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Eight months ago, Brian made the stupid bold prediction that the final Harry Potter would get a Best Picture nod and be a favorite for the win. Now that Deathly Hallows Part 2 has racked up great reviews and is earning dough at an impressive rate (killing our summer box office predictions), its Best Picture chances is the top topic among the Oscar blogosphere. Lost in the analysis of the Lord of the Rings precedent, its mega box office returns, and the widespread affection for the epic series is an underreported factor that overrides all of that: the movie makes no goddamn sense.

First we dressed up as Helena Bonham Carter, then we haggled over a sword for some reason, then we collected some tears, then we talked to some ghosts, then we went to heaven, then we came back, then we ...

I’ve seen every film exactly once but haven’t read any of the books beyond the third. As the series progressed the plots got more and more unintelligible. I understand the largest audience for the films are those who read and loved the books and want to see how they get adapted for the screen. They are made for an audience that doesn’t leave the theater discussing Harry and Voldemort’s latest exploits but the choices the filmmakers made: which scenes to cut, what subplots to highlight, how to visualize a written description, etc…

I didn't know who this person was but according to the reaction of the girl next to me in the theater I was supposed to be upset he died

But take it from someone who just wants to watch these movies as only movies: they are impossible to follow. If Part 2 was an original story I’d say it smacked of being made up as they went along. It’s not a bad movie – it’s my favorite since number 5 – but I more or less had to stop thinking about who people were and why things were happening and enjoy the visuals and the natural thrill of the series’s big climax.

(On a side note, how disappointing is it that the series builds up all this mythology about the types of spells in the Harry Potter world yet wizard wars devolve into shooting at each other from wands like Star Wars blasters?)

So think about the hurdles that Harry Potter has to overcome to get a Best Picture nomination. As Academy members hear about the film’s buzz and pop in their screener, how many will have read the books? How many will have seen all the movies? If they haven’t, they aren’t going to have any idea what the hell is going on. And that’s not a good thing when you need to rack up a bunch of #1 votes.

Update: I’m happy this post is getting the occasional link and I hope people enjoy my exhaustive look at voting procedures (who wouldn’t!). However, further reporting after the announcement in the change in the Best Picture nominating rules – particularly by Steve Pond at The Wrap – revealed that some of my initial assumptions were incorrect. I have inserted some updates to clarify where necessary. The original post:

This morning the Academy announced changes to the Best Picture nomination process. After two years of ten nominees, the number of nominated films may now vary between 5 and 10. Only films that receive at least 5% of first place votes may qualify for a nomination, though five is the minimum.

The intention of this rule change is great. Ten felt unwieldy at times, with a few also-also-rans filling out the slate. Allowing the quality of that year’s contenders determine the number of slots makes a lot of sense.

It’s too bad they bungled the math so bad.

Breaking 5%

In the Academy press release, Executive Committee members claimed they pored over the data from recent years to see what would have happened under the new 5% scenario. “In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” said retiring executive director Bruce Davis. In the eight years before the expansion to ten nominees, the new system would have resulted in slates of 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 nominees. Note that there’s one number missing: 10.

I know this isn’t a large sample size, but in all the years they tested, a 5% threshold never reached the maximum number of allowed nominees. This means that the 5% rule is not tweaking the list of eligible candidates, it is the sole determinant of the nominees. (Update: Not entirely true. See below.)

An Elegant System Tossed Away

Why does that matter? Because the current system is surprisingly well-devised. A good voting system should accurately reflect voters’ preferences and diminish the temptation to vote strategically (“game the system”). The Oscar’s current voting process does this well.

Alternate Voting: Rather than voting for one film to nominate for Best Picture, voters submit a ranked list 1-10 of nominees. To count these ballots, the accountants make a pile for each film that receives a #1 vote. Any film that receives 1/11th of all #1 votes gets a nomination and those ballots are set aside. Next, the movie that receives the fewest #1 votes gets eliminated. Those ballots get transferred to the #2 film on each list. It does get a little more complicated, but essentially round after round of eliminations eventually results in ten films crossing the nomination threshold. Even though voters submit up to ten films, each voter only has one vote.

This process frees the voter to vote however she wishes. She doesn’t have to consider the “electability” of her number one choice. She can put any film at #1, no matter how remote its chances. If that film doesn’t have enough support, her vote transfers to her #2 choice. Her vote is not wasted. This isn’t like a political race where a vote for a third party is essentially meaningless. (Update: It turns out that any film that receives fewer than 1% of first place votes does get redistributed.)

Surplus Votes: Realistically, voters have preferences beyond seeing just one film nominated. Maybe they want a certain one to win the Oscar, but would also really like to see another one nominated. In such a scenario, the voter may be tempted to vote for the one she likes less just to help it get nominated if she thinks the one she prefers will get lots of other support. This is especially true in races where it’s dead certainty that a contender will receive a nomination (Avatar, The King’s Speech, etc…)

The Oscar vote tabulators take this into account. If one nominee receives 20% more votes than it needs, all that film’s votes get reassigned to the next film on the ballot on a pro-rated basis. So if a film needs 500 votes to get nominated and receives 1000 votes, all those votes will be reassigned to the next film on those ballots and be worth 50% of a vote. So now the voter doesn’t even have to worry about wasting her vote on an obvious front-runner! A portion of her vote will go to another favorite. (Update: The surplus rule isn’t entirely thrown out either, it turns out. A film that receives 20% more of the 1st place votes it would have needed to cross the 1/11th threshold still has its votes redistributed on a pro-rated basis. The result is a distribution for films that receive more than roughly 11% of first place votes.)

The combination of Alternate Voting and reassigning surplus votes makes for a system that removes most incentives for gaming the system. Voting strategically isn’t going to get a voter much further than simply voting with her heart.

(Update: With Steve Pond’s reporting, we now know that the surplus rule is applied first. Then any film with less than 1% of first place votes gets redistributed. After that one round of redistribution, all films with 5% or more of first place votes receives a nomination for Best Picture. The result is many fewer wasted ballots than I feared, but still many more than under the previous voting system.)

An Arbitrary Threshold

No need to fill all of this out

I understand the desire to adjust the number of nominees based on the qualities of the contenders. “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit,” says Davis. “If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.” But requiring at least 5% of #1 votes is not the way to do it.

