My Thoughts on the 2009 Oscar Nominations

By now, it has been three days since the Nominations for the 2009 Academy Awards, more commonly known as Oscars, have been announced, and everybody has had plenty of time to comment on them, despair over the obvious oversights and dreadful inclusions, and ultimately come to accept them as the meaningless bullshit they are. So now I thought it would be a good idea to voice my opinions on (some of) the nominations, a complete list of which can be found here. My predictions as to who will win will be up in this very space in early March, in time for the, glorious, gloriously ridiculous and ridiculously overlong ceremony on March 7th.

10 Best Picture Nominees

When the Academy (short for “Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences” or AMPAS) decided to broaden the field of Best Picture nominees this year from five to ten, it was a desperate attempt to draw more viewers – casual movie-goers that have seen the big films, but not the arthouse films usually so popular with the true aficionado, i.e. they wanted you, dear reader, to watch along with the crazy people like me, who actually have an opinion on whether An Education deserves an Oscar nomination. So as a result of this, we now have ten films that are arguable deserving of such a high honour instead of the usual five. I have to admit, of the ten films, I have only seen five so far – An Education, Avatar, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man – and all those have a lot going for it, but none are even remotely on par with previous Best Picture winners or nominees like No Country for Old Men and Brokeback Mountain, to name just two of the best films of the last decade. And while I will make an effort to watch The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air (because both films sound great), the inclusion of the sports drama The Blind Side is more than enough proof that expanding the race to ten films was a bad move. The film may be okay, for all I know, but, to be completely pretentious for a moment here, something as mediocre as this should not be allowed with such exclusive company as Best Picture nominees – although admittedly there are probably plenty of worse films that have been nominated.

Up among the Best Picture Nominees

Another film with a Best Picture nod is the Pixar film Up, which I have to admit on missing while it was in theatres. However, knowing Pixar, I’m sure that it is a very good film and may deserve such a recognition and I can understand that the good people at Disney pushed very hard to garner that nomination. But what then, is the Best Animated Feature category for? Even if Up had not been nominated for Best Picture, it would have been the clear front runner there despite the presence of two films that I also regret not having seen, but which are often called better: Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox. So if we allow animated films among the “regular” films, isn’t it about time that the special category was scrapped again? I’m pretty sure the people at Pixar at winning every year anyway.

The Acting Front Runners

While the race appears to be wide open in most categories, the Best Supporting Actor and Actress are all but decided. So congratulations to Christoph Waltz for the recognition of his great performance in Inglourious Basterds and from what I hear, Mo’Nique also was very good in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (Worst. Title. Ever.) and so despite her annoying personality (and stage name), congratulations to her for winning. But what about the non-supporting, sometimes also known as lead, actresses and actors. For the men, Jeff Bridges is the front runner and it seems like it is more for his career than for his performance in Crazy Heart, but since he has been around forever and done some truly marvellous work, it just seems fair that he finally gets his little golden man. For Best Actress, however, the thing is entirely different. Early frontrunner Carey Mulligan for her great performance in An Education is all but forgotten and has been replaced by Sandra Bullock of all people – who seems to have actually acted for the first time in The Blind Side. But please, people, can we forget all about that and also the eminent leading ladies Helen Mirren and (especially!) Meryl Streep and please focus on actually good performances? I know I haven’t seen any of the other nominated people, but Mulligan’s heartbreaking turn in An Education surely is more deserving than Bullock playing Bullock, Streep playing Streep and Mirren playing Mirren.

The Ex-Spouses Battle Known as the Best Director Race

For Best Director, all seems to come down to either James Cameron for Avatar or Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. The two were married for three years almost two decades ago, but apparently there is no animosity between them. This does not, however, hold true for their fans, and so I am very much hoping for “Team Coco” like hype around the internet in the next four weeks before Bigelow wins, which is the outcome I hope for despite not yet having seen her film because I loathe James Cameron and his “film is not a storytelling medium” approach to film-making. Secretly, however, I am of course ruling for Jason Reitman, because out of the five nominated people he seems like the nicest person by a wide margin.

The Writing Awards

Come on, you don’t seriously want to hear about those. Who cares about the writers? They do not matter. Give us more acting categories, like Best Screen Couple instead!

Black and White Cinematography

Somewhat surprising, at least to me, the German film Das weiße Band (The White Ribbon) was not only nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (and is considered a frontrunner) there, but also for Best Cinematography. Don’t get me wrong, the cinematography in the film was stunning, but I simply did not expect the Academy to honour some obscure German film for the crispness of it’s black and white images. So here, how about a little Oscar history: Did you know that from 1939 to 1967, there were two separate categories for colour and black and white cinematography? Is this some kind of call-back to those good old times when the story mattered more than the visual styling that modern 3D films like Avatar attempt? Probably not, but it was very nice to see such great craftsmanship recognized – even if poor Austrian Christian Berger doesn’t stand a chance to win.

The Technical Categories

A come on, you can’t be serious. People care even less about those than they do about writing. Editing? Sound Design? Sound Mixing? What is all this stuff? Seriously though, truth be told, I am a little saddened by the rumours that the people who win these categories are not going to be given as much time to get on stage and thank their moms as before. Sure, nobody outside the industry knows these people and nobody really cares except for those keeping score which film scores the most wins (in nominations, it’s a tie between Avatar and The Hurt Locker with nine apiece), but I always considered it good manners to give these incredibly talented and hard-working people one chance every year to get some respect and recognition for their work. But I guess it’s more important to have uninformed hicks turn in to get higher ratings these days.

I Am Terribly Uninformed

Now, I consider myself something of a film fan, I try to see as many movies in theatres as possible, I keep up with the news about the film and yet I still feel like I have no idea about who should win. If you include the Documentary and Short Film categories, there are 56 films nominated this year. I have, so far, seen 12 of these. I will watch some more before the ceremony, probably four or five. And I will see maybe one or two afterwards because those films have not yet had a theatrical release in Germany. But at best, I will have seen 19 of 56 movies and there won’t be a single category where I will have seen every nominee. I try to stay informed, but it seems impossible, and means that all my wishes for who should win are based more on other people’s opinions and sometimes my own opinion of the people or the film than on the actual work. So, even though I am fairly sure that you have seen even fewer of the films (Have you seen two of the short film nominees?), please take everything I say with a grain of salt and remember that, honestly, I have no clue what I’m writing about.

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