Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What are the least deserving Oscar nominees?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 12:17 PM

HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW? Brad Pitt and Best Supporting Actor nominee Jonah Hill
  • HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW? Brad Pitt and Best Supporting Actor nominee Jonah Hill
The day of the Oscar nominations features two fun traditions: watching the nominations in the morning, and then complaining about them over the ensuing hours. As satisfying as it may be to lament the injustice of your favorites being overlooked, it's time to accept that these are the 84th Academy Award nominees. So let's complain about the ones that made the cut, instead of the ones that didn't.

Best Picture: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Every critic and Oscar-watcher's Twitter feed erupted when Stephen Daldry's 9/11 weepie was announced as the ninth and final Best Picture nominee. It's not a complete waste of time: Max Von Sydow deserves his nomination as a sorrowful mute, and Daldry powerfuly presents a series of phone messages from a character trapped in the World Trade Center before it collapses. But the film pulls its punches at nearly every opportunity, embracing contrived quirkiness and old-school schmaltz.

Overall, it's an incredibly tame list of Best Picture nominees, every though it includes a few films I like and one I love (The Artist). The past two years, however, included some far more provocative nominees, such as The Social Network, Inception, WInter's Bone, The Hurt Locker, A Serious Man and Inglourious Basterds. This year's slate makes the Academy seem even more nostalgic and conflict-averse than it already is.

Supporting Actor: Jonah Hill, Moneyball: Hill's a terrific comedic actor and in Moneyball reins in his gleeful obnoxiousness for a more owlish, meek role — if Moneyball were M*A*S*H, he'd be Radar O'Reilly to Brad Pitt's Hawkeye Pierce. Still, the script doesn't give Hill much opportunity to bring depth to his character, so it's hard to judge what, exactly, the Academy is recognizing here.

Best Supporting Actress
: Jessica Chastain, The Help,: A virtual unknown this time last year, Chastain's multiple performances have made her an A-list actress along the lines of Cate Blanchett. She's perfectly fine in a broad, silly turn as a klutzy, uncouth wife in The Help, but her turns in The Tree of Life and Take Shelter were far more powerful and emotionally transparent.

Best Actor: Demián Bichir, A Better Life: A Better Life draws inspiration from the classic Italian film The Bicycle Thief much in the same way that The Artist riffs on Singin' in the Rain. Bichir brings some welcome diversity to the male actor nominees this year, and comes across like a Latino Robert DeNiro. but what makes him stand out from the many other solid turns from middle-aged actors this year?

Best Actress: Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs: The story of Close's dedication to the role seems more compelling than the actual performance, as Close played the character on stage in 1982 and spent nearly three decades bringing it to the big screen. I'm not sure whether she lets her make-up do the work and excessively underplays her turn as a woman passing as a male hotel waiter, or that the character simply isn't particularly compelling. Her perfectly adequate performance seems to be recognized more for the gimmick than the execution. (Her co-star Janet McTeer, on the other hand, totally deserves her nomination.)

Adapted Screenplay: The Ides of March: George Clooney directed and co-authored this adaptation of stage play Farragut North, resulting in a completely conventional political drama comparable to a watered-down Primary Colors or All the Kings Men.

Best Soundtrack
: John Williams, War Horse: It's like some kind of satire of sweeping, stirring, deafening music for a Mighty Important Movie.

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