Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Comment: Oscar Nominations

Oscar gets all nostalgic and plucky Brits do well in a surprising list of nominations

I really must apologise to the neighbours, because when Gary Oldman’s name was read out as an Oscar nominee for Best Actor I gave an almighty cry of “Yes!”. After weeks of being snubbed by awards bodies in the States, though the BAFTAs were far more appreciative of one of the finest films of last year, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy finally got some recognition. Okay: three nominations is not enough in my estimation, but it is more than I was hoping for.

It was the pleasantest of surprises in a press conference full of little shocks, some good some bad. Let us get the good news out of the way. As expected, The Artist solidified its front-runner status by picking up 10 nominations, putting it behind only Hugo, which took 11. There was also a strong showing for Alexander Payne’s wonderful The Descendants which picked up five nominations. Also, the Academy didn’t recognise some films which have been doing disproportionately well. Most notably, George Clooney’s directorial effort, The Ides of March, only picked up one nomination for its screenplay.

It was also nice to see the sheer quality of names in the Best Supporting Actor category, some of whom are real veterans. Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Nick Nolte (Warrior) and Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) all picked up nominations. I am yet to see von Sydow’s performance (the film is released on the 17th February), but the other two were fantastic and it was great to see them recognised.

In fact, the presence of these golden oldies is part of a generally nostalgic feel that the Academy’s picks have this year. Both The Artist and Hugo hark back to the earliest years of cinema, and in the Best Director category we have three men who made their names as directors in the 1970s or earlier in the form of Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) and Woody Allen, who’s nominated for Midnight in Paris (which is also up for Best Picture), a film which is all about nostalgia. Has Oscar got a little misty-eyed this year?

I have mentioned Terrence Malick and The Tree of Life and so now I must confront this unwieldy, uninteresting, seemingly unending behemoth. I did not get The Tree of Life and found it tedious, pretentious and pretty weightless. So, for every whoop I gave for Tinker Tailor’s success, I gave a groan as Malick and his film were nominated for Best Director and Best Picture. I don’t hate the film or Malick. I simply find this particular piece to be wildly overrated and was disappointed to see it get this, in my opinion, undeserved recognition.

Other shockers from the Academy include no Tilda Swinton nomination for her brilliant, subtle performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin. There was no recognition for Shailene Woodley’s performance in The Descendants, or Vanessa Redgrave’s amazing work in Coriolanus, or the brilliant score for Drive. Furthermore, there is no Senna in the Best Documentary category, though we have known this would be so for a while as the film wasn’t even longlisted. For shame, Oscar.

However, I would, on the whole, like to praise the Academy for the nature of this list. There are a lot of films here which wouldn’t normally get a look in, particularly in the Animated Feature category which has eschewed Tintin entirely and gone for at least some more esoteric fare, such as the Spanish/British co-production Chico & Rita.

Some categories seem to be pretty open. Supporting Actress has no clear front runner, though Béréncie Bejo would have to be the favourite for The Artist. Supporting Actor could be won by any of the nominees, though the Leading Performance categories are a little simpler. Meryl Streep will win for The Iron Lady and deservedly so, whilst George Clooney is the narrow favourite for Best Actor for his performance in The Descendant, though The Artist’s Jean Dujardin may snatch it from him.

After the nominations, it does look like the night of February 26th is going to be a good one for The Artist. Though I have a suspicion that Martin Scorsese may win the Best Director gong ahead of Michel Hazanavicius, the latter’s black-and-white silent film should walk away with the Best Picture prize. It doesn’t look like it will be a good night for British talent, but on this day we have done better than expected. It was a vintage year for British film, and today’s recognition, modest though it may be, should be celebrated.

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