Well, it was fun for me, even if I had to get up at 5 a.m to watch the Academy Award nominations live, even my Oscar predictions weren't exactly on point. Still, I challenge anyone who had both Viggo Mortensen and Laura Linney scoring nominations to please step forward to take your rightfully earned laurels? No? Nobody? That's what I thought.
Seriously, this Academy Awards nomination business is wicked complicated. If you think the Electoral College or how they figure out which presidential candidates get how many delegates per primary is out there, you haven't read the rules that go behind awarding Oscar nods to the lucky few. I would post them here, but then I'd have to kill you to put you out of your misery and then kill myself out of guilt, and my behind costs too much for me to kill myself, so there you go. The old saying goes that you should never see laws or sausages being made; you could throw the Oscar nomination process in to that axiom for good measure. All of which is to say, picking these things down the line 100 percent is very, very hard to do. No matter how much you try to cover your ass every which way but Sunday.
Having said that, here's how I did. You can play along by going to my picks and the actual nominations.
Best Picture - four out of five: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood and Juno were locks because of the collective hype and acclaim these very different films have accumulated over the past several weeks. I also got Atonement right despite the mixed reaction it has engendered, mainly because this big, glossy romantic British epic is the kind of stuff Oscar voters scoop up faster than Amy Winehouse can gobble her daily pharmaceutical intake. I had Sweeney Todd for the final spot, though that pick probably was folly to begin with - most experts had George Clooney's legal drama Michael Clayton in that position, and sure enough, they were right. In fact, Clayton earned seven nominations, quite a haul for a law-based, old-school thriller that didn't exactly take in a lot of box-office cheddar. But the power of the Clooney can't be denied, it seems.
Best Actor - three out of five: Wow, did I get this one wrong. Sure, three of my choices got in, including Johnny Depp, who wasn't exactly a overwhelming pick despite his crackling good performance in Sweeney Todd. And Viggo Mortensen had a decent amount of Oscar buzz for his skills at Russian and swordfighting (you figure it out) in Eastern Promises. But Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah? Most everyone thought that if he did make it into the Academy mix, it would be for his supporting work in No Country, not for his lead work in Elah, a well-received but commercially unsuccessful Iraq War docudrama. Still, the voters have spoken and have voted Emile Hirsch and Denzel Washington off of the Oscar island. That's OK, though - Washington already has two, and Hirsch, well, he's be back in the Oscar hunt next year for Speed Racer! (not)
Best Actress - three out of five: Weird, this category is, I say in my best Yoda. Two of the nominees, Julie Christie and Marion Cotillard, star in movies that were released back in the spring (April and June, respectively) which would seem to defy the logic that the earlier movies are released, the lower their chances of being recognized (read: remembered) by the Academy voters, even in this age of DVD. Yet Angelina Jolie, who got nearly as much acclaim as Christie and Cotillard for her role as Daniel Pearl's widow in A Mighty Heart, is bumped from the proceedings. Heart also came out in June, so maybe her film was forgotten by the Academy - or maybe they just didn't like her performance as much as Cate Blanchett's reprise of the Virgin Queen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And I owe a big time apology to one of my current celebrity crushes, Laura Linney, for giving her virtually no chance of making the final cut for The Savages; this probably hurts my chances at landing a date with her.
Well, that, and the fact that she's engaged.
Best Supporting Actor - five out of five: Let the record show that I nailed this category. About time I nailed something.
Best Supporting Actress - four out of five: I took a chance on Saoirse Ronan for Atonement and was rewarded for my hunch. I also took a chance on Catherine Keener in Into the Wild and was bitch-slapped, though Tilda Swinton's performance in Michael Clayton was considered something of a sure thing by a lot of people. I'm very happy about Ruby Dee receiving her first nomination at age 83. (Ronan also got her first nod - at age 13. Someone sit both ladies at the same table at the Oscar luncheon.)
Best Director - three out of five: Of the major categories, here was my biggest surprise - Jason Reitman for Juno getting the nod over Sean Penn (Into the Wild) and Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd). For me, this is clear evidence that the Oscar voters, for better or worse, have drank heartedly from the Juno Kool-Aid bowl and love what they taste. It won't be enough for Reitman to beat the Coen brothers, or probably for Page to best the Julie Christie juggernaut. (I'm betting that I'm the first writer in recorded history to use the terms "Julie Christie" and juggernaut" in the same sentence.) But Reitman's presence in this category elevates Juno's chances, however minutely, for Best Picture. That is, until the inevitable backlash that hits these tiny films almost all the time.
I may post later about some of the more perplexing snubs that have me scratching my head, along with some tasty Oscar trivia that you can use at your favorite cocktail parties. So stay alert for that. I know I will.