As a hopeless cinephile, I feel that the year I spend watching movies is like having a crush on some unattainable person. It makes me feel alive, with all the planning and dreaming and effort I put into it, and somehow, even when I see a bad movie, its okay, because its one of the knocks I take in wishing that maybe this in time, after paying $10+ for a movie, it might reward my desperate passion with an enlightening moment that can transcend time and place. (For the record, that includes Owen Wilsons goofiness, Katharine Hepburn trying to hit Cary Grant, and the way Christopher Doyle moves a camera.)
So as crushes go, the day the Oscar nominations are announced is akin to finding out if your crush goes for the air-head or the brainy type. I, of course, hope for the brainy type, the substance over style, so usually when the crush reveals himself to be interested in the superficial, I try to claim that I never liked him at all and try to revise history, all the while mooning privately about what went wrong with my unrequited love. The Oscar nominations this year were no exception. In fact, for me, its going to be a snoozefest. Why? Check out the nominee list.
The most nominated movies were Chicago, Gangs of New York, and The Hours /a>. Well-made movies, sure, but movies that can make you think differently about life? Hardly. Front-runner Chicago was entertaining, but it certainly doesnt have the emotional resonance of, Casablanca, which won in 1942. (Okay, perhaps its unfair for me to rely on the Casablanca barometer lets use Titanic, a movie Im not fond of, but it still works well in this comparison.) The Hours just made people realize that Nicole Kidman is trying to be a serious actor with the fake nose, Julianne Moore is really good at playing depressed 50s housewives, and Meryl Streep probably wears large dangly earrings in real life. And Gangs of New York? Martin Scorsese told Variety, after his nomination, that he still felt it was a work in progress. Sigh. I love you, Marty, and youll probably win, but its not like anyone thinks Gangs is better than Mean Streets or Last Temptation of Christ. Kenneth Turan puts it well, "Fitting this fake art category even more exactly is 'Gangs,' a textbook example of a conceited film that can, with enough time and money and nonstop advertising and publicity, be sold as something it is not, namely a substantial motion picture" in his thoughts about the nominations.
The only thing exciting are the nominations for Pedro Almodovar (Direction and Original Screenplay, Talk to Her), Alfonso Cuaron and Carlos Cuaron (original screenplay, Y Tu Mama Tambien), Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, and Paul Weitz (adapted screenplay, About a Boy), Man Without a Past (Foreign Language Film), and Spirited Away (Animated Feature). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pedro Almodovar says of his rivals: "I would actually like to kill them all, but since I have no assassin instinct in myself I guess I will just have to celebrate with them." Of course, I'll still be watching, probably more interested in the technical categories than anything else.
Check out my thoughts on the Directors' Guild and Writers' Guild nominations, as well as the Golden Globes. Damien Bona, the co-author of the best book about Oscars, has written an excellent article about the nominations. My favorite line from his article? Of the five best-director nominees, two and a half are openly gay, the two being Rob Marshall and Pedro Almodóvar (for "Talk to Her"); the half, Stephen Daldry, was gay when he was nominated for "Billy Elliot" two years ago, but has since been married. The Daily News' Jack Matthews weighs in. You can also read Rick Lyman's coverage for the Times. Jeffrey Wells and I feel similarly. Roger Friedman and I don't.
Tomorrow: Thoughts about the Best Actress race.