We critics LOVE to lambast the Oscars, arguing that they get it wrong so frequently that their annual misguided message to moviemakers and goers threatens to turn the 80 year old institution into a true cultural afterthought. Sure, there are always signs of life, or at the very least, a shift. Last year, the Academy gave the Coen Brother's No Country for Old Men all the legitimizing love they could, while tossing some Paul Thomas Anderson affection toward There Will Be Blood as well. Heck, even Juno and Michael Clayton beat out several "prestige" pictures to walk away with a Best Picture nod. So when a film like The Dark Knight becomes one of the highest grossing commercial successes of all, there is always talk of some kind of industry recognition. Sure, popularity doesn't always equal aesthetic importance, but with the vast majority of film reviewers agreeing on the unequalled mastery of Christopher Nolan's post-modern masterwork, it seemed like an Oscar lock.
So what happens? Somehow, one of the slew of Holocaust oriented pics (albeit one that uses the senseless slaughter of millions of Jews as a sloppy psychological subplot) beats one of the best films of all time for Academy recognition. No other major awards entity has The Reader on its short list. Not the Producers Guild. Not the Directors Guild. Not the Screen Actors Guild. Only international entities like BAFTA (the British Oscars) and the Golden Globes (who cares) pegged the production for major year end consideration. Now, it's not like The Dark Knight will go away unrecognized come 22 February. It has eight nominations to The Reader's five, and has a much better chance of winning its technical awards than the latter has of earning a single trophy for Best Picture/Director/Actress or Cinematography. Indeed, at the end of the evening's festivities, Heath Ledger will more than likely earn only the second posthumous Oscar ever given, while areas like effects, art direction, and sound mixing could go the blockbusters way.
And let's not forget the other surprises and snubs, both warranted and uncalled for, that manifested themselves this morning. Below are a few of the highlights from the annual festival of cinematic second guessing. As we move closer and closer to handing out those coveted little gold men, SE&L will go into a lot more detail about this year's Academy Awards. It promises to be a very spirited and lively five weeks.
The Reader Gets Best Picture/Director Nods
Winslet in Best Actress Category Only
Doubt Stronger than Some Expected
The Dark Knight Out of Picture/Director Race
Happy-Go-Lucky? Not If You're Sally Hawkins
Bruce Springsteen's Wrestler Tune Gets Nothing
Enchanted also scooped up a trio of nominations (and no awards), the Academy claimed they were going to reconfigure the rules regarding how Best Song choices were made. Apparently, screwing up the system entirely was the solution. As a result, The Boss, this year's Golden Globe winner (and current Oscar owner for Philadelphia) can keep his tuxedo in moth balls for the rest of the awards season. Sure, the actual nominations available for consideration are nothing to sneeze at, but were there really only three good songs this year? With two being in Hindi?
Australia's Nomination/ The Duchess' Pair of Nods
Wanted Gets Some Tech Rec
What's With All This Love for Penelope Cruz?
Michael Shannon Gets Revolutionary Road's Sole Acting Acknowledgment
WALL-E's Screenplay Shown Some Love
The Documentary Category is Not a Complete Embarrassment - For Once