Analysis: Oscar continues to surprise in big and small ways

01.24.12 6 years ago 30 Comments

Warner Bros.

Somewhere in the offices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Oscar is fixing himself a stiff drink and thinking to himself, “You thought you knew it all. You thought I couldn’t surprise you. How wrong you were.”

Of course, the idea that this pundit would think there is a collective consciousness of the 5,782 Academy members manifesting itself to contemplate such thoughts is probably more of a sign of the insanely early hour AMPAS continues to insist on announcing these nominations, the high altitude of Park City, Utah or an increasingly annoying flu bug. But, I digress…  While not all my peers will agree with me, the Academy featured surprises in almost every category including some shocking omissions along the way.  There will be a lot of time to dissect the choices over the following weeks, but here are some initial thoughts on this morning’s 84th Academy Awards nominations.

So much for new rules: 9 Best Picture nominations
There is no one, no one who covers the Oscars, consults or works for a major studio in the hunt that ever thought there would be nine nominees this year. The hope was for seven and the new 5% rule seemed to make that a difficult plateau to reach. Instead, the membership showed a lot of splintered support and delivered only one less nominee than the year before. Is this what the vocal minority who were against the 10 and forced the change were expecting?  Not really.  

We love “Bridesmaids,” but not that much
The actors gave Melissa McCarthy a well-deserved nomination and Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo an original screenplay honor, but the blockbuster comedy couldn’t crack what turned out to be a nine nominee field.  Still, would anyone have dreamed of this last June?

Really music branch? Really?
Two original song nominations.  Just two.  One for “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” and the second for “Real in Rio” from “Rio.” To say that the current rules for this category aren’t working is a major understatement.

Lots of “(Blank) got robbed” this year

Where should we start? Albert Brooks in supporting (shame on you Academy for giving “Drive” just a sound nod), Michael Fassbender in leading actor, Tilda Swinton in leading actress, Thomas McCarthy (“Win Win”) and Will Reiser (“50/50”) in original screenplay, “Project Nim” in documentary (that deserves a “wow” too), Shailene Woodley in supporting actress and “Tinker Tailor” for art direction are just some of the omissions we can’t wrap our heads around this morning.  On the other hand…

It’s about time
No one is more ecstatic this morning than this movie fan that Gary Oldman finally got a well-deserved Oscar nod for “Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy.”  Of course, the picture should have gotten in too, but it would have been a crime if Oldman delivered another stellar turn with no Oscar recognition.

Pixar and Disney get swatted
Disney and John Lasseter tried to stuff “Cars 2” down their throats in both the press and in trade ads, but the Academy’s animation branch weren’t intimidated and dismissed the critically lambasted Pixar film (the first not to receive a nod since the category began).  Shockingly, they also said no to the nicely rendered “Winnie the Pooh.”

No love for Motion Capture yet
Not only did Andy Serkis not find himself in the best supporting actor five (admirable work Fox in trying), but “The Adventures of Tintin” couldn’t land a best animated feature nomination.  The latter was the animation branch clearly rejecting Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s mo-cap baby while they had supported “Monster House” five years ago. This one is gonna take time.

Malick does it again with “The Tree of Life”
No major guild nominations. No major end of year best picture critics groups salutations.  And when the nominations were announced this morning, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” had three nominations including best picture, best director and best cinematography.  It’s 1999 all over again.

Never bet against Steven Daldry…sort of
Who does Oscar love?  Steven Daldry.  “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” overcame mixed to negative reviews (a 46 on Metacritic) to make the top nine nominated films and provide the legendary Max Von Sydow his first second Academy Award nomination.  Of course, Daldry broke his own personal string of three best director nominations in a row (“Billy Elliott,” “The Hours,” “The Reader”), but he’ll no doubt take these two surprise honors instead.

The year of the polarizing film (2011) reared its ugly head
“Young Adult,” “Shame,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and even “Drive” were just to much for the Academy membership to handle in any category. The organization has worked hard to bring in younger members into the fold, but conservative tastes held the line this year.  And again, in Fassbender’s case in particular, it’s quite a disappointing result.

What did you think of this year’s Academy Awards nominations?  Share your thoughts below. Or, better sound off in our Oscars message boards.

For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

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