Blinded by the Oscar nominations

Blogs all around were wondering how the inclusion of ten nominees for best picture (instead of five) would affect the Oscar nominations.

I can say with guaranteed certainty, not much. The fact is, only those films with a director nominated stand any chance at actually winning best picture. Furthermore, when it comes to the winner, we are really only looking at two or three choices. I won’t tell you who is going to win and why right now, though. If I did, what will I talk about for the next month?

The Oscar nominations weren’t half bad. In fact, I was a bit surprised at how good they actually were. Sure, there were a few missteps and oversights, but there were also some jaw-droppers. Either way, you have a month or so to get all caught up before the big show in March. It might actually give you a brief escape from the Olympics, which will be starting up before you know it.

On that topic, this year marks a very odd year for the Oscars. Due to the Olympic coverage, all of the precursor awards were pushed up into January and the Oscars were pushed back to March. It’s very strange and it will be interesting to see if momentum changes during the Olympic weeks. Of course, we will have no way of really knowing this because all of the precursors have already been handed out. I will say that the last time a schedule was adjusted due to the Winter Games, it was the year “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain.” Very few people actually saw it coming, but there was scuttlebutt around the blogs about momentum. It’s just worth noting that a similar thing could happen this year. I suppose what I am saying is, if you are an “Avatar” fan, don’t start celebrating yet!

Best Picture nominees: Avatar, The Blind Side, An Education, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air

The big shocker here is that “The Blind Side” is on this list. Are you kidding me?! That is almost embarrassing. It probably booted out smaller films like “The Messenger” and “Crazy Heart” or even the superior “500 Days of Summer.” The fact that, due to these new rules, we will actually have to refer to “The Blind Side” as a Best Picture nominee is ridiculous. I mean, did my grandmother and her friends get ballots to the academy?

That being said, the rest of the list is pretty damn good. I suppose it doesn’t matter that “An Education,” “District 9,” “Up,” and “A Serious Man” have no chance in hell. They were the beneficiaries of the enlarged category and so be it. I am happy to see “An Education” get the recognition that it deserves. I suppose that I would have preferred if “Julie and Julia” or some other stuff got on the list, but it’s still a good list with a variety of different types of movies. We have our second-ever animated Best Picture nominee in “Up” and a sci-fi wonder in “District 9.”

The real race here is between those movies that were represented in the directing category as well, and that would be “Precious,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Up in the Air,” “Inglourious Basterds,” and the just-won’t-sink “Avatar.” A note about “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker”: I find it surprising that “The Hurt Locker” was able to tie for the most nominations, and almost as surprising that “Avatar” didn’t get more nominations. I think that might foreshadow the momentum with “Locker” but we have a month to consider that.

Best Actor nominees: Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”), Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), George Clooney (“Up in the Air”), Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”) and Colin Firth (“A Single Man”).

First, this is a very predictable list and was the list that every pundit already knew. However, it still shocks me that “Invictus” is getting any (albeit, little) support. It also shocks me that this is the only nomination for “A Single Man” in a year that could have seen nods for writer/director Tom Ford and actress Julianne Moore.

However, I am pleased with the inclusion of newcomer Jeremy Renner. In the end, we all know that the other two names on the list are the ones that will battle it out. I would even venture to say that we know which one is going to win.

Best Actress nominees: Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”), Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”), Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”) and Meryl Streep (“Julie and Julia”).

I’ll go on record right now and say that Meryl Streep should have this thing in the bag. She is working at a level that no other actress (of any age) is working at. She is being rewarded with her sixteenth nomination (a record) and should get this in a cake walk. However, we all know that “shoulds” are not necessarily “wills” and Sandra Bullock is winning awards left and right. I would argue that hers is the weakest in the category and came at the expense of better actresses like Emily Blunt and Abbie Cornish. However, popularity can be big, and Bullock is popular. That will make the battle between her and the way-overdue Streep interesting.

If Streep were to have competition, it should come from Mulligan or Sidibe, who were both fantastic. Their relative newcomer status, however, will hurt them and simply reward them with the nomination itself.

Best Supporting Actor nominees: Matt Damon (“Invictus”), Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”), Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) and Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”).

Most people know who is going to win this (and should) so I won’t address that now. What I can say is that I’m disappointed in the academy for voting for previous winner Damon. This is so cheesy and he has done so much better work. I had also hopped that Tucci would be remembered for “Julie and Julia” instead of “The Lovely Bones” but I am pleased that he was at last remembered for anything. I also would have preferred to see Alfred Molina or Peter Sarsgard of “An Education” instead of Damon, but in the end, it’s an OK list. Of course, there is Waltz, who is just brilliant and will face off against veteran Plummer.

Best Supporting Actress nominees: Penelope Cruz (“Nine”), Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”), Maggie Gyllenhaall (“Crazy Heart”), Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”) and Mo’Nique (“Precious”).

First off, there is no surprise here with Farmiga and Kendrick as everyone predicted them already. The surprises in this category came from Cruz (a deserving winner last year) and Gyllenhall. Not many people predicted Gyllenhall to get the spot over Samantha Morton (“The Messenger”), Dianne Kruger or Melanie Laurent (“Inglorious Basterds”), or academy favorite Julianne Moore (“A Single Man”), but no one can complain too much, as Gyllenhall is a well-respected actress that has paid her dues and now gets to enjoy the same nomination process that her brother did a few years back for “Brokeback.” She benefited in the process, the same way that Marissa Tomei did last year on the coat tails of a Best Actor nominee.

The other surprise is Cruz. I love Penelope Cruz and thought her work in last year’s winner “Vicky Christina Barcelona” was fantastic. However, “Nine” flopped and fell faster than AOL stock. I am sort of surprised that she made the short list. She is good in the film, but it is still “Nine.”

And then of course, there is Mo’Nique. Anyone who has read ANYTHING that I have written on this website in the past six months knows my feelings on Mo’Nique. She gives the single best performance (male or female) of the year. DONE!

So in the end, “Hurt Locker” and “Avatar” tied with nine nominations, followed by “Basterds” with eight, and “Precious” and “Up in the Air” with six. Predictable? Yes, but also interesting, eclectic, and even – dare I say it – pretty good.

Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Masters Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.