OSCAR: Hammond Analyzes Nominations: Where Does The Race Head Now?

Has The King’s Speech, fresh off that Producers Guild win and now leading with 12 Oscar nominations, just gone to the front of the class? My guess is this one could be a squeaker. Presumed Academy Awards co-frontrunner and critics favorite The Social Network trailed with only 8 nominations but they were the right ones: an Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Best Picture winner might expect to have Cinematography and Editing and Sound Mixing and Music plus acting, writing, and directing. And The Fighter also is still in there strongly in key categories (7 noms overall) as well as film editing, an important one since as all pundits know it’s difficult to win Best Picture without at least also gaining an editing nod. The last movie to do that was Ordinary People some 30 years ago. That’s bad news for Best Pic nominees True Grit, which other than its editing snub did spectacularly well with 10 nominations, and most surprisingly Inception which, despite 8 other nominations, also sported an even bigger snub in addition to no editing honor with director Christopher Nolan again being passed over on the Directors honor roll.

It’s déjà vu for Chris who was nominated for a DGA award for The Dark Knight two years ago but found himself left out in the cold by Oscar not only for Director but also Screenplay and Picture. At least Nolan received the latter two nominations today. But with the popularity and critical acclaim he received for Inception, it is clear that the AMPAS directors branch (which number only 367 as opposed to the DGA membership of 14,000-plus) has not yet felt a need to welcome Hollywood’s current wonder boy into their exclusive club. The directorial snub means loooooong odds for a Best Pic Inception upset, if that’s what Warners Bros is hoping for. No film has won Best Pic without at least a directing nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1989 and, before that, Grand Hotel in 1931-1932. Indeed, one of the main reasons that the Academy increased the five Best Picture nominees to 10 was because of the membership’s 2008 Dark Knight snub. Good thing, too, for Inception since it now appears there was a strong likelihood it might have suffered a similar fate with only 5 contenders.

As for True Grit’s Coen Brothers, they now join only Warren Beatty, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Jackson, and Oliver Stone in being nominated for Directing, Writing, and Best Picture for two different films with the first being their Oscar winner No Country For Old Men. Stanley Kubrick has them all beat having done it 3 times ( Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon but unlike those above not winning for any of them).  The editing snub  might be chalked up to the film editors branch being tired of the Coens editing their own films under a pseudonym, Roderick Jaynes (although they had two previous editing noms for Fargo and No Country).  They were also left off the list of the American Cinema Editors guild earlier this month.  Speaking of Grit, its other producer , Scott Rudin became only the third individual producer (he is a producer of Social Network)  to gain two Best Picture nods in the same year. Coppola and Fred Roos pulled it off in 1974 with The Godfather Part II and The Conversation. Three films on which Rudin served as a producer (The Way Back with a makeup nod is the other) earned a total of 19 nominations. He is an Oscar winner for No Country For Old Men.

This year Oscar could also mean a real boost at the box office, something Academy president Tom Sherak was especially happy about  when I caught up with him after he announced the noms.  He points out   Best Picture nominees Black Swan (a smaller than expected 5 noms overall), The Fighter , The King’s Speech and True Grit are still in their ticket-selling prime making this Oscar season potentially one of the most profitable for contenders. June and July releases Toy Story 3 (already the year’s biggest grosser and the third animated film to get a Best Pic nod), the indie Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right and Inception might all see upticks on DVD as well as October release,  The Social Network which just hit DVD this month.

Based on the way the season has been going, the Academy offered up no huge shockers this morning. But Javier Bardem’s Best Actor nod for Biutiful may have surprised some since he was left off SAG’s list as well as just about every other precursor award except BAFTA last week. A series of screenings well-attended by voting Academy actors branch members could have helped him gain the spot. Get Low’s Robert Duvall and The Fighter’s Mark Wahlberg had both campaigned fairly heavily, particularly on the Q&A circuit but were overlooked in the category which looks to be Colin Firth’s to lose for King’s Speech. Wahlberg did manage a nod as one of the producers of his film. If True Grit’s Jeff Bridges pulls off an upset he would become the first actor to win playing the same role in a remake that won its original star an Oscar. John Wayne’s take on Rooster Cogburn triumphed in the 1969 version. He would also become only the third  to pull off back to back Best Actor wins after Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks.

