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Oscar Welcomes Newcomers

Features
by Leonard Maltin
January 24, 2012 1:54 PM
7 Comments
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Academy Awards Announcement-2012

Oscar voters always have some surprises up their collective sleeve, and today was no exception. The actors’ branch is especially welcoming to new talent, as witness the nominations of first-timers Demián Bichir, Rooney Mara, Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Melissa McCarthy. That such relative newcomers are standing toe to toe with the likes of George Clooney and Meryl Streep is a tremendous achievement—and honor.

Jennifer Lawrence and Academy president Tom Sherak reveal the nominees
Jennifer Lawrence and Academy president Tom Sherak reveal the nominees

The voters expressed their honest sentiments up and down the line: only two songs got nominated, five animated features but no Cars 2 or Adventures of Tintin, five talented directors but no Spielberg. The writers’ branch honored two women for a raunchy comedy (Bridesmaids) and an Iranian filmmaker for a searing screenplay (A Separation, also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film).

It’s not surprising that Hugo walked away with eleven nominations, because the members of every Academy branch (except makeup people) recognized the exceptional artistry and craftsmanship of that film, under maestro Martin Scorsese’s direction.

The five best directors were pictured on stage as their names were announced: one newcomer, one established writer-director, and several veterans.
The five best directors were pictured on stage as their names were announced: one newcomer, one established writer-director, and several veterans.

It’s also not surprising that The Artist did so well, with ten nominations. Academy voters have fallen in love with this fresh, original French film, as they did with another import that had no established stars just a few years ago: Slumdog Millionaire. (According to box-office figures, audiences are following suit as the movie expands to more theaters, week by week—just as Slumdog did.)

My ET colleague Mark Steines interviews last year’s nominee Jennifer Lawrence, who read this year’s roster with Academy president Tom Sherak.
My ET colleague Mark Steines interviews last year’s nominee Jennifer Lawrence, who read this year’s roster with Academy president Tom Sherak.

That’s why I respect the Academy Awards above all others: despite what cynics say, you can’t buy an Oscar. (You can hype and promote your film, but if the members don’t already like it, you’re out of luck.) and box-office figures don’t count. Whether or not I agree with the selections, year to year, it’s an honest vote by people who work in all facets of the motion picture industry. That’s why it’s the granddaddy of all film awards, the one that really matters.

A few notes about the ritual of Oscar nomination morning: hundreds of working professionals, from journalists and critics to publicists and TV crews, get up in the dark in order to arrive at the Academy sometime between 3 and 5 a.m. The designated parking garage is several blocks away, so you find yourself walking down a deserted Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, wondering what you’re doing awake at this inhuman time of day. Then you open the door to the Academy entrance and walk into a sea of humanity—everyone you know in the media world, it seems—chattering away and pumped up about the impending news. At 5 a.m. we’re allowed to walk upstairs to the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, where TV crews have already set up their cameras and lights. At precisely 5:30, the Academy president and a contemporary actor or actress step to the podium and read the key nominees, for the benefit of network morning shows back East—and a waiting world. Then the reports and the punditry begin. It’s pretty exciting, especially if, like me, you grew up on the other end of the country, following all of this from a distance. I feel lucky to be part of the Oscar scene.

A full house of media folk filled the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater today—at 5 a.m.!
A full house of media folk filled the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater today—at 5 a.m.!
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7 Comments

  • LD | February 8, 2012 1:44 AMReply

    I started following the Oscars the year 'Good Will Hunting' won Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Best Original Screenplay and Robin Williams Best Supp Actor (1997, I think it was). I don't particularly know why I wasn't following the Oscars before that, but that was the year I really woke up to the Oscars. And in more ways than one. They telecast the Oscar Live at 6:30 a.m. here (our Monday morning and Sunday night in LA). The red carpet thingy starts at 5:30 a.m. Every year, since the time I started following the Oscar (and prognosticating, I admit), I've been waking up at 5 on Oscars morning and going to work directly after the announcement of Best Pic and after tallying my score!

  • JOHN CUMMINGS | February 1, 2012 8:15 AMReply

    I gave up on the Oscars years ago when they voted "Shakespeare in Love" over "Saving Private Ryan". It should be about the film that would stand up over time, but it is usually the flavor of the moment, no more glaring a case than that of "Slumdog Millionaire". Perhaps it is saying something when the current flavor (perhaps a film that will stand the test of time) is a black and white silent film from France. Wake up Hollywood!

  • Vince | January 28, 2012 2:39 AMReply

    As for the Oscar rule of the Best Animated Feature, the animation film must be made by the computer graphics "frame-by-frame" technology, If shot by Motion Capture is not animation film, so that's why "The Adventures of Tintin" isn't qualified to enter the category.

  • Jim Reinecke | January 26, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    While I agree with your views about the Oscar being the gold standard for all film awards (as much as I sometimes BITTERLY disagree with the winners!), I can't help but feel that the Academy suffers from a serious case of "Short Memory-itis". If a film is released early in the year, no matter how brilliant it may be, no matter how terrific the performances may be, come Oscar nomination time and you're going to get snubbed. Case in point? Why the hell was Paul Giamatti not tapped for his outstanding work in a film that I loved (and I know that you did, too); namely WIN WIN?

  • Norm | January 24, 2012 7:13 PMReply

    The Academy finally woke up to the "Spielberg" garbage pool...Although I would love to get a picture of all people walking down Wilshire at 4:00 a.m.,Hollywood Zombieland, that would be a hoot..Maybe they should stop at McD's for a break...Can you see Leonard with a sausage egg mcMuffin and a breakfast burrito....timeless...It doesn't get any better than this...

  • jason | January 24, 2012 4:54 PMReply

    While I was disappointed a few other works weren't nominated (Michael Fassbender among them...for just abotu anything he was in) I'm glad so many other actors who were under the radar are getting recognized (especially Demián Bichir from the underrated 'A Better Life').

  • Vincent | January 24, 2012 3:34 PMReply

    Intriguing mix of films for Best Picture. I am eagerly awaiting to see "The Artist," but I live in Lynchburg, Va., a small city in the mid-South (and part of the Bible belt), and our art house-oriented multiplex has been trying for months to get the picture. Perhaps now, with wider distribution, it will.

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