Here are some random thoughts and reactions I have about the Academy Award nominations. I’ve (mostly) resisted the temptation to wax philosophical on who got snubbed, instead choosing to focus just on the things that are interesting and/or surprising. Overall, I went 34/45 on my predictions of the eight major categories. Respectable, but not great.
· The inclusion of nine movies in the Best Picture race means there wasn’t much consensus in the voters’ first place choices. Because of the new rule that a movie must receive at least 5% of the first place votes to receive a Best Picture nomination, the math indicates that it’s extremely unlikely any of the nominees ran away with a huge chunk of the votes. As Mark Harris wrote in one of his Grantland columns, if the three “front-runner” films (The Artist, Hugo, and The Descendants) combined for 70-80% of the first place votes, then there simply couldn’t be more than 6 or 7 nominees. With nine nominees, we can probably assume that voters
didn’t like weren’t as overwhelmingly enamored with the front-runners as they could have been, and that means that a Best Picture upset could be in the works.
· The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for the nine Best Picture nominees are as follows: 97%, 95%, 94%, 93%, 90%, 84%, 76%, 76%, and 46%. Man, that last number really sticks out, doesn’t it? That’s for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which pretty efficiently illustrates how surprising it is to see it make the cut. Especially when that nomination could have gone to a critical and commercial success like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (87%).
· The year’s most decorated performance by a lead actor (with 6 awards so far) has been Michael Fassbender’s sex addict in Shame, so it’s worth wondering why he didn’t make the final cut with the Academy. As a few writers have suggested, it could be something as
ridiculous simple as penis envy. Anyone that’s seen Fassbender’s, umm, revealing performance knows the guy isn’t exactly in dire need of more good fortune. But in a year where every film critic and blogger in America couldn’t stop talking about all the great performances by Fassbender and Ryan Gosling (7 good-to-great movies between them in 2011), it’s a bit interesting that neither of them could turn all that goodwill and momentum into an Oscar nomination—something Jessica Chastain successfully did in the Supporting Actress race.
· Speaking of decorated performances from all the Oscar precursor awards, Albert Brooks, as the villain in Drive, managed to win a whopping 17 of the 33 Supporting Actor awards handed out so far, and yet, no Oscar nomination. While I do think it’s surprising, in this case, I suspect it simply comes down to Academy members not liking the movie. Between the over-the-top violence and the long passages with little or no dialogue, Drive left several people with a bitter taste in their mouths (enough that one whackjob even sued the film’s marketing team).
· In the ten years that the Best Animated Feature category has existed, Pixar has been virtually unstoppable. All eight Pixar films released in that span have been nominated, and six of the eight have won, including the last four years in a row. (Monsters Inc. lost to Shrek in 2001 and Cars lost to Happy Feet in 2006, which was the last time a non-Pixar film won the category.) But this year, Cars 2 wasn’t even nominated, marking the studio’s first real failure. It will be interesting to see if this summer’s Brave can get them back on track.
· It’s utterly bizarre that there were only two nominations in the Best Original Song category. While it’s not completely uncommon for a category to only have three nominees (as is typically the case with Best Make-up), I’ve never seen just two. Best Original Song is one of the categories that mandates a certain point total within the vote to be nominated. The lack of more nominees means the voters didn’t find enough quality in the motley crew of eligible songs.