Since I'm on vacation and keeping my preferred, odd hours while I sit around watching movies and catching up on TV, I was actually still up yesterday when the Oscar nominations were announced at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time. I find it hard to muster up much enthusiasm for talking about things that were mostly forgone conclusions for months now, and, as in the past, I have no desire to chastise the Academy for perceived mistakes, because these things are what they are and no amount of complaining will change that. Instead, I'd like to highlight the positive and point out what, to me, are some of the best, most interesting nominations:
- Peter O'Toole for Best Actor for Venus. He's cranky and disrespectful of the Academy, he turned down an honorary Oscar because he wanted to win a competitive one, and he played a dirty old man hilariously and poignantly in this movie that no one saw. He won't win, but this affords him the chance to say snide things on TV and brings more attention to the worthwhile film, so I'm all for it.
- Monster House for Best Animated Feature. Yeah, I would have rather seen A Scanner Darkly on this list, but given that it could easily have been Over the Hedge or Ice Age: The Meltdown nominated alongside Cars and Happy Feet, it's nice to see a movie that's about more than distracting celebrity voiceovers and anthropomorphic animals end up nominated in this category. Beyond having a creative look and something interesting to say about the difficult transition into puberty, this is just a good, entertaining, well-made movie, and stands head and shoulders above the token Pixar nominee and the overrated liberal-guilting of Happy Feet. Of course, it has no chance of winning.
- Pretty much the entire Best Cinematography category. Not a single Best Picture nominee ended up in this category, which is odd, but overlooked films like The Black Dahlia, The Prestige and Children of Men (which will and should win) did. If these films can't get recognition elsewhere, at least their technical achievements can garner some notice.
- Thomas Newman for Best Original Score for The Good German. I have long since accepted being in a minority of one on this movie, which thanks to bad reviews and even worse box office probably won't even be opening in Vegas (it was pulled from its January 19 release date and has not been rescheduled). But even if you think of this film as a film-school exercise and a failure, Newman's score still captures the feel and sound of old noir films perfectly, and I'm happy to see it recognized.
- Three nominations for Children of Men. I'm not completely on the Children of Men bandwagon, as I've said previously, but it's still original and innovative and more interesting than most of the rest of the stuff nominated for major awards, so I applaud the nominations for the excellent cinematography, the editing and the screenplay. It's small consolation to the people who think this is the best movie of the last decade, but it's something.