If you’re a tireless cinephile, chances are your ass was planted in front of a television set early this morning to see the Academy Award nominees. Rather than read about them online like normal, less-obsessed folks, you had to watch the announcement of the 83rd annual Academy Awards nominations live. We did the same. Where we may differ, though, is in our array of post-announcement emotions, ranging from indifference to happiness to red-faced anger. After the recent Golden Globes telecast, it seemed like this year’s Oscar nominations would be devoid of many surprises, since the Globe winners mostly mirrored the victors of the preceding, less-public honors (Critics Choice Awards, Producer’s Guild Awards). But thankfully for haters like us, today’s Oscar breakdown does include a few glaring omissions and pleasant shocks. Here's what sticks out to us the most. Let the complaining/fawning begin.
The Coen Brothers Over Christopher Nolan For Best Director? Really?Awards season critics love to attack the Academy for what’s perceived as a Coens bias, and, in the past, we’ve defended the talented siblings. Their recent nominated films, such as No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man, absolutely deserved all of the praise and nominations they received. The same can’t be said, however, for True Grit, a perfectly fine western but nothing all that exceptional. You could make the argument that the film’s $100-million-plus box office cume is the cause of their directing nod, but then wouldn’t Christopher Nolan be a no-brainer for the bank-breaking Inception? Gripe all you want about the flick’s plotholes or confusing rulebook, but there’s no denying that Inception is a technical marvel, which is to Nolan’s credit. We’re rooting for David Fincher (The Social Network) regardless, but Nolan should be in the running, not the Coens.
We’d Love To Give Mila Kunis A HugWe’ve got nothing but good things to say about any of this year’s Best Supporting Actress nominees; they’re all damn good in their respective flicks, especially The Fighter’s Melissa Leo (a gambling man would be wise to bet on her). If we had our way, though, Mila Kunis would be one of the five names, for her sexy and attention-grabbing work in Black Swan. Before you accuse us of favoring her because she got hot and heavy with Natalie Portman, hear us out. In a film as dark and mentally taxing as Darren Aronofsky’s ballet-framed freakshow, Kunis’s bubbly performance is the perfect counterbalance. She owns the screen in all of her scenes, and without her Black Swan could’ve been unbearably dark. And if the Academy issued statues for sexiness, Kunis’s bedroom chops would dominate the competition. Just ask Natalie Portman. What, you actually thought we’d ignore that? Come on now.
The Original Score Category Is A Tough OneOur personal picks for all of the major categories aren’t tough to select. Best Picture? The Social Network. Best Actor? Jesse Eisenberg, though we’re thinking Colin Firth has that one wrapped up. Best Actress? Natalie Portman (see the above Mila Kunis blurb for an explanation). But the less-heralded category Original Score? It’s a two-way tie between Hans Zimmer’s epic symphony heard in Inception and the moody electronica crafted by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. Both scores have been on heavy rotation in our iTunes for months now, and the favorite’s edge shifts on a daily basis. If you threatened to slaughter a puppy, though, our gut says Reznor and Ross should share the throne.
Hopefully More People Will See Biutiful NowEveryone knows about The Social Network, Inception, and Black Swan, but very few seem to be aware of the emotionally devastating Biutiful. Directed by the gifted Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Babel), Biutiful is a somber and morose tale of a dying man (Javier Bardem) who’s one with the afterlife. Though critics have repeatedly discussed its merits over the last few months, audiences have yet to catch on. With a little luck, the film’s pair of nominations (Best Foreign Film and an unexpected Best Actor nod for Bardem) will wake a ton of sleepers up.
Congratulations, John Hawkes!For those who’ve seen director Debra Granik’s gritty thriller Winter’s Bone, veteran character actor John Hawkes’s nomination should elicit sighs of relief. Ever since the film took the indie world by storm last June, its fresh-faced star, hottie Jennifer Lawrence (a Best Actress nominee here), has received all the love, and she deserves it all. But Hawkes, who you should know from HBO’s Eastbound & Down, is just as strong as the film’s conflicted drug dealer, so it’s great to see that the Academy didn’t focus solely on Lawrence. Even the pig-headed Kenny Powers would be proud.