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And the nominees are…

What, no love for “What Happens in Vegas”?

With the usual, hopelessly outdated, underwhelming pre-dawn ceremony in Los Angeles, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences unveiled the list of nominees for the Oscars–a list with just a few surprises, one giant comeback and a handful of idiotic choices.

Big love for “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” snubs for Clint Eastwood and Kristin Scott-Thomas and “The Dark Knight”–and more riches for perennials such as Meryl Streep and Sean Penn. A nomination for Mickey Rourke, which would have sounded like the basis for a “Saturday Night Live” skit just a year or two ago.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” led the way with 13 nominations, followed by 10 for “Slumdog Millionaire.” Over the last few weeks, “Slumdog” has gone from underdog to perhaps the favorite to win Best Picture–especially because the other nominees are all well-liked and admired, but not necessarily loved. A lot of people, and I’m one of them, LOVE “Slumdog.”

It’s incredible that “Slumdog Millionaire” garnered 10 nominations–and more than a little odd that none of the actors was nominated. Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor and Freida Pinto were complete unknowns to America before this movie was released, so there’s more of a suspension of disbelief when we watch their performances. When we see familiar faces such as Penn and Streep tearing it up onscreen, we say, “Now THAT’S acting.” When we see unknowns, it’s easier to sink into the story and get lost in the performances–which can actually work against our appreciation of the work when it’s awards time.

As a fan, I was most disappointed to see my prediction come true about Kristin Scott-Thomas. Her devastatingly effective performance in “I’ve Loved You So Long” was overlooked by the Academy–perhaps because she speaks French for virtually the entire performance, perhaps because not enough voters took the time to even watch the film. (Although those very same factors didn’t stop Marion Cotillard last year.) What a shame. It’s one of the seminal acting displays of this decade.

On the flip side, kudos to the Academy for recognizing Melissa Leo’s powerful work in “Frozen River,” Robert Downey Jr.’s brave and hilarious turn in “Tropic Thunder” and Richard Jenkins’ career-crowning performance in “The Visitor.” Hopefully this will translate to increased DVD sales for the smaller two films.

Also disappointing was the lack of recognition for “The Dark Knight,” surely one of the five best pictures of the year. Apparently the Academy isn’t ready to recognize that a “comic book movie” can be just as dramatically compelling, just as thematically rich, just as “important,” as old-fashioned stories such as “The Reader.” (OVERRATED!)

Another curiosity: Kate Winslet, who had been slated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Reader” for other awards, was nominated here for “The Reader”–but in a lead role, which makes more sense. (Who was she supporting in the film?) The expectation was that Winslet would get the Best Actress nod for “Revolutionary Road.” In fact, a number of news organizations incorrectly reported that Winslet HAD been nominated for “RR” and not “The Reader.”

As expected, the late Heath Ledger was nominated for Supporting Actor for his creepy and funny and brilliant turn in “The Dark Knight.” His name will be announced as the winner on 2-22-09. The only category that’s even more of a sure thing: Best Animated Feature,  where the nominees are “Bolt,” “Kung-Fu Panda” and “Wall-E.” If they released vote totals, “Wall-E” would enjoy the largest margin of victory of any nominee in any category.

Overall, I’d give the Academy a grade of B for their picks. Safe, solid, occasionally bold, at times infuriating.

25 Responses to “And the nominees are…”

  1. Sue Says:

    I couldn’t agree more – it’s a frustrating list. But I am thrilled for Mickey Rourke. He was amazing in The Wrestler. Can’t wait to see you in Toronto this afternoon!

  2. John Says:

    Frost/Nixon and The Reader are overrated. If you look at MCN’s critic scoreboard, the two best movies were WALL-E and The Dark Knight. Where’s the love for what is great? Who is Stephen Daldry blackmailing to get his second directing nomination? (His other for the even-more-overrated The Hours).

  3. Matt D. Says:

    How about Sally Hawkins getting no love and Bruce Springsteen getting shut out of Best Song? Only three songs nominated for Best Song? Come on!

  4. Tommy Says:

    The two most frustrating snubs for me are Clint Eastwood for Best Actor in “Gran Torino”, and Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song in “The Wrestler”. I’m especially shocked by the Springsteen snub.

  5. Paul J Says:

    No Dark Knight i hate this years oscars. Get the Reader out of here.

