January 23, 2007

Oscars 2006: The Nominations

Filed under: Movies,Oscars — DB @ 11:36 pm
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As is my usual custom on Oscar nomination morning, I set the alarm for 5:00 a.m. and turned it up to 11 to make sure I wouldn’t sleep through the big event.  At 5:30 I got up. At 5:38 the nominees were announced. At 5:43 I went back to bed. Now that the workin’ day is done and I’ve had some time to reflect, here are a few thoughts…

Definitely a surprise that Dreamgirls was left out, given the expectations. Still, the five films that did make it were all pretty much expected too, so I guess something had to be left off. I liked Dreamgirls, but do think it was somewhat overrated. I feel like much of its buzz was centered around the knockdown performances by Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy, and since they both got recognized, did it truly deserve Best Picture as well? I haven’t read anything about this yet, but I’m thinking it’s probably been years since the movie that got the most nominations – in this case, Dreamgirls – is not up for Best Picture. I’ll be curious to find out when that last happened.

The Departed is still my favorite, but I’m not convinced it will win. Babel, The Queen and Letters From Iwo Jima may all be more the Academy’s taste.

Very disappointed that Leo’s nomination is for Blood Diamond rather than The Departed, which obviously had broader support. I liked Blood Diamond and he was very good in it. But his work in The Departed is so full of depth and honest intensity…I’m still amazed when I think about it. He breathed rich life into a complex character and knocked it skyhigh out of the park. So how is he nominated for the lesser performance? With Blood Diamond, he’s just along for the ride. With The Departed, he coulda been a contender.

Very happy to see Ryan Gosling made it, and while Forest Whitaker has become the clear favorite, I still want to say how happy I am to see this great, underrated character actor getting this level of attention after all these years in the business. Mr. Hand would be proud.

Both categories went right down the line as expected, but a few words nonetheless. Helen Mirren would have to assassinate Steven Spielberg on Hollywood Blvd. in broad daylight (prior to the end of the voting period) in order to lose Best Actress.

I often think Judi Dench gets nominated just for sneezing, but her turn in Notes On A Scandal was 100% worthy, as is Blanchett’s. Them’s were some damn fine performances. And I still think Meryl Streep should be in the Supporting Actress race for The Devil Wears Prada. I don’t understand why she’s been pushed all along as a lead. She doesn’t have that much screen time, and her character functions as a foil/catalyst for Anne Hathaway’s. And while we’re talking Devils and Pradas, I would have liked to see some love for the glorious scene stealing of Emily Blunt. Other unfortunate Supporting omissions, based on the movies I’ve seen, are Shareeka Epps in Half Nelson and Jodie Foster in Inside Man.

Another big surprise: no Nicholson. I’d expected, and hoped, that both he and Wahlberg would get nominated. Very pleased to see Dirk Diggler in the race, but I’ll miss Nicholson. Still, this was the toughest field of all, with lots of other worthy performances shut out – Adam Beach from Flags of Our Fathers and Michael Sheen from The Queen among them. Also, I’m so happy that Jackie Earle Haley made it. I could have seen it going either way since this race was so competitive, but man – not only is he great in Little Children, but talk about an incredible comeback tale. Do you know his deal? When the movie came out last fall, Entertainment Weekly did a story about him. If you don’t know his history, you should read it. Knowing how he got here makes his nomination that much sweeter.

I didn’t expect them to make the cut – they had both been entirely absent from all the year-end awards – but please join me in a moment of silence for two excellent and truly original scripts from 2006: Brick, written by Rian Johnson; and Inside Man, written by Russell Gewirtz. Gentlemen, I salute you.

Very happy that Pan’s Labyrinth made the cut. Talk about Original Screenplay…it doesn’t get much more original this side of Charlie Kaufman. Great, in fact, to see Pan’s Labyrinth get so much attention – six nominations! Also happy to see Letters From Iwo Jima in there. And Guillermo Arriaga finally gets a nod after being overlooked for 21 Grams. Still, the race will probably come down to The Queen and Little Miss Sunshine, which have split the bulk of screenplay honors up to this point. Then again, momentum for Pan’s keeps growing…

I loved Borat, but I always get a little annoyed when movies that are largely improvised get nominated for screenplay awards. (I’m talkin’ to you, Mike Leigh…) It’s good to see Children of Men here, though I would have liked to see more recognition for it. This is the first year I can recall off the top of my head where most of the leading Best Picture contenders are from original screenplays, rather than adapted. Looking at this race, it’s hard to see The Departed losing. But then again, who saw Gods and Monsters coming in ’98? I read an interesting statistic today that Departed is the first movie in something like 18 years to be a remake and get a screenplay nomination. Pretty cool. I’m generally against remakes, but I’m more open to them when they’re based on foreign films, since most stupid Americans will never see foreign films. And if they all come out as good as The Departed, I can’t complain.

Another of the biggest surprises was in this race: where’s Volver? The Academy is usually puddy in Almodovar’s hand, and this was another great one from the Spaniard. I guess the good news about its absence is that it makes for less high-profile competition for Pan’s Labyrinth, which has to be the frontrunner given it’s great buzz, crossover appeal and support across other Academy branches. Then again, the same was all true of Amelie, and that lost to No Man’s Land. So watch out for The Lives of Others.

Two other notes: I’m really glad Thomas Newman was nominated for his excellent score to The Good German. This guy should have an armful of Oscars by now but has yet to win one. I don’t know if this is his year, but it’s definitely another deserved nomination. And lastly, dare I dream and speak aloud that which must not be spoke? Will ILM finally win it’s first Oscar since Forrest Gump? Even the idiots of the Academy who lack any understanding of visual effects can’t possibly go for Superman over the amazing work in Pirates of the Caribbean.

That’s about all I have on the nominations. Nice to see such a racially diverse year. Big showing for the Mexican film community, four African-American acting nominees, one all-out African acting nominee, a Japanese nominee…how often does all that happen?

I’ll save my predictions until the date is closer. A lot can change in a month. In the meantime, let’s all send our positive thoughts for Martin Scorsese out into the ether. It’s your year, brother.

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