Oscar Nominations

It's too early to do Oscar predictions, though I felt pretty confident looking at the list that I could nail a good number of them this year. What's the goal I've set for myself? 75%? I can get there. Oscar Predictions coming in three weeks!

Ooh, that reminds me: apparently the Golden Globes are still pretty messy in terms of voting process, so it enables companies to buy up awards, because the Hollywood Foreign Press isn't the most... ethical voting group around (gasp!). So that explains victories like Anna Paquin and Gabriel Byrne. Whew. I thought everyone had just gone crazy (I talked about this in my live Golden Globes blog, which you did not read).

Instead, after Oscar noms, it's most appropriate to play "who was snubbed this year?" And the answer's pretty obvious: The Dark Knight got screwed. Garnering 8 nominations but not a Best Picture nod - almost a record - is a pretty clear indication that the Academy wanted to give them recognition but couldn't bear the thought of a comic book film being nominated for Best Picture. And there's something to be said for keeping the Oscars a place for serious, daring work - but isn't that the definition of what The Dark Knight was?

Let's do something fun for a second. Let me rank, without looking at anything, the Best Picture Nominees in order of how much I think they deserved this status:

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Milk

3. Frost/Nixon
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. The Reader

Now, let me list the five nominees I would have picked, in order:

1. Slumdog Millionaire

2. Milk

3. The Dark Knight
4. Wall-E
5. Frost/Nixon

Let's look at critical consensus on the five Best Picture nominees:

1. Slumdog Millionaire - 95% positive
2. Milk - 93% positive
3. Frost/Nixon -
91% postive
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - 77% positive
5. The Reader -
60% positive

Alright, now let's look at my Best Picture list:

1. Slumdog Millionaire
- 95% positive
2. Milk - 93% positive
3. The Dark Knight - 94% positive
4. Wall-E - 97% positive
5. Frost/Nixon
- 91% postive

Good news: I'm awesome. I was going to run the box office of this list as well, but I realized that wouldn't make a difference - a lot of these films were released to one theater at the end of the year and are just now being released wide. It's an old trick: technically release your film in 2008 to qualify for all the award shows, then release your film to all theaters after you've already been honored as one of the finest films of the year. Smaller films like Slumdog Millionaire probably need the help, since without word-of-mouth buzz, they wouldn't ever gather an audience. Either way, let me grab the two box office numbers that matter: $530 million (The Dark Knight) and $220 million (Wall-E). That's a lot of change.

To sum up: if two films with such overwhelming critical and popular buzz cannot land a Best Picture nod despite not having a strong contender to match up against for one of the final spots (critics are already calling The Reader 'the most overrated movie of the year') simply because their genres are too unrespected, than the Oscars ain't never gonna change. If The Dark Knight can't do it, than no one can.

I watched The Dark Knight again last night, and it's baffling to me how that film is not one of the five finest this year. From the performances to the cinematography to the raw energy to the breathtaking scope, it's simply one of the most completely realized epics I've ever seen.

In terms of other Oscar snubs... well, I'm willing to deal. Anyone who's arguing that Clint Eastwood/Leonardo DiCaprio/Michael Sheen/whoever deserved a nod should remember that this is probably the single best Best Actor pool we've ever had. A bigger snub is the series of Golden Globe winners who didn't land a nomination at the Oscars: Sally Hawkins' win for Best Actress in a Comedy didn't translate into an Oscar nom, though somehow Angelina Jolie snagged a bid again. And biggest of all was Golden Globe winner Bruce Springsteen missing a nomination for Best Song, though somehow Slumdog Millionaire managed to snag two of the three spots (and can someone explain why there are only three spots available in a category like this?) since the Academy changed their rules on nominations in this category from merely frustrating to full-tilt baffling.

Outside of that, there's not too much to have a beef with this year. Kudos for nominations for Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder and France for nominating the sweeter and less-seen The Class over buzzier pieces like Let The Right One In and I've Loved You So Long - though we should point out that it's rare that anyone's debating over what French movie they loved more (weird, right?). It's also nice to see the underappreciated Richard Jenkins get some Best Actor love, and to see Milk get so many nominations after being shut out of the Golden Globes, including a Best Director nod for Gus Van Sant (though, frustratingly, they shut out badass Sam Mendes for Oscar golden boy Steven Daldry).

In the long run, not too bad a list. Though I'm a little worried that the voting might sway away from the more deserving films to honor the less-deserving Benjamin Button in every category except the one it should win: Best Director.

Check back in before the ceremony for the final lowdown.