January 25, 2012

STATUETTE STAKES: Nomination Thoughts

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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After what seemed as long as a presidential primary season, the Oscar nominations are finally here. What do they tell us?
THE ARTIST Is Still The Film To Beat. There were plenty of surprises sprinkled throughout today’s nominations, but none that seriously challenged the conventional wisdom. If Martin Scorsese were still looking for his first Academy Award, Hugo, with its Oscars-high 11 nominations, would be looking pretty scary. But since The Departed existed, those nominations show a great deal of respect for Scorsese’s film but not much chance of winning. Artist, just behind with 10 nominations, is getting admiration across all the Academy’s voting blocs, and unless its blah boxoffice catches up with it or it loses at SAG or DGA, it looks like the clear favorite.

The New Best Picture Rules Are Still An Enigma. The common assumption was that since the new rules for Best Picture nominations required a threshold of voters choosing it as the #1 film of the year, there would be relatively few nominees beyond the minimum of 5. In fact, the total was 9, which suggests real passion behind the votes for EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE, THE TREE OF LIFE and MONEYBALL. (Although in fact we’ll never know the actual rankings among the 9 nominees–for all we know, THE DESCENDANTS might be the one that squeaked in.)
The Academy Likes To Enjoy Itself. It didn’t pay to be dark this year. SHAME, DRIVE, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY and WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN were among the snubbed, and what they all share is a despairing view of human nature. Even this year’s “serious” nominees like THE HELP, EXTREMELY LOUD and WAR HORSE found their ways to happy or at least cathartic endings. When DRAGON TATTOO billed itself as “the feel-bad movie of the holidays,” it was asking for trouble.
Campaigning Works. Summit made sure that DVDs of A BETTER LIFE were the first in Academy members’ mailboxes last fall, and today Demian Bichir has a nomination for Best Actor. Similarly, Lionsgate’s campaign for Nick Nolte in WARRIOR paid off.
Directors Age Like Fine Wine. There’s a certain irony in the fact that Hollywood is one of the most ageist businesses around, but 3 of the year’s Best Directing nominees got their starts in the 1960s (Allen, Scorsese) or early 1970s (Malick).
Hollywood Isn’t Ready for Motion-Capture. Both Andy Serkis’s performance in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and Spielberg’s THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN were ignored.
John Williams = Automatic Nominee. With 2 more this year, for TINTIN and WAR HORSE, he’s up to 47 nominations, second only to Walt Disney. Where does he keep all the certificates? Does he have an entire room of his house papered with them?
This Could Be the Year of “This Could Be ______’s Year” George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Brad Pitt could all be said to be “due”.
ABC Has A Problem. With these nominees and 63-year old Billy Crystal as host, it’s hard to imagine a young audience tuning in for this year’s telecast.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."