23 January 2007

As I never tire of pointing out, this was the best year for movies in a long time. So why do I feel so lukewarm towards today's Oscar nominations? Maybe it's because my favorite movie from last year, Children of Men, was a lost cause long before the nominations were announced. (It did get three nods, more than I would have predicted, though none for its spectacular art direction or visual effects.) Maybe it's because my other favorite movie, The Departed, has received plenty of love already. (I have to say, though, that if I had to rank Mark Wahlberg's performance against all of the other actors in that movie, he would rank about sixth. This is less a reflection on Wahlberg than on the amazingly deep bench of talent that Scorsese has managed to assemble.) Or maybe it's because Babel, the presumptive front-runner, is a movie about which I seem condemned to have permanently mixed feelings. (I won't be scandalized if it wins, nor terribly upset if it loses.)

The media is adequately covering the major snubs, but, as always, I'm eager to add a few gripes of my own. The Illusionist ought to have received nods for its screenplay, for the score by Philip Glass, and especially for Paul Giamatti, whose supporting role was my favorite performance of the year. Laura Dern really deserved recognition for Inland Empire, clearly one of the most emotionally and artistically taxing female roles since The Passion of Joan of Arc. (Given that Inland Empire was improvised over weeks and months, without a finished script, and that her role encompasses at least three distinct personalities, the coherence of her performance is astonishing.) And nothing for Casino Royale?

On the other hand, my favorite nomination is for Peter O'Toole, in Venus. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I love O'Toole, who nearly turned down his honorary Oscar a few years ago because he thought that he was "still in the game" and wanted more time "to win the lovely bugger outright." At the time, it seemed slightly absurd, but now it seems that the lovely old bugger isn't finished yet...

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