It's no secret, especially since the rather long leave of silence on the site, that I am just not loving this Oscar season anymore. I'm not sure if I ever was. Of course, there are some races that have me quite invested in the outcome, as always, but they are few. And I kept feeling like I had to explain why this year was a low point in the Academy history, though that should be perfectly obvious. The Academy has lost their teeth, which is no huge news, but even more than that, they've lost their sense of spontaneity. For the first time in a while, I am kind of wishing Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy had stayed. Why? Because the moment they strolled off, this year became extremely safe. The quick choices of Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal to fill in was the first sign.
So it seems so fitting to compare this year to last year in terms of who made the cut for the nominations. This year, it doesn't really matter who the other four nominations are, as we all know it's going to be Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor. I touched on this a bit a while back, but this year's slate of Supporting Actor competitors is extremely soft. I know everyone is pissed off that Jonah Hill made it, but he honestly isn't the worst of evils. In "Moneyball", he is admittedly kind of good. If nothing else, he has shown that he has a possible future in the way of dramatic roles. Does he deserve a nomination for just showing that he has potential. Absolutely not.
There is always going to be a bottom slot for the sweet role that ekes its way into the Academy for no good reason. There are many nominations this year that could fill that role, but if there's one that fills it most, I'd put my money undeniably on Max von Sydow. Can't say there's anything motivating about the performance, if just barely within the character. This was just an emotionally manipulative film, "Extremely Loud", and the title reflects the irritation we all feel as a result of it. I suppose that Christopher Plummer could also fill that role of sweet old man that Geoffrey Rush was dominating last year for "The King's Speech", but the core difference is probably that Plummer is pretty good in the role.
And I'll admit that I haven't even seen "My Week with Marilyn", nor do a feel a massive necessity to do so. If I do see it, it's to see Michelle Williams, and not Kenneth Branagh. It's not that his character is soft, though he is to a degree, but that it's just kind of irrelevant. I notice him about as much as I've noticed Emma Watson in the marketing of the film. Although softness does play a part in my contempt for this slate of performances. I remember last year when the massive snub of the category was Andrew Garfield for "The Social Network", and I admit that even I was more than a bit awry about that. But that was a year that was dominated by predominantly darker portrayals.
Mark Ruffalo may be the great forgiveness in that, outside of Geoffrey Rush, but he earned his place there by really analyzing the reasons behind his character. Garfield was kept out in place of John Hawkes of "Winter's Bone", which is very likely one of the best decisions they made that year. Hawkes was just fierce in that performance, and the tenacity it took for a film like "Winter's Bone" to make as much of a dent as it did in terms of nominations is still astounding. Jeremy Renner's performance in "The Town" was a kind of confirmation that he wasn't a one-hit wonder for "The Hurt Locker". He was here to stay. To be honest, I kind of wish he was here for "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol", but that's asking a bit much.
Christian Bale was the rally cry everybody was ganging up in support of, because he had been shunned by the Academy for years, in the most recent sense. Everybody was on his side, especially seeing as his performance looked so radically authentic, but also emotionally invested. It's one thing to impersonate a character. It's something else to be emotionally invested in it. I quite simply do not feel that any of the Supporting Actors this year is invested in their characters to that level. Not even Nick Nolte, though he is admittedly the most interesting guy on display.
In respects to the Supporting Actress race, it is also a reflection of the "take-no-risks" atmosphere of this year in comparison to previous years. Let's look at last year, shall we? We had two extremely strong and dirty performances from "The Fighter" in the form of Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, and don't misconstrue what I mean by "dirty". We had an admittedly strong debut from Hailee Steinfeld, but I would have been more pleased if she was nominated for Best Actress, because that's where she belonged. We had an exciting performance from Jacki Weaver for "Animal Kingdom", and that's one we didn't expect would get in, and I'm happy it did. The only one here that has no place at all is Helena Bonham Carter for "The King's Speech". It's just piling on the awards for the main juggernaut.
The double dipper of this year is "The Help", which got nods for both Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer. Nobody even knows or cares about Janet McTeer for "Albert Nobbs". Melissa McCarthy is the public's main bid, but it's an unexciting performance. It's just big and loud. And Bejo, nice as she may be, is filling the Helena Bonham Carter role of performer getting in on a wave of buzz for the frontrunner in the Best Picture race. Ultimately, it's just not that motivating. Of everyone here, I'd say that maybe only one of them kind of (maybe) deserves to be here. I'll leave that to my evaluation of their chances later on. But I'll move on to the lead performance categories, Picture and Director, and the writing categories, later on.