Some of the bigger surprises on the list  were in categories like documentary feature where Paramount’s much talked about and rewarded education doc, Waiting For ‘Superman’ was passed over for a nomination. Many pundits thought it was a sure thing to win but I had heard some grumbling about its complete authenticity by some in the Documentary branch — and they are the ones doing the voting.

In the foreign film category where Oscar voters are sometimes deemed out of touch with international tastes, the surprise nomination of Greece’s edgier than edgy Dogtooth will have some who served on the larger foreign language committee scratching their heads. I talked to a few who hated it. Though the Academy won’t confirm it, I understand it was Chair Mark Johnson’s Exec Committee which added it (and two others) to the mix of the big committee’s six finalists last week. The other nominees from Canada (Incendies), Denmark (In A Better World), Algeria (Outside The Law), and Mexico (Biutiful) were all among the more buzzed titles.

Diane Warren’s Golden Globe winning song, “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me”, written for Cher in Burlesque, came up empty, too. Many thought that was a sure winner, but the nomination has to come first. There were only four nominated songs on the list, a fact that indicates the music branch didn’t like a lot of the contenders since overall scores didn’t trigger the usual five nominees. The songs weren’t even performed on the Oscars last year, and this morning Oscarcast producers Don Mischer and Bruce Cohen told me they will now decide whether this year’s lineup will meet a similar fate. If they are sung, it will likely be in a medley format across one segment of the show. Two people who will be singing for sure, I am told, are Oscarcast hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Franco pulled off that rare feat of being an Oscar host who is also a nominee. Paul Hogan was the last to do it when he was up for a Screenplay nod for Crocodile Dundee in 1986.

Once again the guilds proved to be the best indicators of where the Academy might go. Four of the 5 Directors Guild nominees matched Oscar’s directing lineup. (The Coens were swapped in for Nolan). Despite the fact that several films were ruled ineligible, the Writers Guild still matched the Academy in 6 of 10 screenplay nominees. And SAG, which had 19 out of 20 last year, fell to 17 out of 20 matches this time with Biutiful‘s Javier Bardem, Blue Valentine’s Michelle Williams, and Animal Kingdom’s Jacki Weaver gaining Oscar nods over SAG’s choices of Conviction‘s Hilary Swank, Get Low‘s Robert Duvall and Black Swan’s Mila Kunis. And the Producers Guild matched Oscar with 9 out of 10 contenders for Best Picture, with only Winter’s Bone currying more favor with the Acad than PGA pick of The Town.

Winter’s Bone’s distributor Roadside Attractions, a newly aggressive Oscar player, did particularly well considering the size of the small company. It nabbed four major nods for Winter’s Bone including Picture, Actress for Jennifer Lawrence, Supporting Actor for John Hawkes, and Adapted Screenplay. And it also scored two big gets for Biutiful, including Foreign Language Film and Javier Bardem as Best Actor on a film that no other American distributor would grab until Roadside finally rescued it months after its successful Cannes debut.

Among other distributors, Paramount had 21 nominations, Sony Pictures 17, and Walt Disney and The Weinstein Company each with 13. TWC did particularly well, so Harvey is back in the Oscar game big-time this year. The success both he and Rudin had this year makes their rivalry especially juicy fodder as we go into the final stretch.

A snap analysis sees Best Picture still wide open with The King’s Speech, The Social Network, and The Fighter having strong followings with a tight race expected. Each seems to have passionate supporters  and, with the preferential ballot the Academy uses, any outcome is possible, even a possible spoiler coming from behind.

For Best Actor, Colin Firth is far out front right now. Best Actress could be closer than anyone thought: with Black Swan’s youthful Natalie Portman and The Kids Are All Right’s veteran Annette Bening as contenders  and both with a few precursor victories under their belts. Supporting Actor  frontrunner is The Fighter’s Christian Bale at this point. But if The King’s Speech continues surging, this could be good for Geoffrey Rush to run up on the outside. The Supporting Actress contest might be heading towards The Fighter’s Melissa Leo, but she was passed over in the BAFTA nods last week in favor of co-star Amy Adams who is also Oscar-nominated. True Grit’s 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld might be one to watch, especially since she is essentially the lead of that film and dominates like no other supporting actress contender this year. All three actresses are in a Paramount movie, so this could be a fierce battle.

