It's also a joke when it comes to true cinematic credibility. More interested in feeding the Hollywood machine than in honoring those truly deserving of praise, its nominations are typically of the safe, "well-crafted" variety. More often than not, challenging and inventive work takes a backseat to -- as Christian Slater's Clarence Worley says in True Romance -- "geriatric, coffee-table dog shit."
Even when the Academy gets it right on some of its nominations, it usually gets it wrong on the eventual winners: How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane? Ordinary People over Raging Bull?
So imagine CityBeat's surprise when we were able to hack into that law firm's database -- you know, the one they say is guarding the results as if the world's very existence depended on it -- and discovered that this year's nominees are actually creatively vital and richly deserving. Yes, it seems somebody grew some balls.
The following are our favorite inclusions and exclusions among the nominees in the big categories.
Inclusion: Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy is the kind of film the Academy usually ignores -- a small, modest slice of life that's as affecting as it is ironic.
Exclusion: While entertaining and "well made," Bill Condon's glossy musical Dreamgirls is also about as spontaneous as an Al Gore campaign speech. Easily the biggest (and most deserving) surprise among those films left out of the Best Picture race.
Inclusion: As the title character in Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen is surely the first Best Actor nominee to have a hairy, rotund naked dude sit on his face in what is the film's signature sequence. Total immersion into character has rarely been as fruitful.
Exclusion: While his nomination the first time around was a pleasant surprise, Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a bloated caricature of its former self. Ditto for the movie.
Inclusion: Sherrybaby's Maggie Gyllenhall might be the most beguiling actress in movies today. Her performance here is so good we pissed our pants.
Exclusion: Judi Dench for Notes on a Scandal. Sure, she's typically solid in a decent film, but do we really need to see the Dame get another nomination?
Inclusion: Imaginative and often moving, Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep is the work of an artist who knows no bounds.
Exclusion: Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima double take is admittedly among his best work, but we're still pissed the thunderously heavy-handed melodrama Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture and Best Director. Vengeance is a bitch, ain't it, Clint?
Best Supporting Actor
Inclusion: Versatile and ceaselessly compelling, John C. Reilly enriches any film in which he appears. His performance as Cal Naughton Jr. in Talledega Nights leaves one dizzy in the wake of its comedic genius.
Exclusion: Clearly the weakest link in the otherwise stellar The Departed, Jack Nicholson is completely uncastable at this point. His overbearing persona and hammy antics take you out of nearly every movie in which his grizzled mug has appeared over the last 25 years.
Best Supporting Actress
Inclusion: 12-year-old Ivana Baquero is both expressive and subtle as our guide in what is the year's most wondrous film, Guillermo del Torro's Pan's Labyrinth, which is also a surprise Best Picture nominee.
Exclusion: Every woman who appeared in Bobby. ©