The 2011 Oscar Nominations, And How The Academy Got It (Mostly) Right This Time

I wasn’t surprised by too many of the Oscar nominations that were released this morning (as you can tell by how many I got right on my Oscar nomination predictions list), but there was one enormous surprise I didn’t see coming. Every single “surprise” or “snub” that people are discussing things morning… are things the Academy got right (yes, even Chris Nolan and Mila Kunis getting ignored). In a just world, this wouldn’t be such an unprecedented turn of events, but amidst the politicking and rewarding actors for careers instead of single performances, it’s a rare occurrence. Read on to see the complete list of nominations, and a breakdown in each category as to why I feel strangely pleased with the Academy’s choices.

127 HOURS (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
BLACK SWAN (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
INCEPTION (Warner Bros Pictures)
THE FIGHTER (Relativity Media/Paramount Pictures)
THE KING’S SPEECH (The Weinstein Co)
TOY STORY 3 (Pixar/Walt Disney Studios)
TRUE GRIT (Paramount Pictures)
WINTER’S BONE Roadside Attractions

Eight of these were pre-determined, and while I wouldn’t have put Black Swan, The Fighter, or (especially not) The Kids Are All Right on my ballot, they were locks to get the nod and I can’t be mad about them. I was prepared to get mad, however, if The Town, a movie I enjoyed, got the nomination over 127 Hours or Winter’s Bone, two movies I loved. Strangely, instead of going for the box office hit with all of the big names attached, the Academy rewarded two smaller more artful films with superior stories, visuals, and performances. Perhaps the box office success of the front runners (The Social Network, The King’s Speech, True Grit) eliminated the need for more successful films on the ballot. Either way, I’m very happy.

JEFF BRIDGES – TRUE GRIT (Paramount Pictures)
JAVIER BARDEM – BIUTIFUL (Roadside Attractions)
COLIN FIRTH – THE KING’S SPEECH (The Weinstein Company)
JAMES FRANCO – 127 HOURS (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

I haven’t seen Biutiful, but I’m a big Bardem fan, and the other four performances were the top four performances by leading actors in major motion pictures this year, so this category is spot on the money. The absence of Ryan Gosling is a shame, but since I haven’t seen Biutiful, I can’t judge.

NATALIE PORTMAN – BLACK SWAN (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Four of these were locked in, one of them thankfully being Jennifer Lawrence. I hope she gets actual consideration as the Adrien Brody to the Daniel Day-Lewis/Jack Nicholson of Natalie Portman/Annette Bening… but it seems unlikely. I’m very pleased that Michelle Williams made this list over giving further reward to the cast of The Kids Are All Right, a cringeworthy film full of one-note characters performed as capably as possibly by splendid actors but in no way worthy of awards.


JOHN HAWKES – WINTER’S BONE (Roadside Attractions)
JEREMY RENNER – THE TOWN (Warner Bros Pictures)

By far the best news of the entire morning is John Hawkes, who gave maybe the finest performance in any film all year by anyone, getting notice over the supporting cast of The Social Network, who were very strong in their roles but not on Hawkes’ level. I would’ve preferred Andrew Garfield make this list over Jeremy Renner, who is good but not spectacular in The Town, as Garfield had two movies which he did great work in this year. But that’s an afterthought compared to the rapture I felt when I saw Hawkes on this list.

AMY ADAMS – THE FIGHTER (Paramount Pictures)
MELISSA LEO – THE FIGHTER (Paramount Pictures)
JACKI WEAVER – ANIMAL KINGDOM (Sony Pictures Classics)

I got all five here from my predictions (surprising, since it seemed the most unpredictable of the major categories), but my prediction of Jacki Weaver was more of a hope than an actual pick based in logic. I thought the Black Swan supporting actresses would split, and it appears they did. But justice prevails, as Weaver gives a terrific performance, far better than anyone in Black Swan. I’m happy Steinfeld got a nomination, though her character is unquestionably the lead, so the placement is peculiar. Still, she would have no chance in the lead category, so the promotion of her as supporting was quite savvy– she now has a very real chance to win.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (DreamWorks Animation)
TOY STORY 3 (Pixar/Walt Disney Studios)
THE ILLUSIONIST (Sony Pictures Classics)

An obsolete category, and its existence cripples Toy Story 3’s ability to win Best Picture like it deserves. I enjoyed Tangled and Despicable Me, and I feel like films such as How To Train Your Dragon and The Illusionist are worthy of notice from the Academy– but there’s no way an Animated Film ever will have a fair shot at Best Picture with this category active. Could we make it Best Non-Pixar Animated Picture? Just a thought.

