By now I’m sure you’re aware that Academy Award nominations were announced today. If you’re as big a geek as I am, you’ll notice that the brain trust at the Academy decided to change the format this year. In response to a sharp decline in viewers (a drop of nearly ten million viewers over the last decade), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to expand the field of nominations in the Best Picture category to ten. Although the logic behind the move makes some sense, this move is ultimately silly. For several years, the movies nominated in the best picture category were less than inspiring, if not inclusive (see Atonement, No Country for Old Men). This led many to believe that viewership was down because very few had actually seen many of the movies that were nominated. Expanding the category for Best Picture was a response to that issue. My problem with the move is that it undercuts the spirit of the awards. The Academy Awards are supposed to symbolize the pinnacle of achievement in motion picture. As such, winning an Academy Award shouldn’t be something that is easily attained. Logic would dictate that expanding the field of potential winners makes an Academy Award less exclusive. Having said that, here are a few observations on some of the major categories:
Best Picture: Like last year’s nominees, there are some good but not great choices here. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am a little surprised that The Blind Side was nominated here. Setting that aside, I’m starting to get this sneaking feeling that Avatar will win best picture but who knows. On a positive note, I’m glad to see the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man sneak in here along with District 9. Interestingly, Bodog lists Up in the Air as laying the best odds.
Best Actress: Its probably time I gave the Blind Side a bit more due as it looks like Sandra Bullock is the odds-on favorite here. I’m sure that the incomparable Meryl Streep will garner some consideration, but this appears to be Bullock’s to lose.
Best Actor: I think there are some great choices here. I really enjoyed Morgan Freeman’s performance in Invictus and I loved George Clooney in Up in the Air. Still, Jeff Bridges (or the dude if you’re into the whole brevity thing) appears to be headed for his first Oscar.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds; nuff said.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: I think this one could get interesting. Mo’Nique comes in with some momentum stemming from her Golden Globes win for her role in Precious. But I think Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) may give her a run for her money. Personally, I thought Anna Kendrick was a shade better than Farmiga as the Yin to Clooney’s Yang.
Best Director: Again, I could see this going to James Cameron for Avatar. For me its a tough call between Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), and Jason Reitman (Up in the Air). I would love to see Bigelow become the first woman to ever win an Academy Award for best direction. Reitman will have his day in the sun with his adapted screenplay nod. Tarantino already has an Oscar for Pulp Fiction and is nominated this year for Best Original Screenplay. Besides, Bigelow is a great director and she did an awesome job with The Hurt Locker.