Here are this year’s Academy Award nominations. Discussion follows.
“Don’t Tell,” Italy
“Joyeux Noel,” France
“Paradise Now,” Palestine
“Sophie Scholl – The Final Days,” Germany
“Tsotsi,” South Africa.
Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, “Brokeback Mountain”
Dan Futterman, “Capote”
Jeffrey Caine, “The Constant Gardener”
Josh Olson, “A History of Violence”
Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, “Munich”
Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, “Crash”
George Clooney & Grant Heslov, “Good Night, and Good Luck”
Woody Allen, “Match Point”
Noah Baumbach, “The Squid and the Whale”
Stephen Gaghan, “Syriana”
“In the Deep” from “Crash,” Kathleen ‘Bird’ York and Michael Becker
“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow,” Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard
“Travelin’ Thru” from “Transamerica,” Dolly Parton
Documentary (short subject):
“The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club”
“God Sleeps in Rwanda”
“The Mushroom Club”
“A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin”
Animated Short Film:
“The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation”
“The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello”
“One Man Band”
Live Action Short Film:
“Ausreisser (The Runaway)”
“The Last Farm”
“Our Time Is Up”
There are a few disappointments here, and a few surprises, but nothing that makes me cry or scream or despair. “Brokeback Mountain” tops the list with eight nominations, which is a fairly average number for the top film to have. The five Best Picture nominees match up with the five Best Director nominees (for the first time since 1981), meaning there were no Best Pictures that somehow directed themselves, or Best Directors whose movies somehow failed to be among the best pictures.
In other words, this is a pretty ordinary, unsurprising list of Oscar nominations.
Nonetheless, some observations:
Among the feature documentaries, I have only seen three; the other two are obscure. “Street Fight,” about a 2002 mayoral campaign in which an upstart tried to unseat a long-time leader, has only played in a few cities, none of them L.A. or New York (except its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival). “Darwin’s Nightmare” has been shown only slightly more extensively. And what about “Grizzly Man”? Not even an option. The documentary wing of the Academy made its list of 15 films that it considered good enough to be possible nominees, and “Grizzly Man” wasn’t on it.
Only a makeup nomination for “Revenge of the Sith”? The “Star Wars” films don’t generally get acting nods, but their technical achievements usually get noticed. Strange to omit it this year, when it’s finally the last one.
Like last year, the five Best Picture nominees are not box-office blockbusters. The most lucrative so far is “Crash” at $53 million, though “Brokeback Mountain” will pass that mark this weekend. The five top grossers for 2005 were, in order, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “War of the Worlds” and “King Kong.” Those are mostly good films, but the only people who would consider them the five BEST films of the year are people who haven’t seen “Munich” or “Brokeback Mountain” or “A History of Violence” (to name a few).
The top-grossing film of the year often gets nominated for Best Picture, but it seldom wins. “Titanic” (1997), “Forrest Gump” (1994) and “Rain Man” (1988) are the only three to accomplish that double-dip — top-grosser and Best Picture winner — since 1980.
The Paul Giamatti nomination is clearly an apology for NOT nominating him for “Sideways” or “American Splendor.” His performance in “Cinderella Man” is fine, but it never would have been noticed were it not for the prior snubs.
Keira Knightley? She’s pretty good in “Pride & Prejudice” — far better than anyone ever expected — but it’s a shame Joan Allen couldn’t have gotten that spot for “The Upside of Anger” instead. For that matter, it’s a shame Judi Dench got ANOTHER nomination, this time for an unremarkable movie in which her performance is equally unremarkable.
It’s nice to see the choices for Animated Film, none of which were computer-animated or called “Madagascar.”
This is the first year since I began reviewing films (1999) that I have seen NONE of the Foreign Language nominees. (A few are playing at the Portland International Film Festival in February, so perhaps I’ll see them before the Oscars.) But it’s hardly my fault: The only one that’s played in the United States at all so far is “Paradise Now.” So I guess it’s my fault for not seeing that one, but the other four, I take no responsibility for.
Finally, my friend and colleague Erik Childress has compiled a lot of interesting trivia about this year’s nominees at EFilmCritic.com. I recommend his article to you if you are interested in this sort of thing.