As I said last year, it's pointless to complain about the Oscar nominations. This year may actually have been more predictable than most, but the range of predictability is so small that it's almost irrelevant. Once again, instead of focusing on my obvious gripes (or rehashing how much I hate Crash), I want to note some of the positive steps the Academy took in highlighting movies that really deserve recognition:
The New World for Best Cinematography: Yes, I think this is the best movie of the year, and if I were in charge it would be nominated in every category in which it was eligible. But given how poorly New Line handled the marketing (compared to, say, Lionsgate's mailing of 130,000 Crash screeners to members of the Screen Actors Guild) and how Malick sabotaged his own chances by pulling the film at the last minute for more editing, I'm happy just to see it show up somewhere. And it does indeed have amazing cinematography (by Emmanuel Lubezki) that's far and away the best of the year, and I do think it has an outside chance of winning (although Brokeback Mountain, a very well-shot film, will probably take this category).
Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress: Okay, I admit, I thought Junebug was overrated and honestly found Adams' performance to be far too over the top. But this was a tiny movie that barely anyone saw, and Adams is far from a known performer. So for the Academy to take a risk and nominate her, even if I don't find her as deserving as some do, is still something to be commended, and almost makes up for pointless knee-jerk nominations of people like Judi Dench.
A History of Violence, Match Point and The Squid and the Whale for Best Original/Adapted Screenplay: Although I wasn't as crazy about The Squid and the Whale as many other critics were, a Best Picture category that included these three films would have made me very happy. Alas, they will settle for the Citizen Kane award (and most likely lose to Brokeback Mountain and Crash).
"It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" for Best Song: For some reason, Paramount Classics was pushing the end credits song from Hustle & Flow for awards instead of this one, which in addition to being insanely catchy actually has relevance to the plot. I always think it's pointless that random songs tacked on to the credits sequences of films get these nominations when they have very little to do with the moviemaking process, so it's nice to see a piece of music that's integral to the film it came from get the nomination. And I can't wait to see them perform it at the ceremony.
No computer animation in the Best Animated Feature category: This was the year that hand-drawn animation died, right? And we got masterpieces like Robots, Madagascar and Chicken Little. I don't mean to say that CG animation is inherently inferior - far from it. Pixar have demonstrated time and time again that it's possible to make intelligent, well-crafted and moving films with computer animation. But the sudden abandonment of other forms of animation seems to me grossly misguided, so I am glad that the Academy saw past the technological flashiness and nominated the films with the best writing, the most striking visuals and the most affecting stories.