First, the number of films receiving 5% of #1 votes is not necessarily indicative of the strength of that year’s slate. More than anything it indicates the strength of the front-runners. If there is a strong front-runner or two, those two films could easily account for more than a third of #1 votes. Even if other potential nominees are broadly well-respected, it will be tough for many to hit that 5% level.

Awards Daily, a popular Oscar site, did a simulated ballot for its readers last year using the same voting system as the Academy. The top three vote-getters netted 65.6% of all #1 votes. As you can see, this left very little room for other films to also hit 5%, even well-respected ones that garnered lots of support once votes were reallocated. I know the audience for an Oscar blog is going to be different from the Academy membership, but similar patterns could certainly emerge.

A year that has many nominees wouldn’t mean that the crop of films that year was better. It most likely means the field is more even with no one or two films leading the pack and snapping up extra #1 votes.

So the 5% rule doesn’t have much to do with film quality, despite the justification from the Academy. What it DOES do is eliminate the also-rans. In a year with just a couple true contenders to win Best Picture, let’s just abandon the pretense and not nominate a bunch of films that have no chance to win, even if the consensus considers them great. In years that have a lot more films in the running for the win, let them in even if not all of them are that good. I don’t think this is what the Academy is trying to do but it least it would make sense.

The usual voting system spelled out above comes into play to determine nominees among eligible films. But the 5% target is so high that never once in the eight test cases the Academy studied was the usual counting system necessary. Eleven films would have to receive 5% of #1 votes before the weighted ballots came into play. That is very, very unlikely.

(The usual voting process could also come into play if less than five films hit 5%. In fact, only four films did so on the Awards Daily 2009 simulated ballot.)

Barring the unlikely event that more than ten or less than five films reach the 5% threshold, the slate of Best Picture nominees will be entirely composed of those films that hit the threshold. No alternate voting. No reallocation of excess votes. And therefore lots of incentive to vote strategically as voters try not to waste their ballots on long-shots.

An Example in Screwy Voting

We’ll use my 2009 Best Picture mock ballot as an example. My top five votes would have been:

1. In the Loop
2. Zombieland
3. The Informant!
4. An Education
5. Up

I had little expectation that In the Loop would garner a Best Picture nomination. But it wasn’t impossible. It was in the conversation for a screenplay nod and with ten nominees something could sneak in out of left field. Its chances were low but not nil. There was no risk to voting for it, however, because if it got eliminated my vote would move down to my #2 film, then #3, etc… Realistically this ballot would have resulted in a vote for An Education or Up as numbers 1-3 got eliminated.

Now, I really loved An Education. I wanted it to get nominated and I was concerned it was on the bubble. With the 5% rule, it doesn’t just need my vote to get nominated. It needs my #1 vote. So now I have a dilemma: do I vote for In the Loop, the film that I loved the most even though its chances were very slim under the old rules and are much slimmer with a 5% threshold, knowing that if it doesn’t hit 5% my vote will count for absolutely nothing? Or do I vote for An Education in case it needs my vote to cross 5%? The rational vote is the latter and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Bad incentives make economists angry!

Think about it like this: I have two preferences. The primary preference is to get a nomination for In the Loop. The secondary one is to help An Education elbow out its competition for the final few slots. The old system lets me have both my preferences and assigns my vote based on how others vote. If my vote for In the Loop helps it, then my vote goes there. If my vote for In the Loop doesn’t help, then at least my vote can help my secondary objective. Under the 5% rule, I must make the choice and risk wasting my vote if I choose wrong.

Ultimately, there’s no reason to submit a list of ten films on the nomination ballot any more. In fact, there’s no reason to vote for more than one. Either your #1 choice gets 5% of votes and it is nominated or it doesn’t reach 5% and it’s not nominated. That’s it.

(Update: With the subsequent further clarification, the problem of strategic voting is somewhat diminished but still prominent. A voter can vote for a real long-shot with no risk. Once that film is eliminated the vote will redistribute to the next film on the ballot. However, a ballot is still wasted if the first place vote goes to a film that receives between 1% and 4.999% of first place votes. This is enough to give an informed voter pause and strategically alter her vote.)

Rational Voters?

All this analysis depends on voters being rational. Strategic voting is an issue only when voters understand the voting system. I think it’s fair to say Academy voters never really understood it to begin with and there’s a good chance the 5% rule will make it seem closer to their misunderstanding of what the process is anyway (i.e., they think it works like a political race). In 2009 there was a nonsensical campaign to list The Hurt Locker at #1 and Avatar at #10 thinking that it would somehow hurt Avatar.

I also don’t think Academy voters have been voting with their heart much anyway. I suspect many put at #1 the Oscar contender they liked the most, not their favorite film regardless of its place in the Oscar race. Therefore, the history of a combination of laziness and being too stupid to realize they don’t have to vote strategically could mute the effect of the new rule.

The new rule was devised with the help of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the firm that does the ballot counting for the Academy. These are smart accountants. Did they not advise the Academy on the obvious problems of an arbitrary 5% threshold? It’s possible they realized that the 5% rule doesn’t affect the vote too much due to the unoriginality of Academy voters who all vote for the same group of potential nominees.

I sing the praises of the current voting process with its alternate voting system, but the Awards Daily experiments show that #1 votes are still king. Categories with five slots rarely have a nominee that finished outside the top six (or seven) in #1 votes. Very often after the lengthy vote reallocation process, the nominees are just the ones who got the most #1 votes. So maybe the results end up about the same.

I do think it makes it harder for smaller films. Does something like Winter’s Bone even bother with a Best Picture campaign knowing that 5% is going to be tough to reach? Because now it’s not only facing the normal challenges of a minnow candidate, but it also must face people thinking it has no chance to reach 5% so they won’t be wasting their vote on it. The type of momentum a smaller film needs to generate simply never materializes.

(Update: Now that we know there is a round of surplus rule reallocation and vote redistribution for films that received less than 1% of first place votes, this problem is somewhat diminished. Realistically, a film can receive a little less than 5% – maybe even as low as 4%? – and pick up some support via reallocation and redistribution.)

John’s Perfect Solution

All that said, I love the idea of altering the number of nominees based on the quality of films in the running. The Academy just needs better criteria. I’m sure they could unleash an egg head (like me! I’ll do it!) to create some sort of complex formula that measures broad-based consensus support for films.

