Just a few short notes, writing from one campus before I set out for another, on the Academy Award nominations announced today:
- Conspicuously missing: Marisa Tomei for Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, Donald Pinsent for Away from Her and Max von Sydow for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. When will the academy stop ignoring Max? He's the Joseph Cotten of foreign films: in every bloody classic there is, or so it seems, and he's usually tremendous; and yet, nary a nomination. C'mon-- he's Max von fucking goddamn Sydow! He had two scenes in that movie, and yet every critic I've read felt compelled to remark on his brilliance in them. Maybe the power of you-know-who compelled them.
- Pleasant surprises: Ruby Dee and Hal Holbrook, for American Gangster and Into The Wild, two performers capable of changing an entire movie with a single scene. For Mr. Holbrook, it's about bloody time. Hal might actually win it: in a year when it looks like non-American talent will win big, his nomination will allow the academy to assert its appreciation of home-born legends.
- Foregone conclusions: I think the top acting honours are set in stone. It'll be Julie Christie and Daniel Day-Lewis. Do any of the other nominees in either categorty even stand a chance? The academy is dying to reward Julie Christie, as well it should. Her performance is absolutely heart-breaking. Also look for Tilda Swinton to grab the award for Michael Clayton; it'll probably be the acknowledgement the academy gives for not being able to reward it in other categories.
- Insult to injury: after being robbed last year, and maintaining the longest losing streak in Oscar history, you'd think the Academy would have had the grace to toss Peter O'Toole a nod for Ratatouille. The poor bastard just can't catch a break. He should have won for Venus, just as he should have won for Lawrence of Arabia -- wait for it-- forty-five years ago.
- Look for No Country For Old Men to win Best Picture. I'd be shocked-- shocked, I tell you-- if it didn't. Why? Because it doesn't deserve to. Consider it the Coens' version of The Departed. Best Picture is always about cultural cachet, and No Country has it in spades right now.
- Striking the Match: Will the writer's strike end in time for the ceremony? Count on it. There's just too much money involved in the Oscars for everyone to let it continue and disrupt the grand tradition.
So there we are. Dispute as you will. Must to campus number two. It's going to be a long bloody day.