Finding fault with the Academy Awards’ Oscar nominations is kinda like getting pissed about the even more clueless Grammy nominations — discerning “aficionados” don’t take either seriously as arbiters of what’s truly “the best” in each medium. This year’s nominations
, announced earlier this morning, are another mixed bag — some nominees are deserving of nods, many others are not.
David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
is the kind of epic, star-laden fare the Academy drools over, thus its 13 nominations come as only a mild surprise. For the record, I found Fincher’s latest a curiously conventional move for a guy whose Fight Club
was once called a “danger to society” and whose previous film, Zodiac
, actually was one of the best films of its year (2007). Button
is anything but dangerous — think a slightly less sentimental, more subtly constructed version of Forrest Gump
(appropriately, Eric Roth wrote — and was nominated for — the screenplay for both). Brad Pitt owes his Best Actor nomination — and several cocktails — to the seamless work of Button
’s impressive special effects and make-up departments.
The rest of the Best Actor category is filled with heavyweight performances — Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
, Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
, Sean Penn in Milk
and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
. All four are richly deserving, but Penn and Rourke have to be the favorites. Maybe they can fight over it.
I’m mostly cool with the female nominees — especially Melissa Leo in the under-seen Frozen River
— even if many are perplexed by Kate Winslet’s nod for her role in The Reader
instead of her equally strong performance in Revolutionary Road
. (Could it be the Weinstein effect?) The big omission was Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky
— a better film than anything up for Best Picture, and which only received an Original Screenplay nod for writer/director Mike Leigh.The Reader
for Best Picture is probably the biggest surprise of the lot. (Yes, even more than the omission of The Dark Knight
; Heath Ledger did get a nod for Best Supporting Actor). The least distinguished of the five nominees (which also includes the aforementioned Benjamin Button
, as well as Frost/Nixon
and Slumdog Millionaire
), Stephen Daldry’s latest is an uneven, often vexing drama most notable for Winslet’s affecting, surprisingly restrained lead performance. I guess its mondo-egoed producer, Harvey Weinstein, still has the ear (and probably more) of someone at the Academy.Doubt
is a mediocre film, thus its three acting nods (Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman) weren’t enough to garner a Best Picture nomination.
I was happy to see Gus Van Sant’s Milk
get some love — eight nominations — even if it’s not as good as his other film (Paranoid Park
) this year.
And Slumdog Millionaire
— Danny Boyle’s deftly constructed, slightly overrated feel-good contraption — just keeps on chugging, picking up 10 nominations, almost all of which are on the technical side.