Obligatory Oscar Nominations Commentary

January 31, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

Since I'm a film critic, I'm duty bound to write something about the Oscar nominations. I'm not going to go through them one-by-one as if I'm working my way down a shopping list. As long-time readers are aware, few things bore me more than the Academy Awards, but in recognition of their importance in the industry, I can't pretend they don't exist (the way I do with other awards shows). So consider this to be an obligatory column.

"Predictable" is the word that comes to mind when examining this year's roster of nominees. Out of the Big 20 (Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress), I predicted 18, and I'm not a guru. The only ones I missed were Munich for Best Picture (I had Walk the Line instead) and Terrence Howard for Lead Actor (Russell Crowe instead, although I had a lot of trouble figuring out the fifth name in the category after getting past the other slam-dunk four). Predictable awards shows make for boring awards shows - as if the Oscars could get more sleep-inducing. Jon Stewart has his work cut out for him to spice things up to keep the audience awake and interested.

It's interesting to note that the Best Director nominees tracked the Best Picture nominees. Normally, there's an odd man out, but not this year. My prediction was that James Mangold would be the odd man out, replaced by Spielberg. Of course, since Munich got the nod over Walk the Line, that made my Director predictions right, but not my Picture ones.

Who's going to win? I'll bet my monthly film critic's paycheck on Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Reese Witherspoon. I know, it's not going out on a limb. The Supporting categories are more interesting because the favorites aren't as clear-cut. I won't predict these now, since I need to keep my ear to the ground and hear the buzz.

Who would I like to win? How about Munich, Spielberg, Hoffman, and Knightley. Add Dillon and Williams in the Supporting categories. In the documentary category, I would love to see the Enron film capture the statue, because that would assure it a wider audience. The mediocre March of the Penguins, with its inspid Morgan Freeman voiceover (giving human feelings to birds), will probably emerge victorious. Who would give the more interesting acceptance speech, though?

So Paul Giamatti finally gets his long-deserved Oscar nomination, after having been lauded by almost every other society on the face of the planet. I guess the third time's the charm (after American Splendor and Sideways). But will he be one of those guys for whom the nomination will be the honor?

That's all I have to say. It's not much, I know, but how many ways can you spin these nominations? I wish I could generate a little more excitement or enthusiasm, but the nominations are what they are. I have long since given up expressing outrage over omissions (like Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger or Gwyneth Paltrow in Proof) or undesereved inclusions (Hurt, Rachel Weisz). Politics plays as big a part as merit when it comes to nominations and victories.

So all hail Brokeback Mountain! Why bother waiting a month for the coronation when the results aren't in doubt?