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Eleanor Ringel Cater

Eleanor’s ruminations on recent Oscar nominations

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Oscar nominations are out and probably the only thing Oscar addicts enjoy as much as second-guessing the eventual winners is second-guessing who got nominated and who got snubbed.

Here are some random thoughts on last Tuesday’s naming names:

Best Picture

“The Artist” “The Descendants” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” “The Help” “Hugo” “Midnight in Paris” “Moneyball” “The Tree of Life” “War Horse”

With the Best Picture category expanded to anywhere between 5 and 10, you’d think there wouldn’t be any snubs. And there weren’t…well, yeah there were.

Some noise could be heard about the omission of “The Bridesmaids.” But let’s face it: “Bridesmaids” was pretty good for girls.

At least, that’s what the real thinking is in Hollywood. And frankly, I kinda agree. “Bridesmaids” was fun, but it wasn’t especially special — except that it gave Kristen Wiig a chance to show what she can do outside the confines of “Saturday Night Live.” And an opportunity for Hollywood powers to say with a semi-straight face that there are PLENTY of opportunities for women in movies.

Still, I would’ve much preferred “Bridesmaids” to the cloying “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” or the abysmally inauthentic “The Help” which mostly allows people who behaved, well, not their best, to feel better about it all (it “all” being racism and segregation; thank goodness, we have a few snotty Southern sorority girls to blame).

But worst of all is the inclusion of “The Tree of Life” and Terrence Malick for Best Director. Yeah, I love Malick, too…30 or more years ago when he made “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven.” His movie is even worse than “The Help” or “Extremely Loud” in that it’s not just cruddy; it’s pretentious, too.

“Bridesmaids” looks better by the minute.

Seriously, here are the films that seriously got the shaft from the Academy: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Margin Call” (whose expert ensemble cast, which ranged from Kevin Spacey to Jeremy Irons, got dissed as well), “Melancholia,” a difficult film that earned the right to be difficult (as opposed to “The Tree of Life”) and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Old School solid.

And perhaps most of all: “My Week with Marilyn.” It’s worth “Extremely Close,” “The Help” and “The Tree of Life” put together.

The rest of the nominees are fine. Though “The Descendants” was an early favorite, it now looks like “The Artist” will win. I am hugely fond of “The Artist” and a win would be fine (for director Michael Hazanavicius, too). But “Hugo,” which leads the field with 11 nominations, is my personal pick. We’ll see how things go.


“The Artist” Michel Hazanavicius; “The Descendants” Alexander Payne; “Hugo” Martin Scorsese; “Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen; “The Tree of Life” Terrence Malick

Back when there were five Best Picture nominees (all of two years ago), Best Picture and Best Director matched up. Except there was always one Best Picture nominee that seemingly directed itself and one Best Director who somehow didn’t direct a film worthy of being a Best Picture. Think, Bruce Beresford and “Driving Miss Daisy.” It won Best Picture and he wasn’t even nominated.

I’m pretty good with this year’s nominees (With the exception, as I said above, of Malick). In his place? Maybe David Fincher for “Dragon Tattoo.” Or Phyllida Lloyd for “The Iron Lady” (which could’ve also been a Best Picture contender). One good thing: they snubbed Tate Taylor (“The Help”).


Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs;” Viola Davis in “The Help;” Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo;” Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady;” Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”

Another good group, though I wonder if Viola Davis wouldn’t more correctly be placed in the Supporting category. After all, her real-life correlative sued for a portion of the money earned by the book and movie and got butkus. Doesn’t that say Best Supporting to you?

If she were moved (and, along with loving her work, I strongly think she’d fare better in that category), there would’ve been room for the very deserving Tilda Swinton (“We Have to Talk About Kevin”) and Kirsten Dunst (“Melancholia). Or even Leila Hatami from the superb Iranian film, “A Separation.”


Demián Bichir in “A Better Life;” George Clooney in “The Descendants;” Jean Dujardin in “The Artist;” Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy;” Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”

Again, no major what-the-??? on the list. But I am curious as to how Demian Bichir from “A Better Life” squeezed through. Were Academy voters that angry with Leonardo DiCaprio in “J. Edgar?” (Well, I was, but that’s different). At least Pitt was nominated for “Moneyball” and not “The Tree of Life.” And if I were Ryan Gosling and had three shots at an Oscar and ended up with zip, I’d fire my agent.


Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist;” Jessica Chastain in “The Help;”
Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids;” Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs;” Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Oh, this is always a weird category. Typically, it honors someone sexy, young and on the way up (Geena Davis in “The Accidental Tourist”) or someone revered and older (like Judi Dench in “Shakespeare in Love”). Personally, I think Dame Judy deserved a nod for her canny work in ‘My Week with Marilyn.” And I liked Helen Mirren a lot in “The Debt.”

Who would I toss out to give them a chance? Easy. Jessica Chastain. It’s just not that hard of a role. The ostensibly snubbed performer is Shailene Woodley, who was quite good as the older daughter in “The Descendants.” But (and for some inexplicable reason, I agree), she didn’t give off that extra something. Maybe she was sabotaged by George Clooney.


Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn;” Jonah Hill in “Moneyball;” Nick Nolte in “Warrior;” Christopher Plummer in “Beginners;” Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

This is always the category with the most possible deserving candidates. I remember one year when the field included John Cassavetes (“The Dirty Dozen”), Gene Hackman (“Bonnie and Clyde”), and George Kennedy, (who won for “Cool Hand Luke.”)

However, I am a bit flummoxed by Max von Sydow, the legendary Ingmar Bergman star who plays a cutesy old man in “Extremely Loud.” An Honorary Oscar might have been more appropriate — though I revere him and am glad for the attention.

I don’t get the love for Jonah Hill. He was a bit interesting fat. Thin, he looks remarkably like a girl I went to summer camp with. And Nolte for “Warrior?” I think somebody powerful has cast him in something down the road and this is their way to erase Nolte’s infamous mug shot from our minds.

Who’s missing? Most especially Jim Broadbent who is exquisite as Margaret Thatcher’s husband in “The Iron Lady.” I was also entranced by Kiefer Sutherland in “Melancholia” and his name hasn’t turned up anywhere. The role may be too small. Or, let’s face it, director Lars Von Trier’s nut-case comments at Cannes didn’t endear him or anyone related to him to the Academy voters. Look ‘em up for yourself.

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


1 Comment

  1. doug_monroe January 31, 2012 11:04 am

    Eleanor: Margin Call was a terrific movie and as timely in this era as China Syndrome was back in the day. Jeremy Irons should be up for best supporting actor for his role in Margin Call. I thought the way the movie moved up the chain of command at the firm was chilling. Cheers!Report


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