Oscar nominations — my own two bits, and a complete list

It is extremely rare for a film to win Best Picture without also being nominated for its director, its film editing, and its screenplay. So it looks like this year’s top Oscar will go to either the frivolous but entertaining American Hustle, which scored 10 nominations altogether, or the serious and historically significant 12 Years a Slave, which scored nine.

Between American Hustle and last year’s The Silver Linings Playbook, director David O. Russell has pulled off the neat trick of getting nominations in all four acting categories for two years in a row. This had happened only 13 times prior to Russell’s films, and while no film has ever won all four acting categories, all but two of the 14 films so nominated in the past have won at least one of the acting awards (the sole exceptions being 1936’s My Man Godfrey and 1950’s Sunset Boulevard).

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Buddha, St Christopher, and Marvin Martian: icons in space

Three months ago, in my review of Gravity, I noted that the film does what a lot of Hollywood movies do, by looking to foreign cultures for spiritual inspiration while suggesting or assuming that American culture is somehow secular and non-spiritual by default. As I put it at the time: “The Russian cosmonauts bring icons into space, and the Chinese taikonauts bring a smiling Buddha into space, but the Americans, as far as we can tell, bring nothing more than a Marvin Martian toy.”

A friend of mine reminded me of this observation on Twitter the other day, and it occurred to me that I now have a DVD screener of the film, so I figured I’d illustrate the point with a few screen captures. Check them out below the jump.

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Gravity and prayers for those who travel by space

In Eastern Orthodox services, we regularly say prayers for those who travel “by land, by sea and by air.” I have often wondered if that prayer will ever be amended to include those who travel through space. I mean, if the prayer is as ancient as I think it is, then it has already been amended once before, to include those who travel by air, so it could easily be amended again, right?

In any case, I thought of that prayer while watching Gravity the other day — and not just because it’s a fairly realistic movie, set somewhat vaguely in the world of present-day space travel. (The Hubble telescope and the International Space Station are both in operation today, but the space shuttle program was mothballed two years ago — after Gravity had already gone into production — while the Chinese space station won’t be built for another few years at least.)

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