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Oscar's Early Bird Special

by Leonard Maltin
February 2, 2010 6:05 AM
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Anne Hathaway and Academy President Tom Sherak read the announcements at 5:38 a.m.

I don’t relish hearing my alarm go off at 4 in the morning, but I hopped out of bed today with a smile on my face. An hour later it’s still dark outside the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but inside there’s tangible excitement in the air. The lobby is packed with the familiar faces of reporters, critics, publicists, and Academy staffers. We’re all at the nexus of show-business, where eagerly-awaited news is about to be beamed around the world.

As for the nominations, I was one of those skeptics who questioned whether the Academy could find ten movies worthy of being considered Best Picture. Now I have to eat my words: they’ve come up with a diverse and solid roster of films. I don’t love every one of them, but there are no clunkers here. And if some people were rooting for Star Trek or Invictus or The Hangover, it’s further evidence that there was a field from which to choose.

Several acting nominations made me smile: I’m glad Matt Damon is being recognized for his fine, un-showy performance in Invictus. He’s as credible as fellow nominee Morgan Freeman is playing Nelson Mandela. I’m pleased that Penélope Cruz has been singled out for her work in the much-maligned Nine. And I’m delighted that Woody Harrelson has been nominated for his performance in The Messenger; I hope it inspires more people to see this excellent film, which also earned a nomination for screenwriters Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman. (I feel the same way about the screenplay nod for that wicked political satire In the Loop. Like The Messenger, it’s available on DVD and well worth seeing.)

The ten nominees for Best Picture as illustrated during the Oscar announcement.

I also have rooting interest for Nick Park’s latest animated short starring Wallace and Gromit, Alexandre Desplat’s buoyant score for Fantastic Mr. Fox, and two of Randy Newman’s colorful songs from The Princess and the Frog.

Disappointments? I’m sorry Alfred Molina wasn’t nominated as Best Supporting Actor for An Education. I wish Chile had put forward The Maid as its official selection so it would have qualified for Best Foreign Language Film. And I think Stanley Tucci is being celebrated for the wrong performance: he’s good in The Lovely Bones, but I think he’s great working alongside Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia. Watching them together was one of the great moviegoing treats of 2009.

But I can’t dwell on the negative when there is so much to cheer: multiple honors for Up and Up in the Air, recognition for District 9, Coraline, and The Young Victoria (which is up for Art Direction, Costume Design, and Makeup). What’s more, twelve of this year’s twenty acting contenders are first-time nominees. That reveals an openness to new talent that reflects well on the Academy and its voting members. This is a good day for movie lovers everywhere.

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  • Robert Jewell | February 12, 2010 4:36 AMReply

    Dear leonard,
    Enjoy all you commentary and purchase your Guide every year..comment doesn't concern Oscars, but Guide. How come Jennifer Jason Leigh isn't in the Actor's Listing?
    Best Wishes!

  • Brian | February 11, 2010 10:13 AMReply

    What did you think of Inglourious Basterds because I never saw your review or take on the film?

  • Stephen Letts | February 4, 2010 5:09 AMReply

    It's great to see that Pixar has finally gotten what they have always wanted, a Best Picture nomination. it is also unfortunate that Michael Stuhlbarg didn't get a nomination for Best Actor. Also great to see a whole bunch of new nominees espically Christopher Waltz for Inglorious Basterds. Tough to see what will walk away with Best Picture.

  • AJ | February 2, 2010 7:33 AMReply

    Leonard, I agree...I think the breadth of films nominated for Best Pic is great for everyone-critics & audiences alike. Plus all the new, fresh nominees is so exciting. I have a feeling this ploy by the Academy to increase viewership is going to work BIG time..

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