The Oscars strike back; so do the writers

Tuesday, 22 January 2008 — 9:12am | Film, Oscars

Oscar nominations are up—and while I’m not as equipped to comment as I usually am, given that I haven’t caught up on all the films I missed on account of being out of the country, but I’ll dispense some initial impressions nonetheless. At this point I’m not going to pay too much attention to whether the ceremony will have any of its usual glitz if the presenters and nominees continue to show solidarity with the WGA; for me, it’s about recognizing the films, and the ceremony itself is mostly window dressing. So here we go.

I dislike commenting on the Best Picture race without having seen all of the films, but I’m pleased with the eight-nomination recognition given to the thrilling No Country For Old Men.

I’m quite pleased that Michael Giacchino, who composed far and away the best musical score in 2004 (The Incredibles) and didn’t get so much as a nomination, is on the shortlist for his equally magnificent score to Ratatouille. Marco Beltrami’s neo-Morricone score to 3:10 to Yuma is also quite deserving of its place.

Glad to see Alan Menken mop the floor with the Original Song category, just like the old days. The category has had little to no credibility since it started becoming about soundtrack tie-ins that play in the end credits rather than songs that actually occur in the context of the film proper, which roughly fifteen years ago, only Disney was doing anyway. Curiously, of the three nominees from Enchanted, there is no sign of the soaring “True Love’s Kiss”—not really a complete song so much as an earnest parody, I suppose, but still the most instantly memorable melody from the whole movie.

In many ways, the most interesting race will be in the Animated Feature category. On one hand, you have Ratatouille: as arguably the best film I saw in 2007, and a significant achievement even by Pixar’s astronomical standards, it would be an uncontested winner in any other year. On the other, you have Persepolis, the French film about Iran’s Islamic Revolution that is reputed to be the film to beat. Does this mean we’ll see Persepolis expand to more theatres so we can see it here in the sticks? One can only hope. That said, Oscar votes do tend to drift towards the films that Oscar voters have actually seen—and no, they don’t always assess them all.

I had the opportunity to see the two Canadian entries among the Animated Short nominees when they played on the festival circuit. Both of them are quite strong: Madame Tutli-Putli defines its own brand of stop-motion grotesquerie, and I Met the Walrus is a highly energetic visualization of an old tape-recorded interview with John Lennon. They’re brilliant films alike, though neither of them scream “I’m a winner!” with quite the same conviction as, say, The Danish Poet. At least two of the other nominees, Même les pigeons vont au paradis and Suzie Templeton’s Peter and the Wolf, are available online; I haven’t gotten around to them yet, but I will, and so should you.

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