It sucks having to wake up in total darkness for the 5:38 a.m. Oscar nominations, much less analyze them at that obscene hour. So be sure to keep clicking here throughout the day. Because I get nastier with every caffé latte. There’s so much to say about this morning’s 79th Academy Award nods. Let’s start with the bad since this is, after all, my website. But, first, you must recognize that to understand this process, you have to think like an Oscar voter. Which means you have to be cruel, quirky, and sometimes even incomprehensible. Let’s begin…
So what that Dreamgirls leads with eight nominations. That’s a promotional wet dream starting tomorrow. Trust me, the folks at Dreamworks and Paramount who’ve been pimping this pic are having a nightmare today. Shut out for Best Picture. Shut out for Best Director. Shut out for Best Actor/Actress. Only Best Supporting Actor/Actress and Best Song among the big nominations. Just the artsy-fartsy categories left to get nods. Clearly, those prickish Academy Award members are sending a message here. What is it? That David Geffen, as rich and powerful as he is, will be denied what he wants — which is to exit the movie industry accompanied by Oscar. And the balloters do this simply because they can. Yes, year after year, spite plays a huge part in the Academy’s nominating process. Individually, none of the Oscar voters would dare take on David. But there’s safety in numbers, so what the hell. From the start of the awards season, I kept hearing the Industry buzz that the Motown musical “wasn’t that good” despite all the media gushing. Among them, the NYT‘s David Carr. I said at the time, and now it’s true, that he would eat those words declaring the Oscar season all but over with Dreamgirls winning Best Picture and Best Director. (If he lived in L.A., he would have known better.) There was too much hype, and much too early (in November), for the film to survive even the shortened awards season without the inevitable backlash. In the end, Geffen will take away from this snub what he’s always complained about for years: that the movie biz is mostly populated by morons.
No way United 93 would get a Best Picture nomination. Why? Because this critics’ darling had no name stars in it, and the most elite Screen Actors Guild members make up the largest segment of Academy voters. They don’t like it when somebody with a good script makes a great movie with a C-grade cast. In a nutshell, it’s bad for their biz (their biz, of course, consisting of implausibly padded perks, ironclad start and stop dates, half-hearted promotional efforts in exchange for those studio jet flights, and other pain-in-the-ass behavior that drives up production costs.). There was also the content problem: no one in Hollywood wanted to nominate a jingoistic rah-rah America drama. Not when this year’s seven-times nominated Babel was to global bleakness what last year’s Crash was to Los Angeles. Instead, the punishment they meted out is to nominate Paul Greengrass for Best Director and, on Oscar night, force him to sit for hour after hour and hour of that interminable awards broadcast inside that fucking prison impersonating the Kodak Theater.
For weeks now, the whispers around Malibu, Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air among the moguls were eerily similar: “My favorite movie is Little Miss Sunshine, but Apocalypto was the most artistically brilliant — and I’ll deny it if you try to quote me.” Expectedly, Mel’s pic was blanked in the prestige categories, managing only makeup, sound editing and sound mixing. I’d predicted all along that the Oscar voters would judge Mel the man (in his case, the anti-Semitic drunk) and not the moviemaker. (Hell, many of those machers who revile him are themselves self-loathing Jews married to shiksas.) And Disney’s turd of an Academy campaign to convince members that he’s “not as bad as Roman or Woody” stunk. But know this: Gibson’s film career behind the camera is not over since Apocalypto has already grossed $78.2 mil worldwide (and cost half that) even though it’s still in the process of opening overseas. In the U.K., it broke the record for a foreign-language picture debut, and also surprised in Italy and Eastern Europe as well as Russia. Mel may be meshugginah, but he’s still a moneymaker.
CLICK FOR UPDATE: Ryan, I Hardly Knew You… Every year, there’s a “What the fuck?” moment when the Oscar nominations come out. This year’s was the nod to Ryan Gosling for Best Actor in Half Nelson. Those lost kids on the back of milk cartons are better known than this ex-Young Hercules (the TV series). But the Academy geriatrics all loved The Notebook, and Gosling had a starring role in that shameless tearjerker. Still… I do box office week after week, and even I don’t recall hearing dickwad about Half-Nelson. So I went and checked. ThinkFilm released the R-rated pic on August 11 (when Hollywood goes on vacation). Its biggest theater count was only 106. (There are more nail salons within a three block radius of my home than this.) It eked out just $2.7 million (about what fellow nominees Leo and Will spend on personal hair product.) Its plot revolves around a schoolteacher with a drug habit. (Maybe the old coots are nostalgic for their crack days.) The result is that nothing about this movie shouts “For your consideration” to the Academy. Yet, Gosling won the nod over Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx, Ken Watanabe, and, oh yes, Sacha Baron Cohen. I simply can’t fathom this. You and I know that, of the 306 eligible pictures this year, at most 20 to 25 are screened by the lazy sons-a-bitches who vote Oscars. Please, someone explain how Gosling even got seen. I, for one, would not be surprised to learn that his father works for the accounting firm who counts the ballots.