In Which Oscar Noms are (Belatedly) Discussed

Between finishing up my review of ROME, OPEN CITY and the double-geek blast of joy that is Mass Effect 2 and the season premier of Lost I completely forgot to comment on the fact that the Oscar Nominations were released Tuesday morning.

Sigh.  There was a time not too many years ago when I would passionately pick apart each nomination, not only weighing the chances each had of winning, but feverishly arguing the merits (for and against) and compiling my list of predictions versus hopes.  I still recall the head-scratcher of a year when THE ENGLISH PATIENT took the big prize over FARGO, my young mind bewildered (for the record, I had read and loved the novel by Michael Ondaatje, but found the movie exceedingly dull - much the same as Minghella's next film, THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY) time again in the years preceding and following: DRIVING MISS DAISY?  CHICAGO?  A BEAUTIFUL MIND?  Really?

And so now we come to 2010 (well, 2009) and the Academy, in an effort to appease the masses still distraught over the lack of a Best Picture nod in 2007 (or do you refer to 2008?  Man, the Oscars are confusing!) to THE DARK KNIGHT as well as drive up viewership have expanded the Best Picture nominations from five to a staggering ten film.  Which, instead of bestowing recognition on more films has critics everywhere pointing out the "real" Best Picture nominations - those that also have a Best Director nomination - versus the "pity" nominations.

Critics can be a prickly bunch, huh?

All of which still evokes the sigh that kicked off the second paragraph of this post.  I don't know that there was a who lot of surprise in what was announced, but that's pretty much a given by now.  For better or for worse, here are some of my admittedly lackluster observations and predictions on some of the major categories:

Link to the complete list of nominations (courtesy of /Film, whom I adore)

BEST PICTURE

I admit, I haven't seen every film here (7 out of 10, and plan on one more) but it's pretty much a given that it's down to the indie action drama THE HURT LOCKER and the behemoth that is AVATAR.  I'm not one of the AVATAR haters - I had a blast watching it, even as I knew it was silly and a little derivative - but pound for pound THE HURT LOCKER was just a stunning movie.  I would normally say they have the prize locked, but hearing that AVATAR just passed the bajillion dollar mark at the box office, you can't count it out.

BEST DIRECTOR

You can't argue with numbers.  58 of the last 60 DGA Winners have gone on to win Best Director.  And Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to have won the award.  And, coincidentally, she directed the crap our of THE HURT LOCKER.  So I think this is a safe bet.

BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS

Looks like a nice round-up for Actor, with the race going between Jeremy Renner and Jeff Bridges, and the Clooney being the Dark Horse.  I'm saying Bridges will get the win, not only for his performance in CRAZY HEART, but for his total contribution to film.  Renner's young, and the nomination will be his prize. Over in the Ladies' Room, I'm guessing Sandra Bullock is the lock.  Hollywood loves her (how else to explain the money being doled out for dreck like THE PROPOSAL and ALL ABOUT STEVE, also released this year), and breakout performances of the kind has by Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe are usually reserved for a Supporting Actress win, but not the big one.  I admit to not having seen THE BLIND SIDE, and have no plans to, so take that for what it's worth.

SUPPORTING ACTOR/ACTRESS

Have you seen INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS?  Then why are we even discussing any other performance other than Christoph Waltz?  Nothing else even comes close, although cheers to Woody Harrelson's stellar year with his nomination for THE MESSENGER and the kick-ass movie that was ZOMBIELAND.  Sinful omission?  Anthony Mackie's great performance in THE HURT LOCKER.  We could have taken Matt Damon out here and put him in the Best Actor category for THE INFORMANT as opposed to the bland generic-looking INVICTUS.  For Actress it appears Mo’Nique will be the one to beat, although from what I heard Penelope Cruz was the only thing that made NINE bearable.  I have no preference here, so let's give it to Mo’Nique, who really does prove she's more than her character from UPN's The Parkers.

SCREENPLAYS

Adapted will go to Jason Reitman (and Sheldon Turner), who in a year without HURT LOCKER or AVATAR would have swept everything.  UP IN THE AIR won back all the love he lost from me for JUNO (which I didn't blame him for, but still...) and then some, so this will be a nice consolation.  The Original Screenplay is a crazy toss-up: I'd be happy with any of the winners, but would love to see Quentin Tarantino take it home.  Despite my love for THE HURT LOCKER, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS was my favorite film of 2009.

ANIMATED FEATURE

Is UP going to be short-changed by having a dual nomination (it's also up for Best Picture)?  I loved the film, but secretly am keeping my fingers crossed for THE FANTASIC MR. FOX.  "Are you cussin' me?"

EVERYTHING ELSE

If it's technical, AVATAR will win it.

There you go.  Over the next few weeks I'll be catching up with reviews of varying length for all the nominated films I can get a hold of, so stay tuned to see what's what.  In the meantime, what are your thoughts about what was nominated, and what will win?