Oscar nominations — themes and trends

Just a few quick links to other people’s observations.

Brian D. Johnson of Maclean’s notes that this is turning out to be a very good year for Canadian films and nominees:

Some statistics wiz will have to do the math to confirm it. But at first glance this looks like the best year on record for Canada at the Oscars. With this morning’s announcement of the 80th annual Academy Award nominations, we can celebrate a whopping 10 citations for films directed by Canadians. They include four nominations for Juno, directed by Montreal-born Jason Reitman, including best picture, director, original screenplay—and a best actress nod for Halifax sensation Ellen Page. In a classic showdown between punk ingenue and iconic elder, Page will be competing against Julie Christie, named for her role as an Alzheimer’s patient in Sarah Polley’s directorial debut, Away From Her. The film also earned Polley a personal nomination for best adapted screenplay. Now a ridiculously mature 29 years old, Polley seems to be surrendering her “Canada’s sweetheart” title to the 20-year-old Page. But hey, there’s no reason Canada can’t accommodate two sweethearts; it’s a vast, cold country.

Other Canadian-directed movies honoured include David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, with Viggo Mortensen up for best actor. And he’ll be competing with Tommy Lee Jones, who stars in In the Valley of Elah, directed by that Canuck scientologist, Paul Haggis. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t remember the last time two nominees in each of the major acting categories were in films directed by Canadians. Ever since Haggis rudely stole Cronenberg’s title for his Oscar-winning feature debut, Crash, Cronenberg has harboured a justifiable grudge against this Hollywood Canadian. Now they can play out their rivalry once more. Too bad Eastern Promises didn’t get recognized for best picture or best director. What does Cronenberg have to do? Wait for a lifetime achievement Oscar?

Completing the Canadian nominations are two animated films shorts: Madame Tutli-Putli, a thrilling masterpiece of railway suspense from the NFB, directed by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski; and Bravo!FACT’s I Met the Walrus, an inspired piece of baroque whimsy by Josh Raskin, which animates an audio interview by Toronto teenager Jerry Levitan with John Lennon during the fabled Toronto bed-in. . . .

Meanwhile, Variety notes that virtually all of the war-on-terror dramatic films, having already been snubbed by audiences, got snubbed by the Academy today, too — though war-on-terror films are well-represented in the documentary categories:

An entire subgenre was pretty much shut out: Aside from Tommy Lee Jones’ surprise nom for “In the Valley of Elah” and Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the slate of Mideast-topical movies were ignored by Academy voters. That list includes “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs,” “A Mighty Heart,” “The Kingdom,” “Redacted,” . . .

However, Kyle Smith notes that, even without the so-called war on terror, there was still lots of death and murder to go around:

This year the Oscars turned bloodier than an emergency room on a Saturday night in Detroit. All five of the Best Actor nominees are from movies about murder; four of the five Best Picture nominees are about bloody slaughter and in the sweet, nurturing Best Actress category we have a movie about a woman butchering Catholics, one about a tortured drug-addicted singer who dies in her 40s, and two about dying in a rest home. In the Supporting Actress category, there’s a film about a cold-blooded gangster who shoots people in the head in broad daylight and one about child kidnapping and murder. In the Supporting Actor category, there’s one in which the good guy is a mass killer called Jesse James.

If it weren’t for the movie about a guy in his 20s who starves to death, a lighthearted look at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a romp of a tale about a 16-year-old’s unwanted pregnancy, there wouldn’t be anything happy about this year’s slate at all.

Elsewhere, Jim Hill notes that Miramax, a Disney subsidiary, got lots of nominations for four of its recent films, but Disney itself did only so-so, bagging five nominations for Best Animated Feature nominee Ratatouille — which happens to be the only Pixar film that went into production without Disney’s approval — as well as a few nominations for Enchanted and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. But the biggest slap in the face to Disney may be the absence of any nomination for the animated short How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, which stars Goofy and was widely seen as a return to classic Disney form, being both hand-drawn and an old-style short cartoon that played before the main feature (the feature in this case being National Treasure: Book of Secrets).

And speaking of animation, here’s an observation of my own: The original Shrek (2001) was the first film to win the award for Best Animated Feature — which was seen at the time as yet another Disney snub, given that Disney’s success throughout the ’90s had stimulated interest in creating that award, and given that much of Shrek was devoted to spoofing Disney movies; the film was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, but it lost that one to A Beautiful Mind. Shrek 2 (2004) was also nominated for Best Animated Feature, as well as for Best Original Song — but it didn’t win either, thanks to The Incredibles and The Motorcycle Diaries. And now, Shrek the Third has been nominated for … nothing.

Yet another movie not screened for critics.

Joe Leydon at MovingPictureBlog notes that Meet the Spartans, which opens this Friday, is not being screened for critics. That’s hardly a surprise, since the people who made this movie also made Epic Movie (2007) and Date Movie (2006), both of which were also released without being screened for critics first.

Meanwhile, in a shocking turn of events, Lionsgate has announced that there will be press screenings for Rambo … tomorrow! This film, too, opens on Friday, so that’s pretty last-minute.

Oscar nominations — my own two bits

The Academy has spoken, and since everyone and his dog will be offering opinions on the nominees announced this morning, I won’t say all that much about them here myself.

However, I will say that I am disappointed to see Zodiac shut out of all the categories. And that this really does seem to be a race between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, because those are the only two films nominated for Best Picture and Best Film Editing. And that I can’t recall any other animated film being nominated in as many categories as Ratatouille — yes, Beauty and the Beast (1991) had six nominations, but three of them were for Original Song, not unlike how Enchanted has three for Original Song this year. (The Academy does love Alan Menken.)

