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Woody and his Buzz

Well, look at that. Oscar righted the DGA’s wrongs and nominated “The Tree of Life” for Best Picture AND Best Director, and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and helmer David Fincher for neither. Now, that’s more like it. I feel much better now. But they didn’t stop there. “Midnight in Paris” garnered nods for Picture, as well as Best Director AND Best Screenplay noms for Woody Allen. Maybe this up-to-10 Best Pic nominee process isn’t so bad after all. I believe “Midnight” is Mr. Allen’s finest work since 1989’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, and it’s also as light as that one is dark. I could quibble about Owen Wilson not being up for Best Actor, but why bother? It was never expected. However, it is a fine comic performance and he simply pulls off the most charming and nimble Woody impersonation I’ve yet seen. And make no mistake—even when Mr. Allen doesn’t star in his films, those lead characters are always him. Now, I’m not foolish enough to think that either “Tree” or “Midnight” have a prayer come the Big Night. But Woody is the favorite for his screenplay currently, and I’ll take what I can get. Academy Award or not—these two films are among the elite of 2011.              Then there’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”—and suddenly up-to-10 nominees becomes a crappy idea. What is it with Hollywood’s love affair with Director Stephen Daldry? At the very least I’m pleased that he was finally skunked for Best Director this time around. I really enjoyed Daldry’s “Billy Elliot” about a dozen years ago. However, it’s been diminishing returns with every film since. And as much as I am underwhelmed by the too white-centric “The Help”, I absolutely ADORE Viola Davis. Her first lead role after more than a decade of marvelous support work—may she be the latest in a string to upset Streep and her potpourri of impersonations from the past decade(btw, I love Meryl—but I want her to win again when she grabs a killer role and makes it her own). And hooray for “Moneyball”! Besides that, all else in this category was expected. Although I’m sure many viewers were displeased(not this one)when the Academy didn’t fill that unused tenth slot with “Bridesmaids”, be appeased that it garnered recognition for its screenplay and supporting actress, Melissa McCarthy. I’m guessing that marks the first time that an acting nominee in Oscar’s 84 year history ever played a character that shits in a sink. I’ll have to remember to wikipedia that one.        Hey, that Best Supporting Actor category just got a whole lot more interesting, didn’t it? Octogenarians Christopher Plummer AND Max von Sydow, plus 70 plus Nick Nolte for “Warrior”(I told you that drunk scene would get him in!). I still believe Plummer nails this, but with all those old legs vying for the award—maybe it should be determined by a footrace between the trio. 50-year-old Kenneth Branagh and 28-year-old Jonah Hill don’t have a prayer at topping the grandpas, so they don’t get to put on their running shoes. Another pleasant surprise is some love for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and the chameleon Gary Oldman. Poor Ryan Gosling. He was my favorite performance in 2010 for “Blue Valentine” and he was overlooked again this time for “Drive”(ditto Albert Brooks in “Drive” for supporting actor).         And it appears that the discounting of Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” has cleared the way for a Best Animated Feature victory for “Rango”—none of the other four nominees are likely to upset Johnny Depp’s lizard. Official picks in at least the top 9 categories by Oscar weekend. Until then—I will be tracking the buzz!

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