Jan 26, 2011

Oscar Nominations 2011

I know that I didn't get this thrown up there on Tuesday like about forty million other bloggers.  I apologize to all those people out there who rely on my pithy and insightful analysis.  But, I often like to weigh in after the initial storm surge of panicky comments.  That way I can 1) steal all the good stuff I already read and 2) come across as extremely timely and "of the moment."  It's really a brilliant strategy.  It also keeps me from having to be lost in the deluge of other opinions.  Instead, I can float onto shore like the last piece of wreckage from a rapidly sinking ship.

People are never going to be completely happy with the Oscar nomination process.  Even if there was a way to nominate every worthy candidate, there would be some loud mouthed blogger that Yogi Bear got overlooked for Best Visual Effects or something inane like that.  "Ashton Kutcher soooo should have gotten nominated for Killers."  I have heard a bunch of complaints this year, most of them centered around the one big problem I had as well.  I'll address that big glaring problem, and then I'll bring up my patented financial assessment too.

Christopher Nolan gets the shaft.  This was the biggest source of discontent out there.  How in the world did Nolan get passed over for Best Director for Inception?  I have no clue, either.  If I was voting for the Oscars (which, thank goodness I'm not), I would have a pretty simple way of assessing the directing award.  Would this movie be as good if someone else directed it?  Was this movie made good primarily by the acting?  Can the movie be separated from the director and stand strong?  Was the director's vision clear and executed well?  Was it the script, or the director's execution of it?  Those are some simple questions I would ask.  For some movies, you can see the acting is so strong, the director was almost irrelevant - kind of like how some football teams would win the Super Bowl with a monkey as a coach (1990s Dallas Cowboys, for example).  I kind of see that in movies like A Few Good Men or The Usual Suspects.  But, when you look at Inception, Nolan is all over that movie.  No one ever mentioned any of the actors for an award.  The effects were impressive, but they were critical to the story.  And, quite frankly, this movie wouldn't exist without him.

It would have been like James Cameron not being nominated for Titanic or Avatar.  He was essential to those movies.  HE was the most important element.  That was Nolan.  I think all of Hollywood recognized that - which is why even Hollywood types were stunned.  Hans Zimmer, who wrote the score for the movie, was very vocal about it.  Even the Coen brothers - nominated for True Grit - wrote they hoped they didn't take anyone's place.  Most entertainment people believe they were referring to Nolan.  He wrote the movie.  It was his vision, his execution.  Inception was the most talked about movie of the year.  It was a highly original, highly intelligent movie that made $294 million.  Read that again.  TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY FOUR MILLION DOLLARS.  It wasn't a franchise or a comic book or a beloved novel. According to all Hollywood wisdom, it should have tanked.  Instead, it was the fifth biggest movie of the year and the most talked about.

Nolan is a brilliant director.  He should have been nominated for his last four movies - Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Inception.  It's sad, but I doubt he'll get nominated for the next film either - Dark Knight Rises - since a superhero movie will NEVER win a major category Oscar.  I guess we'll have to wait to see if he ever gets his due.

Ten Best Picture Joke.  The ten best pictures nominations was supposed to open the category up to other deserving films (translation: more popular movies to make the show watchable).  While it has been good to see films like Up, Toy Story 3, Inception, District 9, and The Blind Side get nominated, there still is a very clear line between "the films that would have been nominated in years past" and "the other films that have no real chance of winning but that hopefully will bring more viewers."  Last year, the category was split between legitimate (Avatar, Hurt Locker, An Education, A Serious Man, Up in the Air) and the fillers (Up, District 9, Inglorious Basterds, The Blind Side, Precious).  This year is no different.  You have the starting five (Social Network, True Grit, King's Speech, Black Swan, Kids are Alright) and the other guys (Inception, Toy Story 3, The Fighter, 127 Hours, Winter's Bone).

So, is it really a benefit to add the five movies when they have no chance?  Really, only three films even have a chance this year - Social Network, True Grit, and King's Speech.  Adding other films doesn't really do much.  I'm glad that it allows Pixar movies to be nominated.  But it infuriates me that they still don't get the respect they deserve.  It almost seems like, with the expanded nominations, it guarantees that Pixar will NEVER win.  What more can they possibly do that they have done with their last four films?  Toy Story 3, Up, WALL-E, and Ratatouille were all deserving of serious consideration.  Now, it is like, "Shut up.  You got nominated.  What more do you want?"  Pixar, at this point, could make the Citizen Kane of animated films and not win.

Animated Shortchange.  There were not enough animated films to allow for the normal five picture category.  So, instead, there are only three films.  I understand the rules.  But it is a shame that it happened.  I think Despicable Me and Tangled both were deserving of nominations.  They just got caught up in a rule issue.  It's sad, too, because those two movies signified so much more than just a good kids' flick.  Despicable Me was an original film based on no franchise, children's book, action hero.  (Much like Inception.)  It was the seventh biggest movie of the year based completely on the quality of the movie and word of mouth (with $250 million gross).  That needs to be rewarded.  Tangled signified the return of Disney animation - NOT done by Pixar.  It was a very good movie.  It was funny, touching, engaging.  It had lovely music and was equally attractive to boys and girls.  Disney has needed a hit like that to show that they can pull off animated films outside of Pixar - which they certainly did.  Again, that should be rewarded.  (In my opinion, the more quality animated films the better.)

Financial Gripes.  The inflated Best Picture category has helped to bring the overall per picture average up - just like it did las year.  Bringing in big money films like Avatar, Toy Story 3, and Inception will do that.  But we still see a ridiculous obsession with low grossing movies in the acting categories.  I can overlook the infatuation with King's Speech because it has made $57 million, and probably will earn more, since it hasn't been in theaters that long.  Plus, from everything I've heard, it is just phenomenally acted.  I can even try to get past stuff like Kids Are Alright ($20.8 million) and 127 Hours ($11.3 million).  But then I start to have problems.  Winter's Bone generated just $6.3 million, but got a Best Picture and two acting nods.  Blue Valentine and its NC-17 rating earned just $4.5 million and one acting nomination.  Then you have Nicole Kidman's Rabbit Hole nomination ($1.3 million) and Jacki Weaver's Animal Kingdom spot ($1million).  Maybe people were drawn to the animal references.  I just don't understand how a picture gets a nomination when it barely generates enough money to cover the ticket costs for the Academy voters!  How in the word can people say those movies deserved anything?  NO ONE SAW THEM!!!  I have a real problem believing that everyone who voted for those people actually saw those movies.  The biggest joke, though, was Javier Bardem's nomination for Biutiful.  This movie has generated ZERO DOLLARS!  It is a Mexican film that has not even been released.  There have been some screenings.  Julia Roberts has campaigned for the film and has hosted some private screenings.  WHAT THE HECK!?!  How in the world can the Academy with a straight face nominate a movie that is not even out for the public to see?  To me, that is a real problem.  Who voted for this guy?  I know people love him and love Julia Roberts.  But that is not an accurate representation of the movies for 2010.  I know that a lot of people were unhappy with Mark Wahlberg being left out from a nomination for The Fighter.  Well, there was his spot right there.

Of course, the Oscars will never get it 100 percent right - just like the Grammys, Golden Globes, MVP races, and People's Choice Awards will always be lacking.  They involve people - people will opinions. The problem is that the people voting have different opinions than the vast majority of the people voting with their wallets.  And there isn't really a way to make those two sides agree.  I guess that is part of the fun of it all.  Hollywood loves ticking off the public with their goofy nomination process and Americans love to complain about the goofy nomination process.  It's what makes the Oscars so dang much fun.  Well, not for Christopher Nolan.

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