Oscar nominations: initial reaction.

25Jan11

I’ll try to keep this short, because I planned to make both predictions and prescriptions (that is, guessing who will win but also saying who should in fact bloody win) nearer to the time when I have had the chance to see both True Grit and The Fighter. Until then, however, I couldn’t resist making a few comments on today’s announcements. Rather than just praising their largely correct and obvious choices, I’ll focus on things they got completely wrong and pleasant surprises I thought they would fail to appreciate:

1) Javier Bardem. Sean Penn has said his performance in Biutiful is the best he’s seen since Brando in Last Tango In Paris. That is, Sean Penn thinks Bardem has just given us the best piece of acting of the last 40 years. You should certainly trust his judgement more than mine, but for what it’s worth I think he could very well be correct. Firth seems a shoo-in for Best Actor because of the nature of The King’s Speech, but having seen both I say without any hesitation whatsoever that Bardem looks like God incarnate alongside his fellow nominees. The fact the film is in Spanish hinders his chances, but if there’s an outsider, and one that is without a doubt supremely worthy, then it’s Javier Bardem. This was the nomination I was praying for, but was very prepared not to receive. The most pleasant surprise by a country mile. See it in cinemas from this Friday.

Javier Bardem.

2. Ryan Gosling. I accept Best Actor is a red hot category this year, and I also concur that both Eisenberg and Franco were great in their respective films. But, quite frankly, if I were Ryan Gosling waking up to the news this morning, I would be feeling pretty sick right now. He gives his all in Blue Valentine, filling a complex role infinitely trickier than almost anything else out this year to the brim. A nomination was the least he deserved.

3. Mike Leigh. Hooray! Second best surprise of the day: Another Year is up for Best Original Screenplay. Thoroughly deserved. Leigh supplies us with some of the most richly developed characters to hit the screens this year, and gives them more dialogue than you’d get out of 127 Hours watched ten times over. The only shame is that this wasn’t accompanied by similar recognition for Lesley Manville. Best Supporting Actress isn’t a category apparently brimming with fierce competition, but her performance was one of the finest of the year. Again, a real let down.

4. The Kids Are All Right. I don’t care what anybody says. This was an awful, corny, dire piece of trash. And yet it’s up for Best Picture, as well as Mark Ruffalo competing for Best Supporting Actor alongside Geoffrey Rush, and Annette Bening fighting it out for Best Actress against Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman. And then they wonder what starts cynical talk of conspiracy in the world of Hollywood politics…

5. Magnetic. A further little bone to pick with the lack of a nomination in the Best Original Song category for this little gem in The Social Network. Remember the scene in the Japanese restaurant, where Zuckerberg becomes entranced by Sean Parker, as the latter, embodied by Justin Timberlake, appears to have the world at his fingertips as he clicks and martini glasses are taken away and replaced, and slick words spill off his tongue at a million miles an hour? Remember the line about dropping the ‘the’? This was easily my favourite scene in any film this year. It’s so fucking cool that I’d consider giving Fincher the Best Director award just for compiling this one sequence. And yet it would be nothing without this bass-heavy sound pumping in the background throughout. Hardly a travesty, you might say, but I honestly consider this as scandalous as the Gosling snub.

6. Shutter Island. Upon reflection, I can’t think of any awards I think it should win, unless recognition began for the compilation of soundtracks. Nevertheless, when you remember once again that The Kids Are All Right is up for Best Picture, you’d think there would be room for Scorsese’s effort way back from last March in a few of these categories. Or maybe that is to be too optimistic about the Academy’s long term memory.

To be returned to.

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