Nomination Analysis…Shock? Awe? Awesome?

nominationsvideoIt’s like Christmas morning for film geeks (the ceremony is like New Year’s Eve). AMPAS has announced the nominations for the 85th Academy Awards (complete list of nominees).

beasts_of_the_southern_wild_04Surprise! You’re In!

Beasts of the Southern Wild might be the biggest surprise recipient this morning. Some were worried that it may have peaked too soon. But, when Benh Zeitlin was announced in Best Director the gasps were heard ’round the world. Less surprising were the nods for Best Picture, Best Actress (for the indefatigable Quvenzhane Wallis, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Indeed, some thought the only sure thing left for the film was the screenplay nod.

I was not terribly surprised at the strength Amour showed in the nominations, but some were. Michael Haneke’s career has been growing in recognition over the past decade (though his career goes back much further than that) and he’s become the default world auteur for Hollywood to fall in love with. Amour is his most accessible piece yet (though not an easy watch) and it focuses on the lives of an elderly couple…and we all know that the Academy membership is not known for its youth-skewing.

Jackie Weaver’s nomination for Silver Linings Playbook was a bit of a surprise and it gave an unexpected strength to the film, making it the first film in 31 years to be nominated in Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Screenplay. The last film to do it was Reds. That year, Warren Beatty’s film was upset by Chariots of Fire. Does this open the door for a shocker on February 24?

bigelow-2Surprise! You’re Out!

When the Best Director nominees were announced, the gasps may have been less for Benh Zeitlin being in than they were for Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow being out. Each were considered front-runners (along with Spielberg) for the win, let alone the nomination. I think they were both victimized by the “they don’t need my vote, they’re surely in” syndrome that strikes the Academy from time to time (I think that’s how Paul Giamatti was snubbed for Sideways).

Many were shocked at Nicole Kidman’s absence in Best Supporting Actress for her delightfully over-the-top work in The Paperboy. I was less so. The predecessor nominations were, themselves, surprising. Her performance was simply not the type of thing the Academy tends to go for. If they’re not going to nominate The Birdcage performances (which killed at the SAG awards that year), they clearly don’t get “camp” and aren’t going to go for it.

John Hawkes’ snub for The Sessions was a bit of a surprise. I had suspected it, though. The film had just dropped from conversation recently. Many also were a tad shocked by Helen Mirren being left out of Best Actress, but given Hitchcock‘s less than stellar reviews, I was not.

One of the most shocking snubs came in a category that only shocks the most devout of Oscar followers (but tends to shock us every year). France’s The Intouchables was thought a surefire nominee and a strong challenge to Amour for the win. With the Weinstein Company backing it, who would’ve even considered this? Not many. Of the possible NaFF film nominations, this seemed most likely.

5_Broken_CamerasHow’d NaFF films do?

Four nominations this year from nine possibilities.

In Best Documentary, 5 Broken Cameras is a nominee.
In Best Live Action Short, 2012 NaFF winner Curfew is a nominee, as is 2012 selection Buzkashi Boys.
And, in Best Documentary Short, former winner Cynthia Wade’s Mondays at Racine is a nominee.

lincoln-movie-trailerHow’d I Do on my picks?

My top nine picks for Best Picture were all included. So, 9 for 9.
I was with most of the world in Best Director, so the Affleck / Bigelow snubs make me 3 for 5 in that category. I did have David O. Russell in my spoilers. I, like most, did NOT expect Benh Zeitlin (but am thrilled to see him there).

I went 4 for 5 in Best Actress, believing The Impossible had come out too late for Naomi Watt’s to get the momentum necessary and Marion Cotillard’s constant campaigning would carry her in. But Watt’s was atop my spoiler list.

Best Actor? Nailed it. 5 for 5.

Somehow, I knew there would be a surprise in Best Supporting Actress, but I went with Dench, believing the 50-year anniversary of Bond might carry her into the first ever Bond-film acting nomination. Instead, it was Weaver – who, yes, was on my spoiler list. 4 for 5.

Best Supporting Actor, I went with a surprise Argo snub here. Should’ve used that in Director. Arkin replaces DiCaprio on my list and I go 4 for 5.

Flight overtook The Master in Original Screenplay, leaving me 4 for 5 there.

Nailed Adapted Screenplay with a 5 for 5 call.

I went 4 for 5 in Best Foreign Film, missing the one that nearly everyone predicted (the aforementioned The Intouchables) instead of Canada’s War Witch.

And, finally, 4 for 5 in Best Documentary with How to Survive a Plague replacing Bully. I honestly think that I liked How to Survive a Plague too much to believe it would make it. There is usually something to infuriate me in this category. Not this year.

Overall, in the categories I predicted, I went 46 for 54 for 85%. In comparison, Nathaniel at TheFilmExperience.net went 44 for 54 for 81%. IndieWire’s Peter Knegt went 42 for 54 for 78%. Scott Feinberg at The Hollywood Reporter went 43 for 54 for 80%. I give myself a NAILED IT!

