Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oscar Nominations!

At this year's Academy Awards Hollywood decides to celebrate itself.

That is actually a bit of a redundant statement considering the Academy Awards is in itself a celebration of Hollywood but, what I mean is, this year's nominees are a look back on Hollywood's history.

The two leading nominees at this year's 84th annual Academy Awards are Martin Scorsese's "Hugo", with 11 nominations and the French silent film, "The Artist" with 10 nominations.

Those movies look at the early days of Hollywood. In the case of "Hugo", the film looks back on the career of Georges Melies, an important filmmaker in the early 1900s. "The Artist" takes place in 1927 and is about Hollywood's transition from silent films to "talkies", sound pictures. And how this move affected certain silent movie stars.

When I made my "top ten" list last year (which "The Artist" placed number two on) I made a subtle argument that 2011 was about a yearning for the past. Films like "Hugo", "The Artist" and even Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" (which is up for four Oscar nominations and was at the top of my "top ten" list) prove this point. But socially there is also a desire to go back in time. Politically look at the "tea party" movement. They repeatedly say they want their country back. Some liberal commentators believe there is a racial component to these comments but, I think what they mean is, they want to go back to a time when America had a balanced budget, when this country had a surplus. Unfortunately, for the "tea party", a Democrat (Bill Clinton) was in office the last time that happened.

But when you add these things up they all lead to a hope that we can go back in time. Almost all nine of the "Best Picture" nominees take place in the past. Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" takes place during WW1, Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life" even goes back to the big bang theory, and "The Help" takes place in the 1960s.

Of the nine nominees, I have seen seven of them. The two I haven't seen are "Moneyball" and "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (which only recently opened in Chicago). Of the seven I have seen, I only really disliked "War Horse" and "The Help". Three of the nominees even made my "top ten" list; "The Artist", "The Descendants" and "Midnight in Paris".

With every year there are surprise nominations and surprise snubs. This year they include "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" which most film critics did not like. Ben Kingsley wasn't nominated for "Hugo" A real shame! "Cars 2" wasn't nominated in the "Animated Feature Film" category. Neither was Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tin-tin". Two big mistakes. A lot of people are unhappy Michael Fassbinder wasn't nominated for "Shame" or that the film or its director, Steve McQueen, wasn't nominated (I am not among those, as I really didn't like that movie). Personally I can't figure out why Melissa McCarthy was nominated for "Bridesmaids", which wasn't a bad movie, just incredibly over-hyped in my opinion.

Overall I'm not upset about this year's nominations. I might even watch the show this year, which is being hosted by Billy Crystal. Something I haven't done in a decade. The Oscar telecast will air February 26 on ABC.

For a full list of this year's nominees click here: