively). Some have even been as bold as to say that front-runner The Social Network underachieved with eight nominations - this speaks to how touted this film has been throughout precursor season, that eight would be considered a disappointment. I personally don't think that total number of nominations matter a whole bunch in the grand scheme of things (The Hurt Locker and Avatar were both tied for nine nominees last year). I'd like to think that people don't change their mind based on something that superficial (and if The King's Speech does eventually win, it would establish a change of heart). So, here's the list of nominees announced this morning, but if you'd like to stick around for a little deeper analysis, here you go:

Darren Aronofsky, BLACK SWAN
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, TRUE GRIT
David O. Russell, THE FIGHTER

**4/5 on my predictions**
Let's just go ahead and jump in with what is probably the biggest snub of the morning. For the third time, Christopher Nolan received a DGA Best Director nomination, but did not get the same respect from his fellow peers in the Academy. I did mention that Nolan was the only one of the predicted five that felt the most vulnerable, considering the Academy's somewhat aversion to him. His film Inception was a high concept Sci-Fi unlike anything most moviegoers have ever seen, and his devoted fan bases are still licking their wounds from the Dark Knight fiasco in 2008. So, I'd imagine that this latest snub seems particularly cruel. Instead, they opted to reward the - interestingly, now prestigious - Coen Brothers for their megahit True Grit, which while good, seemed very middlebrow for the Coens, no? Well, perhaps that's how they'll finally get blanketed with praise and commercial success (which is what happened). Russell, Hooper, Fincher, and Aronofsky all walked away with their much expected nominations, so there's not much to say about that.

Javier Bardem, BIUTIFUL
Jeff Bridges, TRUE GRIT
James Franco, 127 HOURS

**4/5 on my predictions**
There were rumblings that Bardem would sneak in. The reason? Because he's really fucking good in Biutiful. I worried that nobody would get around to seeing it, considering that it's in Spanish and it has a very goofy release schedule. I guess everyone did a good job watching their screeners. Of course, this came at the expense of my beloved Ryan Gosling, whose wondrous performance in Blue Valentine went unnoticed. We'd all like to think that Jeff Bridges' overall solid, but unimaginative work in True Grit would get sidelined to take on both of those fantastic performances, but we all know that the Best Actor category likes to scale older, so they couldn't go under the age of fifty on all of the nominations. But this is all a race to see who will finish second to Colin Firth who is stampeding toward his first Oscar. Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and James Franco's version of Aron Ralston in 127 Hours round out the rest of the nominees.

Nicole Kidman, RABBIT HOLE
Jennifer Lawrence, WINTER'S BONE
Natalie Portman, BLACK SWAN
Michelle Williams, BLUE VALENTINE

**4/5 on my predictions**
I was so genuinely afraid that Nicole Kidman's fantastic performance in Rabbit Hole would get snubbed that I tried to smoke screen it in my predictions by making a terrible prediction of... Julianne Moore (my all-time favorite actor who, realistically, never had a shot). Well, even though I do think Moore is deserving, I'm glad to be wrong on that one. And despite being a fringe candidate most of the season, Michelle Williams was able to sneak in and get a nomination for her great work in Blue Valentine (her co-star wasn't lucky enough to have the same fate). Jennifer Lawrence's subtle, but daunting work in the tiny indie Winter's Bone (which had a huge day) was able to sustain it's buzz from July, and get the young actress her first Academy Award nomination. Rounding out the five, were the two Golden Globe winners: Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right and overall front-runner Natalie Portman for Black Swan.

Christian Bale, THE FIGHTER
John Hawkes, WINTER'S BONE
Jeremy Renner, THE TOWN
Geoffrey Rush, THE KING'S SPEECH

**4/5 on my predictions**
There had been a lot of talk that John Hawkes would get a nomination for his gritty performance in Winter's Bone, and that conversation only got stronger when he received a SAG nomination. I thought The Social Network wave was strong enough to keep Andrew Garfield's humble performance in the race. I was wrong. I was afraid that Mark Ruffalo would be the culprit if Hawkes made his way in, so I didn't go for him. Luckily (well, unluckily for Garfield), we were able to get both. Jeremy Renner's fiery performance in The Town was able to get the actor his second nomination in as many years. The rest of the list is comprised of the two front-runners: Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech and Christian Bale in The Fighter.

Helena Bonham Carter, THE KING'S SPEECH
Melissa Leo, THE FIGHTER
Hailee Steinfeld, TRUE GRIT

**5/5 on my predictions**
Still having trouble trying to grasp the fact that the Academy considers Hailee Steinfeld's role in True Grit as "supporting", but it is a pretty terrific performance, and her strong-minded cowgirl was able to bump out more high-profile candidates like the Mila Kunis and Barbara Herschey from Black Swan. Jacki Weaver was able to withstand Animal Kingdom's incredibly low profile and get a nomination (I'm told that it's a much deserved nomination, which is why I can't wait to get it on my netflix queue). The two Fighter girls, Adams and Leo, were able to keep their strong run growing (and I expect Leo's string of good fortune to continue - even though I'm genuinely surprised that she's not splitting votes with Adams). And Helena Bonham Carter fills out the ballot in a no-brainer nomination (has there ever been such a lock that has no chance of winning? Seems odd to me).

Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Christopher Nolan, INCEPTION
David Seidler, THE KING'S SPEECH
Scott Silver and Paul Tamasay & Eric Johnson (& Keith Dorrinton - story), THE FIGHTER

Michael Arndt (and John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich - story), TOY STORY 3
Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, 127 HOURS
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, TRUE GRIT
Debra Granik & Anne Rossellini, WINTER'S BONE

**9/10 on my predictions**
Nothing too surprising here, unless you count Mike Leigh's nod for Another Year - but when Leigh is always the surprise screenplay nominee, doesn't that stop being a surprise? And despite getting snubbed once again as a director, Christopher Nolan gets his second career nomination as a screenwriter (the screenplay should be nominated just for the screenplay alone, because the screenplay itself has its splotches). Out of all the major categories, Original Screenplay is the most up in the air, since The King's Speech's David Seidler hasn't exactly pulled away, with The Fighter and The Kids Are All Right having a serious shot at winning. In adapted, all good work is represented. Even though I'd like to hope that Michael Arndt's script for Toy Story 3 has a real shot, this is really just a contest for who gets second place to Aaron Sorkin's extraordinary screenplay for The Social Network.

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

**9/10 on my predictions**
127 Hours held strong, much to my (pleasant) surprise. And Winter's Bone finished off its magical run from a small Summer indie to a four-time Oscar nominee. True Grit rode ten nominations to a Best Picture bid, while Inception made the list (though when Nolan was forgotten once again, there was some real nervousness coming from the Inception camp) as well. The rest of the list went as expected, setting off a moderately enticing showdown between The Social Network and The King's Speech (not sure why I'd call something as arbitrary as an Oscar race as a "showdown", but that's what I heard Meredith Viera say on the Today Show). The two biggest snubs here? My beloved Blue Valentine was left off, while Ben Affleck's The Town was also snubbed despite strong evidence otherwise was beginning to arise before the nominations came out.

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with their decisions. You can't make everyone happy - and in the case of Gosling, Moore, and Garfield, they certainly didn't make me happy - and the Academy did a relatively solid job of spreading the wealth. And for those of you wondering, I finished...

**82/105 on my predictions** That's 78%, ya'll. Easily the best I've ever done.

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