But I think a workable solution is easier. The current ballot counting system is iterative. Votes are counted, films are eliminated, votes are reallocated, and the votes are counted again. Repeat until there are ten nominees. Simply cap the number of times you eliminate and reallocate votes. I don’t know what the optimal number of rounds is, but analyzing the data of past years should come up with a good number. 15? 20? If round after round passes without the slate of ten filling out, that’s a sign that there is no broad consensus on what films are quality enough to be nominated. That is the whole point, right?

In the 2010 Awards Daily example, the first six nominations were secured in three rounds. The next didn’t come until round 17. The last three came in round 20 when literally every other film had been eliminated. I think in this case it’d be fair to take the first six or seven qualified nominees and call it a day.

Realistically the round limit would probably have to be determined by how far apart the remaining potential nominees are. If there’s not a lot separating them then there is no consensus and you can be okay nominating none. But looking at it from a round-perspective should be a much better indicator of quality than an arbitrary 5% target.

Academy, please feel free to use my system. Just toss me a few tickets to the ceremony!

(Update: The rules clarification doesn’t prevent my solution from being the perfect one!)

Can you believe we analyzed all sorts of Oscar categories this year but never did Best Picture? This makes us the worst Oscar blog ever. How can we move on from 2010 without it?

So I’m going to knock this out real quick. The Oscar blog licensing folks will shut us down otherwise.

My 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 10th choices are easy. The other six are all sort of a jumbled together and their relative order could change by the day. If I were an actual voter, I would probably only list the top two as I have no real preference between the next six.

But anyway:

1. Inception
2. The Social Network
3. Black Swan
4. The King’s Speech
5. The Fighter
6. Toy Story 3
7. True Grit
8. Winter’s Bone
9. 127 Hours
10. The Kids Are All Right

The end.

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Picture


  • The Social Network
  • The King’s Speech
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • True Grit

Before the PGAs, The Social Network had won everything.  Now it is has just won almost everything.  It could mean we are seeing the start of the inevitable front-runner backlash, but that’s a discussion for after nominations.  When word of The King’s Speech first arrived, you could hear lots of collective groaning about Oscar bait and how the Academy is a complete sucker for anything to do with British royalty.  Two funny things, though: pretty much everyone actually likes the film, and it really isn’t Oscar baity at all.  Speaking of unlikely Oscar movies, how about a ballerina horror film likely to pull down $100 million at the box office?  Black Swan pulled off the trick.  The Fighter, led by a strong cast, seemed to peak at the right time, nomination-wise, and should continue the Academy’s love affair with boxing movies.  One of the few movies released prior to Oscar season likely to get an Oscar love in major categories, Inception pretty much speaks for itself.  A vast, cold, scifi/psychological epic, it is completely unlike traditional Oscar movies and yet so obviously one.  Perhaps the easiest prediction, before any of these movies had been seen, was that Joel and Ethan Coen remaking a classic western would be a best picture nominee.  But hey, they still had to follow through on the thing, and by all accounts, True Grit does so.


  • Toy Story 3
  • The Kids Are All Right

Metacritic has Toy Story 3 has the second-best reviewed wide release of 2010, as does imdb (to different movies, interestingly enough).  So clearly lots and lots of people really like this film.  Up‘s nomination last year showed that the move to ten best picture nominees allowed the Academy to be OK with nominating an animated film for the big prize, so there’s no real reason it should miss.  I’ve heard a couple people theorize that The Kids Are All Right‘s spot is in danger.  I certainly don’t know enough to dispute that, I’m just a little hard-pressed to see how it could miss when its rivals appear to be indier and/or not having the support from at least one acting nomination, like this one.


  • Winter’s Bone
  • The Town

I have this (completely unfounded, I’m sure) feeling that a lot of the love for Winter’s Bone comes from Hollywood patting itself on the back for supporting indie movies and wanting to show they are totally OK with films taking place in America’s backwoods.  I’m not sure if anyone really loved The Town, but undoubtedly many people liked it, so I’m wondering if its broad appeal could lead it to nab the final slot for the big prize.


  • 127 Hours

Most predictions you’ll read have the prior two films and 127 Hours in a battle for the final two spots.  This one was directed by recent Oscar winner Danny Boyle and features a likely Oscar-nominated performance by Oscar co-host James Franco.  So it certainly has a legit chance.  I just happen to think it peaked a little too early and that it wasn’t quite compelling enough to hold up.


  • Blue Valentine
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Shutter Island
  • Another Year
  • The Way Back
  • Biutiful
  • How to Train Your Dragon

If voters want to get indie and perhaps prove a point, they may turn to Blue Valentine.  The Ghost Writer connected with a good number of people, and the Academy wasn’t afraid with The Pianist to give awards to Polanski.  I’m still confused at why Shutter Island, a Martin Scorsese film that grossed over $100 million domestically isn’t making a bigger play here.  I’ve prattled on a number of times about the Academy’s love for Mike Leigh, the logic certainly applies to Another Year.  I’m not sure if The Way  Back isn’t good or is a victim of a poor release strategy, but it was supposed to be a contender and then it wasn’t, for reasons still unclear.  John says Biutiful and How to Train Your Dragon are dark horses, and he is smarter than I am.


  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Please Give

Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Today’s topic: Call your longshot nominations. No guts, no glory! We actually have nailed a couple of these over the years.


Everyone has 11 films vying for the 10 Best Picture slots. Something outside of that list of 11 will slip in instead. The top contenders are, in order of likelihood: Another Year, Blue Valentine, Biutiful, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Four Lions for Original Screenplay.

A big studio picture won’t take the third Animated Feature slot, instead falling to My Dog Tulip or The Illusionist.


The academy satisfies Jared and me muchly by giving Nicole Holofcener a nod for her sweet and endearing script for Please Give in the Best Original Screenplay.

In its attempt to give the HFPA strong competition for their starf*cker reputation, the voters pull a Timberlake out of their hat, recognizing him for his role as Sean Parker in The Social Network.


Shutter Island for Best Picture

Noomi Rapace for Actress

Rooney Mara for Supporting Actress

Vincent Cassel for Black Swan for Supporting Actor

Oscar nominations arrive Tuesday, January 25. To prepare, we’re giving you our sharpest insight and predictions. Today: What disappointing nominations do you anticipate?

