Thursday, January 22, 2009

And the Not-Quite-Winners-Yet Are ...

A few hours ago at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the nominations for the 81st Academy Awards were announced. And as I predicted, the contest here at Pop Culture America came down to a razor-thin margin. In the end, the official tally was John -- 24, Dave -- 23 (we said Kate Winslet would be up for Revolutionary Road instead of The Reader, but I'm counting it anyway). I planned my total as a tribute to Jack Bauer.

It was Michael Shannon of Revolutionary Road who put me over the top (with an assist from Richard Jenkins). Davey edged me by correctly gleaning that Amy Adams and Brad Pitt would have their names called. Check below for the complete nomination slate. but first, a few reactions:

As has happened so many times in the past, the Golden Globe winners in the Lead Actor and Actress categories for Comedy/Musical do not even sniff a nomination (last year's nod to Marion Cotillard was a notable exception). Neither Colin Farrell nor Sally Hawkins will be getting gussied up on the 22nd of February, unless the Academy throws them a bone and has them present. I suggest having them present together. Bitterly.

Down the slate a bit, I'm surprised by the exclusion of previous Academy Award winner Bruce Springsteen whose song for The Wrestler I would have guessed would be a surefire nominee. I'm glad to see the Pixar short Presto which played in front of Wall-E in theaters, gained recognition. It was a riot.

And speaking of Wall-E, Best Animated film had better not even be contested this year. Kung Fu Panda and Bolt are both aggressively mediocre and not worthy to carry Wall-E's little metallic jockstrap.

The Fox Searchlight campaign to position Dev Patel as a Supporting Actor for Slumdog Millionaire failed. I'd like to think that he wasn't nominated because his role was clearly the lead, but that hasn't stopped any of dozens of previous nominees in this category. I'll just chalk it up to a strong field.

How about zero tech award noms for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. None. And no Best Original Score nomination for John Williams. Every other Indiana Jones movie was nominated for (and usually won) effects awards and Williams' scores were nominated every time. I know the movie wasn't great, but the effects and the score were essentially unchanged. Maybe that was the problem.

The Reader sneaking into the Best Picture race is a shock, not least of all because it ain't that good (see below for a full review). I guess Ricky Gervais was right when he told Kate Winslet at the Golden Globes that once you make a holocaust movie, the awards flow.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button leads the field at thirteen nominations, with Slumdog Millionaire second at ten.

And finally, The Dark Knight. In a little over a month, after the Oscar telecast, you will hear the usual hand-wringing about how the show isn't as popular as it used to be and its viewership continues to erode and it will be the least-watched Oscars ever and whatever can we do? Boo-frickin'-hoo. This year, the Academy had a legitimate contender for the Best Picture Award in the second-highest-grossing film of all time and they passed it over for a hokey Holocaust drama and a flawed concept film (Hi Benjamin!). Box office should, in no way, be a determiner of a film's quality, but in this case, it just so happens that the year's box-office champ was also a brilliant and thoughtful and relevant movie. None but the most provincial, anti-superhero, bigoted critics (and Dave) would have looked askance if it had been included. When Academy members try to figure out why people continue to abandon their annual showcase, they need to start the process by gazing into the deep, dark, truthful mirror.

By the way, the Academy may not be embracing comics, but the Louvre -- the mother scratchin' LOUVRE! -- is. Check out the story here.

Your nominees for 2009's 81st Academy Awards are:

1. Best Picture: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire."

2. Actor: Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"; Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"; Sean Penn, "Milk"; Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler."

3. Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"; Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"; Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"; Meryl Streep, "Doubt"; Kate Winslet, "The Reader."

4. Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, "Milk"; Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"; Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"; Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road."

5. Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "Doubt"; Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"; Viola Davis, "Doubt"; Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler."

6. Director: David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"; Gus Van Sant, "Milk"; Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"; Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire."

7. Foreign Film: "The Baader Meinhof Complex," Germany; "The Class," France; "Departures," Japan; "Revanche," Austria; "Waltz With Bashir," Israel.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt"; Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"; David Hare, "The Reader"; Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire."

9. Original Screenplay: Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"; Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"; Martin McDonagh, "In Bruges"; Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"; Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, "WALL-E."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Bolt"; "Kung Fu Panda"; "WALL-E."

11. Art Direction: "Changeling," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "The Duchess," "Revolutionary Road."

12. Cinematography: "Changeling," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire."

13. Sound Mixing: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Slumdog Millionaire," "WALL-E," "Wanted."

14. Sound Editing: "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man," "Slumdog Millionaire," "WALL-E," "Wanted."

15. Original Score: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Alexandre Desplat; "Defiance," James Newton Howard; "Milk," Danny Elfman; "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman; "WALL-E," Thomas Newman.

16. Original Song: "Down to Earth" from "WALL-E," Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman; "Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar; "O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam.

17. Costume: "Australia," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Duchess," "Milk," "Revolutionary Road."

18. Documentary Feature: "The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)," "Encounters at the End of the World," "The Garden," "Man on Wire," "Trouble the Water."

19. Documentary (short subject): "The Conscience of Nhem En," "The Final Inch," "Smile Pinki," "The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306."

20. Film Editing: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Frost/Nixon," "Milk," "Slumdog Millionaire."

21. Makeup: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."

22. Animated Short Film: "La Maison en Petits Cubes," "Lavatory - Lovestory," "Oktapodi," "Presto," "This Way Up."

23. Live Action Short Film: "Auf der Strecke (On the Line)," "Manon on the Asphalt," "New Boy," "The Pig," "Spielzeugland (Toyland)."

24. Visual Effects: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man."
Academy Award winners previously announced this season:

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (Oscar statuette): Jerry Lewis

Gordon E. Sawyer Award (Oscar statuette): Pixar Animation co-founder Ed Catmull

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John and Dave talks Oscar nomination predictions