Looking over the list of nominees for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, I realized that my initial gut feelings regarding two of the films had been correct. Sobering afterthought: I would gladly have been wrong. Here, then, are some thoughts on this year's slate.
• Only five nominations for Black Swan. Many of the film's fans were expecting this to score anywhere from eight to 12 nominations. But while it nabbed a whooping 12 nods apiece from the British Academy and the Broadcast Film Critics — and swept the field when it came to the various guilds (10-for-10, last time I checked) — I was convinced that the film was simply too radical for more conservative Academy tastes. So while it nabbed a handful of major nominations, it's the only one of the 10 Best Picture nominees to be slighted for its screenplay, and potential nods in the supporting actress, costume, art direction and sound categories also failed to materialize. Meanwhile, The King's Speech, much more in tune with sedate Academy tastes, leads the field with 12 nods, though it isn't nearly as visually invigorating as Black Swan. (This isn't a knock against The King's Speech, which made my 10 Best list, just proof that the Academy remains rather predictable.
• No Best Director nomination for Christopher Nolan. My other gut reaction told me that no way would the organization be daring enough to nominate both Inception's Christopher Nolan and Black Swan's Darren Aronofsky in the same year. Thus, Aronofsky made the cut; Nolan didn't. As far as his directing is concerned, he's now 3-for-3 with the distinguished Directors Guild (noms for Memento, The Dark Knight and Inception) but 0-for-3 with the Academy. However, he did pick up two nods this year for Best Original Screenplay and (as producer) Best Picture.
• No Best Actress nomination for Julianne Moore. It still makes no sense to me that many groups (including the Academy) could trumpet Annette Bening's turn in The Kids Are All Right while completely ignoring Moore's co-starring role, equally as vital to that film's success. Likewise, it's absurd that the Academy nominated Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine while snubbing Ryan Gosling — it takes two to tango, and the pair worked perfectly in unison. The Academy should have given Williams' slot to Moore so balance could have been restored to the universe.
• No Best Visual Effects nomination for TRON: Legacy. I wasn't a fan of this belated sequel, but there's no denying the excellence of its special effects; the same goes for the intriguing visuals in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Yet both were ignored in favor of the been-there-done-that work in Hereafter, Iron Man 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Huh? (For the record, the other nominees are Alice In Wonderland and Inception.)
• The Best Picture lineup. I'm still not a fan of having 10 nominees instead of five — it tends to dilute the importance and honor of snagging a nod — but at least none of the titles on here are filler. A shocking seven of the selections made my own year-end 10 Best list, and even the weakest of the nominees, The Fighter, earned a soft 3 stars from me.
• The Best Documentary Feature nomination for Exit Through the Gift Shop. Considering all the chatter regarding whether this was really a documentary or a staged hoax, I was afraid the Academy would outright dismiss the film from contention. Happily, that didn't happen. Question of the day: Will an incognito Banksy show up at the Oscar ceremony?
• No Best Actor nomination for Robert Duvall. Look, Duvall's a personal favorite and one of the all-time greats, but he hasn't delivered a truly original performance in over a decade. His turn in Get Low was just more of the same "aw shucks, ain't I a crafty old codger?" routine, and for that fifth spot (the other four nominees were locks), it would have been a shame had he gotten the call instead of someone like Gosling, The Fighter's Mark Wahlberg or the actual nominee, Biutiful's Javier Bardem.
• The Best Original Screenplay nomination for Another Year. Yeah, I hate that Mike Leigh received his nomination at the expense of Black Swan (The Fighter should have been booted instead), but since this film just missed cracking my 10 Best, I'm glad to see it represented somewhere.
• The biggest also-ran in this year's race turned out to be Ben Affleck's critical and commercial hit The Town, which received only one nomination. Jeremy Renner, a Best Actor nominee last year for The Hurt Locker, got the nod for Best Supporting Actor, although I would rather have seen it go to Pete Postlethwaite — and, yes, I felt that even before he passed away at the beginning of this year. His performance in The Town is scary-good.
• Following Kathryn Bigelow's win last year as the first woman ever to receive the Best Director Oscar (for The Hurt Locker), two other female filmmakers fared well this year. While neither The Kids Are All Right's Lisa Cholodenko nor Winter's Bone's Debra Granik received Best Director nods, both did earn recognition for their screenplays, and both find their movies up for Best Picture.
• It was an awful year Oscar-wise for two of the biggest studios. Universal and 20th Century Fox each snagged one measly nomination — Universal for Best Makeup (The Wolfman) and Fox for Best Sound Editing (Unstoppable).
• Day & Night, the charming Pixar short that was shown before Toy Story 3 during the latter's theatrical run, landed a nomination for Best Animated Short Film.
OSCAR'S 10 BEST
These were the films nominated by the Academy for Best Picture.
1. The King's Speech (12 nominations)
2. True Grit (10)
3. The Social Network (8)
4. Inception (8)
5. The Fighter (7)
6. 127 Hours (6)
7. Black Swan (5)
8. Toy Story 3 (5)
9. The Kids Are All Right (4)
10. Winter's Bone (4)
CRITICS' 5 BEST
Based on a national sampling of 208 reviewers, these were the films that appeared the most frequently on critics' 10 Best lists.
1. The Social Network
2. Winter's Bone
4. Black Swan
5. Toy Story 3
BRUNSON'S 5 BEST
These were my picks for the year's best movies.
1. Black Swan
2. Toy Story 3
4. The Social Network
5. The Secret In Their Eyes
MOVIEGOERS' 5 BEST
These were the year's biggest moneymaking releases.
1. Toy Story 3
2. Alice In Wonderland
3. Iron Man 2
4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
... AND THE WORST
OK, we now have a sense of which films reigned as the biggest and/or best of 2010. But what about the worst? Glad you asked. Here are Rotten Tomatoes' five worst-reviewed movies of the year.
1. Vampires Suck
2. The Last Airbender
3. Furry Vengeance
4. The Bounty Hunter
5. Grown Ups