Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Noms: The Reaction

Alright, so... much for that whole "two possible wins for Kate Winslet" thing... much for a Dark Knight BP slot.... much for Sally Hawkins in Best Actress...

...sad for all involved...except Winslet, actually, who comes away a winner no matter what.

I adjusted some of my predictions before the nomination announcements, but didn't get to write anything about them yesterday. So let's go on the honor system...I will be honest about which ones I nailed and which ones I failed.

Looking at the Best Picture race, everything was as expected--save The Reader. If you would've asked me before the announcement this morning, I would have told you that the only film with a legit shot to slip into BP over Dark Knight was, indeed, The Reader. Some will say they didn't push, but I totally disagree. This nomination was earned--not because of the film's quality, but because of the producers' maneuvering. They made a strong push and got exactly what they wanted--including the sole Winslet nomination.

Other than that, nothing much has changed...Slumdog is still on track. We will see if the race reinvents itself in the next four weeks.

In Best Director, nothing surprising, based on the BP noms. Stephen Daldry gets the nod for The Reader over Chris Nolan for DK...the directors match the movies. Boring.

And Boyle will win. Easily.

Best Actor was also as expected, though my Clint Eastwood prediction was swapped for Brad Pitt. It was pretty easy to see it coming...I just went slightly against the grain.

Best Actress was a real virtue of unforeseen studio decisions. After a season-long roller-coaster ride during which Kate Winslet received both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress prizes from various Critics' Groups for The Reader--and during which The Weinstein Company couldn't decide in which category they would submit her for Oscar consideration--they obviously went with the Lead Actress category. As such, her work in The Reader was nominated for Best Actress, and her work in Revolutionary Road lost out. In truth, the studio made the right move--Winslet is the lead actress in The Reader--but I also believe that her performance in Revolutionary Road is even stronger (as for the movie...well, we'll discuss that later). But the producers of Revolutionary Road took the nomination for granted...the producers of The Reader never stopped pushing.

The other Best Actress shocker had to be the omission of Sally Hawkins for Melissa Leo...or for Angelina Jolie, whoever you pick to steal the slot. In the eleventh hour, I had put Leo back on the shortlist...but left Hawkins on as well. Most of these "surprises" could have been predicted, either by common knowledge or by correctly understanding Academy thinking. But I was truly surprised--and truly saddened--that Hawkins was passed over.

Nonetheless, Winslet must still be considered the frontrunner--even moreso now that she didn't pull off the double-nominations--with Hathaway and Streep at her heels but falling back.

The supporting categories were, as always, the most difficult to handicap precisely. In Supp. Actor, Ledger, Brolin, and Hoffman were in, as expected. And instead of the final two being filled by Dev Patel and Michael Sheen, they were filled by Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Shannon. I had a real strong feeling about Downey and especially Shannon...I probably would've included Shannon in my final predictions bt left Downey off. But again, in the least predictable category, the Downey nod--and even the Shannon nod--is no surprise.

I should note, however, that the omission of Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon is now the second time in the last few years that Sheen has been overlooked by the Academy. The first came two years ago, when his fabulous portrayal of Tony Blair in The Queen was left off the final supporting actor shortlist.


Here was the other category affected by the Winslet "is-she-supporting-or-is-she-lead?" crap-shoot. And in addition, it's also traditionally one of the most infuriating categories to nail down in terms of forecasting. With the obvious departure of the Winslet slot for Best Actress, there left a clear opening. That opening was taken by Amy Adams for Doubt. Good for her--it was underappreciated work in a very brilliant film.

The other four were as expected--Tomei, Cruz, Davis (making it a supporting actress double-dip for Doubt), and Henson. Special shout-out to Taraji Henson, by the way, for scoring a nod for the best performance in the highly overrated Ben Button. Hers was not merely a "makeup" performance (as was Brad Pitt's). She brought energy and ingenuity to what could have been a throwaway character, and she is justly awarded.

I actually love all these performances, making the Supp. Actress category one of my happiest of the morning.

Looking ahead, with Winslet gone, frontrunner status is once again bestowed where it had been in the months leading up to the Golden Globes: Penelope Cruz. And in a year when Woody Allen was actually overlooked for his best screenplay of the decade...the Academy will likely throw a bone to Vicky Cristina by awarding Cruz...and in turn, giving her "payback" of sorts for not giving her Best Actress in 2006 for Volver.

(Quick tangent: Winslet, also a Best Actress nominee in 2006 for the ever-brilliant, ever-amazing Little Children, will be paid back with Best Actress this year. Both Winslet and Cruz lost in 2006 to the Helen Mirren-in-The-Queen-juggernaut.)

(Quick Tangent #2: The whole "payback" notion is mentioned only because, after tracking awards season for over a decade now, I know how the Academy works. Russell Crowe gets awarded for Gladiator because many thought he "should have" won for The Insider the year before. Nicole Kidman gets the Oscar for The Hours after losing for Moulin Rouge. Renee Zellweger won for Cold Mountain after a slew of more deserving nominations went unawarded. This is how the Academy works. I personally do not believe in or endorse the notion of "payback" awards, nor do I believe that Winslet's or Cruz's performances would win or should win solely because of a sense of payback. These are great actresses who are amazing every time out of the gate. I am merely painting a portrait for the potential line of thinking among Academy members this year. Thank you and goodnight.)


Well, they certainly got creative in this category. Of the five nominees, only two--Milk and Wall-E--were entirely expected, and only one other--Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky--could have been predicted as a spoiler. I am very happy to see Martin McDonaugh's brilliant work on In Bruges recognized (ditto that for Mike Leigh). I am surprised to see two of the most loved screenplays of the year--Jenny Lumet's Rachel Getting Married and Robert Siegel's The Wrestler--get the shaft.

Nonetheless, the Academy actually reached for innovative work in this category, but as a result the race is essentially narrowed down to two: it will be Milk v. Wall-E down to the wire. A lot of it will hinge on the Best Actor race (which will most likely be awarded after this category, so we won't get to read any other tea leaves than our own guessing games): if Sean Penn wins, then Wall-E will be a shoo-in. If Penn loses, then Milk might get the screenplay award as a consolation prize for being shut out for Picture/Actor/Director.

At this point I am still betting on Wall-E.


As expected. I made no bones about the fact that predicting a Dark Knight screenplay nomination was a bit of fun, and that The Reader was the most likely literary adaptation to take the fifth slot. Obviously, the same wave that led that film into the BP slot swept it into this category.

Of course, no amount of analysis will keep Simon Beaufoy from winning for over.

Alright...unleash the hounds. Let's discuss. More analysis to come.

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