I’m sure other thoughts will occur to me over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here are the films that have been nominated for Oscars, ranked from those with the most nominations to those with only one. The titles of those I have seen are in bold:

8 nominations

  1. No Country for Old Men — Picture, director (Joel and Ethan Coen), adapted screenplay, cinematography, supporting actor (Javier Bardem), film editing, sound editing, sound mixing
  2. There Will Be Blood — Picture, director (Paul Thomas Anderson), adapted screenplay, cinematography, actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), film editing, art direction, sound editing

7 nominations

  1. Atonement — Picture, adapted screenplay, cinematography, supporting actress (Saoirse Ronan), art direction, costume design, original score
  2. Michael Clayton — Picture, director (Tony Gilroy), original screenplay, actor (George Clooney), supporting actor (Tom Wilkinson), supporting actress (Tilda Swinton), original score

5 nominations

  1. Ratatouille — Animated feature film, original screenplay, original score, sound editing, sound mixing

4 nominations

  1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly — Director (Julian Schnabel), adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing
  2. Juno — Picture, director (Jason Reitman), original screenplay, actress (Ellen Page)

3 nominations

  1. The Bourne Ultimatum — Editing, sound editing, sound mixing
  2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street — Actor (Johnny Depp), art direction, costume design
  3. Transformers — Sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects
  4. La Vie en Rose — Actress (Marion Cotillard), costume design, makeup

3 nominations in 1 category

  1. Enchanted — Original song (x3)

2 nominations

  1. American Gangster — Supporting actress (Ruby Dee), art direction
  2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — Cinematography, supporting actor (Casey Affleck)
  3. Away from Her — Adapated screenplay, actress (Julie Christie)
  4. Elizabeth: The Golden Age — Actress (Cate Blanchett), costume design
  5. The Golden Compass — Art direction, visual effects
  6. Into the Wild — Supporting actor (Hal Holbrook), film editing
  7. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — Makeup, visual effects
  8. The Savages — Original screenplay, actress (Laura Linney)
  9. 3:10 to Yuma — Original score, sound mixing

1 nomination

  1. Across the Universe — Costume design
  2. At Night — Live action short film
  3. August Rush — Original song
  4. Beaufort — Foreign language film
  5. Charlie Wilson’s War — Supporting actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
  6. La Corona (The Crown) — Documentary short
  7. The Counterfeiters — Foreign language film
  8. Eastern Promises — Actor (Viggo Mortensen)
  9. Freeheld — Documentary short
  10. Gone Baby Gone — Supporting actress (Amy Ryan)
  11. I Met the Walrus — Animated short film
  12. I’m Not There — Supporting actress (Cate Blanchett)
  13. In the Valley of Elah — Actor (Tommy Lee Jones)
  14. Katyn — Foreign language film
  15. The Kite Runner — Original score
  16. Lars and the Real Girl — Original screenplay
  17. Madame Tutli-Putli — Animated short film
  18. Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven) — Animated short film
  19. Mongol — Foreign language film
  20. Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets) — Live action short film
  21. My Love (Moya Lyubov) — Animated short film
  22. No End in Sight — Documentary feature
  23. Norbit — Makeup
  24. Once — Original song
  25. Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience — Documentary feature
  26. Persepolis — Animated feature film
  27. Peter & the Wolf — Animated short film
  28. Salim Baba — Documentary short
  29. Sari’s Mother — Documentary short
  30. Sicko — Documentary feature
  31. Il Supplente (The Substitute) — Live action short film
  32. Surf’s Up — Animated feature film
  33. Tanghi Argentini — Live action short film
  34. Taxi to the Dark Side — Documentary feature
  35. The Tonto Woman — Live action short film
  36. 12 — Foreign language film
  37. War/Dance — Documentary feature

Oops — was that another Star Trek XI spoiler?

Chris Pine, who is currently playing the young James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie, was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly while promoting another movie at Sundance this week — and although he told them he would reveal “not a thing” about Star Trek, he did let slip this one little potentially spoilerish tidbit, which would seem to confirm certain rumours about the new film: “I’ve met Mr. Nimoy a couple of times. He’s been on set and we have a couple of scenes in the film, which will be nice, and I’m excited for those.” Remember, Pine is playing the young Kirk, and Nimoy is playing the old Spock. Can you say … time travel?

Six degrees of Iron Man.

I have never been a big Marvel fan — back in my comic collecting heyday, 12+ years ago, I was more of a DC guy — but news like this makes me wish I were. (Hat tip to Thom Wade at In One Ear…)

Canadian box-office stats — January 20

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

P.S. I Love You — CDN $5,880,000 — N.AM $50,461,000 — 11.7%
Atonement — CDN $2,940,000 — N.AM $31,884,000 — 9.2%
Juno — CDN $6,740,000 — N.AM $85,052,000 — 7.9%
I Am Legend — CDN $19,510,000 — N.AM $247,447,000 — 7.9%
The Bucket List — CDN $3,260,000 — N.AM $41,569,000 — 7.8%
27 Dresses — CDN $1,640,000 — N.AM $22,750,000 — 7.2%
National Treasure: Book of Secrets — CDN $13,070,000 — N.AM $197,492,000 — 6.6%
Mad Money — CDN $477,385 — N.AM $7,600,000 — 6.3%
Cloverfield — CDN $2,260,000 — N.AM $40,037,000 — 5.6%
Alvin and the Chipmunks — CDN $10,750,000 — N.AM $196,280,000 — 5.5%

A couple of discrepancies: P.S. I Love You was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #16 in North America as a whole), while First Sunday was #5 on the North American chart.