Jared:The Fighter should be KO’d

At first I wondered if the cut of The Fighter in my theater was different than what everyone else seemed to have saw.  But no, the audience in my viewing seemed to have enjoyed themselves.  So I’m left to conclude that David O.Russell managed to incorporate some subliminal message telling people they love the movie and my brain just isn’t wired to receive said messages (kinda like how I can’t see those 3-D Magic Eye pictures).  Because the film is bad, failing on nearly every conceivable level, other than the acting.

I’d call the story cliche, but that would assume there was any semblance of a story.  We get very clear depictions of each character’s lot in life, but no clue as to got they got from point A to B.  To wit, the relationship between Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams is almost entirely glossed over.  They meet, go out on a date, some undefined time apparently passes and then they are inseparable.  Time, I should point out, is also irrelevant to the filmmakers.  Anyone have any clue the time between Wahlberg’s first fight show in the film and his title bout?  Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both see their characters kinda sorta maybe have a change of heart, but it isn’t clear how superficial that change is or why we should care.  Of course, that little change is really the only character or plot development in the entire film.

But OK, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a simple story.  The Fighter is a boxing movie and obviously a good chunk of boxing movies involve the fights, and it is hard to advance the story too much while the main character is in the ring.  But here’s why I’m absolutely appalled David O. Russell is on the shortlist for a best director nom: the boxing is depicted as if he really rather doesn’t like the sport.  The final match aside, the fights are glossed over at best, portrayed as some weird rejected video game cut scene at worst.  Not even bland, the fighting scenes are, if you’ll excuse my limited vocabulary, stupid.  They aren’t suspenseful, interesting, exciting, or even artistic.  Just a complete waste of time.

"Say hi to yourself for me."

Absolute worst of all, though, was the character interactions.  It felt like a quarter of the movie could be described in the following three beats: Character A says a line talking at character B.  Character B “responds” with something no human would say and tangentially relevant to what character A said.  Then there’s a cue (be it in the dialogue or visual) about how these people are white trash.  I could see a line or two for comic relief, maybe, but the filmmakers felt this bizarre need to consistently unsubtly describe the characters and their town as white trash.  It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t clever, it was just obvious and worse, it was mean.

So when Mo’Nique reads off The Fighter as a best picture nom, I’m going to be disappointed that a movie which had great acting, but failed on nearly every conceivably important other level is taking the place of so many other actually watchable films.

John: Man the levies, nomination waves are coming!

The nomination wave: it’s a common occurrence in Oscar season. A beloved film gets support across all guilds, sweeping many to nominations even if their work wasn’t as exemplary. It’s going to happen to two supporting actresses this year.

She wasn't nearly as committed to head enlargement in The King's Speech

The first, and most prominent, is Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech. Carter is a great, versatile actress, but this is such a nothing performance. It’s not like she’s bad, but she’s a stock supporting character without a ton to do. She’s more interesting this year in both Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter. Even she admits to being puzzled over why this performance is getting singled out for award attention.

I'm wicked strong willed!

The other is Amy Adams for The Fighter, a sentiment I know is not shared by many. I’ve actually seen plenty of arguments that she’s the supporting female star in the film and not supposed category front runner Melissa Leo. I just don’t think she does much beyond sporting a Boston accent. The film’s treatment of her character bothered me, and part of it is due to her performance (though the bulk is probably the script’s fault).

I’ve always said I’m an Amy Adams fan, but this is the third time I’ve come to complain about her on this blog so maybe my affection is waning? But maybe she just gets recognized for the wrong roles. Oscar nod for Doubt, critical acclaim for Sunshine Cleaning, and a probable nod for The Fighter, but not enough support for Enchanted or Julie & Julia.

Brian: The Town will rob a nomination from a more deserving film

Jared and John adeptly discussed why The Town is overrated last month. As Jared put it in his elegant way, “Frankly, I don’t even think the film is particularly good genre fare, much less a good movie.” So since they’ve covered much of why its bad, especially the horribly underdeveloped relationship between Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall, I’ll keep my entry to this category short.

A Best Picture nom for The Town would be an embarrassment as it would only provide fodder for those critics who last year assailed the Academy’s decision to expand the category to 10 films. “It will allow mediocre, commercially successful films to sneak in,” they warned — and The Town is just that. After last year, when the final 10 offered a little something for everyone to be happy about, I hoped that these concerns would be laid to rest. But I imagine they will reappear on Tuesday when The Town gets its undue recognition.

Does anyone know why we love each other?

How anyone can deem that the best of the year is beyond me. The characters were one-dimensional (ooh, Jeremy Renner as a hothead!), the stakes were non-existent, the shootout at Fenway was cool to watch but ultimately unfulfilling, and the heists were forgettable. It’s as if the Academy has a Departed hangover and thinks that all Boston-related movies are somehow deep because people have funny accents. (Also see: The Fighter) So put this down as my big disappointment.

Well, here we are. I want to make sure to say thanks to Adam, Brian, and John for joining me on this ride. I’ve got no life, so it was relatively easy for me to catch these nineteen films (plus the other contenders we saw). But I know that you all made some sacrifices to make it happen. And thanks for all the discussions (both on- and off-blog). You guys rock.

Inglourious Basterds

Adam and I tend to have fairly similar taste in movies, so it was surprising to me that we disagree so much about Inglourious Basterds. He told me he didn’t think I would like it, leading me to believe that deep down he knows the film just doesn’t work. Sure, there are stretches of brilliance: the first few minutes of the opening scene, the whipped cream scene, most of the scene at the underground bar, everything about Christoph Waltz’s character. But Tarantino appears to be a guy who needs someone to keep him in check. Just about every scene goes on too long. And the story never comes together into a cohesive unit. I admire the film’s ambition and respect Tarantino’s vision. But the film left me unmoved.


I’m not a particularly visual person, so while I personally can’t excuse Avatar‘s script, I guess I can understand how someone might get swept up by shiny things. But I don’t understand why this logic only applies to James Cameron. Criticisms of Michael Bay movies invariably levy charges of being bloated, overly-reliant on CGI with no character development and having things blowing up nonstop. Aren’t the exact same things being said about Avatar, more or less? Adam talked about not putting mindless action flicks up for Best Picture. That’s a stance I don’t understand to begin with, and I think the Avatar nomination discredits in practice. I’ve yet to hear any sort of logical argument about how the distinction between a “fun” movies and a “good” one isn’t arbitrary. As such, I’ll continue to only rank movies based on how much I enjoy them.

