Okay, here we go...
Academy Award Nominations came out last week and the only thing that excited me was the omission of The Passion of (what the) Christ. So the bulk of my satisfaction was for something that didn't happen, rather than did. Looking at the list, I can't help but think what a weak year for movies it had to have been.
Although I've only seen two of the films up for best picture (Million Dollar Baby & Sideways), it seems there would be very safe and conventional rationales behind all the nominees. Both Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator are by award-heavyweights Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese, so they're in. Ray qualifies by being a bio-pic of a recently deceased American icon. Sideways is one of those movies that's gotten so much critical praise, the academy would appear as vastly out of touch as they actually are by not nominating it, so that's a go (besides, it was a great film). And (I may be completely wrong here, and I'll apologize after seeing it if I am) Finding Neverland looks like one of those feel-good, "Let's all remember Frank Capra (and forget his movies sucked)" films, à la Chocolat and The Green Mile, so that's in.
But! this year is completely saved from the damnation fires of mediocrity hell by the sole inclusion of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That film is one of the most poignant, accurate, creative, and flawless movies I have ever seen. Even if, after it opened, there was nothing but Frank Darabont films for the rest of the year, its mere inclusion would greatly elevate the year's significance. I've seen it multiple times and I can't find a single blemish. The cast is amazing (and I went into it hating Jim Carrey), the screenplay is both creative and moving, while never feeling clichéd (quite an accomplishment for a romance), and the directing is astonishing.
Every once in a while, a director comes along who celebrates the basic visual medium of film and we're left thinking, "Wow, how come so many directors put out standard bland visuals?" I could go on and on about how ridiculous it is that Michel Gondry wasn't nominated for best director, but I just assume it's a bit too fresh and "newfangled" for many of the aged academy's taste. -The straight-forwardness of Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman competitively grumbling their lines to each other is more their speed.
With that behind us, here's a few more reflections on the nominations:
- Good to see Don Cheadle nominated for Hotel Rwanda. On the Daily Show he said he had to wait until Will Smith declined the role because he had first shot at it. Good thing he decided to help Kevin James dance and pick up women (Hitch) rather than tell the story of massive human genocide. Hopefully, Don will win so we're spared, what we all know is inevitable, watching Leonardo DiCaprio walk to the podium to pick up his Best Actor Oscar. When that happens, feel free to join me in a national anxiety attack.
- How much would Annette Bening hate Hilary Swank if she loses the Oscar to her again? (Swank in Boy's Don't Cry & Bening in American Beauty in 2000.) Predictably, I'll be pulling for Kate Winslet, merely because her performance was the best and she deserves it.
- Jamie Foxx, nominated for both Actor and Supporting Actor will have to win at least one. If the Academy decides Clint Eastwood's acting career is still short of recognition, look for Foxx to take the supporting award. My sentimental favorite would be to see Alan Alda get up there and thank Jamie Farr for all his support.
- Virginia Madsen up for an Oscar? You've come a long way from Electric Dreams!
- In the "Making up for Missing the Boat" category, Mike Leigh is nominated for best director again. This has happened to Mike two other times as well, Topsy-Turvy, and Secrets and Lies. All these films are vastly inferior to his 1993 masterpiece, Naked (a film that's still yet to be released on DVD!). I like to believe the academy is trying to make up for that gross oversight (it's fun to use your imagination!). -Kinda like the way the art world is still coping with not appreciating Van Gogh until after he died. If it happens though, Mike, don't remind them of their past mishap like Errol Morris did, or you'll never be heard from again!
- It would be nice to see Alexander Payne get the award for directing Sideways, but I would still insist Citizen Ruth and Election are his best films. Not his most mature, but his best.
- The writing awards are the only ones that really matter, of course. Most likely, Payne will pick up the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but I would like to see Richard Linklater get it for Before Sunset. Still, that has its own set of problems. For, if Linklater wins, his co-writer Ethan Hawke does as well, and it might be too much to stomach to watch DiCaprio and Ethan Hawke get awards on the same night. Oh, the pain!
- As for the Original screenplay award... Setting aside The Aviator and Vera Drake, which I'm still yet to see, how in the world can Eternal Sunshine and Hotel Rwanda be nominated side-by-side with The Incredibles? Let's see, a creative examination into the effects of coping with painful memories, systemic genocide, or a family of superheroes saving the world. What the fuck?! I saw The Incredibles and thought it was completely bland, but I've always been skeptical of films that are promoted as fun "for kids and adults". All that meant in The Incredibles was watching the superhero mother tell her superhero kids to put their superhero seat belts on while they rocket off to save the world. Get it?! Maybe if I had a family that would be hilarious, so I'll just chalk that up to cultural differences. Nice Edith Head reference, though, who the academy loves.
- The Passion of (what the) Christ isn't up for adapted screenplay, but that's not politics, it's simply that the original material wasn't that good to begin with.