Hugo leads 2012 Oscar nominations
Hugo led this morning's Oscar nominations with 11 nods, while The Artist followed closely behind with ten. Given that the former is director Martin Scorsese's 3-D valentine to film pioneer Georges Méliès and the latter is a breezy pastiche of silent movies, the headline should probably be "Cinephilia dominates Oscar nominations"—although if you judge from surveys of critics, the selections aren't exactly representative of the most acclaimed films released last year. Forget about no-chance great movies like Margaret and Certified Copy. Even among presumed frontrunners, several of the edgier favorites (Albert Brooks for Drive, Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene, Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia, Michael Fassbender for Shame) were shut out in favor of more sentimental choices (Kenneth Branagh, admittedly doing an entertaining Olivier impersonation in My Week with Marilyn; Glenn Close, underwhelming in Albert Nobbs). The recognition of Rooney Mara's turn in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to some degree bucks that trend.
Getting indignant about the Oscars is nothing new, of course, and it's unreasonable to expect any roundup purporting to recognize the year's best films to reflect one's own taste. Still, this seems like an unusually boring roster. This year, a new voting system for Best Picture made predicting that category difficult. Anywhere between five and ten films could have been nominated, through a convoluted tallying method designed, as the link explains, to give every ballot some impact. The Academy ultimately settled on nine Best Picture nominees, revealing some predictable preferences (in addition to Hugo and The Artist, the contenders include The Descendants, The Help and Midnight in Paris) but also unfathomable passion for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which several critics dubbed the year's worst film. Elsewhere, as always, there are instances when voters apparently went on autopilot (The Descendants for Best Film Editing?), and a few (Demián Bichir's Best Actor nomination for the little-seen—and unseen by me—A Better Life) when they seem to have thought outside the box.
Combing through the list of nominees, I'm most excited that Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi got a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, proving that the Academy can recognize a script of extraordinary complexity even if it's in a foreign language. (His great A Separation, also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, opens in Chicago on Friday.) I'm pleased that "Man or Muppet" is one of two nominees for Best Original Song—now just don't let it lose. I'm relieved that J. Edgar was shut out of makeup. It will make a great Oscar moment if Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory wins Best Documentary and the West Memphis Three take the stage (though the Interrupters snub still stings). And while I have reservations about The Tree of Life, there's something to be said for the Academy's recognition of Terrence Malick over Steven Spielberg in the Best Director category. Spielberg clearly made War Horse with Oscar on the brain; Malick, on the other hand, remains proudly outside the loop.