Every year the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, which gives the Oscar awards keeps certain surprises up their sleeves when announcing the nominees for the awards. However much the Oscar watchers and critics try to keep with the trend, the Academy is always one step ahead.
It happened this year as well. For the past month and a half, I have tried to narrow down to the nominees for the Oscars and was confident of my choices. But the Academy thought differently. And I guess it loves this game of guessing and proving wrong. How else could one justify the inclusion of Tommy Lee Jones in the Best Actor in a Lead Role nomination for the Iraq-war themed film In the Valley of Elah. Not that I consider the performance not Oscar worthy, but Jones was not in the list of most pre-Oscar nominees, including Screen Actors Guild which has a considerable influence in deciding on the Oscar nominees.
Another such ‘patent Oscar shock’ nominee is Laura Linney for The Savages. Linney had a strong start to the awards season, but somehow lost steam as the season progressed mainly due to some high profile campaigning by other potential nominees including Kiera Knightly (Atonement) and Angelina Jolie, who was ignored once again for her turn as Marion Pearl in A Mighty Heart. It seems that the nomination jury of the Oscars love it when great performances are given in otherwise bad movies (remember Charlize Theron winning the Oscar for Monster!). No other way could one justify Cate Blanchett’s nomination, who was honoured for her performances in two films, Best Actress nominee for Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Supporting Actress nominee for the off-beat Bob Dylan saga I’m Not There.
The nominees for Best Picture came out to be fairly predictable: No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Michael Clayton, Juno and There Will Be Blood (some surprise there, as most Oscar watchers thought that this critical hit would be too bloody for the Oscars). The Directing nominations also raised a few eyebrows; besides the Coen Brothers (Old Men), Paul Thomas Anderson (Blood), Tony Gilroy (Clayton) and Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), the Academy rejected favourite actor-director Sean Penn whose Into The Wild was strongly approved by the actors, directors and producers guild.
Instead Jason Reitman was acknowledged for his quirky teen pregnancy drama Juno. Conventional wisdom was broken when two of the year’s favourite Foreign Language films were left out in the race for the best Foreign Language Film. Palm dé Or winner Romanian film Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days and directing nominee Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly were ignored. Probably the Academy was trying the ‘quota-policy’ like us Indians. But still the nominees in this category are very heavy. Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort, The Counterfeiters (Austria), Mongol (Kazakhstan), 12 (Russia) and iconic Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s brilliant take on the 1940 massacre of captured Polish army officers in the Katyn Forest, Katyn. The other nominees were most predictable. Other surprises include Clint Eastwood who failed to win a nomination for Best Song and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s nomination in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Charlie Wilson’s War.