Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OSCAR NOMINEES 2011: The visual categories

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 the visual nominees in the categories of Visual Effects, Cinematography, Animated Feature, Animated Short, and Film Editing.

Best Visual Effects

Who was snubbed:  Without a doubt, the stunning special effects of Tron: Legacy more than deserve to be there.  In this reviewer's opinion, they should outright win.  Combine this with it's snub in Best Original Score and Tron: Legacy is getting the respect it deserves from a technical standpoint.  If the painted heavens of What Dreams May Come can win this category, so should The Grid.

Happy to be there:  Clint Eastwood's Hereafter.  Decent movie, but not going to be known for its visual effects.  The one dazzling tsunami scene is impressive but it isn't enough to put Hereafter here with the big boys.  See: Who was snubbed.

Who will win:  Much like a few of the sound categories, this is the kind of category Inception should be sweeping.  It's seemless dream sequences, vistas, and plays on gravity deserve this statue, but don't count out Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 if the Academy wants to spread the wealth.

Best Cinematography 

Who was snubbed:  Surprisingly no one.  These nominees exactly match the honorees of the year's best by the American Soceity of Cinematographers.  You could make a small case for Eduardo Serra's dashing camera work for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.  But who would you replace it with?  That's the trouble.

Happy to be there: Once again, just like in the note on snubs, all are worthy to be there and should be.  If there is one nominee who has a weaker chance than the others it's The King's Speech for its very stationary, yet face-to-face cinematography compared to the shape-shifting work of Inception and Black Swan. 

Who will win:  This signs point to this being a resume win for True Grit's Roger Deakins.  He has been nominated in this category nine times and has never won.  He himself is getting the Lifetime Achievement Award this year from that same ASC that has the voters for this award.  While Inception and Black Swan may have superior work, this is a place to honor True Grit for a Hollywood veteran and having the second most nominations.

Best Animated Feature Film

Who was snubbed:  This is really a category that deserves to have a full spread of five nominees and not just its limited three.  If Visual Effects can expand from three to five, as it did, so could this very active category.  That would make room to give good stuff like Tangled, Megamind, and Despicable Me some recognition.

Happy to be thereThe Illusionist, from the same French animation team that did 2004's nominated The Triplets of Belleville, is a nice triumph for traditional, hand-drawn animation in an age dominated by technology.

Who will win:  Come on, people: Toy Story 3.  Slam dunk of the night.  Huge upset if they lose and Pixar doesn't lose.

Best Animated Short

Who was snubbed:  No one.  This is one of those categories that sadly, unless you're the cool short film before a Pixar movie, no one has ever heard of.  They really need to move this off the already four-hour-plus show.

Happy to be there:  All of them!  Not only is this the only time they will ever be on television or have their work recognized, all five nominated shorts are from first time Academy Award nominees.  They'll be hooting-and-hollering from the cheap seats in the Kodak Theater, especially when one of them gets the microphone for 35 seconds.

Who will win:  Obscurity makes this anyone's guess, but you've got to think Pixar's Day & Night has a better than pretty good chance.

Best Film Editing

Who was snubbedInception was definitely snubbed.  It's chronological and brilliantly-timed blending of multi-layered dreams deserves to not only be among the nominees, but to win the Oscar itself.  No movie was chopped and cut better this year.

Happy to be thereThe Fighter should be happy to beat Inception to the last spot.  Boxing movies (Raging Bull, The Hurricane, and Rocky) and Boston-area dramas (The Town and The Departed) have been been cut to look better than The Fighter.

Who will win:  This is one of those sneaky early-in-the-night Best Picture winner precursors.  Since 1981, every Best Picture winner has been nominated in this category and 66% of them have won this award as well.  Because of their omission in Best Editing, you can kind of handicap True Grit and Inception's chances at Best Picture.  Without those two around, this award, and the odds at the big one later are up for grabs.  This is where you can begin to see separation between The Social Network and The King's Speech.  A win here for either one, is a big sign for the rest of the night.  It's likely a two-horse race, as it's been all award season.