Hey, it ain’t ALL bad

Posted by · 8:25 am · January 22nd, 2009

OK, looking at the bigger picture, I’m as mortified as everyone else by this morning’s Academy Award nominations. By playing it safe in numerous areas, AMPAS voters have once more failed their art form … but more surprisingly, they have failed their audience.

Kris has already touched to some extent on the most glaring injustices of the morning, and I plan to indulge in my own share of ranting later today. But before I get into that, I’d like to channel my inner Bing Crosby and accentuate the positive. Amid the minefield of errors, there were some isolated pleasant surprises and level-headed decisions, even if many of them were on a smaller scale. And these were the best of them:

“GRAN TORINO” STRIKES OUT: Many were speculating that the latest from the (usually) Oscar-beloved Clint Eastwood could be a spoiler in the top race, with the man himself an ominous threat to actually take the Best Actor gong. But for once, Eastwood’s stealth-release strategy didn’t pay off. Either the film gathered momentum too late, or voters saw through the film’s creaky construction and hammy lead turn. Either way, in passing over Eastwood for the wonderful Richard Jenkins, the Academy made the right call.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY GETS ORIGINAL: Matching the WGA’s Original Screenplay nominees in only one instance, voters dug deep here and pulled some inspired choices out of the hat. Bypassing the familiar comforts of Woody Allen or the Coen Brothers, they recognised that “Frozen River” owed its jagged, riveting tension to more than just Melissa Leo’s stellar performance, and, most thrillingly, recognised the pitch-black wit and literary sensibility of “In Bruges.” A nod for Mike Leigh’s unconventionally constructed “Happy-Go-Lucky” was more expected, but no less gratifying.

SHANNON FINALLY GETS HIS DUE: As “Revolutionary Road” continued its bumpy ride through the awards season, I was perplexed as to how the film’s standout performance — and most unanimously acclaimed element — consistently failed to crop up on precursor lists. Michael Shannon jolts a perhaps overly studied film to life whenever he is on screen, all but wiping the floor with his none-too-shabby co-stars, yet he was clearly not famous or glamorous enough for the tastes of the Globes, SAG or the BFCA. Thankfully, a presumably small band of actors in the Academy weren’t caught napping — and while the film struck out in every major category, it’s somehow fitting that Shannon should be its last man standing.

M.I.A. IS AN OSCAR NOMINEE: Let me repeat that. M.I.A. is an official Academy Award nominee. Whether or not she only surfed in on the wave of the Academy’s overwhelming enthusiasm for “Slumdog Millionaire,” I’m thrilled that this immensely current, defiantly eccentric musical rebel was been acknowledged for a composition as edgy and beat-heavy as “O… Saya.” The Best Original Song category may currently be overshadowed by the egregious omission of Bruce Springsteen, but the fact that we’ll be seeing Ms. Arulpragasam performing on the Oscar stage is some consolation.

“THE CLASS” SURVIVES THE CUT: OK, so the French entry — the best film of 2008, according to yours truly — may have seemed a no-brainer for inclusion in the Best Foreign Language Film category. But we all know that this is a category frequently given to ignoring the obvious, so I’m relieved that voters responded to its gritty, authetic textures and improvisational technique. Whew.

Beyond that, well … I got nothin’. Bring on the ranting.

→ 26 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

26 responses so far

  • 1 1-22-2009 at 8:34 am

    face-it said...

    Jolie was nominated.
    G. Lodge – take that.

  • 2 1-22-2009 at 8:35 am

    Matt said...

    “ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY GETS ORIGINAL: Match the WGA’s Original Screenplay nominees in only one instance, voters dug deep here and pulled some inspired choices out of the hat. Bypassing the familiar comforts of Woody Allen or the Coen Brothers, they recognised that “Frozen River” owed its jagged, riveting tension to more than just Melissa Leo’s stellar performance, and, most thrillingly, recognised the pitch-black wit and literary sensibility of “In Bruges.” A nod for Mike Leigh’s unconventionally constructed “Happy-Go-Lucky” was more expected, but no less gratifying.”

    And y’know, WALL-E getting the much-deserved nomination. That’s so totally not worth a mention, I guess. :/ Good for it making it, though!

  • 3 1-22-2009 at 8:43 am

    Jon said...

    It’s still pretty bad Guy. But yes, there were some good decisions (no Clint or Petal)

  • 4 1-22-2009 at 8:45 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Faceit: Uh, I predicted that she would be nominated. Just because she was, however, doesn’t change my belief that it’s a terrible performance. Each to their own.

