Here we go. It’s Oscar season finally, and Sarah and Doug give day of Oscar nominations first impressions. Plenty more to come on worthy/not worthy films of the year, but let’s get the talk started.
SARAH: Well, Oscar nominations came out today. It’s hard to really encapsulate the noms in a few quippy sentences, especially given the range of movies honored by a nomination, but I’m going to do it anyway. There is probably no single commonality or theme to be seen in the nominations in the major categories like Best Picture and Directing, but several of the films do seem to be celebrating the art of filmmaking and love of cinema. The obvious examples are Hugo and The Artist, both of which feature filmmaking as part of the plot, but Midnight in Paris and The Tree of Life also seem more like indulgences by the filmmakers. Midnight in Paris, which was generally regarded as a long shot for a nomination actually received both a Best Picture and Directing nominations. The film, while fun, seemed more like an excuse for director Woody Allen to feature Paris in the ‘20s and several of his favorite literary and artistic legends. Meanwhile, Terrence Malick was so intent on being innovative with The Tree of Life that his picture turned out self-indulgent and insufferable.
I was disappointed to see that The Adventures of Tintin didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Animated Feature Film. Overall, I would say that the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards held a few surprises, but are mostly as expected.
DOUG: It’s tempting to say that the Academy played it safe when it came to Oscar nominations this year. But it’s probably more accurate to say film makers in general were the ones to play it safe. My theme for the year, particularly in the Best Picture category, is nostalgia. A lot of it enjoyable nostalgia to be sure and, as Sarah points out, many films celebrating the joy of movies and making movies. I can’t argue with the fun factor in films like The Artist, Midnight in Paris or Hugo. And there are certainly worse ways to use valuable screen time than worthy efforts such as War Horse, The Help or The Descendants. Every one of these films has value to be recommended. But as enjoyable and comfortable as it can be to look back, where is the excitement, the reach, the edginess, the moves forward that are often what make movies so exciting? I thought the extra nominations were supposed to be for recognizing a broader range of efforts. Part of me can’t blame the Academy for such bland nominations because 2011 seemed very much like a year for safe movies. But what about Drive, what about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, even Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for Best Picture? If for no other reason than to recognize where films can go, not just where they’ve been (or maybe at least where they are).
Sarah and I are headed for a showdown on The Tree of Life, the only movie this year that aspired to be great art and pulled it off, excuse me for saying it, so artfully. Tree of Life was the one truly dazzling effort out of Hollywood this year and in a year so relatively staid, it’s great to see such a sincere effort at something more rewarded. I will say I’d love to see one of the extra slots in the Best Picture category go to a worthy foreign film. Why can’t we nominate A Separation? I don’t think history would be too horribly shaken if, say, Moneyball didn’t get a Best Picture nom. It was nice to see the snap of the screenplay for Margin Call getting a nod, but disappointing to see the brilliance of Senna overlooked in the documentary category. And Berenice Bejo in The Artist as a supporting actress? If ever there was a lead performance in a film, it was hers. There will be plenty of time for us to break down the categories in more detail over the next few weeks, and I look forward to it. May the best work win.