Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gold Rush: The Oscar Nominations

The Oscar nominations were announced early today with wisecracks from this year's host for the Academy Awards telecast, Seth MacFarlane.  More on that later.  But first -- let me quickly praise some Hollywood History made today that may be overlooked by others.  Denzel Washington is now the black actor with the most Academy Award nominations to his credit.  He is in the Best Actor category for his performance as the heroic but alcoholic airline pilot in Flight.
Until early today, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman were tied with five nominations.  Washington, who won Best Supporting Actor for 1989's Glory and Best Actor for Training Day, now has six.  Another great lead-in to Black History Month came in another acting category.  Little Miss Quvenzhané Wallis is 9 years old.  She was younger when she gave that fascinating performance as "Hushpuppy," the Delta hurricane survivor in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
She is now the youngest black actor to be an Oscar contender and the youngest to be in her category.  She's going for the Hollywood gold in the Best Actress competition.  I am thrilled about that.  "Hushpuppy" is the main character.  We follow her after her father dies, after she's taught the proclamation "I'm the man!" to be the personal creed that will carry her through the unkind forces of an unpredictable world.
I felt she'd be in the Oscar race but I thought that the Academy would put her in the Best Supporting Actress category the way it did young Tatum O'Neal for her Oscar-winning performance in 1973's Paper Moon.  She, too, played a motherless child enduring hard times down South.
She, too, has to bond with her father and learn how to deal with life's unkind forces.  (Her father was played by Tatum's real-life dad, Ryan O'Neal.)
Peter Bogdanovich's Paper Moon was based on the novel Addie Pray.  Tatum played Addie Pray.  So who exactly was she supporting?  The story is about her.  But the Academy put her in the Best Supporting race.  She won.  Ms. Wallis deserves to be in the Best Actress category.  Brava to her!

One of my career role models is in the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award race.  Oscar winner and former ABC TV star Sally Field.  She has something in common with actress Vivien Leigh.  The British beauty won her two Best Actress Oscars for playing Southern women.  First, there was her legendary work as Scarlett O'Hara in 1939's classic Gone With The Wind...
...followed by the victory for her performance as faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Native-born Southern Californian Sally Field won her two Best Actress Oscars for playing women from down South.  There was her legendary breakthrough film performance as the formidable Norma Rae...
...followed by the victory for her performance as a widowed Southern mother determined not to lose her home during the Depression in Places in the Heart.
Sally Field is going to Hollywood Prom Night again for playing yet another strong Southern woman.  In Lincoln, she is Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the President.
This is her third Oscar nomination.  Field, a veteran of two ABC sitcoms and one ABC dramatic series -- Brothers and Sisters -- has a long history with the network.  Besides Gidget, The Flying Nun and the dramatic series, she also starred in made-for-ABC TV movies early in her career.  Twice she acted opposite Oscar nominated Hollywood veteran Eleanor Parker.  One of their ABC TV movies was written by Joseph Stefano, the man who should've gotten an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.  The Oscars will be telecast on ABC.  Also up for an Oscar is Tommy Lee Jones.  His work in Lincoln puts him once again in the Best Supporting Actor category.  And the film reunited him onscreen with Sally Field.
The two co-starred previously in the 1981 comedy, Back Roads. 
Sally played a hooker in that one.  A Southern hooker.
A number of entertainment reporters online and on TV were, as Claude Rains in Casablanca said, "...shocked, shocked" that Ben Affleck did not get a Best Director Oscar nomination for Argo.  I feel he deserved one.  But he did get an Oscar nomination today.  Argo is up for Best Picture and, as producer of it, he got nominated.  Tell those entertainment contributors that sort of exclusion has happened before.  Remember 1991's The Prince of Tides?  Barbra Streisand directed Nick Nolte and Kate Nelligan to Oscar nominations.  She also starred in it.  The movie's seven Oscar nominations included Best Picture.  Streisand was not nominated for Best Director.  As a producer, she was nominated in the Best Picture slot.  She knows how Ben Affleck feels.  Reginald Hudlin is also in the Oscar race as a producer.  His controversial film, Django Unchained, is in the Best Picture category.
Also a director, the first film he directed was 1983's popular House Party.
Django Unchained competes against Lincoln in the Best Picture Oscar race.  With all the politics and controversy, Django...
...and Abraham Lincoln should be co-hosts for next month's Academy Awards broadcast.
I saw the ABC, NBC and CBS network morning news show segments about Oscar nominations and Oscar snubs.  Each segment lightly referred to the racial controversy of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.  Not one of the networks had a black entertainment contributor or film critic present for the discussion.  Gayle King, on CBS, is that show's daily co-host.  Beasts of the Southern Wild is also a Best Picture nominee.  So..we've got black slaves wanting to be emancipated, black slave revenge with extensive use of the N-word and poor modern-day black folks who need a FEMA trailer. If black folks are this popular in Hollywood, I hope we can one day see a big screen version of August Wilson's Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.  They starred in the Tony Award winning Broadway revival of Wilson's 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play.
Unlike other plays such as Doubt, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and musicals such as The King and I, Cabaret, Chicago and Les Misérables (which is a Best Picture nominee today), no acclaimed work from 2-time Puliter Prize winning playwright August Wilson has ever been adapted for the big screen.

