Well, here we are again, friends. The Academy Award nominations are upon us. For voting members it opens the sluice-gates to six weeks of more “friendly” persuasion than the NRA at that Tucson gun buy-back.
The rest of us can expect a deluge of guesses and pronouncements from folks not vastly smarter than we are about an event roughly as predictable as an earthquake. (See: Marisa Tomei’s Best 1992 Supporting Actress Oscar win over Judy Davis, Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave. I know. It was a long time ago. Some folks recover slowly.)
To wade in at the top: what was the Directors Guild up to on Tuesday — that’s just two days ago’s Tuesday – when it nominated Ben Affleck and Katherine Bigelow for two of its five Feature Film Director slots? (Tom Hooper, Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg rounded out their slate.)
The DGA slate is supposed to be the solid gold, take-it-to-the-bank standard of who’ll be nominated by the Academy. Were they simply giving two hard-working directors a good night’s sleep before Announcement Thursday, when they might reasonably expect to find themselves in nomination? You don’t think Affleck and Bigelow were being set up for a sucker punch, do you? The Guild loves you, just not the membership of the Guild, the ones who vote in the Academy? Don’t look at me. I’m as stunned as they are. Well, relatively speaking.
BAFTA, the British film academy, released their nominations at virtually the same moment as our Academy. Will it make Ben Affleck feel any better to go to the London celebration, where among Argo‘s seven nominations, including best picture and best director, he also picked up one as best actor? Probably not.
I liked the Guardian’s description of the BAFTA best five pics: “Lincoln, Argo, Les Miserables, Django Unchained and Life of Pi, pluckily bobbing in their wake.”
What makes me personally happy? To see the many ways humanism was defined by this year’s nominees: in utterly different ways throughout Life of Pi and Argo; in so many of the personal exchanges in Lincoln; by the tenacity of Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook and by the unforgettable face of Emmanuelle Riva in Amour. And please, throw in your own choices, this is such a perfunctory armful..
I had the same astonished intake of breath as my critic-buddy Chuck Wilson, to see not one tiny special effect or what-you-will nomination for Rust and Bone, let alone an acting nod or two. We shared an eerie, did we really see it? moment of bewildered loss, not only for the rapturous generosity of Marion Cotillard’s work, but for the lacerating but equally abundant performance of her co-star, Mattias Schoenaerts.
Personally, I’m thrilled that members of the Costume Design branch have good long memories in addition to their collective eye for breathtaking work, since it resulted in their recognition of Eiko Ishioka’s final gasp-inducing costumes for Mirror Mirror, released early in 2012. Seemed to me that the sumptuous wit of Eiko’s costumes spurred Julia Roberts on to fresh heights of delicious bitchiness as the Queen in this Snow White re-working – or perhaps they were just a bitch to move around in. (When Eiko designed a cage headpiece for Jennifer Lopez in The Cell, Lopez mewled that it was uncomfortable. So the designer clarified things for her: “You’re supposed to be tortured,” Eiko said.)
Take a look here at Mirror Mirror’s wildest flights of fancy and the consummate glory that was Eiko Ishioka, who died January 21, 2012, and to whom the film is dedicated. (Sorry about that ad, small price to pay, is how I look at it.)
Deadliest reading every year are the toe-in-the-sand responses from nominees, a thrilled, stunned, over-the-moon, humbled and ecstatic crowd who probably shouldn’t be allowed near heavy machinery for at least 24 hours. The nice departure from all that was the final bit of Tony Kushner’s gracious words in the wake of his Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Lincoln.
After carpet-bombing thanks to just about everyone ever connected with the film, Kushner said, “I heard that I’d been nominated while waiting to take off on a plane from JFK to LAX. James Gandolfini, who’s sitting in front of me, gave me a hug and a kiss, so I’m about as happy as can be.”
Finally, as a public service – and to prove that it’s not really all that hard — here (thanks to The Wrap) is how to pronounce the name of the youngest Best Actress nominee, Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s almost irresistible Quvenzhané Wallis, from her very own lips.