There are two films with a lot of nominations that I haven't seen. Inglorious Basterds is one I was kind of lukewarm about seeing, kind of leaned toward seeing, but as busy as things were most of last year, I wasn't making time for the lukewarm. There's a decent chance the studio will find a theatre in NYC for a movie with this many nominations, and I'll see if there or on video. Precious, from its Sundance reception a year ago I was rapturous to see it but the more I read about it the more "enh"-y I got about actually going to it. There's a good chance I'll cowboy up and do my duty. I will not see A Serious Man, but I do recommend A Single Man. The Last Station, I probably can see. If I catch the three of those four films that I'm willing to see, I'll have caught the lion's share of the nominees in all of the various categories.
Big picture, the big battle looks to be between The Hurt Locker and Avatar. For those of you who don't know, there's added intrigue because Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow is an ex of Avatar director James Cameron, though the two are on good terms with one another. Avatar did very well at the Golden Globes, but the Directors Guild and Producers Guild both voted for Hurt Locker. Hurt Locker could also benefit because actors are the biggest contingent in the Academy, though the motion capture technology of Avatar is much more actor friendly than in the Bob Zemeckis movies or Lord of the Rings. So there is some potential for a really tight race.
I did not like Avatar so much, while I liked The Hurt Locker very much. So far as I'm concerned, Avatar can pile up all of the technical awards it wants to its very utmost hearts content, but please let Best Director and Best Picture go to the soldiers fighting on Earth. The Hurt Locker is one of those all too rare films that is both riveting, dramatic, compelling, taut movie-going and simultaneously a work of genuine art. It does revisit some war movie cliches, but Avatar visits all those and more. As much a technical triumph as Avatar might be, any movie with the "at first, it was just a job/mission/assignment, but then it became love" line in it ought to get a DQ for Best Picture.
After those two pictures, Up in the Air was my favorite of the other eight nominees. I'm glad to see District 9 in the mix because it shows you can do good science fiction without drowning the story in blatantly CGI effects that turn cinema into a video game. The Blind Side joins Avatar in being among the most popular movies of 2009, with rock steady box office as a result of good word of mouth, and if that helps it to get a spot on the expanded roster of ten Best Picture nominees, I'm all for. An Education and Up, I saw both, and can't say I liked either as much as some other people.
I've seen all five nominees for Best Actor, and they're all amazing. This is a tough category. If the Academy wants to give it to Jeff Bridges, fine by me, but any of these performances would be deserving. The other acting categories, I need to catch up on more of the performances.
A few other quick comments:
The White Ribbon is kind of stuck on itself, but it was very nicely photographed. That's a category where I might root for a movie I didn't actually like.
Once again the Feature Documentary category is filled with documentaries nobody actually saw. Howls of protest should commence momentarily. On the other hand, this wasn't one of those years when any documentary did really really well at the box office, so the howls will only come from the critics rushing to the side of their overlooked darlings.
I wish Michael Giacchino had picked up a second nomination for his score for Star Trek. James Horner and James Cameron were a great team on Titanic, but Avatar's probably the spot I wish had gone to a second nom for Giacchino.
And overall, while I'll happily see Avatar picking up a slew of technical awards, the fact is that Hurt Locker has excellent technical work in places like sound editing. Movies like Star Trek and District 9 were really good. Will voters find consolation prizes for them someplace, or will Avatar conquer all?
If you haven't seen The Hurt Locker, please do so right away. Move it to the top of your Netflix queue, Redbox it, rent it, one way or another, see it right away.