  6. dweeb Says:

    I have to say that the Best Support Actor category is going to be a tough choice. On the one hand is the well deserved Heath Ledger, and on the other is Robert Downey Jr for Tropic Thunder. Delicious irony with this choice, I love it!

  7. scrivener Says:

    Seven Pounds was one of the worst films of the year, according to critics, but Rosario Dawson deserves a Supporting Actress nomination for a terrific performance.

  8. Rose Lewis Says:

    I share the joy others expressed for Richard Jenkins’ nomination. He’ll lose to Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke, of course, but at least now more people will seek out The Visitor.

    In the supporting actress category, I hope Viola Davis has the upper hand in the Doubt showdown. I love Amy Adams and all, but her performance in Doubt was the least interesting to me; and I would’ve preferred to see someone else in that 5th slot.
    Viola Davis, on the other hand, was on screen for all of 10 minutes and owned every scene.

    We knew Philip Seymour Hoffman would be nominated in the supporting actor category, but Doubt’s two lead actors are obviously Streep and Hoffman so it seems a bit foolish to diminish his role at nomination time just to improve his chances of winning. Besides, now Hoffman has to contend with Heath Ledger who will almost certainly win in the supporting actor category. What a contentious category! Any other year, I think Hoffman would’ve been a lock in either lead or supporting categories, but there’s a lot of worthy competition this year.

    To me, the most surprising category is best original screenplay; where otherwise snubbed films In Bruges and Happy-Go-Lucky pick up nominations. Both films deserve it; though I think the ultimate winner here will be WALL-E.

  9. Jon Theobald Says:

    I agree with you that some of the choices are disappointing and frustrating. I thought Kristin Scott Thomas would be nominated for sure. Even though I haven’t seen that movie yet. I bet she is fantastic in it. I hope to see it eventually. I am disappointed that Clint Eastwood and Bruce Springsteen weren’t nominated. I would have loved it if Brendan Gleeson or Colin Farrell would have been nominated other then the movie for Original Screenplay. So even if The Reader is in your top 15 list you think it is a little bit overrated? I am just wondering.

  10. Kolchak Says:

    I still think “Doubt” deserves it’s place in the best picture category. I really think a lot of people got tripped up by the subtext in that film.

    Eastwood’s snub really disappoints me, as “Gran Torino” was widely viewed as his swan song and he’s yet to win for best actor.

    Out of who they have listed, Rourke deserves the gold.

  11. Brian Says:

    AMPAS Acting Branch members had a chance to break with low TV ratings tradition and nominate THE DARK KNIGHT and WALL-E for Best Picture rather than FROST/NIXON and THE READER. Instead, the dominant voting group has consigned the ’09 broadcast to another dismal Nielsen number. Jackman, you just got jacked…

  12. Irfan Says:

    What a shame. The Dark Knight deserved a Best Picture Nomination. And Christopher Nolan deserved best directing. I’m very disappointed. A movie that won fans and critics hearts should have been an automatic nomination.

    Movies like “Star Wars”, “Indiana Jones”, “Jaws” in the past got nominated for best picture. I really though “The Dark Knight” was in the same boat. A huge blockbuster that was a great film.

  13. Ximena Says:

    I’m also at awe that The Dark Knight got snubbed. Comic book movies have just as much importance and can be just as captivating as other dramas. At least Heath Ledger got nominated so that might suffice for some. I’m curious to find out if James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer got nominated for best original score. While not as refreshing as the “Batman Begins” score, it was a very interesting concept album.

  14. Paul J Says:

    No Dark Knight or Walle for best picture. That goes to show you that no animated movie will ever be nominated because Walle was the one to do it. Also no comic book movie will ever get a best picture nod if the Dark Knight couldn’t even pull it off. Why didnt the Dark Knight not even get nominated for Best Score. Whats up with that. With its luck Heath Ledger might not even win. They might feel more incline to give it to an actor thats living. I wouldn’t be surprise by it now. Gran Torino was robbed. NO Best Actor for Eastwood. NO best original screenplay. Are you kidding me. I was hoping that Torino would be nominated for Picture if Dark Knight wasnt. But we got the Reader. Wow. And why are there only three songs nominated for best Original Song. and two of them are from Slumdog Millionaire. I though they changed the rules about one movie have more then one nomination in the song category. Didnt they change that after Enchanted had three songs last year. Plus where the hell was Bruce Springsteen song the Wrestler. Why wasnt it nominated. they could have filled out two more spots and had five nominations. he would have won easly. Very fed up with the Academy this year. they really messed this up. The worst has happpened today. Go Benjamin Button or Frost Nixon for best Picture. But The Dark Knight was truly the best movie of the year. Its a sad day for all.

