Today's Academy Award nominations yielded a few surprises: Revolutionary Road was almost entirely ignored (and rightly so), while the little-movie-that-could, Slumdog Millionaire, snagged 10 nods -- not far behind The Curious Case of Brad Pitt... er, Benjamin Button, with a shocking 13. But mostly the list was kind of a snooze. To elaborate:
1) The Reader?!? It's about an illiterate Nazi statutory rapist. And even though each of those Important Issues would merit a movie of their own, it still wasn't well-received by the critics. That this was nominated for Best Picture proves the Academy hates fun.
2) Or at least they hate entertainment. While the fact that The Dark Knightwas the highest grossing movie of 2008 shouldn't qualify it for Best Picture, the fact that it was also unanimously praised should. It was better than Benjamin Button and just as good as the safer, less imaginative Milk.
3) There should be a rule that says biopics cannot be made -- and certainly not nominated -- unless the subject has been dead for more than 50 years and therefore largely removed from our real-life familiarity with them. Sean Penn makes a good Harvey Milk. Harvey Milk made a better one. Watch the documentary -- available free here.
4) Kate Winslet will most certainly win the It's-About-Time-She-Won-An-Oscar Oscar for The Reader(and not, as expected after the Golden Globes, for the equally blah Revolutionary Road). That's fine. Who wants Kate to have the ignoble distinction of being the actress who lost five Oscars in a row? But I'm not looking forward to another flabbergasted acceptance speech. Seriously, Kate, keep it together. The Golden Globes are a trial run; no one believes you're that surprised.
5) Thank God the Academy has given us their yearly slate of Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short, and Best Documentary Short Subject nominees. How else could they completely screw up everyone's Oscar pool ballots? I'm going to throw my $5 behind Lavatory-Lovestory since it has the most amusing title of the bunch.
6) How awkward would it be if Heath Ledger did not win for Best Supporting Actor? It's impossible to separate his macabre performance in The Dark Knight from his demise, which in a way does a disservice to Ledger, who is the legitimate favorite for his disturbing and charismatic Joker. At this point, even the other actors in this category probably want him to win it. (Except for possibly Philip Seymour Hoffman: Dude seems serious about his craft.)
7) Thirteen nominations for Benjamin Button is about six too many. I hope it runs away with Best Make-Up, but a Film Editing nomination is almost insulting to those of us who endured it's punishing three-hour running time.
8) Hurray for Michael Shannon (Best Supporting Actor, Revolutionary Road) and Melissa Leo (Best Actress, Frozen River). Shannon probably edged out the lovable Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), but he was the only actor who really brought anything interesting to Revolutionary Road. And Leo hasn't gotten enough work since Homicide: Life on the Streets.
9) This is not so much a thought as a wish: Let the nominees drink! It's way more entertaining for those of us at home when Ryan Phillippe slaps Reese Witherspoon just a little too hard on the back (for her Globe win in 2006, months before their separation) or when Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange take the stage looking like they just put a make-out session on pause. Who knows what entertaining trouble Winslet and Barrymore could get into after a few shots of Patron?