For Director, The Social Network’s David Fincher is the early favorite unless that The King’s Speech wind gets behind Tom Hooper’s back.  Usually the winner of Best Picture also takes Best Director, but this year could be a split. Saturday’s DGA awards might give a better clue where this one is going.

  1. When Portman goes up to get her statue, she should call up Steinfeld and give it to the kid.

  2. Annette Bening and her husband had been working the awards circuit as far as I remember. But an oscar??? …. mmmhhh… she really is the same wrinkleish cute smile every time.

    btw, nice live info in the morning Nikki:)

  3. I wonder why comentators, bloggers and reporters waste so much time and so many lines talking about the little winning chances of Inception, True Grit, Black Swan, Kids, Bone because they missed key nominations when they’re OBVIOUSLY out of the race and only The King’s Speech or The Social Network are winning….even if those films had gotten those key nominations. They were NEVER going to win.

  4. It is not a snub when an unworthy director (Nolan) goes unnominated. A director needs to tell a story. Not just dazzle with visual effects.

    1. though i haven’t seen any of his films, the fact that people are saying he was ‘snubbed’ makes me like the guy.

    2. Like all of Nolan’s films the story is there, but takes multiple viewings to get at. Whether that’s a strength or a weakness is a matter of taste. I was underwhelmed the first time I saw Inception, but I gave it another shot and was surprised by how emotional the core story actually is once I got a hold of the plot mechanics.

    3. In a dumb country where most people don’t get Inception, it’s not a surprise that a film about Facebook is the frontrunner. USA!! USA!! USA!!!

      1. Only people not too bright think there was anything to get. The film was boring as hell. I can’t believe it got a screenplay nod.

    4. “Nando” are you stupid? For one, i’m pretty sure each respective Nolan Batman rendition tells a pretty compelling story. And I doubt you are aware that Nolan has written a large majority of his short filmography, being as he really entered the film circuit with Momento (great movie) in 2000. Also, I am sure you would appreciate that when given the choice, Nolan would rather use minimal CGI and stick to traditional means of special effects incorporating miniatures and stunts. By citing that Nolan does not know how to tell a story is probably the most naive thing I have heard all awards season. You clearly do not have the retention or comprehensiveness to understand that Nolan is making movies that respond to the ever expanding and invasive role of technology and its effect on man kind. More over, he has a subtle obsession with the world of the dream and the implications of a false reality-most recently in Inception, but also found in the Batman Begins, and Momento pictures. Let me put it this way, don’t watch and critique film, especially directors, you suck at it.

      Christopher Nolan is a fantastic Auteur who will only continue to dazzle us in the box office. Warner Brothers thinks so, the numbers speak for themselves, and thats really all that matters in this business.

      Send You Nando.

    5. Hold your horses, sir. Quit using my nickname to spout such nonsense. You may be able to type the name, but you are no NANDO!

      *By the way, Team Nolan.

  5. Pete, would be interested to get your take on why Lesley Manville was not nominated in either the Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress categories? She gave the best performance by an actress in any film this year by far.

    The final sequence of the film, which is basically one long take that never leaves her face, is a masterpiece of acting.

    Certainly better and more rewarding than Nicole Kidman in the quite bad Rabbit Hole.

  6. I am fairly certain the Coens were also nominated in Picture, Directing and Screenplay for “Fargo,” as well.

  7. No offense but it’s pretty easy to see why Lesley Manville wasn’t nominated. The movie was released too late and most have not seen it. There was some category confusion (BAFTA nominated her in supporting).

    And the producers should eliminate the Best Song category. That entire branch should be ashamed of itself. Burlesque may not have been a great movie but Diane Warren/Cher and Christina Aguilera had very solid ballads that were better than any of the garbage nominated. The MALE dominated music branch couldn’t bring themselves to nominate it though. They have a rank system where they can sand bag nominees and stack the deck with likes of Randy Newman, AR Rahman and Alan Menken and forgettable songs that have no chance to win like the song from Country Strong. Just get rid of the category and punish the branch for their shenanigans. I was really looking forward to seeing Cher sing on the telecast.