Let’s hope that Oscar night is as surprising as this morning was. Mark your calendars for Feb. 24.

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NaFF and the Oscar Shortlists

5 Broken CamerasSo far the Academy had released their shortlists for Best Documentary Short Subject and Feature Films, Animated Shorts, and Live Action Shorts and so far, a NaFF 2012 film has made it to each list.

Here’s the track record so far (NaFF selections in bold)…

Best Documentary Feature:
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, directed by Alison Klayman
Bully, directed by Lee Hirsch
Chasing Ice,directed by Jeff Orlowski
Detropia, directed by Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing
Ethel, directed by Rory Kennedy
5 Broken Cameras, directed by Emad Burnat & Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers, directed by Doro Moreh
The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki
How to Survive a Plague, directed by David France
The Imposter, directed by Bart Layton
The Invisible War, directed by Kirby Dick
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, directed by Alex Gibney
Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul
This Is Not a Film, directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb & Jafar Panahi
The Waiting Room, directed by Peter Nicks

Note: The Waiting Room was last month’s presentation at Human Docs, a partnership between NaFF and Lipscomb University.

Best Documentary Short Subject:
The Education of Mohammad Hussein, directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady
Inocente, directed by Sean Fine
Kings Point, directed by Sari Gilman
Mondays at Racine, directed by Cynthia Wade
Open Heart, directed by Kief Davidson
ParaÍso, directed by Nadav Kurtz
The Perfect Fit
, directed by Tali Yankelevich
Redemption, directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

Best Animated Short:
Adam and Dog, directed by Minkyu Lee
Combustible, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Dripped, directed by Léo Verrier
The Eagleman Stag, directed by Mikey Please
The Fall of the House of Usher, directed by Raul Garcia
Fresh Guacamole, directed by PES
Head over Heels, directed by Timothy Reckart
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, directed by David Silverman
Paperman, directed by John Kahrs
Tram, directed by Michaela Pavlátová

Note: Dripped was the winner of the NaFF 2012 Best Animated Short Award and The Eagleman Stag was a 2011 NaFF selection.

Best Live Action Short:
A Fábrica (The Factory), directed byAly Muritiba
Asad, directed by Bryan Buckley
Buzkashi Boys, directed by Sam French
Curfew, directed by Shawn Christensen
Death of a Shadow, directed by Tom Van Avermaet
Henry, directed by Yan England
Kiruna-Kigali, directed by Goran Kapetanovic
The Night Shift Belongs to the Stars, directed by Silvia Bizio Eduardo Ponti
9meter, directed by Anders Walther
Salar, directed by Nicholas Greene
when you find me, directed by Bryce Dallas Howard

Note: Curfew was the winner of the Best Live Action Short at NaFF 2012.

In addition, four NaFF 2012 selections were nominated by their home nations for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film.

Headshot, from Thailand
The Intouchables, from France
Inuk, from Greenland
and A Trip (Izlet), from Slovenia.

5 Broken Cameras

Additionally, many Oscar prognosticators are suggesting that “Still Alive” from Paul Williams Still Alive (the 2012 co-closing night selection) is a likely nominee for Best Original Song.

There could be a surprise or two, but these are the most likely nominees from the 2012 NaFF selections leaving us with the possibility of up to 9 nominated selections from this past festival (including one from the 2011 fest).

Not a bad year, I’d say. Not bad at all!

Best of luck to all of the filmmakers.

(Updated to correct the director of “The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars”)

Couch Potato Tuesday, June 19

Here’s a look at what’s coming out on BluRay, DVD, and VOD today.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home – The Duplass Brothers, 2012, USA
Jason Segel, Susan Sarandon, Ed Helms, Judy Greer

The Duplass Brothers closed the 2010 film festival with the hilarious comedy Cyrus. With their latest, starring Jason Segel, Susan Sarandon and Ed Helms, they dip another toe into the mainstream to mixed, but mostly enjoyable results. Segel plays a basement-dwelling, thirty-something slacker who believes that M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs contains the key to order in the universe. If you just pay attention to the so-called coincidences in life, you’ll eventually find your destiny. When his mother (Sarandon) sends him on an errand, he believes he’s heading on a journey that will change his life forever. And it might. It’s worth a rental fee. Metacritic Score: 60

A Bag of Hammers – Brian Crano, 2011, USA
Jason Ritter, Jake Sandvig, Carrie Preston, Chandler Canterbury, Todd Louiso,
Rebecca Hall

Brian Crano’s debut screened in the New Directors competition at the 2011 Nashville Film Festival (and features a cover quote from Variety writer Joe Leydon, who reviewed the film here). The story follows Ben and Alan who twenty-something slackers who are content to remain so (yesterday’s theme, Virginia Woolf; today’s theme, slackers) . They’ll do anything legal (or otherwise) to maintain their lazy lifestyle, that is until a harried single mother (Carrie Preston, whom you all love from this past festival) and her 12-year-old son arrive next door. To give away too much more plot is to take pleasure away from viewing the movie. Crano balances the comedy with the drama rather well and Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig work well together as the pair of losers that you kinda like even though you shouldn’t. Metacritc Score: 50

