This is, as the title says, obligatory. Whether you work in an office or a garage, have a nationally syndicated radio talk show or a lone friend you Skype with in Argentina, you will very likely express an opinion on the Oscar nominations. I intend to write something soon about the Oscar phenomenon, how it has evolved over the years, and what it really means. But this is obligatory. With minimal thought, here are some immediate reactions:
PICTURE: OK, there are ten of them, and that's almost certainly too many. How many of you picked Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close or Tree of Life in your Oscar pool last year? It's hard to get too worked up when you have this many nominees. I'm happy for Amour, and I suppose it's too much to ask for a second foreign language film to be recognized, but I would have loved to have seen Holy Motors get a nod. To me, it was much more fun than Les Miserables. And I personally preferred Cloud Atlas to a lot of the nominees, but I understand that it was not for everybody.
DIRECTOR: I get Tarantino and Affleck being snubbed. I don't get Bigelow at all. How is that possible? I was very happy for Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin, and I admire Ang Lee so much. But Bigelow has to be there. Drop Lee.
ACTOR: I have never really been a Hugh Jackman guy. Very talented, but has never blown me away. I'll take John Hawkes in The Sessions.
ACTRESS: Quvenzhane Wallis carries her film, so I'm happy her age wasn't held against her. I haven't seen Naomi Watts yet so I will refrain from passing judgment. The others look fine to me.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: This is where the rubber meets the road in Oscar debate. Some of the biggest snubs of all time come in this category. So, right off the bat: I don't think too many people would argue that Robert DeNiro is a better actor than Dwight Henry. But DeNiro's work in the critical darling Silver Linings Playbook is really nothing special, whereas Henry is a revelation in Beasts of the Southern Wild. And as much as I like Christoph Waltz, I'd be willing to replace him with Matthew McConaughey or Ezra Miller without batting an eye.
SUPPRTING ACTRESS: In recent years, as roles for women have improved, this has become the second most hotly contested category. Not this year. Amy Adams and Jacki Weaver are fine, but to me, these are negligible roles compared to their work in Junebug and Animal Kingdom, respectively. Problem is, I can't come up with other actresses who had an obviously bigger impact this year.
SCREENPLAY: There are two categories here and there is little to complain about amongst the adaptations. For Original Screenplay, this is usually where a small, clever movie can get recognized. Leos Carax's Holy Motors and Rian Johnson's Looper both fit that bill. It seems sacrilegious to ignore both Tarantino and Wes Anderson in this particular category, but I would have gone with Carax and Johnson.
Other thoughts? I have no opinion on Animated Short or Sound Effects Editing. Let those debates rage on elsewhere. I thought The Master and Skyfall were somewhat overrated, so I was happy to see they didn't score very big. I was happy for Searching for Sugar Man and not at all bothered by the Queen of Versailles omission. But I know people who loved that Versailles movie. That's why I wish this weren't obligatory. I still mourn friends I lost when I said that Shine was the most overrated movie of the '90s. So I won't call you an idiot if you really liked Paul Thomas Anderson's movie this year. The LA Film Critics Association would agree with you, but some of those guys can be pretty pretentious. But that doesn't mean you are pretentious. Just like it doesn't mean I'm pretentious for picking a French sci-fi movie. For whether or not you have a friend in Argentina, in the blogosphere, we can all be experts.