An Education

Possibly one of this year’s most fun collection of actors. It is just too bad they didn’t really have much to do. Think about the memorable scenes in the movie. Molina falling under Saarsgard’s charms. Thompson arguing with Mulligan. Williams arguing with Mulligan. Pike being a ditz. The birthday party with Mulligan’s former beau. Almost all of these things have the barest of setups or followthroughs. What is Emma Thompson doing in the film, anyway? As is, shouldn’t her character just been merged with that of Olivia Williams? The point is, I buy it is the right cast, the right screenwriter, and heck, the right director. But what if you didn’t bind Nick Hornby to a set of memoirs where apparently nothing happens, instead just describing the characters and themes? I think that could have been something really tremendous. And also probably would have had an ending.

A Serious Man

I’m still amazed this film received a Best Picture nomination. Not talking about its merits, just that the film had no discernible buzz, at least that I saw. The Coens and I clearly operate on different wavelengths. Not drastically different, just enough that I don’t quite get them. Plus, I don’t think they are as funny or clever as they think they are. Their work does have a timeless quality, though. I could have seen this movie being made ten years ago or twenty years ago. And (as with almost all of their films) their work is refreshing, an oddball little piece of cinema not quite fitting in anyway. Which I can definitely appreciate. And I don’t mean to completely badmouth the film, I did find that I generally enjoyed myself, even if I still haven’t quite figured it out. Assuming there is anything to figure out, I guess.

The Blind Side

I liked this film a little more than the other Grouches. Possibly because I have a heart. Personally, I think it delivers exactly what it sets out to do. It is a big, broad movie that tugs at the heartstrings (but not too much) and ultimately leaves you feeling a little better about things. Is there anything so wrong with that? Sure, it never really tries to reach for anything higher, and that’s maybe why I didn’t fall in love it, but it is a solid, solid film. I think some of the criticisms hurled at it are kinda weak. Yes, a rich white lady helps a poor black kid. No, that doesn’t automatically mean you can toss around the phrase “white guilt”. Partially because this stuff, you know, actually happened. And I found it to be a fairly faithful adaptation of the book (other than the book’s discussion of the history of left tackle, of course). Not sure I could imagine anything better, actually. Well, except for maybe removing some of Lewis’s bias. But that’s probably a good thing.


We’ve been over the faults of this film’s script numerous times. The auxiliary characters weren’t sketched out well and the plot isn’t that interesting. What the story did do, however, was provide ample opportunity for Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe to dominate all over the place. And sometimes, that’s enough. Like Avatar, oddly enough, when the film was allowed to play to its strengths, it was magical. In certain sense, the film captures drama better than anything else this year. The relationship between Sidibe and Mo’Nique is really unlike anything I’d seen on screen and while it was often hard to take, it was just so so powerful.

Up in the Air

Here’s another film I feel like I’ve unintentionally badmouthed a lot. There were lots of things I liked about Up in the Air, very few things I disliked. It was a very good film, and I’m happy it got nominated. My complaints were more about the acting nominations than anything else, I guess. And, well, not thinking that it was a great movie, because it didn’t quite get there. It was funny and dramatic and thought-provoking, just not very funny or very dramatic or very thought-provoking. Still, a smart film, Jason Reitman is crazy promising. What did I like, though? Hm. It was a fun ride throughout and rarely boring. Kept a solid pace. Made me laugh some. I don’t know, exactly. Just a well-made film.

The Hurt Locker

The dichotomy here is fascinating. $15 million grossing art house movie? Totally Oscar. Iraq war movie? Not Oscar. Cast filled with relative unknowns? Oscar. Action movie? Not Oscar. Finally rewarding a director who paid his dues? Oscar. Finally rewarding a director who paid her dues? Not Oscar. With a quality script, this film would have been something truly special. As is, it’s a fine piece of film making, and extraordinary example of how great a taut, exciting action film can be. Kinda interesting to compare to Slumdog Millionaire, in terms of a movie that didn’t make all that much money and about a topic not necessarily of general interest, and certainly wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to be here on Oscar night.

District 9

Speaking of great action films, I have no clue how District 9 ended up with an best picture nomination, but yay. Something went terribly right for that to happen, because honestly, does it seem like an Oscar movie in the least? I guess maybe if you squint. It is proof that action films can be totally riveting. Maybe next year can be comedy’s year? Nah, that’s crazy talk. Well, unless Peter Jackson produces a comedy. I guess that would be OK. Kinda rambling at this point, because the red carpet has started and Brian and Adam are arguing about something. Not sure what, but I’m sure it is ridiculous. But yes, everyone should see District 9. And be amazed at the effects, the action, and really the touching story. I know some other Oscar nominated movies about aliens the year seemed to imply that it wasn’t possible to have a great story with your alien action, but I assure you, that’s false.


Yup, there’s little question that Up is the year’s best film. Pixar doesn’t make animated movies, they make movies. No need to gush about that opening sequence, because yeah, just out of this world. And I’ll be the only Grouch who likes agreeing with John. Up is consistently funny, definitely one of the funniest movies of the year. (And Adam, I’ll take the bait, yes, I laughed more at She’s Out of My League, but that’s an argument we are going to have in 2010 discussions.) But it was also one of the most exciting films, with one of the interesting stories. Just all around a fantastic movie. Never slow, never dull, always amazing. The Grouches don’t all agree on our favorite Pixar movies, but I think we all agree that at their best, no one tells stories like they do. And if you tell a story as close to perfectly as they do, well, you are going to get my vote for movie of the year.

And so it all comes down to this. This is a really terrific set of nominees. Even with the expanded category it has a better average film quality than most years. It has refreshing variety and even the selections I don’t really agree with are at least interesting. It remains to be seen how “The Ten” will affect the prestige of the Oscars in the long-term, but it was a wild success for 2009 by producing such an interesting and varied group of nominees.

Counting backwards, here is the ranked ballot I would have submitted had I been a voter.

10. The Blind Side. This is not a good movie. It’s cliched, simple, and emotionally manipulative, though it is centered with a forceful performance from Sandra Bullock. I think its biggest sin is the way Michael, the poor black football player adopted by Bullock’s character, is so poorly developed so that there’s nothing to him. But I do appreciate that people felt affected by the film and I think there’s room for mainstream drama like this in a field of ten.