Also out on DVD/BluRay/VOD this week:

Wanderlust, starring Paul Rudd & Jennifer Aniston as a Manhattan couple who makes their way to a commune where hijinks ensue. Metacritc Score: 53

Project X, about three high school students who plan to make a name for themselves by throwing the biggest party ever. Hijinks ensue. Metacritc Score: 48

Big Miracle, starring John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore as a reporter and his Greenpeace-member ex-girlfriend who embark on a journey to save a family of grey whales trapped by rapidly forming ice. It’s obviously set in the 80’s when ice still formed in the Arctic and when Sarah Palin was a TV reporter in Alaska. Apparently, she has a cameo in the film. Metacritc Score: 61

What do you plan on watching this week?

DVR Theater, Week of 6/18

Beginning today, and every Monday I’m not attending another festival (or NaFF, for that matter), I’ll be recommending some basic cable titles to set your DVRs for this week.  You could also do that less-than-trendy thing of actually watching them when they air, but does anyone really do that any more? I’ll focus on one selection per day (or so) and highlight NaFF selections from the past as they appear along the way.

Tonight (Monday, June 18)

Sundance Channel – 8:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM Central
French Roast

This witty animated short that played in NaFF 2009 and was nominated for an Oscar at the 2010 Academy Awards.

Turner Classic Movies – 10:00 PM Eastern, 9:00 PM Central
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

One of the few films in which every actor was nominated for an Academy Award (not including extras), Mike Nichols filmed version of the Edward Albee play is a showcase for Elizabeth Taylor’s remarkable talent. Utterly unforgettable.

Tuesday, June 19

Turner Classic Movies – 7:00 PM Eastern, 6:00 PM Central
Spartacus

It’s swords and sandals time, from a time when people like Stanley Kubrick made swords and sandals movies. Even if you’re not a fan of this type of epic, you have to see this classic. Otherwise, you’re never allowed to say, “I am Spartacus.”

Wednesday, June 20

IFC – 1:45 PM Eastern, 12:45 PM Central
Mrs. Dalloway

Vanessa Redgrave is radiant as Clarissa Dalloway, a London socialite whose perfectly planned party is disrupted by the return of a suitor from 33 years before. Based on the novel by Virginia Woolf. And we have a theme for the week.

Thursday, June 21

Sundance Channel – 2:45 PM Eastern, 1:45 PM Central
The Spine

Academy Award-winner Chris Landreth won the award for Best Animated Short at the 2010 Nashville Film Festival for this wildly creative short about the demise of a marriage.

Friday, June 22

Sundance Channel – 2:05 PM Eastern, 1:05 PM Central
Sorry, Thanks

Director Dia Sokol attended the 2009 Nashville Film Festival with this competition entry about the philosophical effects a one-night stand has to two people and the people they love. If you don’t recognize the guy in the green shirt in the picture above, maybe you’ll recognize him in this photo?

That’s right! He’s freshman Mitch Kramer in Dazed & Confused. Also on Sundance that day is Werner Herzog’s remarkable and disturbing Grizzly Man. It’s at 4:15 Eastern, 3:15 Central.

Saturday, June 23

Turner Classic Movies – 1:15 PM Eastern, 12:15 PM Central
The Bad Seed

Rhoda’s all sweet in her braids and pony tails and frilly dresses, ain’t she? Except for the fact that she’s a ruthless killer! What was meant to be shocking becomes an amusingly over-the-top melodrama (that was still nominated for four Academy Awards). Definitely DVR this one and then have friends over for cocktails later that night to get the best viewing experience out of this one. They way Mervyn LeRoy had to alter the ending of the play to meet Hays Code requirements is especially a hoot.

Sunday, June 24

Sundance Channel – 1:00 PM Eastern, 12:00 PM Central
Prodigal Sons

Winner of a Special Jury Prize for Bravery in Storytelling at the 2009 Nashville Film Festival, Kimberly Reed’s remarkable documentary about her attempts to reconnect with her estranged adopted brother shouldn’t be explained – but it MUST be seen. And you’ve got your chance this Sunday. Do not miss it.

Turner Classic Movies – 8:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM Central
The Circus

I love silent films and you should too. If The Artist is the only one you’ve seen (you’ve seen it, right?), then this Sunday is a great opportunity to catch one of the greats. If Turner Classic cooperates, I’ll try to include one silent in each week’s list. As Ebert said in his review for this film, “They (Chaplin, Keaton & Lloyd) were artists who depended on silence, and sound was powerless to add a thing. They live in their time, and we must be willing to visit it.”

Tomorrow, we’ll check out what’s coming out on DVD and VOD.