A Slice of Fried Gold

2010 Oscar Nominations: My Thoughts

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
2010 marks the first year that the Academy would be awarding ten Best Picture nominations rather than the traditional five. The thought behind this was that ratings were sinking faster than the Titanic (actual ship, not the film - that thing had legs) and that the best way to get your Average Joe to care was to give them some movies that they actually like (how many of your friends were stoked about There Will Be Blood or Atonement?).

And it worked...mostly. The ten nominees are for the most part the best in film that I saw in 2010, with one wildly incorrect nomination in the midst. I've actually managed to see nine of the ten nominees this year.

I'm going to go through each Best Picture nominee and share my thoughts, along with each film's nomination count and my personal ranking.

Avatar (9 nominations, #8 on my list): This is the 800 pound gorilla of all. It's destroying box office records, it has insane buzz, and it has James Cameron's name behind it. Has to be considered the front runner, even though there is a strong contingent of backlash coming it's way. A very, very well made film that is perhaps being overrated by its masterful visuals.

The Hurt Locker (9 nominations, #7): Co-leader for nominations, Kathryn Bigelow's film is perhaps the most tense and well made film of all. It features numerous high caliber performances which resulted in just one nomination (Jeremy Renner!), as well as some of the best cinematography and editing of the year. If I had to bet on a winner, this would be it.

Inglourious Basterds (8 nominations, #3): Could this be the time Quentin Tarantino gets an Oscar win? It is his best shot yet, as many people think this is the first time his substance matched his style. From what I'm hearing buzz is rising on this, and with good reason: of the most likely winners, this is my favorite candidate by far. I'd love it if Basterds won.

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (6 nominations, have not seen): Haven't seen it, but I think this film will likely not connect with wide enough of an audience to win. However, the lead performances are supposedly so superb, who knows.

Up in the Air (6 nominations, #4): Never discount the Jason Reitman/George Clooney collaboration, as it was once upon a time the frontrunner for Best Picture. It started strong, met some resistance, and could possibly swing back for a big push right before the show. That's the way things work sometimes. I would not be the least bit disappointed if this won, as I connected with it thoroughly.

A Serious Man (2 nominations, just missed the cut): The real indie feel film that had to make it in, plus it gives the Coen Brothers some love. This is a good, not great, Coen Brothers film. Often deeply funny and heightened by a masterful lead performance by Michael Stuhlbarg (how he wasn't nominated I have no idea), it is lessened by a narrative that is perhaps a bit aimless and anti-climactic.

Up (5 nominations, tied for #1): Yes! Yes! Yes! If this had not gotten nominated, I may have started some sort of petition or riot - whichever would get more attention. This was one of my co-favorite films of the year and perhaps the greatest film in the oeuvre of Pixar. I mean come on, it features a five minute silent section towards the beginning that confronts love, marriage, miscarriage, loss, death, and more with just stunning visuals and Michael Giacchino's gorgeous score to carry it. And this is an animated family film! I want this to win, but I know this was more of a courtesy nomination than anything.

An Education (3 nominations, #10): A sublimely acted film that was directed by the writer of the novel it's based off of and adapted by a brilliant and well loved novelist. Yeah, that works. Highlighted by Carey Mulligan's bravura performance (she should be the front runner in my book), this film is a funny and well crafted one, and one that is blessed with true emotional acuity.

District 9 (4 nominations, #6): This film brought the third biggest response out of me, behind only Up and the following film. Why? It's some of the best sci-fi in recent memory, as Neill Blomkamp crafted an innovative and stunning film with a cast of unknowns and the bargain basement cost of $30 million (how did we get to that being bargain basement?). This was the true sci-fi nod, getting it over massive crowd pleaser Star Trek simply because it's a better film. So glad this earned a nomination.

The Blind Side (2 nominations, ummm...what?): This film elicited my second biggest response, and that is because I was completely shocked. I guess I shouldn't be given its nature as a huge crowd pleaser and a come from nowhere hit, but come on: did they even watch this? It's a fairly average film in which I left the theater thinking "that was decent, but I really could have waited for DVD." It's a blatant tear jerker highlighted by a strong performance from Sandra Bullock, but really, there isn't a lot that separates this from manipulative and warm-hearted films from years past like "We Are Marshall", except those films never get nominations for one simple fact - they aren't good enough.

So there that is. I'd say the first three I listed have by far the best odds, and if I was going to pick a dark horse contender it would have to be Up. While I know it's not likely, it's such a well crafted film that perhaps there could be a rise of sentiment in one contingent of the Academy to help it win. Who knows? That's the fun thing about this new formula - it's such a crapshoot, it really is anyone's game.

Even Sandra Bullock's.


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