9. Inglourious Basterds. Second from the bottom and we’re already at a movie I really enjoyed! This is a very good sign! Basterds is an interesting film and very entertaining. I remain committed to my assertion that I wish there was more substance to complement its style. Its scenes are tense and engrossing, but sometimes last a bit too long. A better theme or story to tie those scenes together would have made it much better so that there was more to it than just being awesome.

8. District 9. I enjoyed this film on first viewing. Its unique premise enthused me and its themes kept me thinking. I was dismayed at how much it turned into a standard action movie with unoriginal sequences by the end, however. On my second viewing I was much less bothered by the action and was impressed by all the little details built into the story and the world it creates. Very good stuff.

7. The Hurt Locker. This film clearly didn’t resonate with me the way it did so many others. I really liked it and found many of its scenes painfully suspenseful. I just didn’t find it to be the gut punch so many others did, or as so many other movies on this list did to me. I thought it didn’t come together as a whole as well as I hoped. It’s still very good, just not as good as the others.

6. A Serious Man. This is probably THE movie of 2009 that has me thinking the most. I found the story totally engrossing, even as I wasn’t understanding its point. I found myself drawn to the plot more than I expected upon second viewing. There’s something delightfully subversive about a film that revels in its sometimes-there-is-no-meaning meaning. Accept the mystery. I wouldn’t be surprised that if I revisit this list in a decade that this is the movie that moves up my list the most. I’m already looking forward to watching it again.

5. Precious. Powerful, effective, emotionally hefty. But it’s also very well-made. It really takes a talented hand to not make this film devolve into utter emotional manipulation. I enjoyed the way it’s visualized, though I know my fellow Grouches generally did not. I found the tone was balanced well enough to not make it relentlessly depressing. I’m never fond of a salvation-through-literacy plotline, but otherwise the story and characters (and acting) are uniformly terrific.

4. Up in the Air. This film really succeeds in tone and atmosphere. I have a couple problems with the plot, particularly actions by Vera Farmiga’s Alex, but they’re all overwhelmed by how deeply the film grabbed me and held me. It’s a film about what it’s like to be alive now, from the economic downturn to corporate indifference and the disconnected way we live our lives in this world. It has wonderful characters and terrific performances with some insightful writing and a story that, while not twisty, proceeds in unexpected directions.

3. Up. Here are two signs of how great this film is. In the lead-up to the Oscars there are lots of stories about the nominees. I have yet to see a clip of Up that doesn’t make me laugh. We talk a lot about the brilliant and heartbreaking Married Life montage, but the writing in this film is very strong throughout with lots of clever touches, insight, and hilarious jokes. Oh man, that Kevin just cracks me up. Second, I’ve been listening to some film scores recently and the one for Up always brings me right back to the film. And not just to the plot or the visuals, but to its heart.

2. An Education. The easiest way to explain my affection for film is to say: everything works. Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard are enchanting on screen. The script deftly develops Mulligan’s Jenny so that we understand her and therefore her desires and motivations for her actions. Then Mulligan nails every aspect of Jenny while Sarsgaard is the perfect mix of charm and creepiness. Their relationship never rings false.

1. Avatar. Yes I love the way the film looks. It’s absolutely stunning and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. But it really is more than that. So many films set out to create a universe and they almost always feel incomplete. Avatar succeeds. Everything makes sense in this universe. Rules are set and they are adhered to. The clever little details to the world come together to create a fascinating whole. And people get down on the story, but it’s a fine story. It takes an outline that has been used plenty of times before, but I think all the original details make it feel fresh. All the spiritual stuff is hogwash? Well, maybe on Earth but there are different rules on Pandora. And those elements interested me.

Avatar is an experience. A film-going milestone. I loved every second of it.

We’ll each putting up our own thoughts on Best Picture. Except now, when I’m publishing Adam’s writeup. Guess he wanted to continue his streak of not posting.

So, for the grand finale, I’ve decided to forego my previous format and write what I thought about each movie. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, none of the other Grouches have written their posts yet so I am forced to confine my analysis to the movies and my critiques of the others (if they should appear) will be constrained to hearsay and personal experience. So, without further ado, I give you The Nominees:

Throughout the year, we watch a lot of movies in preparation for the Oscars and I find that my opinion of some of these movies varies greatly from my initial impression as time goes on. As I rank the movies I’ve seen throughout the year, I constantly compare previous views to more recent ones to come up with the best possible score for each – some fall, others rise, and some stay steady throughout. Precious was definitely one of the fallen movies. I thought it was a fine movie, but realized that my initial opinion of it was artificially raised due to all the hype and praise surrounding it. As I time went on, I realized that the script wasn’t all that strong. Decent dialogue was scarce and most of the scenes were pretty blasé (with the notable exceptions of the apartment/stairs scene and the final social worker scene). Mo’Nique’s performance was terrific, granted, but Sidibe’s was, honestly, forgettable. No one will remember her performance in a year or two – if that. The directing was also fairly weak. The dream sequences were unnecessary and heavy-handed, and the other scenes were set up less than ideally. It may seem like I hated the movie, but I didn’t. I gave it a 5.8 out of 10 (though it started at a whopping 7 if you can believe it) so I didn’t think it was horrible, I just want you all to realize that the hype surrounding it is just that – hype.

An Education
An Education actually suffered the opposite fate as Precious. It actually moved up in my ranking as time went on. At first, I couldn’t get over what I viewed as a ridiculous plot. I couldn’t understand how we, the audience, were supposed to buy into the fact that a random older gentleman randomly picked up a school-girl; started to date her immediately – well, as soon as he was able to convince the girl’s very conservative and old fashioned father he was on the “up and up” via a 2 minute conversation, in which he told a joke; and convince her to quit school just shy of graduating. As time went on though, I was able to separate the weak story and horrible scene transitions, and appreciate the strengths of the film. Carey Mulligan actually puts on a pretty great performance – especially given she had very little experience prior to this. She was able to take on a leading role and make it her own. This was one of the few well written lead female characters I saw this year and it is due, in no small part, to Mulligan’s performance. The other fantastic performance was Alfred Molina’s. My respect for him (due in no small part to his role in The Man Who Knew Too Little) dropped dramatically with his part in Spider-Man 2 (one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen). However, he has totally redeemed himself by being one of the brightest spots in this movie. I am very disappointed he wasn’t nominated for Supporting Actor over Damon.

