No Christopher Nolan? Really?
That was my immediate reaction to this morning’s announcement of the Academy Award nominations. In general, I try to sit out the instantaneous listing of “snubs,” but in this instance, I found myself truly stunned to see the Best Director category bypassing Nolan’s work on “Inception.”
He was nominated for the Directors’ Guild awards, and that is generally a good predictor of the Oscar nominations. This year, four of the five DGA nominees – Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), David Fincher (“The Social Network”), Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”) and David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) – were also nominate for Oscars. But Nolan was bumped in favor of the Coen Brothers for “True Grit.”
I have no problem with the Coens getting a nomination. “True Grit” was a terrific film, and the Coens did a great job of evoking a distinct time and place. I would have put them ahead of David O. Russell in this category, as I thought “The Fighter” had some good performances but was overall an uneven film.
Nolan’s work on “Inception” was, I thought, remarkable. It rivals “The King’s Speech” for my favorite film of 2010. “Inception” is a work of such vivid imagination, both visual and emotional. Nolan did a great job of (a.) integrating specatacular visual effects without letting them overwhelm the characters or the story, and (b.) telling an extraordinarily complex story in a comprehensible way. The plot, which involves technology that goes inside the subconscious minds of its subjects, was able to create multiple layers of dreams within dreams, but always in a way that seemed clear and understandable. This is a film that could have easily fallen into the mind-numbing mush of the “Matrix” sequels, for example, but Nolan was able to keep it straight and clear.
OK, that’s my two cents.
Other than that, a few quick thoughts …
It’s obviously silly to place Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) in the supporting actress category, since realistically she was the film’s lead character – the narrator, the protagonist and the person who sets all of the dramatic action in motion. But surely we saw it coming (it was one of the predictions that I got right), as the Academy frequently pushes young actors into supporting categories rather than making them go up against the heavy hitters in the lead category. (If an actor receives votes in both categories, he or she gets placed in the category where he or she received the most votes.) I’m glad she got nominated, regardless of the category.
Happy to see Mark Ruffalo, who grew up in Virginia Beach, get nominated for “The Kids Are Alright.” It’s his first Oscar nomination after several previous performances that were certainly worthy of consideration. He most likely won’t win the supporting actor category – look for either Christian Bale or Geoffrey Rush – but it’s a deserving nomination.
Immediate predictions in the major categories: “The King’s Speech,” David Fincher (Best Picture/Best Director split), Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush (upset over Christian Bale), and Hailee Stenfeld (though supporting actress is a toss-up). In the screenwriting categories – which I consider to be majors, since it all begins with a good story – look for “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” (I’m tempted to pick “Winter’s Bone” as an upset, but that’s probably my heart and not my head).
“The King’s Speech” led all films with 12 nominations, followed by “True Grit” with 10, and “The Social Network,” “Inception” and "The Fighter" with eight apiece.
Oscar night is Feb. 27. James Franco and Anne Hathaway are hosts.
Mike Holtzclaw, a senior reporter at the Daily Press, correctly predicted 27 of 35 nominations in the six "major categories." Decide for yourself if that's a good showing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.