As usual, subjecting myself to 15 minutes of E! feels like way too many brain cells have died, but it's the sacrifice I make on Oscar nomination morning. I still need to digest and look at the full list of nominees, but here are some quick thoughts:
The Good: If there is any justice in the Academy Awards world, There Will Be Blood will sweep the big four awards for which it received nominations, however the only true lock I anticipate is Daniel Day-Lewis' pending Best Actor win. I am encouraged, however, that both Blood and No Country for Old Men tied for the lead in nominations with eight each.
I also was pleasantly surprised to see Ratatouille not just receive its expected Best Animated Film nomination but also a Best Screenplay nomination. Even though it won't win, in a field where its competition is Juno, Michael Clayton, Lars and the Real Girl and The Savages, Ratatouille arguably deserves the prize.
The Bad and The Ugly: This seemed like a better idea when I first thought of separating things this way, but instead, I'm probably just tired. Still, I've discovered over the past few years that the Academy loves to drive me crazy (granted, I'm sure my reaction is not foremost on their mind) by nominating more than one film that really truly doesn't belong there.
Babel, Crash and Capone top the list from the past two year with Crash still holding on to most overrated film in recent memory thanks to its Oscar win. This year, the prize for most overrated looks to be a neck-and-neck race between Michael Clayton and Juno. In my own way, I'm less disturbed by the Best Picture nominations each film received as the Best Screenplay and Best Director honors. Neither deserve to be considered one of the top five films of the year, and once again one has to marvel at the Academy's ability to always split one Best Director-Best Picture combo slot between two films. Considering that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Atonement are both better than Michael Clayton and Juno, it's quite curious to me that Julian Schnabel received a director nomination for a movie not good enough for the top five and Atonement was apparently directed by nobody. I know, I know ... the two categories don't necessarily have to match-up, especially between its winners, but generally ... they should.
More important, though, Michael Clayton would currently win my most overrated prize. I know many really like the film -- hence the over in front of the "rated" -- and I understand some of its appeal. But the Best Director nod to Tony Gilroy is downright appalling. Michael Clayton survives primarily on its performances and a feel-good, feel-bad story (if that makes any sense). But Gilroy's direction is sloppy at best and virtually incompetent at worst.
Juno is better, and I certainly enjoyed it, but I fall firmly in the camp that thinks the film has received a bit more hype than deserved. The movie is a huge step for Jason Reitman, much better constructed than his previously overlauded Thank You For Smoking, but he doesn't belong in the same room -- let alone nomination list -- with Paul Thomas Anderson, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen or Schnabel. And as for Diablo Cody apparently being the greatest writer to hit Hollywood since Billy Wilder ... oh wait a second. Juno is a crossover success, so I guess she hasn't hit Hollywood yet, right? Of course, as many have written, there's nothing crossover about Juno. Nevertheless, Cody's screenplay is fun and generally well-written, but being a stripper before writing your screenplay should not earn you an Oscar, and yet, that seems to be what anybody ever mentioning her or now this nomination seems to mention first so obviously, that's what's best about her work, right?
Of course, not, and that may not be fair to Cody, but judging the writing simply on the writing, it's good - even very good -- but not great. Sarcasm and irony walks a very fine line in this kind of comedy -- one that Aaron Sorkin has destroyed so that he now finds himself falling uncontrollably down a bottomless pit of quippiness -- and Cody doesn't always tread it lightly enough, nor does she develop all her characters to a complete enough conclusion. Yes, the Juno character -- and Ellen Page's performance -- are what hold this film together, but the rest of the characters -- with some great performances notwithstanding, particularly from Michael Cera -- actually are relatively flat.
THIS JUST IN: THE NEW UGLY: No Best Original Score nomination for Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood. That's not a snub; that's a crime!
More later ....