The Blind Side
The Blind Side has a higher score (6.5 out of 10) than I anticipated going into the movie. And, while the script wasn’t anything to write home about, I found myself enjoying the movie, nonetheless. Bullock does a decent job as a Southern, Tennessee-hating, heart-of-gold mother of two (then three), and her nomination for Best Actress is deserved. She was definitely the most impressive part of the movie and I am actually quite happy that she is the front-runner for the win. I have, for the most part, quite enjoyed Ms. Bullock over the years and am glad she has a chance to take home the gold. Other than that, there isn’t much to say about this movie. It is like Precious in a lot of ways – teenager with a troubled past and parental issues is taken in by a strong female character who tries to better them. The biggest difference between the two movies is the tone. While The Blind Side is, on the whole, light and fun (and has an uplifting ending), Precious is a study in just how wrong things can go in a child’s life (and that not everything has a happy ending). For whatever reason, though, I found myself enjoying The Blind Side more than Precious and more than I originally thought I would.

As you may have realized by now, I have ordered these movies in ascending order. Which means that the second highest grossing film in history, and the film sure to take home the most amount of Oscars is only 6th on my list of Best Picture nominees. While this may seem confusing to most (I’m looking at you John), anyone who actually watched the movie (and has any taste) can tell you that this movie is over-rated by far. First of all, let’s get this out of the way: The film was absolutely visually stunning. Seriously. They did a tremendous job with the CGI and 3D scenery and sequences. Unfortunately, they stopped there. It is a beautiful façade over a weak structure. The most important part of the movie is the script. This movie’s script was decent – when it was used in Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and Fern Gully. If you are going to steal another movie’s idea/script (which I don’t necessarily disagree with – I mean, look at my boy Tarantino), at least improve upon it. Or, at the very least, make an attempt to change it in some way. The only thing they seem to have done is make the dialogue worse and delve less into every single one of the characters. I am actually floored that a 3+ hour movie had absolutely no character development. And don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of a bunch of movies with little to no plot, no character development, and awful dialogue (I mean, I watch mindless action films by the truckload), but I don’t nominate them for Best Picture. I don’t care what John tries to tell you – don’t drink the Kool-Aid on this movie. See it because it is visually stunning, not because you are looking for an actual Best Picture movie.

A Serious Man
I don’t know how Jared and John write so much. I’m not even half way through this and I’m exhausted. Major props to them. So, now on to A Serious Man. First of all, I’d like to say that I was a huge fan of the opening scene of this movie – especially once the film was over and I realized that I couldn’t figure out how it fit into the rest of the movie. Second, this movie had one of the most interesting characters of the entire year. It was fascinating for me to watch the actions and reactions of this character as we delved deeper and deeper into his mundane, depressing, and all too real existence. I am a huge fan of character studies (if done well). While this isn’t in the same league as Michael Clayton, it is a serviceable replacement for the year. It also has one of my favorite side-stories of the entire year. The scenes with the Korean student are absolutely hilarious.

I’ve talked about this movie a couple of times. I can’t get over how the rest of the Grouches basically have an orgasm whenever they think or talk about it. Yes it was decent, but it wasn’t THAT good. It definitely had its moments (which is why it made it into the top 5 of contenders), but it fell well short of Pixar classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. The talking dog was pretty fantastic, and the little scout had some pretty great lines, but that is pretty much it. A lot of the jokes seemed forced or were predictable. The plot was weak, and the villain, one of my favorite elements of most movies, was very weak. I just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters or laugh at many of the jokes (I’d actually like to hear whether Jared thought he laughed more during Up or She’s Out of My League). I will give it this, though, the opening scene was very well done. Squirrel!

District 9
District 9 definitely had one of the most interesting takes on a tried-and-true story. Having the an alien race living in slums, cohabitating to humans, and regulated to second-class status in all things was brilliant. Telling the story in the form of a documentary (The Office style) was pretty fantastic as well. The surprisingly humorous script was augmented by and equally surprising strong cast (surprising in that it is comprised of unknowns). The reason this movie isn’t higher on my list, though, has to do with the plot. While the background and premise of the movie was original and interesting, the actual story was less than stellar. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s more that it didn’t live up to the promise of the movie’s premise. It was decent, not spectacular. I also felt it didn’t flow as well as it could in a couple of different areas, but that’s really just nit-picking. Overall, a very enjoyable movie that I recommend, and I am very glad to see it make it into the Best Picture nominees.

The Hurt Locker
This is another movie that has increase its ranking as time has gone on. I put it slightly lower on my list originally due to the lack of thought put into the overall plot of the movie. What were all those highly entertaining scenes leading up to? Who is SSG William James and why should we care about his story? However, discounting that, this was a fantastic movie. Kathryn Bigelow does a phenomenal directing job here and I very much hope her Best Director hopes are realized – she deserves it. The tension she is able to create in almost every single scene is nothing short of amazing. The bomb scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen – due in no small part to the great camerawork. Let’s not forget about Renner either. Even though I didn’t know why I should care about him or his story, I couldn’t help but be fully engrossed in whatever he was doing due to Renner’s extremely strong performance. I seriously wish the Academy wasn’t going to hand over the Best Actor award to Jeff Bridges solely as a “Lifetime Achievement Award” because Renner far-and-away out acted Bridges this year. There is a reason this is in my top 3 of nominees. This is a terrific movie, and, had it had a better script, could have been a serious contender for my favorite movie of the year.

Up in the Air
What can I say about this movie? My fellow Grouches have, on many occasions, ridiculed this movie – its script, acting, and directing – and I can’t understand it. Not because I liked it so much (though that is an extremely valid reason in-and-of-itself), but because they all profess to like it as much or more than me. The lowest score it got between us is an 8.4. It actually has the third highest average score of any film we’ve seen this year (beaten by Zombieland and Up). That’s saying quite a bit. I thought it was great. Since Michael Clayton, my respect for Clooney has skyrocketed and I think he does a great job here. Not only that, the two female characters in this movie are both widely different but equally well written and portrayed. Kendrick and Farmiga both shine as opposite sides of the same coin (the professional woman), and complement Clooney’s character as few roles do, now-a-days. I thought the script, while not out-of-this-world, was very well done – with humorous, contemplative/deep, and sad/depressing moments sprinkled in throughout the movie. I actually also really like the directing here as well. Reitman was a very close third to Tarantino and Bigelow this year. Each gave very strong efforts this year, which were rewarded with equally strong movies. I will admit that this movie struck a nerve with its portrayal of the constantly traveling businessman (as that was my life for 2 ½ years), but even discounting that, this was a pretty great movie.

