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And the Oscar nominations are…

boring!

The voting can now begin for real (as opposed to the already vibrant For Your Consideration ads that have been popping up since as early as November) – the nominations for the 79th annual Academy Awards have been announced, and I don’t think I have ever seen a list of potential winners as predictable and bland as the films and artisans whose names have been unveiled this morning by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Granted, we didn’t have an exactly banner year for great movies, worthy or otherwise, in the past twelve months, but the choices presented in the line up are uninspired and lack the usual outsider elements that make the Oscars so much fun.

Top of the animated list comes Cars. No surprise there, but what’s interesting are the other two noms: Monster House and Happy Feet, both films that I had placed bets on scooping runner up places based on their Hollywood connections. Never mind that both those movies were little more than motion-capture exercises to a large extent…just feel the names, such as producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis on Monster and director George Miller on Feet. I actually enjoyed Monster House very much, and am glad it’s won a nomination due to its originality. Happy Feet, on the other hand, was the surprise smash of the season and again points up just how dull these awards are going to be.

In the short animation category, I’m very happy to see Disney’s The Little Matchgirl in the running, even if it won’t win. Matchgirl will battle it out against hopefuls The Danish Poet, Lifted, Maestro and, in a nomination I certainly don’t agree with, the Scrat short No Time For Nuts. Love Scrat. Loved Ice Age. But a DVD extra is a DVD extra and should remain in the bonus features section.

As for the rest, the frankly awful Superman Returns is inexplicably up in the Best Visual Effects category, when I was shocked to see that we had actually come on so very little from the days of Kirk Alyn and the Superman cliffhanger serials. After all, what’s the difference between Superman turning into a cartoon or a rubbery CGI effect in order to fly? There’s no Night At The Museum, and Poseidon is a surprising no-hoper, but I’ll be crossing my fingers that the second Pirates Of The Caribbean picks up the statuette here for its smashing visual effects work.

While we’re at it, the Best Picture nods are Bable, The Departed, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen, but no room for United 93, my own personal choice for the year’s best film, though director Paul Greegrass has been noted in the Direction category as well as a nod for the film’s editing.

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My picks? Well, the fact that Cars has also secured a nom for its drab and formulaic Our Town song indicates that this one is the favorite with Academy voters, though it stands little chance of beating out any of the three nominated songs from Dreamgirls. And as much as I wasn’t a huge fan of Cars (it’s Pixar’s least engaging film overall, with more stop-starts than a dodgy gear shift), it does seem to be the clear winner due to its technical prowess under the hood – though forget a decent story, as Monster House had for example, and go with the gleaming motors. Seems Cars‘ character arc of looking past the brash exterior to what goodness there is inside doesn’t apply to the movie itself! Nice that Pixar picked up the first Golden Globe for animated motion pictures, but I just wish the Academy had shown a little more originality and let some of the other manufacturers into the showroom.

– Ben.

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