    Matt: No slight intended to “WALL-E” — I’m a fan. But since it was a more obvious nomination, I didn’t mention it.

  • 5 1-22-2009 at 8:45 am

    Brian Kinsley said...

    Um, WERNER HERZOG!!!!!!!!!

    Also, WTF is up with the live feed of Danny Boyle and co watching the nominations and freaking out? THAT feels reallllllly tacky.

  • 6 1-22-2009 at 8:46 am

    James D. said...

    Happy-Go-Lucky deserved its Screenplay nod, but it is ridiculous that Sally Hawkins did not make it.

    I hope that The Class wins, but Waltz With Bashir seems like it is a shoo-in.

  • 7 1-22-2009 at 8:50 am

    Chad said...

    Hawkins is by far the most embarrassing snub. After that I’d say The Dark Knight missing out on score is criminal.

    Otherwise, pretty much business as usual.

  • 8 1-22-2009 at 8:51 am

    Brian Kinsley said...

    But my God, Freida Pinto. Marry me.

  • 9 1-22-2009 at 8:55 am

    The Z said...

    I have a new Oscar rule, which I’m calling “The Daldry Effect”:

    Any year in which Stephen Dladry directs a film (no matter how terrible the backstory of the making/marketing of the film may be) he will receive an Oscar nomination.

    So he may be back next year.

  • 10 1-22-2009 at 8:57 am

    The Z said...

    Forgot to provide this link for his next film:


  • 11 1-22-2009 at 9:05 am

    The Z said...

    Oh, and about the song category:

    I thought the new rule change was limit one film from garnering 60% of the song nominations. Yet here we are – 3 consecutive years with one film taking the majority of the slots.

    I really feel that the song category should always have 5 nominees. If the sound editors are going to continue to throw 5 films at us then at least let the songwriters do the same.

    We all know what songwriting is and how it works, but – and I intend tno disrespect – every year we need to look up and remember what exactly it is that a sound editor does.

  • 12 1-22-2009 at 9:16 am

    JM said...

    -Song is shocking for good (Slumdog) and bad (No Wrestler).

    -Yay for Michael Shannon.

    -Yay no Gran Torino

    -The original scripts were indeed original.

    -Good for calling Kate Winslet’s role a “Lead”
    like it is, that took paying attention.

    -Boo for the little Wrestler love.

    -Yay for The Reader. People should actually watch this and make up their own mind. It’s not about the Holocaust nor is it about whether we’re supposed to find Kate Winslet’s character sympathetic or not. I suggest a re-viewing for some of you to find out what it’s really about. Or, better yet, read Ebert’s Review. He nails its point.

  • 13 1-22-2009 at 9:17 am

    Kate said...

    The Michael Shannon nom is making me feel much better about the Academy’s blatantly awful choices this year. He’s incredible and should have been nominated in the lead category for Shotgun Stories.

    The M.I.A. nomination is awesome as well, seeing as how she’ll definitely bring color and creativity to the ceremony.

    The Herzog nom is pretty sweet too. Has anyone seen ‘Julien Donkey-Boy’? Absolutely fantastic.

    I would have loved to see The Wrestler get more nods (as well as BD for Aronofsky), Hawkins or Scott Thomas in place of Jolie (I agree Guy, her performance was TERRIBLE) and anything in place of Benjamin Button.

    Oh well, what’s done is done.

  • 14 1-22-2009 at 9:18 am

    Dean Treadway said...

    I do find the 3-song nomination list baffling. There were so many songs to choose from this year. I can understand it with years past where the field was thin, of course, but this year? It just doesn’t compute. But I’m totally happy with the MIA nomination, just as you are, Guy.

    Though my three favorite films of the year–THE FALL, SYNECDOCHE, and WENDY AND LUCY–didn’t get a nod, I still cannot say I’m disappointed with this list the Academy has provided. It’s about as decent as I’ve come to expect from them.

  • 15 1-22-2009 at 10:33 am

    Paper Planes said...

    Re: MIA, she is due to give birth the first week of February, which is why she cannot attend the Grammys where “Paper Planes” is up for Record of the Year. Like you, I am hoping she makes it to the Oscars but as she would be a new mother that may not happen.

  • 16 1-22-2009 at 10:37 am

    Bryan said...

    What we all forgot was that the Academy handed in their votes in pre-Obama America…change? What change? Save it for next year.

    And I wonder how much the deaths of Pollack and Minghella really did affect that best pic nom…just saying.

