There’s nothing quite like waking up before the crack of dawn before even most Starbucks locations have opened for the day just to turn on the set and watch the nominations. For diehard film buff, reporters, pundits, and journalists, this is de regieur at right about this time of year, towards the end of January.
Like every year in the past, a few suprises show up coupled with the classic, Hollywood stalwarts tackling the same style and thematic elements that seem to also show up year in and year out.
Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor” was a healthy surprise, not due to the quality of the performance, but becasue Hollywood never seems to recognize character actors and Mr. Jenkins has been pigeonholed as such for the better part of three decades. His performance as a closed-off, introverted, economics professor who spreads his sea legs upon bumping into a pair of poor immigrants is beyond masterul. His character arc develops fitfully throughout the course of the film and his dynamic portrayal of a possibly mundane situation is deserving of academic study.
On the best picture front, “The Reader” lapped up that nomination of nominations plus as slew of prestigious ones due to the machinations and balsy marketing on the part of executive producer the film through the productions ups and downs (especially when two of the producers Anthony Mingella and Sydney Pollack passed away). The majority of critics and audiences have not taken to this film, although a few have. It does represent a classic decision on the part of the academy to nominate a “prestige picture” (one with tangentially related Holocaust themes and based on a best-selling novel), which ultimately might make the nominations more of a guarantee than an underdog suprise. I have actually quite enjoyed this picture and continue to believe it is one of the best of the year, whether the academy nominated or not.
I was suprised to see a nomination for Melissa Leo, in the little film “Frozen River”, which is quite possibly the best film I saw all of last year. A gripping melodrama any Hollywood filmmakers would envy, “Frozen River” grips you from beginning to end and takes you through orgnaically suspenseful plot points in the way no mainstream Hollywood movie ever does. Ms. Leo’s performance builds from a position of strength to a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking complex and rivets you the whole time.
Most of the remainder of the nominations represented business as usual for better or worse. But in the end, Hollywood is Hollywood.