Every year it gets a little bit harder to work up much enthusiasm for the Oscars, which is a surprise to me considering how much I used to look forward to this time of year. It’s actually never been the same for me since Crash beat Brokeback Mountain, signifying a new marker in Oscar’s closed-mindedness, cowardice, and bad taste. Anyway, here are a few random thoughts about this year’s slate of nominations.
Are there really people in the world who think that Natalie Portman’s tediously whiny performance in Black Swan is superior to Annette Bening’s consummate work in The Kids Are All Right? Bening, a versatile actress who seems able to play anything, should waltz away with a long-overdue Oscar this year. However, I never dreamed that voters could actually prefer Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side to Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia, but they did! This bodes well for Portman.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins has received his ninth nomination this year for True Grit. He has never won before, and his work in True Grit is exquisite and richly deserving. Come on, give Roger an Oscar!
The Best Song category has been an embarrassment for the last forty years. The only thing that might have made it fun this year would have been a “live” performance by Cher, singing that generic power ballad from Burlesque. But it didn’t get nominated. Just put the category to rest already!!
Why the snub to Ben Affleck’s The Town? No picture or screenplay nominations, only one for Jeremy Renner’s excellent supporting work. I really liked Affleck’s movie and would have liked seeing it in the top ten, replacing one of the three I liked least: Black Swan, Inception, and The Fighter. Black Swan is the only one of the ten best-pic nominees not to have a screenplay nomination, which is encouraging, as is the omission of Christopher Nolan (Inception) from the nominees for director.
Bummer that the lovely documentary short Keep Dancing, about Marge Champion and Donald Saddler, didn’t make the cut in its category.
Nice to see Nicole Kidman redeeming herself with Rabbit Hole after too many years of horrifying movies, the worst being the Baz Luhrmann atrocity Australia.
Hailee Steinfeld has the leading role in True Grit, so nominate her as Best Actress, or give her a special juvenile Oscar like they used to in the old days. But Best Supporting Actress? It’s as ridiculous now as it was when Tatum O’Neal won in that category for her mammoth-sized role in Paper Moon (1973).
Christian Bale and Melissa Leo will probably win in the supporting categories, not for “best” acting but for “most” acting, always doing ten things in a scene when four or five might have been marvelous. (Only Amy Adams really came through for me in that movie.) Bale and Leo should watch Jeff Bridges in True Grit for a lesson in how to play a larger-than-life character without self-consciousness; he immerses himself in his role without trying to smother the audience or beat them into submission.
Bravo to Colin Firth for being a deserved shoo-in for Best Actor. But, damn, that James Franco was terrific, too.
Guess I’m not quite as “over” the Oscars as I thought. More to come as Feb. 27 approaches.