*In response to my brother’s post on The Everything Film Blog regarding this year’s Oscar nominees, as well as numerous other commentators and film lovers.
Let’s start off with something blunt and obvious: Jonah Hill did not do anything special in Moneyball. I’m sorry to say it, kind of, for people who are big fans of his performance there. If your about to argue that “he was much more subtle than the usual Jonah Hill zaniness” then you really have no argument at all. It is not the purpose of awarding an actor for his work in ONE movie by comparing it side-by-side to the rest of his movies and/or his personality. Jonah Hill showed little emotion, to be true, but he played a stiff character who grew a little to become just a little more outgoing when he has an opinion. Also, he got happy in one scene when he became part of a multi-trade deal alongside Brad Pitt. Jonah Hill is nominated for high-fiving Brad Pitt.
Mark also points out that “The list of Best Pic nominees shows either how safe Hollywood played it this year or how friendly the Academy wants to keep the show to general audiences. It’s almost as if the Academy is trying to counter-correct for awarding smaller, bleaker films (No Country for Old Men, The Hurt Locker) over the past few years.”
Mark, I agree to a point, and then I gladly disagree. The only movies in this list that could be considered part of the “counter-correcting” are The Help, Hugo, and maybe War Horse. Moneyball and Midnight in Paris made millions, but are hardly more popular to general audiences than The Help. The Tree of Life being nominated is a way of the “the Academy” giving a nomination to an experimental film, paying tribute to film as a deeper experience than simply telling a story. And of course there’s The Artist, a throwback and tribute to silent films by a French director, an obvious tip of the hat to an older generation and perhaps a simpler time for film audiences to be “wowed” by the big screen.
Another point Mark makes is the “why the hell is Melissa McCarthy” nominated point — one which has been made by many commentors and critics. Well, I have to say I’m a little bummed that more people won’t support this nomination. Seriously. She carried the movie (much like Kevin Spacey did in The Usual Suspects, or Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder) and gave us a monumentally memorable, off the wall character (see: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight; See: Chris Cooper in Adaptation), one that is a reflection of a personality trait of the main character that has yet to come to light. The only difference between Melissa McCarthy and the past nominees in this category for the last three years is that she’s in a comedy. There could be deeper reading into this, but McCarthy took a one-note character on the page and gave her true life, something that’s not easy to do.
Mark also references Bridesmaids screnplay nomination — and for this I have to agree with Mark. The screenplay is simple, but weak — there are scenes that are out of order and character “issues” that are not truly justified or paid off (cupcakes anyone?). But mostly, it’s a standard comedy arc with a screenplay that is not as good, original, or emotionally impactful as, say, 50/50.
To the note of Tintin missing out on a nomination, I for one am truly bummed, but then again maybe people just didn’t know where to chalk up a nomination — Animators could’ve thought it was a VFX movie, while VFX folks could’ve believed it was only animated. Who knows? Like Mark says, why bother trying to complain if nothing can change? Focus on the good: Gary Oldman gets his first nod, Max Von Sydow is making a comeback, and Kenneth Branagh is nominated for playing Laurence Olivier — a pair of actors who, if they had been able to share the screen, would’ve given us truly great screen magic.
*And on the note of “The Academy,” I want to address Mark’s statement “how friendly the Academy wants to keep the show to general audiences.” I’ve heard this argument, and read it, from numerous other commentors, stating that the Academy should nominate more popular movies otherwise they won’t get high ratings. Well, the Academy AWARDS doesn’t work that way, I’m sorry to say. This isn’t a popularity contest voted on by the American viewing public. This is a prestigious awards show voted on by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There’s not a five person committee saying “well it looks like we need to get some viewers so how about we nominate The Help (Although it would be an easy way to explain why The Blind Side even showed up on the best picture list a few years back).
To suggest that the Academy Awards is only about ratings, well, if they are, then they’ve done a piss-poor job of it. And if they are seeking only ratings, why don’t they nominate films like, oh, I don’t know, Transformers? Or Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Or X-Men: First Class?
Then again, I might just be hopelessly grasping for the last truly “award worthy” awards show.