Who was Robbed and Who was Right in Oscar Nominations

Now that Katniss Everdeen, um, I mean Jennifer Lawrence, has announced the nominations for this year’s Oscars, we can all second-guess The Academy of Motion Pictures. Who got robbed? (The Muppets! Andy Serkis!) Who got the recognition they deserved? (The Tree of Life! Meryl Streep!) And who shouldn’t be on a list of the nine Best Pictures of the year even if they were the only picture made that year? (I’m looking at you, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close!)


Moi was robbed, Kermie!

Here are my reactions:

Best Animated Film

The Adventures of Tintin
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

The news in this category is that, unlike last year when Toy Story 3 deservedly made it to the Best Picture category, the contenders this year were kind of blah. Kung Fu Panda is OK, I guess, and Puss in Boots is workable, but none of them reaches the transcendence of aToy Story 3. Rango is likely to win, but is my least favorite. 

The Academy should consider a category tweak. The Muppets was better than all these movies I’ve seen and would win against them for sure. But it has no home, no category in which to be nominated. Poor, poor Muppets. They should write a song about that.

Best Supporting Actress

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
I’m glad to see Melissa McCarthy nominated for her fresh, hilarious role in Bridesmaids. Funny, fresh movie and funny, fresh actress. 

Octavia Spencer definitely deserves a nod for The Help, but I would have picked Amy Ryan for Win Win and Shailene Woodley for The Descendants. Carey Mulligan in Drive was also fantastic.

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
So glad to see Nick Nolte nominated for Warrior. His emotional but understated depiction of a lifelong alcoholic trying to remain sober and atone for his misdeeds was excellent. Who knew he had it in him? Would love to see him win. 

I would have liked to see John Boyega for Attack the Block. He did a tremendous job as a thug in training who finds his calling and nobility in fighting aliens. Really. Watch it.

While I love Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is just an overdone movie and doesn’t measure up to being nominated.

The biggest scandal, however, is the absence of Andy Serkis for his motion capture acting as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He played an intelligent ape. Not a human shaped like an ape, but an actual thinking ape. That he did it in front of a green screen with little nobby things glued all over his body…even more amazing.

Best Actress

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
This is about right, I suppose, although I’d probably trade Glenn Close for Charlize Theron in Young Adult. (I’d probably trade Glenn Close for just about anyone. She rubs me the wrong way.)

Best Actor

Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
I would have liked to have seen Ryan Gosling for Drive, Paul Giamatti for Win Win and Brad Pitt for  The Tree of Life instead of Moneyball. The studio campaigned for him for Moneyball, and he is excellent in it, but he is transcendent in The Tree of Life

To make room for them, I’d take out the favorite, George Clooney, and Gary Oldman.

Best Director

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
No doubt in my mind that Malick deserves this win. No doubt. 

All these movies are well directed, however, and I’d be happy to see any of them win. Disappointed, though, that Nicolas Winding Refn wasn’t nominated for Drive.

Best Picture

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse
War Horse and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close are not in the same universe as the other films. One is long and boring, the other actively annoying. 

Films that should have been included: Drive, Win Win, and Warrior. That would make a nice, even ten.

The Tree of Life should win, but won’t. It’s the best movie in several years, but extremely polarizing. In a perfect world, it would win. But in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need it.

HTML Tables

Best Movies of 2011

Movie criticism is a subjective art, to be sure. In choosing the movies I consider the best of the year, I looked for not only excellence, but a little something that moved me and made me glad I’d come to the theater.

Number 10: Super 8

This J.J. Abrams homage to childhood and moviemaking is only partly about an alien invasion. It captures the wonder of creativity, adventure, and an innocent budding first love.




Number 9: Attack the Block

Turns out, all that a group of developing British thugs need to turn them into men is an alien invasion in their tenement. Nobody attacks the block. Nobody.

Well acted and wonderfully written, this film has a delightfully ambiguous ending that plays very differently for urban and suburban audiences.

*Note: Totally different aliens than in “Super 8.” Totally.




Number 8: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Just because it was a blockbuster doesn’t mean this movie isn’t excellent. It was a fitting and epic end to an epic series. The effects, the acting, and the heart made this my favorite Potter movie and one of the few all year in which I cried.

So long, Master Potter!





Number 7: Drive

Ryan Gosling showed his acting range with this taciturn, reserved, but powerful character who finds a woman worth loving, but also finds that protecting her means potentially losing her. With stylish (but extremely violent) acting, this movie is just fantastic.





Number 6: The Help

A wonderful ensemble cast of women portrayed a difficult time in our nation’s history. I loved how they showed the interconnectedness of white and black women in the South. I also loved how they showed good people could still be good within the confines of the unjust system, that ultimately love is always more powerful than hate, even when hate is integral and entrenched in the system. Plus, it’s funny. Read my review and interview with the director.





Number 5: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Not only does this movie have astonishing motion capture acting by Andy Serkis, but it asks the deeper questions of life: What does it mean to be human or humanlike? What is justice? How does one fight injustice? It was simply fantastic.





Number 4: The Iron Lady

The more I watch this movie, the more I like it. Meryl Streep is astonishing, fearlessly playing not only Margaret Thatcher, but an elderly, confused woman. I also love the heart of the film, how Thatcher never changes who she is, even as she becomes confused about the details around her.

I’m gonna come right out and say it: We could use a Margaret Thatcher right about now.



Number 3: Win Win

This story hits home and is beautifully done. It’s a tale of a lawyer and part-time wrestling coach who thinks he’s a good guy, but finds himself in a moral morass. The easy way seemed, well, win-win. But even tiny moral compromises are never tiny. Paul Giamatti is amazing, as is Amy Ryan as his wife and Alex Shaffer as an abandoned but strong teen.





Number 2: Warrior

Who expected a movie centered on the world of Ultimate Fighting to become an almost Shakespearean family drama? And yet, here it is. Two brothers chasing the same UFC purse, a terrible father and recovering alcoholic trying to atone for something for which there is no atonement. A family fighting, literally, its way back together. Nick Nolte, as the father, deserves an Oscar for his role. Absolutely breathtaking.




The best movie of the year: The Tree of Life

The Tree of LifeTerrence Malick has created something more than a movie with The Tree of Life. It’s a prayer, a song, a work of sacred art. It has reframed my faith in a significant way. It makes an argument for God shining down on everything, even the hard times, in a way that it’s never been made before. Find a quiet, patient place in your heart and watch it. More on my thoughts about it here.

My Nominations for Best Picture

Today is the big day! The Washington Area Film Critics Association, of which I am a member, has its first round of voting for 2011 awards. It’s a hard job narrowing down the year’s contenders for Best Picture, but many of the much-ballyhooed films recently released left me unimpressed, at least as far as Best Picture goes.

The official WAFCA winners will be announced at 8 EST on Monday, December 5.

Here are my nominations for Best Picture of 2011:

The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s homage to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Review here.


Win Win 

The story of a good everyman who finds dubious moral choices can sneak up on the best of us. Review here.



The Help

Women, black and white, struggling through the moral morass of Jim Crow South with humor and love. Review here.





A family reconnects with the help of cage match fighting.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This undervalued film was astonishing on many levels. Review here.

The one I’d like to see win? Tree of Life.

What movies would you nominate?