Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscars nominations: Smart and crazy

The best thing about these nominations is that they're always unpredictable. Yes, "Lincoln" got 12 nods. (And yes, it's going to win for picture, director Steven Spielberg, writer Tony Kushner and probably actor Daniel Day-Lewis. We're going to have two presidential inaugurations this year.)

But weird things happened in virtually every major category, some good and some bad. Here, in no particular order, are the five things that struck me most:

1) What a difference an "h" makes. Ben Affleck gets stiffed after providing one of the best directed-films of the year in "Argo." Benh Zeitlin makes his feature debut with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and gets a directing nomination. And Kathryn Bigelow got the boot in this category -- even though her direction was the best thing about "Zero Dark Thirty" -- which means the picture isn't going to win.

2) We're guaranteed a two-time Oscar-winner this year: All five guys in the supporting actor category already have one. You can decide who stole the spots that should have gone to Javier Bardem ("Skyfall") and John Goodman ("Flight" or "Argo"). I would jettison Tommy Lee Jones and Alan Arkin, both of whom were fine but not extraordinary.

3) It's not a great year (again) to be a woman in Hollywood. Not one of the nominated directors is female, none of the 12 writers are except for Lucy Alibar (whose play was adapted for "Beasts of the Southern Wild"), and there were only 7 women among the 24 credited producers whose films are up for best picture. There may be one more when the credits for "Amour" are worked out, but there will also be three or four more men. And it's a VERY bad year to be Helen Mirren, who gave the lone memorable performance in "Hitchcock" and got skunked.

4) James Bond gets no love. Through 50 years of Bond films, capped by the estimable "Skyfall" in 2012, not a single Bond actor or actress has been nominated. (Bardem and Judi Dench would have been reasonable this time.) The film got the usual song and score nominations, plus sound mixing and editing. And Roger Deakins, the greatest active cinematographer who has never won an Oscar, was also nominated. Alas, he'll be 0-for-10 after the ceremony; "Life of Pi" will take this one.

5) Bigger is always better. Costume nods go to period pieces or elaborate fantasies, not movies where brilliant and subtle choices illustrate character.  Makeup nominations go to overblown productions such as "The Hobbit" -- where the dwarves look as phony as a glass eye -- instead of "The Impossible," where the horrifying bruises and cuts make you feel the characters' pain.

6) There are nine best picture nominees this year, because of the weighted voting system. Is this stupid, or what? If you're going to have more than 5, have 10! There should have been room for "Flight," another foreign film besides "Amour" (I'd pick "A Royal Affair"), "The Impossible" (which was also inexplicably missing from the visual effects category) or even "Skyfall."

Yes, I realize I said at the top that I'd write about five things. I'm unpredictable, too.