Envelope, Please

Posted on January 26, 2011 by


“It’s an honor to be nominated.” Are we sure about that? The 83rd Academy Award nominations, dissected.

By Anna Wiegenstein

They’re probably checking out Oscars.org right now.

It’s a day that I’ve consistently marked on my calendar as soon as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announces its schedule – nomination time, also known as the moment when we all reflect over the past year in film and immediately begin bitching about what a sham it is to judge a work of art by the amount of statues it can rack up.

The full list of nominees can be found here (with sci-tech awards here), but long story short: The King’s Speech surprisingly pulled the highest total (12) with the Coen brothersTrue Grit garnering 10 after its ridiculous lock-out of the Golden Globes.

Aside from comparing numbers, it’s been noted by others that the Oscar nods for 2011 seem awfully familiar, considering the same names have been bandied about since at least late summer. For something new to hash over, it’s worth checking out the Independent Spirit Awards categories— the “cool Oscars” tend to point out numerous small films overlooked by AMPAS, most notably Get Low and Greenberg. It may be at the Indie Spirit ceremony that The Kids Are All Right truly scores, given the difficulty presented by running lower-key movies alongside something as bombastic as True Grit for the big Oscar showdown.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, super excited to paint each other's toenails and watch the Oscar debate unfold.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the numerous categories where The Social Network is competing. The King’s Speech, 127 Hours and Black Swan were automatically pegged as award contenders due to the sheer level of physicality in pulling the films off. Meanwhile, millions of people (myself included) watched “The Facebook Movie starring Justin Timberlake and Michael Cera, Jr.” get closer and closer to release without a clue as to what to expect.

Miraculously (though perhaps I was wrong to ever doubt­), David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin crafted a story about much more than a website, one that I have no problem seeing – or seeing awarded – over and over again. The film is an exercise in minimalism, from the striking score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to the cold self-restraint in Jesse Eisenberg’s leading performance.

On Toy Story 3's Best Picture Nomination: My fingers are losing circulation from being crossed so hard, guys.

Colin Firth’s work this year in creating King George VI’s convincing stammer was fantastic on a purely technical level, while Eisenberg’s energy is focused entirely inward, even while he’s in the process of losing his best friend. And, okay, I may have included that scene to express my woe at Andrew Garfield’s absence in the Supporting Actor category. Given that he’s the core of the emotional betrayal that comprises The Social Network, it’s a shame to see him excluded.

(Incidentally, Catfish, one of my favorite 2010 films, was forgotten long before award season began. Its blend of maybe-factual, maybe-drama documentary style seen in another of Anna’s-Best-Of-2010 entries, and the extreme emphasis put on the effect of Facebook on personal connection seems oddly prescient now.)

Now, the curious case of Inception. If it’s tricky to compare films like The Social Network to Toy Story 3 (which I am thrilled to see amongst the Best Picture nominees, despite my sinking feeling that it will inevitably have a WALL-E-esque result), Inception throws a unique wrench into the proceedings, and not just with its status as straight-up sci-fi.

This moment: apparently achieved without direction or editing.

As its plot makes clear, the film is about a concept. Everything else in the picture exists to showcase Christopher Nolan’s fantastic dreamscape ideas, rendering the performances moot. (I favored Leonardo DiCaprio in his other dead-wife-weird-dream flick this year, Hahvahd Yahd accent and all.) A snub for Nolan in the directing category is a major misstep, but the real question is: Can a brilliant seed of an idea be enough to award an entire screenplay? Inception is nothing if not original, but as a whole there’s a significant chance that it’ll lose to the lived-in feel of The Kids Are All Right.

P.S. Oh, I’m sorry, was there something else that happened yesterday? Huh. Must not be that important if I can’t remember, right?

– Anna Wiegenstein