Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OSCAR NOMINEES 2011: The awards for Best Director and Best Foreign Film

To much fanfare, the 2011 Academy Award nominations were released today.  You can grab an entire list of the nominations here.  Here's an analysis of two of the more highly acclaimed awards of the night: Best Director and Best Foreign Film.  While Best Director and Best Picture have usually gone hand-in-hand, some exceptions and surprises have come that way in recent memory.  Also, with the world becoming more multi-cultural and those foreign customs becoming more mainstream, foreign films have slowly increased their profile in the North American marketplace.  Just look at Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  

Best Foreign Language Film

Who was snubbed:  Climbing to the mainstream or not, the category can still pump out some obscurity to the general public.  Still to see the foreign film I Am Love get a Best Costume Design nomination and not Best Foreign Language Film nod is a head-scratcher.

Happy to be there:  Once again, like the documentary nominees, every nominee is a celebration of their art, craft, and message.  It's also deep honor for them to represent their country for an art form.  For some, this is their Olympics, of sorts.

Who will win:  With all of the attention given to Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem, the odds favor Biutiful from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.  It is Inarritu's fourth Oscar nomination of his career which include this category in 2001 for Amores perros and Best Picture and Best Director nominations for Babel in 2007.  However, Biutiful did not win this category at the Golden Globes.  It was upset by In a Better World from Denmark and previous Foreign Film nominee Susanne Bier.  The votes will come down to which former nominee they deem better.  this one is split down the middle.

Achievement in Directing

Who was snubbed:  The old expectation is that the normally five Best Picture nominees each earn their director a nomination for Best Director, with a few maverick deviations every now and then.  With the Best Picture field expanded now to ten nominees for the second year, that's not going to happen anymore.  Five people are going to be the odd man or odd woman out.  This year that glaring omission is Christopher Nolan for Inception.  Unfortunately, it's not his first time being erroneously passed over (Memento and The Dark Knight, the really big slight).  Combining both technical prowess, outstanding writing, and huge scope of setting for Inception is his masterpiece.  The picture deserves recognition for the man behind the curtain and much as it does as a whole.  A small case can be made for previous Best Director winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) for his film 127 Hours, and a far weaker case can be made for Ben Affleck and The Town because it didn't even get a Best Picture nomination (also an oversight).

Happy to be there:  The three first time nominees who beat out Nolan should count their lucky stars.  They are Black Swan's Darren Aronofsky, The Fighter's David O. Russell, and Brit Tom Hooper of The King's Speech.  All are along for the ride and can now put "Oscar nominee" on their resumes.  None are big contenders to win.

Who will win:  With Christopher Nolan out of the field, this one looks like David Fincher's to lose for The Social Network.  He has swept most of the early awards in the category and many believe he could have easily won (against winner Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire) a few years back for his dramatic opus The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  He has the resume (Se7en, Fight Club, etc.) and the clout to win and deserve this, his first, top award.  His only close competition likely comes from True Grit's Joel and Ethan Coen, already Best Director winners three years ago for No Country For Old Men.  While True Grit has more nominations than The Social Network, they have won already too recently.  But watch out, True Grit might not win anywhere else making this the place to give it its accolades.  Still, look for David Fincher giving his speech.