DARREN ARONOFSKY – BLACK SWAN (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
JOEL AND ETHAN COEN – TRUE GRIT (Paramount Pictures)
DAVID O. RUSSELL – THE FIGHTER (Paramount Pictures)

The biggest “snub” that people are discussing is Chris Nolan for Inception. I thought he was a stone-cold lock and was very surprised to see him here. However, and people will disagree, even though the film is visually stunning, the movie has no heart. When your movie is out-hearted by David Fincher, there’s an issue. The Academy clearly likes The Fighter more than i did, but it’s well directed, and directors like Russell and Aronofsky have made consistently interesting and artful films– people probably thought they “were due.” Would I have put Nolan ahead of Russell and Aronofsky this time around? Probably, yeah. But none of the three would have made my Top 5 best directors, and if people are complaining about directors being left off, it should be for Danny Boyle and Debra Granik, NOT for Chris Nolan. The worlds of 127 Hours and Winter’s Bone were just as visually inventive and gorgeous as Inception, but their stories had heart. (Note: I am surprised that Nolan was snubbed here considering he was nominated for Best Screenplay– see below.)


ANOTHER YEAR, Mike Leigh (Sony Pictures Classics)
THE FIGHTER, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (Paramount Pictures)
INCEPTION, Christopher Nolan (Warner Bros Pictures)
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg (Focus Features)
THE KING’S SPEECH, David Seidler (The Weinstein Co)

Another wonderful surprise– the witty and poetic Another Year making the screenplay list over the clunky and obvious Black Swan. The Fighter’s strength is its script, The King’s Speech is maybe the wittiest film all year, and The Kids Are All Right… well, it was going to get a nomination regardless of my feelings, so I can’t be mad. Though I’m not surprised Inception got nominated, I thought it would be the first off, since its exposition-heavy script is the main reason why the film feels clunky in spots. Still, it’s a better script than Black Swan, and I’m happy with… four of the five nominations here.

127 HOURS, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy (Fox Searchlight)
TOY STORY 3, Michael Arndt, Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich (Pixar/Walt Disney Studios)
THE SOCIAL NETWORK, Aaron Sorkin (Sony Pictures)
WINTER’S BONE, Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini (Roadside Attractions)
TRUE GRIT, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Paramount Pictures)

I got all five of these, but I put 127 Hours over The Town because I thought that the Academy would sway towards giving it more nominations than The Town in general– plus it’s simply a better script. This really might be the five best adapted scripts all year, which thrills me to no end.


Algeria, Hors la Loi (“Outside the Law”) (Cohen Media Group) – A Tassili Films Production
Canada, Incendies (Sony Pictures Classics) – A Micro-Scope Production
Denmark, In a Better World (Sony Pictures Classics) – A Zentropa Production
Greece, Dogtooth (Kino International) – A Boo Production
Mexico, Biutiful (Roadside Attractions) – A Menage Atroz, Mod Producciones and Ikiru Films Production

Haven’t seen any of these, unfortunately. I hear Dogtooth is insanely strange, so good for the Academy for putting something weird on here.

Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) – Matthew Libatique
Inception (Warner Bros.) – Wally Pfister
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company) – Danny Cohen
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing) – Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit (Paramount) – Roger Deakins

No big surprises here: I thought 127 Hours was flashier than The King’s Speech and so it’d get the nod, but The King’s Speech is also gorgeously filmed. No gripes here– except that it once again seems like Roger Deakins, despite doing the best work of the nominees, may lose. How is the best cinematographer alive STILL without an Oscar?

Exit Through The Gift Shop (Producers Distribution Agency) A Paranoid Pictures Production Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
Gasland – A Gasland Production Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
Inside Job (Sony Pictures Classics) – A Representational Pictures Production Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
Restrepo (National Geographic Entertainment) – An Outpost Films Production Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Waste Land (Arthouse Films) – An Almega Projects Production Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

VERY happy to see Exit Through The Gift Shop here– it’s a wonderful documentary now available on Netflix Instant Watch. I’m surprised Waiting For Superman and The Tillman Story, both having gotten lots of awards in critics circles, both got snubbed– I thought the school system and fallen soldiers were more typical Oscar fodder than the antics of street artists. I’d love to see Banksy win. How would he accept his Oscar?

Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter (Paramount) Pamela Martin
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company) Tariq Anwar
127 Hours (Fox Searchlight) Jon Harris
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing) Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

No major surprises, except again I thought the Academy would reward Inception a bit more liberally. It didn’t deserve an editing nomination– it was too long! Still, it had the cutting between various dream worlds, and I thought that would make it a lock. The Fighter deserves the nod out of realistic competitors for the slot if only for the sensational fight sequences.

Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney) – Production Design: Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Warner Bros.) – Production Design: Stuart Craig, Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
Inception (Warner Bros) – Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company) – Production Design: Eve Stewart, Set Decoration: Judy Farr
True Grit (Paramount) – Production Design: Jess Gonchor, Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

I thought Black Swan was a lock in this category, and they give it instead to Harry Potter 7A, a superior film in terms of art direction not to mention everything else. I thought they’d be fooled by all the horror and makeup and scary worlds of Natalie Portman’s mind and give this a nom. Nothing in Black Swan matches the inside of the Malfoy’s castle, where Voldemort and the Death Eaters sit at that long table. Do you see the trend? Black Swan and Inception, two entertaining but essentially empty stories, are getting the most snubs here, in favor of rewarding superior films. Now do you see why I’m happy?

Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney) – Colleen Atwood
I Am Love (Magnolia Pictures) – Antonella Cannarozzi
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company) – Jenny Beavan
The Tempest (Miramax) – Sandy Powell
True Grit (Paramount) – Mary Zophres

I Am Love is surprising, though I didn’t see it– they almost always reward Merchant & Ivory films, so the lack of notice for Made In Dagenham is interesting. Once again, I thought the costumes for Black Swan were a lock– even though many of them were merely leotards, the costumes for the big sequence at the end I felt would be enough flash for the Academy to choose it over the period Western clothes of True Grit. Kudos to the Academy for getting it right again.

Barney’s Version (Sony Pictures Classics) Adrien Morot
The Way Back (Newmarket Films with Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Image Entertainment) Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
The Wolfman (Universal) Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

No Alice in Wonderland here STUNS me. Maybe they determined too much of it was done by CGI? I haven’t seen either of the first two yet, but The Wolfman is certainly worthy, and I actually didn’t care for the visuals in Alice in Wonderland, which felt overly murky, so I don’t mind it losing out on another nomination.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

“How to Train Your Dragon” (Paramount) John Powell
“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Hans Zimmer
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Alexandre Desplat
“127 Hours” (Fox Searchlight) A.R. Rahman
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

The snub of Danny Elfman’s Alice in Wonderland score, which was derivative of his other scores and in no way interesting, in order to allow the music from 127 Hours or How To Train Your Dragon to slide in, is less of a snub and more of an enactment of justice. The Ghost Writer not getting a nom is sad but expected, since Desplat was destined to get a nom for The King’s Speech, and they weren’t going to nominate him twice.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” (Sony Pictures Releasing (Screen Gems)) Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and
Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” (Walt Disney) Music by Alan Menken
Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours”
(Fox Searchlight) Music by A.R. Rahman
Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3” (Walt Disney) Music and Lyric by Randy Newman’

The Golden Globe winner, Burlesque, gets left off, which is shocking to me but wildly amusing. Still, they replaced it with Country Strong, which can’t have been much better of a film– I wonder if they allow the songs to be sung this year with Mandy Moore, Dido, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Randy Newman all set to possibly sing.

Best animated short film
“Day & Night” (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production Teddy Newton
“The Gruffalo” A Magic Light Pictures Production Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
“Let’s Pollute”
A Geefwee Boedoe Production Geefwee Boedoe
“The Lost Thing” (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment)
A Passion Pictures Australia Production Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” A Sacrebleu Production Bastien Dubois

I’ve only seen Day and Night, which is delightful, but I urge you– see the short animated films. They’re terrific every single year, and most are available on Youtube.

Achievement in sound editing
“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Richard King
“Toy Story 3” (Walt Disney) Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
“Tron: Legacy” (Walt Disney) Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
“True Grit” (Paramount) Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
“Unstoppable” (20th Century Fox) Mark P. Stoeckinger

I would’ve liked to see How To Train Your Dragon score another nom, but Unstoppable is a quality thriller which definitely has great sound, so no complaint from me here. Tron: Legacy getting a nomination should have been more expected by me– the sound is probably the best part of the film.

Achievement in sound mixing
“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
“The King’s Speech” (The Weinstein Company) Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
“Salt” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
“The Social Network” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
“True Grit” (Paramount) Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

I thought Black Swan had another good shot here, but it gets passed up for Salt, which is in every way a superior thriller. Very pleased to see it get a nomination. Everything else is expected but great.

Achievement in visual effects
“Alice in Wonderland” (Walt Disney) Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” (Warner Bros.) Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
“Hereafter” (Warner Bros.)
Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
“Inception” (Warner Bros.) Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
“Iron Man 2” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment, Distributed by Paramount) Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Five nominees? Interesting, considering the two films that made the short list and were left off, Tron: Legacy and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, are definitely more visually inventive than any movie not named Inception on this list. Still, the nominations don’t matter: Inception has already won this. (Do you think the expansion to five is a conspiracy to get a Clint Eastwood movie a nomination, like each of his other recent films has unjustly received?)

So in conclusion, while I wouldn’t have rewarded The Kids Are All Right or Black Swan as much as they were, the Oscars give loads of love to The Social Network, The King’s Speech, True Grit, Winter’s Bone, and 127 Hours– all outstanding films. They also give nominations to Another Year, Animal Kingdom, Blue Valentine, and Exit Through The Gift Shop. If the Oscar nominations this year could get a kernel rating, it’d absolutely get 3.5 out of 4– usually it tops out around 2.5. Cherish this feeling, folks… because the people who win will almost certainly not be the most deserving nominees.

~ by russellhainline on January 25, 2011.

3 Responses to “The 2011 Oscar Nominations, And How The Academy Got It (Mostly) Right This Time”

  1. I was highly confused as to why “Never Let Me Go” didn’t get any nominations. Did I miss something?

    • Didn’t get buzz going. Probably too slow and elegiac for most viewers. I’m STUNNED the score wasn’t nominated though– gorgeous music.

  2. 今、あなたは、もはや必要がある無視するいくつか重要なイベントのテレビシリーズ、されている。彼は補完ロバート・ケプロン、レイチェル・ハリスによってスティーブツァーンなど

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