Oscar Nominations 2011

Last Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees for the upcoming ceremony on February 27.  Of the all the superfluous entertainment award shows each year, the Oscars is the one I get excited about.  There’s a sense of cinematic tradition involved with the Oscars – it’s a show that connects modern filmmakers to the past through a mutual regard for greatness in film.  So, in this sense, I enjoy Oscar season.  The hype gets even Joe Schmo to participate in the discussion about film art and entertainment.

This year’s nominations had several surprises.  Like most years, I am displeased with several omissions and hopeful justice will prevail in some of the categories.  Here are some thoughts on that:

My biggest qualm is in the Best Supporting Actor category, where Andrew Garfield of “The Social Network” was snubbed the nomination.  Garfield’s performance is nuanced and powerful; his performance elevates Jesse Eisenberg’s in many ways.  Who would I eliminate from the category?  That’s tough.  I saw all of the other films nominated in this category, except for “The Kids Are All Right”, and the performances are very deserving.  The two surprises were Jeremy Renner in “The Town” and John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”.  Both are superlative supporting performances, so by default, I wish Mark Ruffalo would not have made the cut.

Another omission that does not sit well with me is in the Original Screenplay category.  One of the most overlooked movies of 2010, “Solitary Man”, has a script rife with intelligence and sensitivity.  The dialogue rivals even Aaron Sorkin’s in “The Social Network” and its themes are provocative and clearly communicated.  Brian Koppelman’s script should have won over the script for “The Fighter”.  Hands down.

There was hardly a chance “The Book of Eli” would be considered in any major category, but the film was a tour de force in cinematography, music and editing.  Shame on the Academy for totally overlooking it.

In the Best Original Score category, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are favored to win for “The Social Network”.  (It’s notable that Ross was one of the composers for “The Book of Eli”.)  This would be well-deserved and something of a history-maker for the Oscars.  The score mirror’s Reznor’s electronic/industrial rock flavor and, to listen to it by itself, it is hard to believe how well it accompanies the film.  It reminds me of another risky nomination from the past – Jerry Goldsmith’s half-orchestral/half-electronic score for “Hoosiers” (which did not win).  Next on my list would be Alexandre Desplat’s score for “The King’s Speech”.  That film has so many dynamic emotions that pulling off a cohesive score must have been quite a challenge for Desplat, so in that sense, the score is a wild success.

And then there’s the whole controversy about Christopher Nolan’s absence on the Best Director ballot.  He was mostly considered a shoo-in in that category.  The surprise came from Joel and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”.  I wouldn’t oust the Coens in exchange for Nolan because their hallmark directorial command is on full display in “True Grit”.  It’s David O. Russell whose nomination here should be questioned.  What about Russell’s skill as a director (which I don’t deny) was on display in “The Fighter”?  The movie is a visual and emotional mess.

So why do I hold to Nolan?  Hasn’t his “Inception” been debunked for all its apparent plot holes and overly literal imagery?  Don’t those things legitimately disqualify him from the nomination?  No.  “Inception”, though it has some faults, is a thrilling and engaging film.  The movie is a visual wonder.  Story-wise, I compare it to the Philip Seymour Hoffman drama “Synecdoche, New York”, one of the most difficult narrative films I’ve ever seen.  For the small group of moviegoers who actually saw it, the responses were nearly apocalyptic.  Most watchers left the movie consummately frustrated and I’ve talked to several who were straight-up angry.  “Inception” is almost as risky a story line, but Nolan’s instincts are usually very astute to bring his audience on the ride in an entertaining way.  At it’s most basic level, it is absurd to think “Inception” was a major studio wide release.  Nolan’s direction should be commended for making his movie accessible – not by dumbing it down (for the most part), but by directing with clarity.

My hopes are high for “The King’s Speech”, what I think to be the best film from 2010, but the buzz surrounding “The Social Network” is so high right now that I think it’ll win Best Picture.  And rightfully so.  It’s a masterful and culturally important film.  “Network” will also take Adapted Screenplay for Sorkin and most likely Director for David Fincher.  As it stands, I hope “The King’s Speech” sweeps the acting categories.  It is such a beautifully acted film.  Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush all should win.

We’ll see it all unfold in just about one month.

Until then, here are a few videos to remind us to chill out about all these movies:

Several nominated films acted out by children:

http://tv.gawker.com/5744041/adorable-kids-reenact-five-best-picture-nominated-films

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About Collin Damon Welch
Collin worked in the film/TV industry for a while. Now he's pursuing ministry. He and his incomparably beautiful wife Nicole live in Chicago.

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