It seems as if every year I’m left scratching my head over Oscar nominations. Though ostensibly a celebration of the best in film, the Academy Awards tend to shine a light on those films that were fairly well-reviewed and also fared well at the box office. Oscar nominations tend to skew middle of the road, with one or two long-shot “prestige” films thrown into the mix for good measure.
Now with the (some might say needless) expansion of the “Best Picture” category to include ten nominations, there is even more room for puzzling nominations. Here are five films that will more than likely be nominated, and why they don’t really deserve it.
Away We Go
Categories: Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture (maybe)
Away We Go, directed by Sam Mendes and starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, will no doubt be nominated in at least one of the above categories (though I’m not sure it will be embraced enough by Academy voters to wind up in the running for Best Picture), as it is the most accessible indie film out this year. Though Away We Go, the story of an expectant couple trying to find a place to settle down and find a place for themselves, is a fine film, it has no real staying power. Away We Go is a good movie, definitely, but it shouldn’t be a serious Oscar contender.
Up in the Air
Categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay
Much like Away We Go,Up in the Air is a good film, but not a great one. Judging by its reception at the Golden Globes, Up in the Air should have no problem netting a few high-profile nominations. The main problem with the film, which follows a career-traveller (George Clooney) as he navigates changes both in his career and his personal life, is the way the plot takes detours and meanders. Director Jason Reitman has used the same plot structure before, and to better effect (Thank You for Smoking stands out as a good example).
Categories: Best Director, Best Picture
I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m not much of a Quentin Tarantino fan in general, but only the most die-hard fans could overlook the flaws in Inglourious Basterds. This is the prime example of the Oscar nomination equation: box office success + positive buzz + “edginess” + seasoned director and actors = Oscar gold. Never mind that the reviews for this film (a two and a half hour revenge flick set in Nazi Germany) have been mixed at best, with even the positive ones claiming that Inglourious Basterds is self-indulgent.
Categories: Best Director, Best Picture
I can’t help but think that Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 has acquired such a positive reputation because of when it was released and the hype that surrounded it at the time. In the midst of big summer movies, District 9 was a different kind of action movie, more thoughtful that explosive (at least in the first half, before the film devolves into the very sci-fi action tropes it had previously avoided). It is a rare film about aliens that is more than a string of clichés. But, just because District 9 is a good example of the genre, doesn’t mean it should be a strong Oscar contender. At least not in the major categories. In previous years, District 9 would probably not have been mentioned as a possible Best Picture nomination, but with the additional five spaces open, it will more than likely make the cut.
Categories: All of them
Oh, where to start with James Cameron’s epic Avatar? If the Golden Globes are anything to go by, Avatar will more than likely sweep the Oscars completely. I’m not going to say that Avatar is without merit. It’s not. And I think it should definitely get a few nominations. But, I think those nominations should be in the technical categories, and maybe Best Director. Yes, Avatar is a nice-looking movie, and fairly well directed, but the acting, screenplay, and plot leave much to be desired. Essentially, Avatar is all flash and no substance. It’s a nice diversion, but not Oscar material. We’ll probably end up seeing the exact same thing with Avatar that we saw with that other little James Cameron movie, Titanic: an Academy Award sweep based on hype, spectacle, and the current zeitgeist.