2008 Oscar Nominations: Initial Reactions

Why so serious?

Why so serious?

The Oscar nominations for 2008 were announced today (posted here). As always, my more complete thoughts on what were the year’s best will appear in both my year-end top ten movies list (which looks to be pushed back to early February this year) and the Andy Movie Awards, which should appear the week of the ceremony. But I thought I’d get some initial reaction on what the Academy snubbed, what they foolishly recognized, and what I have yet to see in my annual, catch-up-on-Oscars viewing checklist.

We’ll start with my checklist of films that received nominations that I’ve yet to see. This will help explain why I have no initial reaction to the presence of some films. These are the nominated films I still want to see, in the order in which I’d like to see them:

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Best Picture, Director (David Fincher), Leading Actor (Brad Pitt), Supporting Actress (Taraji P. Henson), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Makeup, Costume Design, Original Score, Sound, Visual Effects – With 13 nominations, this is easily the most nominated film, and thus will be the next one I see in theatres. I haven’t seen it yet mostly due to its excessive length (which makes it difficult to squeeze into a work night), but also because its relative box office success guaranteed it would stick around long enough for me to get to it. There’s also the fact that I haven’t heard any rave reviews that is less than encouraging.

2. Frost/Nixon: Best Picture, Director (Ron Howard), Leading Actor (Frank Langella), Adapted Screenplay, Editing – The other Best Picture nominee that I haven’t seen (as well as Best Director nominee, as the two categories mirror each other this year). This just opened here last week, but only at a sub-par theatre across town. Hopefully, this nod will get it on more screens more conveniently placed.

3. Frozen River: Best Leading Actress (Melissa Leo), Original Screenplay – I already have this ripped to DVD, so I’ll be watching it soon. Perhaps tomorrow if we don’t go out to a movie.

4. Man on Wire: Best Documentary Feature – If not, we’ll probably watch this, which I have borrowed on DVD.

5. Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Best Supporting Actress (Penélope Cruz) – The blu-ray should show up in the mail on Tuesday.

6. Revolutionary Road: Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon), Art Direction, Costume Design – It’s surprisingly poor showing in the lead acting categories pushes this down the list, but I’m still interested in seeing it.

7. In Bruges: Best Original Screenplay – I also have this DVD borrowed already. Just need time to watch it (which should be next week).

8. Changeling: Best Leading Actress (Angelina Jolie), Cinematography, Art Direction – Comes out on Blu-Ray on February 17th, so I’ll catch it then.

9. Defiance: Best Original Score – I kinda want to see this anyway, so I might, but not really because of the score.

10-18. The rest of the foreign language/feature documentary films other than Man on Wire and Encounters at the End of the World – If any of them come out between now and Oscar time, I’ll make an effort to see them (particularly Waltz with Bashir, which I’m now regretting having missed at TIFF).

19. Australia: Best Costume Design – Only if I’m feeling really completist, and not if I have to pay any money to see it.

So there it is, on the day the Oscar nominations were announced, I hadn’t seen 19 of the nominated films, only ten of which I’ve had a real opportunity to see, with only eight of those involved categories I care at all for. Not bad. I might just complete the non-foreign, non-doc awards this year after all.

As for what didn’t get nominated, I don’t usually like to get too deep into snubbed talk until I’ve seen the majority of what has been nominated (after all, you can’t say that something deserves to be there unless you can say what doesn’t deserve it), but if you’ve read my opinion on the matter, it won’t surprise you to learn that I’m disappointed (albeit not surprised) that The Dark Knight was snubbed for both Best Picture and Best Director nominations. The same holds true for WALL-E, which was relegated to the Best Animated Feature category (for which I’m sure it’s name is already engraved on the statue).

I’ve seen three out of the five Best Picture/Director nominees, so I’ll comment on those. Slumdog Millionaire was the best film I saw at TIFF, and best non-genre film of the year (so far), so I have no problem with its nomination, and is currently my horse in this race. As for the others, neither Milk (which is an above average biopic) or The Reader (which is lifeless, middling Oscar-bait) are as good as the previously-mentioned films, nor are they as good as Rachel at the Wedding or The Wrestler. I have less of a problem with Milk‘s nomination, as it’s the sort of solid biopic drama that usually gets nominations, but The Reader? It’s nomination has Harvey Weinstein politiking written all over it, with an added touch of Holocaust seriousness that so many members admire. Hell, Doubt (another fairly middling film) would’ve been a better nominee.

In the lead acting awards, I’m thrilled to see Richard Jenkins get a nomination for The Visitor, while Clint Eastwood’s surprising non-nomination for Gran Torino probably pushes that movie off my must see list. I’m also pleased to see that Sally Hawkins DIDN’T get nominated for Happy-Go-Lucky, since I hated that movie. Everyone raves over how great it is, and I’m just baffled at why they aren’t annoyed by it. I’m thinking if Hawkins were more conventionally attractive and/or American, then the knives would come out at how annoyingly cutesy the performance is, but since she isn’t, it’s “delightfully quirky”. Blech. I still haven’t seen Leo or Jolie, so I can’t say that they’re more deserving, but I’m hoping they are.

Other reactions:

  • I’m a little surprised that Charlie Kauffman didn’t score a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Synedoche, New York. I’m sure the Academy didn’t understand the film at all, but you wouldn’t think that would keep them from throwing it a nomination (for originality purposes if nothing else).
  • After all The Reader nominations, the biggest jaw-dropper for me was probably Robert Downey Jr’s for Best Supporting Actor for Tropic Thunder. It’s a solid performance, if a little one-note. I have the DVD borrowed since my wife never saw it, so I’ll give him (and the film) another chance (that said, him instead of Dev Patel? I am dubious).
  • Another category The Dark Knight was snubbed in? Best Costume Design. C’mon Academy! They probably put as much work into making the Bat-suit functional (the first one where the wearer can move his head), as they did in making Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, et al look period.
  • By the sounds of things, Viola Davis is the front runner in the Best Supporting Actress category for Doubt, and I don’t get it. It’s a strong performance (not a spectacular one), for all of five minutes. Marisa Tomei all the way for me (at least until I see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

3 thoughts on “2008 Oscar Nominations: Initial Reactions

  1. I actually want to see many of these movies, which is funny because normally there are only a couple I want to see. And, of course this year I rarely get out to see anything. It’s a vicious cycle!

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Movies of 2008 « Critically Speaking

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