  • 17 1-22-2009 at 12:30 pm

    KB said...

    TDK fan boys are hilarious. The film doesn’t get a nomination (rightfully so), and you all think you know better than the people in the business. Hilarious I tell ya.

  • 18 1-22-2009 at 3:14 pm

    Kid said...

    I don’t think the Reader was a bad film at all I just don’t believe it is anything special compared to the Dark Knight or Revolutionary Road.

    Kate Winslets performance in Revolutionary Road is ten times better then her performance in The Reader. Even if the Reader was a lead performance it is an embarrassment for the academy to nominate it in lead over Revolutionary Road.

    At least Clint got ignored and Shannon didn’t.

  • 19 1-22-2009 at 3:17 pm

    Big Braveheart said...

    No it was that bad. No TDK for best pic, director or adapted screenplay? You gotta be kidding!
    It doesn’t need the oscars it’s too good for them.
    They SNUB us, we SNUB them. Boycott this farcical garbage and show them how lame they are.
    I wouldn’t have been upset if In Bruges was up for Best Pic but The Reader? another retread?
    Bores the lot of them!

  • 20 1-22-2009 at 5:09 pm

    a.g. said...

    TDK got snubbed in two big categories. Who would have thought? It’s a fine movie with a great performance by Heath and even Aaron. Shocking that it did not find a place in some of the major categories today but I won’t be losing any sleep over the snub.
    All of the acting nods for Doubt and the inclusion of the Reader make for some interesting conversation. Harvey’s influence? Voting as a block?
    The Reader wasn’t all that great but the attacks and the backlash in reaction to the TDK snub seem really unjust.
    Nice mixture of some first time nominees and some veterans. Angelina, Frank, Melissa, Kate, Meryl and RDJ in the mix.
    Now that the nominations are over hopefully we won’t have to be subjected to any more of Guy’s potshots and digs every time Angelina’s name is mentioned here and over on AD.

  • 21 1-22-2009 at 5:30 pm

    Chad said...

    Bryan may be onto something with the Minghella/Pollack factor.

  • 22 1-22-2009 at 5:34 pm

    Erin said...

    “…they recognised that ‘Frozen River’ owed its jagged, riveting tension to more than just Melissa Leo’s stellar performance”

    If only they had done the same with Rachel Getting Married.

  • 23 1-22-2009 at 6:29 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    a.g.: What potshots? I don’t think she’s very good in “Changeling,” and I’ve said so a couple of times. That’s an honest opinion, not a potshot. I don’t believe I’ve been unfair or personal in my criticism of the performance.

  • 24 1-22-2009 at 8:13 pm

    PJ said...

    The Original Song category is inexplicably asinine. The nominated three are certainly not undeserving – M.I.A’s nod for “O… Saya” is probably my personal favourite out of all the nominations – but the omissions are glaring. Not just Bruce Springsteen, but also Jon Brion for “Little Person” (from “Synecdoche, New York”). Is it really so hard to require five songs to be nominated every year, with no film receiving more than two nominations?

  • 25 1-24-2009 at 5:35 am

    Glenn said...

    Well the way the original song category is judged means only three candidates reached the necessary score for a nomination – a song has to rate higher than 8.5/10 I think. Although, to be honest, this year was mostly filled with songs that weren’t INCORPORATED into the movie at all, something they’ve become quite stringent on it seems. Oh sure they had movies like “High School Musical 3” and “Repo!” but… no.

    And the argument could be made that “Down to Earth” is nothing but a closing credits song, but without the movie to attach itself to the song means jack shit. “The Wrestler” on the the other hand, as outstanding a song as it is and as lyrically poignant and relevant to the film, could still have turned up on any Springsteen record if the film had never been made. And so many of the longlist of eligible songs were dreadful. Thank god stuff like “Gran Torino” didn’t make it in. I mean, I’m sad we won’t get to see Bruce at the ceremony and I have a particular fondness of “Once in a Lifetime” from “Cadillac Records – such a great song, if only Beyonce would sing beautifully like that all the time then maybe her albums wouldn’t always turn out so terrible – I think it makes sense for the category to be shortened. How much of a hard task is it to write a song that gets featured over the end credits, anyway. Didn’t Springsteen say he wrote “The Wrestler” tune in an hour or so? Or am I imagining that? It’s hard to compare the effort of someone who wrote a closing credits song to that of someone who acted or lensed or did the sound editing on a movie.

    Hope that helps settle some of it.

    But I am incredibly happy for M.I.A. and Courtney Hunt of the names you mentioned.