A few thoughts on the nominees in the major categories this year...
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button picked up a whopping 13 nominations, many of the them in the highest profile categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay). Cheers to Taraji P. Henson for her nomination as Best Supporting Actress - she took a woefully underwritten role and turned in a great performance - but there isn't much else in this tepid picture to merit these nominations. The film's screenwriter, Eric Roth, won an Oscar for his Forrest Gump script. Lucky for him, Hollywood still loves a sentimental story about a man-child and his free-spirited love, who must be punished for daring to go off and live her dreams.
I was pleased that Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei both got acting nods for The Wrestler. The film is one of the most striking explorations of masculinity I've ever seen, and Mickey Rourke deserves high praise for his work. But I would have been disappointed if Marisa Tomei had not been nominated as well, because her performance as a woman in a profession that is as gendered and as physical as Rourke's is just as impressive.
All around great, great news for Milk.
Even better news for Anne Hathaway (and her many fans on this blog): looks like the Bride Wars disaster may not end up sinking her Oscar chances for Best Actress in Rachel Getting Married, after all.
The Reader, a contentious film featuring Kate Winslet's equally contentious performance, picked up a surprising number of nods. An even bigger surprise is that neither she nor Leonardo DiCaprio won were nominated for Revolutionary Road.
What a joy to see Courtney Hunt nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Frozen River, and actress Melissa Leo nominated for her performance in it. Hunt is the only woman nominated in either writing or directing categories. She's not going to win, but this is a big victory for such a small, amazing film. It does not, however, make up for the fact that Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams' work on Wendy and Lucy went completely ignored.
Finally, I wonder about the implications of the nomination of Robert Downey, Jr. for Best Supporting Actor in Tropic Thunder. Downey's performance as an actor who dons blackface was largely viewed as smart and sophisticated satire by most of the critical world, and it's a performance that undoubtedly benefits both from Downey's reputation as one of the best actors of his generation and the performance's proximity to other less intelligently rendered characters (Tom Cruise's Less Grossman was an offensive, gross caricature; Ben Stiller's Simple Jack satire made its point about Hollywood treatment of disability issues, but couldn't restrain itself from trading on its own disability jokes). But it's an interesting choice to elevate and honor a performance that uses blackface as the mechanism for its satire. I wonder what - if any - implications this will have on Hollywood filmmaking.
Of course, there's a lot more to be said about the Oscar nominations as well as everyone who didn't get nominated. What do you think about this year's crop of Oscar nominations?