Thursday, January 22, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

2009 Oscar Nomination Announcement

Bright and early this morning, the nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards were announced. Being a big movie fan, I always enjoy trying to figure out who the winners will be. In fact, the last several years I have held a contest at my office to see who can guess the most winners. The one who gets the most right wins a couple of movie passes.

There are always surprises with the nominations, and of course disappointing snubs. Here are a few of my thoughts after this morning's announcement.

- Academy Voters Belong in Arkham Asylum

"The Dark Knight" did not get a Best Picture nomination this morning. And thus this becomes the biggest crime in the history of the Oscars, replacing the infamous incident of a few years back when "Happy Feet" won for Best Animated Feature. I really don't understand what makes the Academy voters feel that they have to vote for more lofty films. Why can't a film that was a great work of art also be a huge crowd-pleasing summer action movie as well. I mean, who do these people think they are? The Oscars are voted on by industry folks, the same folks that bring you such highbrow pics as "Dude, Where's My Car." Just who are they trying to impress here. I certainly haven't seen every movie of 2008, but of what I have seen "The Dark Knight" is the best movie of the year. The snub of Christopher Nolan in the best director category is almost as bad.

- Danny Elfman finally gets some Academy Love

Danny Elfman is my favorite film composer. Every since I first saw "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," which was his first big score, I have been intrigued by his unique style. Amazingly, his nomination this morning for composing the score for "Milk" is only his 4th nomination in over 20 years of film scoring. His work on films like "Edward Scissorhands," "Beetlejuice," and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was certainly deserving. But here is another example of a weird Academy quirk...we tend to see more nominations for the scores of dramatic films than for fantasy or action films. This is totally bizarre since, in my opinion, the art of film scoring is at it's best in these genres. When I saw that Elfman was scoring "Milk," a drama about openly gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, I had a feeling the Academy might finally take note of him.

- The Whoville Oscar Party has Officially been Cancelled

It was a great year for animated films. "Wall-E" was another great film from Pixar, though I think it's a tad bit overrated, "Kung Fu Panda" was a fantastic surprise, and "Bolt" was a lot better than I expected. These three films earned their nominations, but I was very disappointed to see this year's first great animated feature, "Horton Hears a Who," ignored. I said at the time it was released that I felt it may be the best non-Pixar computer animated feature to date. It's certainly the best film adaptation of Dr. Seuss' work so far. Unfortunately, the number of animated feature nominees is based on the number of eligible films released during the year. On rare occasion, it's only happened once, five films get nominated. But this year there were just three, so Horton got snubbed.

- The Best Picture and Best Director Categories Match!

One of the interesting phenomena of the Oscars is that usually the Best Director nominees are off by one when compared with the Best Picture nominees. This usually leads to people making snide remarks like "Well, I guess 'Driving Miss Daisy' must have directed itself." But for once, the directors of the five best picture nominees were all nominated for Best Director.

Well, the awards are presented Feb 22. Just like last year, I think I will try to live blog the event. Have fun trying to pick the winners.

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