The 2012 Oscar nominations are in. Lots of head-scratching with these. But that’s usual with nominations from any group.
However, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences really botched a couple of a categories this year.
First the details. Hugo — Martin Scorsese’s homage to the making of movies — leads the pack with 11 nominations. That includes best picture, best director, cinematography and adapted screenplay. The rest are technical nominations.
The Artist is not far behind with 10 nominations. Best picture, director, actor, supporting actress, original screenplay, cinematography, etc.
Meryl Streep — no surprise — got another best actress nomination. If Streep gets a part in a movie where her only job is to sneeze, a nomination is automatic. It is her record-breaking 17th. The record she broke is her own. She’s now way ahead of runners-up Katherine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson.
Streep is good as Margaret Thatcher — but really — is the “that” good?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has room to nominate 10 films as best picture. This year, the Academy chose just nine:
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
I can think of at least a couple of films that could fit spot No. 10. And a couple more that could replace some on the list like War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
My picks, the superb Win Win with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan, who by the way, could have also found themselves in the best actor and best supporting actress categories but didn’t. So could writer/director Tom McCarthy whose original screenplay is — in my opinion — as good as The Descendants, The Artist or Midnight in Paris.
Other best-picture misses. Source Code or The Ides of March. Even The Adventures of Tintin is a better pick than War Horse.
In the best director category I was thrilled to see Terrence Malick’s name. His The Tree of Life is practically impossible to understand — or at the very least it is too much work to try to understand. The film is a fabulous piece of art and worthy of the nomination. He doesn’t stand a chance of winning best director and his film has no shot at best picture, but at least he and it get to play in the game.
Best Director Nominations
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Here’s a category with a huge question mark. Again, I go back to the very short memories of the nominators who seem to have forgotten the most excellent Win Win and what is probably the year’s best acting by a male, Paul Giamatti. Will somebody, someday recognize this guy and give him his due?
The Academy — in its wisdom — nominated Demian Bichir for A Better Life. What! Not to take anything away from his exceptional performance in a film that needed to be seen by more people, but really. Best actor?
Other better picks. Ryan Gosling for Stupid, Crazy, Love.. Or what about last year’s ubiquitous Michael Fassbender who was so good in Shame and three other films? Then there’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt who suffered mightily and with terrific acting chops in 50/50.
The others on the list. Not bad.
Best Actor Nominations
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
One last best actor comment before moving on — how about that, Gary Oldman plays a regular guy, doesn’t do one crazy thing, go psycho or over act at all and gets an Oscar nomination. Way to go Gary.
The best actress category is reasonable. Rooney Mara was good but didn’t really add anything to a character who was done equally as well by Noomi Rapace in the original. I might replace her with Kristin Wiig or Charlize Theron who both rocked in Bridesmaids and Young Adult.
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Here are the other acting categories. The picks aren’t bad. I’d have shoveled Seth Rogen’s work as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s sidekick in 50/50 into the category instead of Jonah Hill — who was also excellent. Kenneth Branaugh? He’s good in My Week with Marilyn but not earthshaking.
And what a treat to see Nick Nolte recognized for outstanding work in Warrior. It is also interesting to note that Max von Sydow is nominated for the awful Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. He provides the movies only energy.
Best Supporting Actor
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
The best picking was found in the best supporting actress category. Back to my gripe about Win Win, while Janet McTeer was superb in Albert Nobbs, Amy Ryan was so much better in Win Win. In fact, other than Jessica Chastain — who stole The Help — Ryan is hand’s down the best.
Alas, nominator memories can’t go back as far as February or March or even the raves they gave Win Win at Sundance the year before.
Best Original Screenplay
Missing — Win Win — but you’re not surprised.
Midnight in Paris
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
One last comment. Best Documentary. Here’s the list:
Hell and Back Again
If A Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3
Haven’t seen any of them so maybe I’m out of line. But I cannot think of a more inspirational film — in fact, a more inspirational documentary in a decade — than the common horse sense and the incredibly positive life of the original horse whisperer, Buck. It shoulda been on the list.