Oscars 2011: Nominations

The full list of nominations for this year’s Oscars was announced yesterday and as soon as I read them I could practically hear the entire internet saying the same thing: “sorry, what?”

Not about the entire list, of course–there were the obvious ones on there, like Black Swan and The King’s Speech, which have been tipped for Oscars since last year’s festival season, but there was also–at least to my mind–a few surprises.

Mark Ruffalo, for example. Not that I don’t think Mark Ruffalo is a good actor, nor have I really seen enough of his films to make a judgement–it can be hard to decipher emotional depth when all you’ve seen him do is play a downbeat, quiet guy opposite first Reese Witherspoon and then Jennifer Garner, even if you did love those films–but there was definitely a moment of “uh…” when I saw his name on the list. It’s not even a question of talent, more of the role–Ruffalo has plenty of time to develop as an actor and pursue different things, so why run the risk of peaking him early with a nom for a character that doesn’t, in the great pantheon of Nominated-For-An-Oscar, stand out that much?

In truth I was surprised by four nominations for the film, though perhaps this is from ignorance as opposed to being informed; I haven’t seen The Kids Are Alright, after all, but then I haven’t seen it making much of a splash either, at least not here. I didn’t see it. No one I know went to see it, not even the friends who stalked the London Film Festival like their lives depended on it. It can be difficult–and arrogant–to judge a film when you haven’t watched it, but the truth is that it’s not a name I was expecting to see on the list. More fool me, perhaps, but there we are.

The Best Picture nominations are a nicely eclectic bunch–I’m rooting for The King’s Speech–and the Best Actor list is populated by five excellent candidates. Annette Bening is a wonderful actress (and therefore a nomination for The Kids Are Alright that I can get behind), as are Natalie Portman and Michelle Williams. I want Tom Hooper to win Best Director because he’s consistently talented and engaging, and that’s before I even mentioned that his visual style sends me into apoplexies of delight. And, most likely against popular opinion, I want How To Train Your Dragon to win Best Animated Feature. It’s a fantastic film, funny and sweet and emotional, and a quirky little movie that deserves some love.

Those putting on bets will probably be hedging their money on the front runners like Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Social Network (which already has several Golden Globes in its pocket) and Colin Firth, but awards season does like to surprise. Here’s to hoping that those surprises, if they come, are the right ones.