Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reverend's Reaction: 2011 Oscar Nominations

Nostalgia will reign supreme at this year's Academy Awards, judging by the number of backwards-glancing movies announced Tuesday as nominees. The World War I boy-and-his-steed epic War Horse, the valentines to cinema's early years Hugo and The Artist, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (itself a tribute to/critique of nostalgia), and historical dramas The Help, My Week With Marilyn, Albert Nobbs and The Iron Lady fairly predictably dominated the nominations.

I was disappointed that Tilda Swinton's powerful turn in We Need to Talk About Kevin wasn't recognized, as well as by the Academy's neglect of Leonardo DiCaprio's closet-case incarnation of J. Edgar, which was shut out completely. I'm delighted that Terrence Malick trumped both Steven Spielberg and Stephen Daldry among Best Director finalists for his masterful The Tree of Life. Other pleasant surprises for me included the multiple nods for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Best Actor, Screenplay and Score), the phenomenal Jessica Chastain's nomination for The Help, Nick Nolte's inclusion in the Supporting Actor category for the criminally under-seen Warrior, the recognition of J.C. Chandor's smart Margin Call screenplay, and the wonderful Animated Feature nominee Chico & Rita.

But the biggest surprise out of this year's nominations for pretty much everyone is the incredibly weak Original Song category, which consists of a whopping two contenders. For the past six years, best song submissions have to score above a certain percentage as rated by the music branch's members in order to be nominated. Out of more than 80 songs from 2011 releases considered, only "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets and a song from the animated Rio passed muster. What about the delightful, instantly memorable "Life's a Happy Song" from the Muppets' big-screen revival, or the Glenn Close-penned lullaby "Lay Your Head Down" from the genderbending Nobbs, or -- perhaps the most egregious omission -- "The Living Proof" from The Help. With apparently so few qualifying songs in recent years, I believe the time has come for this Academy branch to either relax its criteria somewhat or (gasp) do away with the category altogether.

If the Academy is truly about quality and justice, The Tree of Life, Moneyball or The Descendants will win the Oscar for Best Picture over enjoyable but overrated front runner, The Artist. Well, maybe they'll get it right when next year's 85th annual Academy Awards roll around.

The 84th Annual Academy Awards will be held and televised on Sunday, February 26th.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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