Early yesterday morning (while I was probably still asleep), Academy President Sid Ganis and Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker stood at a podium in Hollywood and announced the nominations for the 81st Academy Awards. Within five minutes, nominated stars were pulled out of bed in their pajamas to send off the best reactions their pre-coffee minds could come up with. And within an hour, everyone with any attachment to movies whatsoever was busy sharing their own two cents with any and everyone who would listen.
Overall, I can’t say I was really surprised by the general make-up of the list. Where tradition could have been bucked, it wasn’t. Where mainstream critical buzz demanded a reward, it was answered. And where names were to be recognized, for the most part, they were.
As for my take on the specific nominations:
Best Picture—In a year where coming up with five of my own “Best Picture” picks was not easy—not because there were too many, but rather because there were too few—I suppose these five are about as good as any. Not exactly surprised that the Academy played it safe and left WALL-E and Dark Knight off the list. With comedies pretty much forgotten post-Golden Globes, I was sad not to see many of my favorites make an appearance, but that’s just how it goes. Although I know many who did not like The Reader quite as much as I did, I was glad to see it recognized. Not missed, however, was the ultra-downer Revolutionary Road.
Best Animated Feature—It’s the “Pixar Award.” With no one daring to flip WALL-E up to Best Picture, really, what else would we expect?
Leading Men—I don’t know if I just have a thing about appreciating male performances over female performances, but for some reason, this year’s nominated male performances excited me much more than any of the female nods. Of the five leading men, every performance was one that stuck with me. After many years of great acting and not enough recognition, it’s about time Richard Jenkins made the list.
Supporting Actors—Although it almost feels like the supporting Oscar has already been given to Ledger, at least in my opinion, all five performances are perhaps the strongest on the entire ballot. Extra points for allowing Downey, Jr. to slip the funny somewhere in the mix.
Leading Ladies—All I have to say is: Where is Sally? And props to the Academy for sneaking a surprise in here somewhere. I know Hawkins may look like another statue might cause her to collapse, but just watch her Poppy and tell me you don’t fall in love with her. And an actress I do not know (Melissa Leo) from a movie I have never heard of (Frozen River)? Let’s just say that performance is something I’m going to have to see! Also a nice move: Choosing Winslet’s better performance of the year to actually enter the race.
Supporting Actresses—Without the list, I’m not sure I could come up with five picks. Even with it, I’m not sure who to pick. Tipping the scale, however—Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henderson. Neither of their roles may be huge, but drawing almost more attention with their performances than the rest of their star studded casts definitely says something.
Director—Surprise! Best Director follows Best Picture. See above, although here, I might have made a switch to include Revolutionary Road.