    1. I’m not in the habit of defending the Music Branch, however, maybe a review of the Best Song category rules is in order for you. It’s all about how the song is used in the film, and that Cher song was completely out of place. It’s as if the movie stopped so they could gratuitously drop it in. Say what you want about the old-timers, but they know how to craft a tune that has something to do with the storyline, and meld it nicely to the flow.

      1. Uhhh Carol, Randy Newman’s song wasn’t even in Toy Story 3 until the end credits so I am not buying this “how it was used in the film” excuse. It fit the scene good enough for the audience in my theater to applaud after it. I saw Country Strong and I don’t even remember that song.

        And how is it that every Randy Newman’s songs, every last one of them, always passes the rank system? How can they ALL score above an 8.25?? He had 3 of them get in last year!

        The only time a woman gets nominated in Song or Score is usually when they compose with another man. That’s simply a fact.

  8. Diane Warren got robbed. She’s so damn talented-and the song is just beautiful. Shame on the Academy.

    1. Not really. Everybody knows Diane Warren has a huge backlog of material. She’s uber-prolific and a song packrat. They ran a news story showing her office, and she sure didn’t look like a neat freak. There’s suspicion whenever she has an “original” song because they don’t know whether she really came up with it based on that movie or just leaned over and grabbed one off a stack. Doesn’t diminish her brilliance. It just isn’t what the award’s intended to reflect. People that craft a song specifically for a movie deserve recognition for that. If her song seems out of place in Burlesque, it affirms the notion that it might’ve been written months or years before the movie was even greenlighted. If it was a new song but not well-placed within the context of the movie, it’s not the Academy music branch’s fault.

      1. Anonymous, Diane does indeed have an amazing catalog of songs. After all, she is constantly writing new material. I know this because I work at Diane’s publishing company. That is why I can tell you for a fact that “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” was a new song written specifically for the movie. I was there the day she got the call about writing a song for the movie. It was that day, she started to go to work and began writing a song for that specific scene in Burlesque.

  9. Sorry Nando I think you were too distracted by the action scenes in Inception to appreciate the themes explored in the film. Lets see what will be remembered in ten years a standard western or a film which is essentially about the power of ideas to inspire and corrupt.

  10. Hailey Steinfeld is a lovely actress but NOT worthy of a nomination, much less an Oscar. It was a one note performance!

    1. I disagree. Not only did her performance contain much more depth than you’re suggesting, but she’s 13 years old and mastered the quirky dialog that was presented to her. She’s definitely more deserving than Melissa Leo, whom I liked in the film but basically was playing really, really broad…borderline cartoonish, in some parts.

    2. Forced to agree, the Coens wrote/directed a great character, don’t really see that the actor brought much to it other than that one note of precociousness.

  11. Boy, Nolan is rapidly becoming the Lauren Graham of the Oscars.

    Pete, it should be noted for the record that Billy Wilder and Joseph Mankiewicz might have also been in that hat-trick category were they not so modest about taking actual producer credit for their films. And there have been back-to-back wins in other acting categories as well (Rainer and Hepburn for Actress, Robards for Supporting Actor, etc.).

  12. “Inception” is as spectacular as movie-making gets. To read people dismiss it as “flashy” or “razzle dazzle” is just depressing.
    To ignore Nolan yet again and nominate Hooper – no offense, but what director out there couldn’t have made a strong movie starting with that screenplay and that cast? And what kind of directing challenge is it visually when you’re cutting between two people talking in a room?

    1. Directing is more about emotion than about flashy visuals. As long as Nolan continues to make brilliant but aseptic films he’ll have a hard time with recognition…as he laughs his way to the bank.

      1. I agree…so then if it’s about getting strong performances from actors – where are Debra Granik and Lisa Cholodenko’s directing nominations?

        The Kids Are All Right:
        Best Picture
        Best Original Screenplay
        Best Actress

        Winter’s Bone:
        Best Picture
        Best Adapted Screenplay
        Best Actress

        Nominations for Best Picture and Writing, and yet this somehow doesn’t extend to directing their movie? It’s their creation.

        That’s whacked.

    2. Different take: *Both* Nolan and Hooper deserved Oscar nods; The King’s Speech was harder to make in other ways (period details, fundraising)…sad to say, it’s Aronofsky who shouldn’t be there, and I say that as someone who loved Requiem for a Dream & have been rooting for the guy since “?”, but “Black Swan” was overwrought and borderline insane, in a way that detracted from the film.

