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Well, kids, it’s finally that time of year. The nominations for the 79th annual Academy Awards were announced yesterday, and we movie bloggers are thanking the Oscar gods that there were actually some surprises to the proceedings.First and foremost, of course, is Dreamgirls getting snubbed for picture, director, and screenplay, in spite of leading the pack with eight nominations (although three are for best song). You’re gong to hear plenty about this, so I won’t dwell on it too much, but Dreamgirls was considered by some to be the frontrunner to win the best picture Oscar. How long is it before the question of racism comes up? And is it really a factor given that the film’s white writer/director, Bill Condon, was also snubbed? I honestly don’t know, but I would say that I believe homophobia among older academy members definitely contributed to Brokeback not getting best pic last year, so… anyway, feel free to hash that one out in the comments.
Big congrats to Babel, which wound up just behind Dreamgirls with seven nominations, including richly deserved supporting actress nods for Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. Of course, Jennifer Hudson has this category all but locked up, but still, it’s nice to see good performances get recognized, especially with so much of both performances being subtitled. Somehow, Brad Pitt managed to get snubbed for supporting actor, but I believe he gets credited with a nomination as a producer on The Departed, so that should offer some consolation.
Speaking of Babel, the Academy was especially generous to movies in foreign languages. Letters from Iwo Jima, for instance, probably took Dreamgirls’ spot in the best picture list, in spite of getting a late start on both the release and the Oscar campaign. Of course, Clint has a lot pull with the Academy, but the critical consensus seems to be that Letters is equally worthy of the nomination. Pan’s Labyrinth scored six nominations, foreign language film and cinematography being expected, but also for Guillermo del Torro’s original screenplay, makeup, art direction, and score. That’s right, folks, the guy that made Blade II is now officially an artist. Maybe this will give him the muscle to make that adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, which I, for one, would love to see.
The other big snub was that Pedro Almodovar’s Volver was left out of the foreign film category, even though it was widely regarded as Pan’s biggest competition for the trophy. They may have made up for it by giving Penelope Cruz a best actress nod, which I don’t doubt she deserves, but it should be conditional on her not making any more films in English. She has been terrible in just about every American film I’ve seen her in (Gothika, anyone?), yet quite good in Almodovar’s All About my Mother. So keep working on that side of the Atlantic and you’ll stay in my good graces, Penelope.
Congratulations are also due, I think, to Mark Wahlberg for his supporting actor nomination for The Departed, which he landed over not just Jack Nicholson, but also Leonardo DiCaprio, who Warner Bros. foolishly pushed in the supporting category. Even if they banked correctly on a best actor nomination for Blood Diamond, he might actually have competed with the Oscar juggernaut that is Forest Whitaker is he’d been up for the Scorsese flick. As it is, he’s almost assuredly another also-ran. Wahlberg, though, has finally asserted a little artistic integrity, and he’s going to need it when his new film Shooter comes out. I saw about half of this movie a few years ago, except it was called Most Wanted, it stared Keenan Ivory Wayans, and it sucked.
Will Smith managed to hang on to his best actor nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness, even without any support from critics groups, and I say good for him. Even if this wasn’t his tour de force Oscar breakthrough, I hope it’ll encourage him to take more chances. And Ryan Gosling snuck into the best actor race for Half Nelson, which I haven’t seen but I hear is terrific. Anyone heard otherwise?
So this early on, I’m going to go ahead and call a few locks. Forrest Whitaker for Best Actor. Helen Mirren for Best Actress. Jennifer Hudson for Best Supporting Actress. Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor. Scorsese for Director. Pan’s Labyrinth for Foreign Film. There are still some interesting races (the screenplay competitions are especially good this year), but the real question is: who’s going to win Best Picture?
Current bets make it a close race between Babel and Little Miss Sunshine. Babel, of course, took the Golden Globe for best drama, but has about half LMS’s box office take, and something of a mixed critical response, with some people feeling that the film’s admirable thematic ambitions exceed its grasp. Little Miss Sunshine has a Crash-like underdog current going for it, plus a more pleasant, upbeat message that might appeal to Academy members the way Driving Miss Daisy did, but the absence of a director nod for Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris doesn’t bode well (Paul Greengrass seems to have taken their spot as a consolation prize for United 93).
What does the moviegasm faithful think? Could The Departed come from behind to take it? If enough people see Letters, could Clint’s Academy cache put it in the running? Let the great Oscar debates begin, and tune in Monday for the box-office wrap up to see how the nominations are affecting business, and how business could affect the winners.