  15. Paul J Says:

    I have a question. If an actor or actress can not be nominated twice in the same category for example Kate Winslet for The Reader and Revolutionary Road then why can a movie have twice the nominations for the best song category. That is retarded. They are robbing Bruce Springsteen and Clint Eastwood yes thats right he did right an original song for Gran Torino of a nomination. Same rules should apply for all categories. That’s what i think. I follow the Oscars every year and is a huge movie buff but this year they really screwed up.

  16. Alejandro Carrillo Says:

    The Academy lost a chance for motivate and recognize the work of Screenwiters and Directors in “Comic Book” movies
    It’s just a shame, bad for them

    Love The Richard Jenkins, i can’t beleive that the screenplay was not nominated

    Ok Rich!! Nice Commentary but…..When are you gonna say your predictions?????????????

  17. Vicki K Says:

    I have to say that I am in full agreement with the Academy’s lack of nomination for Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. I don’t know why you all think he should have gotten nominated. The story was hackneyed, and badly written. Eastwood’s character had no depth or life. It was Eastwood playing an old “Dirty Harry” and I do mean OLD. In the neighborhood his character lived in, if he had pretended to pull a gun out of his coat he would have been shot instantly!!! The story was badly written, Eastwood was sadly miscast and the only good thing about all of it was that the movie did NOT get any nominations!!

  18. Tim S Says:

    Colin Covert, the movie critic here in Mpls./St. Paul made a great point today. Speaking of the Best Supporting Actor category he said, “this could be the first time ever we have an actor in white face competing against an actor in black face.”

  19. Reid LL Says:

    I wasn’t nearly in love with The Dark Knight as a lot of other people, but it should have been nominated for Best Pic, Best Adapted Screenplay, or Best Director. I thought it was going to be director.

    I didn’t think the Academy’s memory could reach back to April, but I’m thrilled for Richard Jenkins. A screenplay nod would have been nice too, but there was some stiff competition.

    Biggest snub: none other than Kristin Scott Thomas. For that matter, I’ve Loved You So Long should have been better represented – both in the nominations and pre-nominations buzz. Who would I take out? Sorry Angelina.

    And what’s with the lack of love in the main categories for Revolutionary Road? I guess Ricky Gervais was right about Holocaust movies.

  20. Ted C. Says:

    I was greatly disappointed in the snub of Gran Torino. I found it to be one of the most moving films this year.

  21. David Says:

    It was infuriating that The Dark Knight was not up for best picture and director when it clearly deserved to be. Even though I will be watching the Oscars, I hope it gets even lower ratings than last year because of this. Benjamin Button was a very well made film but I believe Brad Pitt held that movie back with his wooden performance. Sure he had the physical elements that were genius but he had absolutely no emotion. Downy Jr. actually had a better turn in Iron Man than Brad Pitt and the thing is, I love Brad Pitt but not this time. The one thing that actually made my heart leap with joy was the choice to put In Bruges into the mix for best screenplay. It won’t win most likely but I’m glad people can see the nomination and maybe go out and buy it.

  22. Miedy Says:

    I was hoping to see Michelle Williams on the list. She was fantastic at Wendy and Lucy. Oh, well…

  23. Kyle Says:

    I thought Wall-E was the best film of the year. I think wall-e could have been best actor, but the academy certainly isn’ ready for that.

  24. Miedy Says:

    Wall-E should also nominated for Best Picture. It’s about time Pixar movie nominated for best picture category.

  25. Nick S Says:

    Major Snubs

    Picture: The Dark Knight
    Director: Christopher Nolan
    Actor: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) and Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)
    Actress: Kate Beckinsale (Snow Angels)
    Supporting Actor: Kevin Bacon or Sam Rockwell (Frost/Nixon) and Kenneth Branagh or Tom Wilkinson (Valkyrie)
    Original Song: “The Wrestler” – Bruce Springsteen and “Gran Torino” – Clint Eastwood & Jamie Collum
    Screenplay: Justin Theroux & Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder) and Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
    Special Effects: Quantum of Solace
    Sound Editing: Valkyrie

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