-2011 Oscar Nominations–My Thoughts

Would you rather be loved or respected? Seems that will be the key question on Oscar night, as the race for Best Picture seems to be whittled down to a competition between the beloved crowd pleaser The King’s Speech and the critically acclaimed The Social Network. It’s now a real horserace. The Social Network seemed to have it locked up a couple of months ago, as it swept all major critics awards for the first time in history, but The King’s Speech stuck around and has made a comeback, thanks to the Guilds and the Golden Globes—and the fact that people just LOVE the movie (including me). The real frontrunner could be decided by the SAGs this Sunday, for whichever film gets the coveted Best Ensemble award will definitely have the edge.

Technically, though, The King’s Speech should have the edge, having racked up the most Oscar nominations, with 12. The Social Network didn’t even have the second-most nominations, as True Grit was the runner-up with 10. The Social Network and Inception both garnered 8 nominations.

The big shocker of the morning was no Best Director nod for Christopher Nolan for Inception. Instead, the Academy nominated the Coen Brothers for True Grit, which could signal an actual 3-way race for Best Picture, although I can’t imagine then Coens winning so soon after No Country For Old Men.

It is a key point to note that Inception was left out of two key artistic nominations: Best Director and Best Editing. For a film that is as complex, brainy, technical and layered as Inception is (elements for a Best Picture contender that would normally nail Director and Editing nods), the Academy sent a clear message that they felt the execution might not have been as strong as the concept (it was nominated for screenplay), a feeling I heartily agree with.

Much more shocking, at least for me, was the omission of two high-profile documentaries, Waiting for Superman and The Pat Tillman Story. Instead, the Academy nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film made by an urban outlaw (Banksy) which may not even be a true documentary. This totally breaks from the traditional fare the documentary branch normally honors—it’s unusual and absolutely awesome. And, of course, makes you wonder….will he show up?

Also awesome is the nomination for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for their The Social Network score. There obviously wasn’t a Social Network sweep, so this nomination can’t be considered a coattails nod, which adds even more of a shock element for this nomination to come from the usually staid and insular film composer branch of the Academy. There’s no way Reznor and Ross will win, but the nomination is wonderful enough. Too bad Daft Punk were left out for Tron: Legacy. That would have been too much to hope for.

Clint Eastwood has directed 8 films in the past 7 years and only Gran Torino (in 2008) did not garner an Oscar nomination or a win. Hereafter continues his streak of possibly being the most beloved director in Hollywood, as it got a surprising nod for Best Visual Effects.

I was happy to see Michelle Williams nominated for Best Actress for Blue Valentine. Hated the movie, but love her. I was afraid that Carey Mulligan would usurp her career, but Williams is making all the right choices and she deserves all the praise.

Black Swan didn’t get nearly as many nominations as everyone thought it would and that pleases me. Shut outs in Supporting Actress and Screenplay signal that there may not be the widespread support everyone thought. I personally think the movie is way over-rated. I love Natalie Portman, but this tells us we’ve got a real race for Best Actress. Annette Bening just may ride the wave of anti-Black Swan sentiment right up to the podium.

I loved that the Academy was able to recognize good work in a film that was critically panned. Seeing Tim Burton’s excellent artistry honored for Alice in Wonderland (nominated for Costumes, Visual Effects and Art Direction) was delightful.

Unfortunately, this also means other bad movies can get nominated, and it is sad to say that we can now call Iron Man 2 (Visual Effects), Unstoppable (Sound Editing), The Wolfman (Makeup), Salt (Sound Mixing), and Country Strong (Best Song) all Oscar-nominated movies. There’s something very disturbing about that.

Overall, though, there weren’t too many surprises or disappointments. It was the weakest year in recent history for the movies, so Oscar didn’t really have much to choose from. But there are some pretty good races heating up, including Best Picture and Best Actress, so it will be fun to watch over the next month.

To see the full list of nominations, click here.

See you on February 27!

Wondering how I did with my predictions? Overall, I predicted 45 out of 53 nominations correctly. But if you take out the Best Documentary category (in which I only got 2 of the 5 correct), I was 43-for-48, including all 10 supporting acting nominations (including 2 long shots in John Hawkes and Jacki Weaver). Not too bad. Click here to see my predictions.