Inglourious Basterds
The Big Kahuna (and no, not Big Kahuna Burger) – nine down, one to go. Since seeing this movie, it has topped my annual Top 5 with only one other movie even coming close to toppling it (Zombieland for those keeping track). Quentin Tarantino is one of my all-time favorites and he doesn’t disappoint with this dialogue-driven, Nazi-killin’, action flick. From the first scene, Tarantino is able to fully invest the audience into his world. How many other directors/films would have such a long, dialogue-heavy opening scene? And how many people actually noticed that the scene went on for so long after the first couple of minutes of interplay between Waltz’s SS Colonel and the out-matched farmer? Tarantino’s ability to take the seemingly most inane scene and turn it into a focal point of a movie based solely on the dialogue (and underlying story) never ceases to amaze me. And he does this more than once in the movie (don’t forget that amazing bar room scene). All this is without taking into account the overall story or the wonderfully violent action scenes. Tarantino gives us a movie that is entertaining on multiple levels and does so with style (plus, he killed Hitler…come on!). If it were up to me, Basterds would receive Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, and Film Editing along with the almost assured Best Supporting Actor for Waltz. Alas, it is not to be.

Well this morning the Official Mistress of the Golden Grouches (c), Anne Hathaway, announced the nominations — and there were few surprises among the acting nods, a couple shockers in the Best Picture, but overall things went according to plan. Nonetheless, we still pulled together our thoughts for a short post.

Brian: My biggest disappointment is that with Penelope Cruz’ nomination, I now have to see Nine, something that I had been avoiding doing. No real desire to see it at all, but it can’t be nearly as bad as Lovely Bones, which fortunately, did indeed garner Stanley Tucci a nomination. It would have been tragic had we had to sit through that dreck for no reason whatsoever.

With the best pictures, I was quite happy to see District 9 get the nod there and in screenplay — I held out hope for director until getting slapped in the face by Lee Daniels name being read. As Jared says below, Blind Side is the only real WTF here, and even that it’s rather pointless since it has no shot at winning. This batch of nominations also has me quite excited to see A Serious Man when it comes out on DVD next week.

Other thoughts: disappointed that Damon got nominated for the wrong role and left Molina in the dust. Happy to see Moore get snubbed for A Single Man as her role was more or less the same as Susan Sarandon’s in Lovely Bones and was less funny. I had forgotten all about In the Loop until John started his well-deserved campaign for it, and I’m happy that John got something to gloat about. By far my biggest disappointment though was Marvin Hamlisch getting crapola for The Informant. His score was such an integral character in the great movie that it deserved to win the award, not just the nod.

Looking forward to stewing over these races in the “should win” discussions — especially the screenplays. Lots to ponder. And I think the 10 films for best picture was a wild success — good job…academy?

Adam: Editor’s Note: Adam did not submit anything so I wrote it for him. Inglorious Basterds: Yay. If only It’s Complicated were nominated, then I could make fun of Brian more. I’ll find other ways.

Jared, via iPhone in the DFW airport: Most surprising to me is the relative lack of true surprises. There were some, of course, but I’d guess most Oscar prognosticators did pretty well, especially if they stayed conservative.

People will hate on The Blind Side, and sure, it probably isn’t a top ten film. However, in my opinion it is miles better than Crazy Heart, Invictus, and The Messenger, all of which now appear to have been viable contenders. Like, it just isn’t close at all. So while I would have preferred Star Trek, The Hangover, or In The Loop, I can settle for the middle ground.

I’ve heard people claim this is the wrong year for ten nominees. But you know what? This a very strong lineup, and for me, stacks up against much of this decade’s best picture groups. And really, assuming the expansion got District 9 and Up into the group, I’m fully prepared to call it a success.

I’m a little surprised we didn’t see something crazy in Supporting Actress. Sorta seems like the Academy threw its collective hands in the air and gave up. There was definitely room for another film to have made a play here. No Basterds is a surprise, I guess, but there seemed a very unWeinstein-like unfocused campaign.

Finally, the screenplay categories were a general success. My efforts to not jinx them went mostly rewarded. In the Loop getting a nomination is such a good thing. But, of course, the one nomination I really really wanted to see, (500) Days of Summer, missed. Probably at the hands of The Messenger, which I interpret as a direct, intentional, personal slap in my face.

John: Before going to bed last night I nearly made a quick post amending my earlier “biggest hopes” declarations. But I decided not to and both of those hopes came true!

I had been surprised at the amount of In the Loop predictions prognosticators were making yesterday, which gave me hope for an Adapted Screenplay nomination, whereas before I thought of it as only a longshot. But then it happened! It was my big fist pump moment of the morning. It really has made my day.

My other hope was that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs would get left off the Animated Feature slate in favor of some of the more interesting films that came out this year. When Coraline was announced first (nominees are announced alphabetically) it was obvious this wish had come true and it was fun to see what would take its spot. The Secret of Kells is an interesting choice, although not the one I would make.

A few other quick thoughts:

  • A boring slate of acting nominees. Very by the numbers. Penelope Cruz was a surprise, but only because her long-presumed nomination seemed derailed by Nine‘s failure.
  • No Avatar in Original Screenplay. Not a problem for most of the Grouches, but interesting that such a juggernaut would miss. 500 Days of Summer also missed and that had seemed like the indie that would break out in a writing category. I suspect not being in the picture for Best Picture hurt it.
  • Hooray for Invictus not making Best Picture even though it appears to be supplanted by the awful The Blind Side.
  • No Makeup nod for District 9 despite the film’s heavy use of prosthetics. Instead the aging makeup for Il Divo and the hairstyles of The Young Victoria get in, along side Star Trek.
  • No Score nod for The Informant! excludes that gem of a film completely.
  • I’m generally happy with the Best Song slate. Thankfully “See You” from Avatar was left off.
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