Fade to Black: No Oscar grouchiness

January 27, 2011

The Golden Globes, a catastrophic mess of erroneously categorized nominations, are finally over. And although the awards ended up in the right hands, the Hollywood Foreign Press has a long road to restoring its image. As if to counteract that embarrassment, the Academy released the Oscar nominations on Tuesday, and, proving that good taste still exists somewhere, left trash like The Tourist and Burlesque out of its pool. Having nominated highly-respected actors and filmmakers, the Oscars have taken the conservative route but set the stage for a venerable ceremony.

With 10 nominations, True Grit, which was entirely snubbed by the Golden Globes, did the second-best at the nomination ceremony, trailing only critic-favorite and recent Producers Guild Awards Best Picture winner The King’s Speech, which garnered twelve. Was True Grit the second-best film of the year? No. But the nomination is backed by a strong cast and skillful filmmaking, and the nominations offer well-deserved redemption for the slighted film.

But even though it washed away the bitter taste of the Golden Globes, the Academy’s list is in no way perfect. Black Swan, a favorite among younger moviegoers and critics but panned by the older set, was shunned in several categories, including acting nods for Barbara Hershey’s psychotic mother and Vincent Cassel’s spot-on performance as a ballet director and certified creep. Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan did not receive best directing nods, but recent trends in awards shows should leave Inception fans happy with the eight other nominations it received—the same number of nods the Academy gave awards-show frontrunner The Social Network.

And what would the Oscars be without some good ol’ movie studio politics? Putting Hailee Steinfeld in the running for Best Supporting Actress will raise a few brows—she had virtually equal screen time in True Grit as Jeff Bridges. But this was no random decision. True Grit’s studio, Paramount, pushed the Academy to nominate Steinfeld in the lower category to take this underdog out of competition with heavy hitters like Natalie Portman and Annette Bening.

Steinfeld is by no means a shoe-in, with the likes of Melissa Leo and Helena Bonham Carter competing against her. This is one of many categories where the winner is too close to call, but that doesn’t mean predictions are impossible. At this year’s other awards shows, best picture has been a toss-up between The King’s Speech and The Social Network, with The Social Network likely emerging in front for its clever script, fresh directing, and previous wins in this category. Natalie Portman’s all-in performance as a delirious ballerina faces its sole competition for Best Actress with Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, but Portman has a definite edge, especially considering she has already earned five wins—including a Golden Globe—for the role. Christian Bale and Colin Firth have little to worry about in the respective Supporting Actor and Lead Actor categories, and David Fincher is a pretty safe bet for Best Director, despite the strength of the nomination pool.

While predicting some of this year’s winners may not be difficult, the question of who deserves to win is a subjective matter that is more fitting for post-Oscar night discussion. This year’s nominees have truly earned their spots, and while the winners may include some surprises, the consistent caliber of talent in each category, including Best Picture, is high enough to leave very little room for outrage. That said, what fun would the Academy Awards be without a screaming match over why The Social Network does not come even slightly close to Black Swan? As long as there’s no Titanic sweep and Ricky Gervais isn’t hosting, Feb. 27 should be a memorable Oscar night, complete with genius billionaires, cowboys, and talking kings drowned out by music.

Show John your Golden Globes at jsapunor@georgetownvoice.com


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