  13. I think we will see the tide shift to Hailee because typically the voters want to give something to all the major nominees — The Fighter will already have Supporting Actor, and there’s nothing else to give True Grit. As if that’s not enough, she has two other major trends in her favor: leads nommed in supporting tend to win, and younger nominees tend to beat older nominees in this category (paging Lauren Bacall and her assembled children).

  14. Uh, Inception is only superficially about these themes. The film drops all thematic depth half way through to become a somewhat plodding action film.

    But the main reason the Director’s Branch continues to overlook Nolan is because his visual storytelling skills are lacking. Most of the members of the branch are exceptionally intelligent and talented directors, so they can spot Nolan’s flaws in an instant. There might also be some jealousy involved because they dint think Nolan deserves such fame and success for his directing. But of course the Inception die hards won’t get this because they don’t understand what good visual storytelling is.

    1. “But of course the Inception die hards won’t get this because they don’t understand what good visual storytelling is.”

      Right…

  15. Um, “Fargo” also received Best Picture, Directing, and Screenplay nods. So Coens are at Three, NOT Two, films that have done this.

    1. @ the tenor: Wrong. Remember one of the comments above about modesty in credits from the likes of Billy Wilder and others. Well, the modesty extends to Fargo; where Ethan Coen received the sole nomination for producing, and Joel Coen received the sole credit for directing. Yes, we understand they probably shared the jobs and so forth and that may be technicality. But that is what makes Hammond right. And no, Peter shouldn’t have to acknowledge those who weren’t nominated for uncredited work. I’m sure coughing up trivia like this is hard enough on deadline (and Deadline).

  16. I’m not a Dicaprio fan boy, but his performance in Shutter Island, aside from Colin Firth in Kings Speech, was just as good as any of the other nominees performances.

  17. Nolan missing BD isn’t really a shock.

    The biggest surprise (at least for me) was Lee Smith not getting nominated for editing when Inception did so well in other technical categories, particularly after his guild nomination and prior nod for The Dark Knight the year it missed BP. Very strange decision!

  18. And how about some major applause for the special effects branch for finally nominating five pictures! After all these years where FX dominated every major Hollywood tentpole,I could not for the life of me figure out how the branch couldn’t honor five nominees! Somebody finally woke up. Hallelujah!

  19. I find it odd too that Alice in Wonderland was snubbed for Best Makeup. The movie was one of the highest grossing films of the year, and the makeup was nothing short of amazing. The fact that it was overlooked just proves the Academy Awards are a joke.

  20. Tron Legacy not getting a special effects nod is weird, I’m not saying it was perfect cgi or anything.

    But hereafter?The Tsunami scene isn’t enough to deserve that nom, I also think Scott Pilgrim deserved a best song or special effects nom.

  21. If I were King of the Academy with the noms as they are (lets not argue about those as the night would last forever)

    I would give the following

    BP – The King’s Speech
    BD- Tom Hooper
    Actor – Colin Firth
    Actress – Michelle Williams
    Sup Actor – Christian Bale
    Sup Actress – Bonham- Carter
    Original – The Kings Speech
    Adapted – True Grit

    Agree?

    1. No, no and lots more no’s…only ones I agree with are Bale and King’s Speech for original. All the others are wishful thinking.

  22. I find it interesting that respondents to comments pages like this have opinions all over the map, love it, hate it, and the usual “you suck” type of inanity. Yet everyone expects various Academy branches to vote uniformly in their endorsements for nominations. How can 14000+ DGA members be expected to vote the same as 360+ Academy Directors Branch members? First of all, the directors in the Academy are all, uh, directors. The DGA voting membership also includes a lot of other categories, such as AD and UPM. Also, no one in any of the guilds or the Academy branches is allowed a “snub” vote. If there are five opening slots for a nomination and your favorite came in a very close sixth, that’s not a “snub.” In all but the preferential voting categories, you can lose out on a nomination or a win by a single vote.

  23. It’s sad that Andy Garcia’s wonderful performance in “City Island” went unnoticed by the voters. Perhaps the lack of publicity and the fact that it opened early in 2010 resulted in it being overlooked.
    It was a great picture with some outstanding performances and it’s unfortunate that the film didn’t get the acclaim it deserved.

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