Although few people saw the movie and it was far from being a summertime box office hit last year, I am so glad Joaquin Phoenix is an Oscar nominee for The Master.  What an extraordinary performance!
Just like Yul Brynner in The King and I, Joaquin Phoenix was an aggressive macho man who walked  arms akimbo into the Best Actor Academy Award race.
There can now be ten nominees for Best Picture.  Today, the Academy gave us nine.  Then why bother expanding the field to ten again?!?  In my opinion, a tenth nominee could have been either Moonrise Kingdom...
...of the quirky love/hate story based on a real-life murder case, Bernie.  Surprising, memorable, dark, funny and featuring a stand-out mature lead performance from Jack Black as the beloved funeral home employee turned killer.  Shirley MacLaine co-stars.
I hope I'm wrong on this but this morning I got the feeling that next month's Oscars show will drag and occasionally annoy me because of the choice of Seth MacFarlane to host.  As he announced the nominations today, he injected his brand of snarky comments and gags into the proceedings.  I found myself saying "Jeez, MacFarlane, just read the friggin' nominations!  It's not about YOU!"  I can't blame him.  I fault the producers trying to make the Oscars "hip" and appeal to younger male viewers.  The Oscars are not the MTV Movie Awards.  MacFarlane is handsome and talented.  However, people all over the world watch us for the Oscar nominations.  Australia has actors nominated today.  Wisecracks about actresses and Harvey Weinstein will make the press audience laugh -- because it's an inside industry joke.  Millions of national and international viewers will not get it.  Did we really need a Hitler gag tagged on to the nominees for Best Foreign Film?  No.  But when you try to make the Oscars hip and edgy, like the MTV Movie Awards show, that's the kind of disrespectful hipster stuff you get.  Why try to woo the audience that doesn't want to see Best Picture nominees Amour or Life of Pi but helped make Texas Chainsaw 3D number one over the weekend at the box office?  Again...what made Johnny Carson such a great Oscars host?  He was witty.  He embraced Hollywood.  He put Hollywood on his show and helped many people start or recharge their Hollywood careers.  He cleverly jabbed Hollywood as Oscar host ("I see some new faces.  I see some old faces. I see some new faces on some old faces.")  He always joked about himself.  Above all, you knew that he loved Hollywood and the art of films.  His appreciation showed.  This morning, MacFarlane was trying to be edgy.  His best moment was when he seemed truly touched and a bit speechless at his Oscar nomination as lyricist in the Best Song category for the movie Ted.  That's when he seemed real with co-announcer Emma Stone.
If you're on social media, like Facebook, there is nothing more irksome than a 30+ or 40+ adult who cannot be serious about anything.  You give out a serious statement or subject, they respond with a National Lampoon-type wisecrack.  To them, it's clever.  You, however, think "Does this person ever grow up?" The Oscars is an event for grown-ups.  Play to the grown-ups.  My idea for an Oscars host -- someone who has won Academy Awards, someone who has produced work to showcase other actors, someone who is revered in Hollywood, loved by moviegoers and who knows comedy.  He's made us laugh on TV and film.  Tom Hanks.  He'd be a classy, respectful, charming, funny Oscars host.


  1. Great write-up! I concur about Bernie being in the mix. Did Jack Black get snubbed?

  2. Jack Black did not get a nomination. He truly showed great maturity as an actor in that character role. Excellent work.

  3. I was happy to see Jacki Weaver get a nod. She's incredible, and was shutout of the Globes and the SAGS

  4. Australian actress Jacki Weaver burns up the screen as the crime family mother in 2010's ANIMAL KINGDOM, her first Oscar nomination. Wow. Anyone who liked THE SOPRANOS on television should rent that movie. She's fantastic.

  5. We know who you'll be rooting for on Oscar night Bobby! Wallis & Field. If either or both win, I'm sure you'll be on cloud nine. Good luck to both and to you. I just got done watching the Broadcast Film Critics Awards and I am so thrilled that ARGO was the big winner for the evening - winning both Best Picture and Best Director for Affleck. I guess this may be somewhat of a redemption for him losing out on a Best Director Oscar nomination this morning. I could go on and on about the nominations this morning but I gotta go now. I will be back later to comment some more. Alas, I, to be honest, did not even know who Seth MacFarlane was before I found out he was going to be this year's host. Judging from what I saw of him this morning, I think this year's show will not have that special feeling that it had when Billy Crystal hosted the show in the 90's. You might have grown up on Johnny Carson watching the Oscars, but Crystal was who I grew up on watching the show and came to love as host.

  6. Jacki Weaver was mesmerizing in ANIMAL KINGDOM, but her nomination left me scratching my head. It wasn't nearly anything award calibre, in my opinion. Her nomination tells me just how much the Academy loves SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. With a nomination in all four acting categories(which is a rare thing), a directing nod, a screenplay nod, and even throw in an editing nod, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK has all the ingredients to pull off a Best Picture win on Oscar night. It looks like a three-way race between SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, LINCOLN, AND LIFE OF PI. What do you think?


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