2012 Oscar Nomination Reactions

The Oscar nominations announcement is always a blur and it’s usually not until the ride to work when some of the shockers start to sink in.  We learned or were reaffirmed that the Academy will nominate those physical/transformation roles (Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close).  We also learned that the Academy loves George Clooney, Stephen Daldry and Max von Sydow.  Here are some of my immediate reactions to the 2012 Oscar Nominees.
Best Picture
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the obvious “sore thumb” on this list.  Judging by how the graphic screen was setup during the announcements, I was sure that, after announcing the first Best Picture nominee, there would be 8 nominees in total.  It just fit the screen.  However, after they called out 8 films they replaced the top-middle graphic square with another title; one none other than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  It’s as if they planned it that way to shock us.  The film carried a good amount of buzz during the early awards season, but the negative reviews quickly poured out upon its release.  The film only gets a Best Picture and Supporting Actor nomination.  No Adapted Screenplay.  No Score.  No lead actor or actress nominations.  It doesn’t belong here.
I predicted every nomination in this category correctly.  Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life is the stand-out here, but it’s a well-earned nomination.
Demian Bichir for A Better Life bumps Leonardo DiCaprio.  That’s fine with me, although I would’ve thought Michael Shannon or Michael Fassbender would’ve been included, instead.
Tilda Swinton gets bumped for Rooney Mara.  So many assumed Tilda was a lock, but Mara’s performance was physical and demanding.
Supporting Actor
Albert Brooks in Drive dominated the precursor awards, but gets cut for Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, who didn’t win a single precursor award.  The Academy is just jumping at its chance to nominate this legendary actor. 
Supporting Actress
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs squeezes in over Shailene Woodley.  It could’ve gone either way, though Woodley gave a great performance in The Descendants.
Adapted Screenplay
The Ides of March is a shocker.  It was a highly-anticipated film, which turned out to be only decent with some really good acting.  George Clooney earns the nomination here for the script, which just goes to show that the Academy loves George Clooney.

Original Screenplay
Margin Call is the surprise nominee in this bunch and I think it’s well-deserved.  I predicted this as an outside shot only to be shocked when it got called.  Diablo Cody’s Young Adult gets the boot.
Original Score
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, was one of the best of the year and one that was an absolute lock on every Oscar Fanatic’s prediction chart.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 had the best score of the year, though its exclusion isn’t that shocking.  Howard Shore for Hugo gets in and John Williams gets 2 nominations in this category with the inclusion of The Adventures of Tintin, which is sort of a head-scratcher.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which had some of the best camera work of the year, gets left off for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or War Horse….whichever you want to say.  Personally, I could’ve done without War Horse on this list, i’m fine with either one.  YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT!  I DON’T LIKE LOOKING UP AT THE CHARACTERS THE WHOLE MOVIE.  WHAT A BEAUTIFUL RED SUNSET….AS THE SUN SET ON THE FILM, but really I thought there was some nicely shot scenes.
Film Editing
Moneyball gets in over Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  It’s essential that a Best Picture nominee get a Film Editing nomination so it makes sense.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has the best editing of the year, but it’s not nominated for a Best Picture.  It will be interesting to see how this category pans out.
Sound Editing
Train Wreck.  The train wreck in Super 8 earns the film a nomination if not a win.  Hugo is included here, which really makes me think it could make a huge push to contend with The Artist for Best Picture.
Sound Mixing
Super 8 is left out of this category as well, but Moneyball, a Best Picture nominee, is included.  Hugo and War Horse are Best Picture nominees with both sound nominations.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is nominated for both sounds, but not Best Picture.
Art Direction
This category continues with its tradition of not nominating a film nominated in the “Contemporary” category of the Art Directors Guild (except for Black Swan in 2010).  Midnight in Paris is the odd selection here, but I think I would put it in “Period” due to its non-fictional, yet fantastical flashbacks.  Very interesting choice.
Costume Design
Nothing really surprising, though it could be argued that there were films left out.  Jane Eyre’s inclusion shows that the Academy really loves adapted and period pieces when it comes to costume.
Harry Potter is a much-deserved nomination with the finale of that wonderful series.  We also see that the Academy likes to reward those transformational performances with Albert Nobbs and The Iron Lady.
Visual Effects
Real Steel’s inclusion is sort of baffling to me, but it’s not all that surprising.  I guess the Academy needed more robots fighting each other.
This might be the first time Pixar didn’t even get nominated.  Also, the highly touted and appreciated The Adventures of Tintin gets the cold shoulder.  In their stead are 2 obscure films called A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is the most impossible of all the Mission Impossibles.  With a Ziplock bag of loose-leaf Twizzlers and other sundry Christmas stocking candies in pocket, I attended the screening of the 4th installment in the Mission Impossible series with a fair amount of anticipation due in large part to J.J. Abrams’ previous addition to the series.  Ghost Protocol is as humorous and light-hearted as its predecessor is dark and serious, though certainly to the benefit of both films.  There’s an element of comedy thrown into the mix along with the action; a combination one might find in Pixar’s The Incredibles, which was also directed by Brad Bird.  Bird’s resume’ up until now has gained its notoriety from Pixar films as he’s also directed Ratatouille and the highly reviewed, The Iron Giant.  The comedy style that I speak of is one of a cartoon nature where a character disguised as a shrub freezes when his counterpart is looking in his direction.  As soon as the counterpart looks away, the shrub creeps ever closer.   Simon Pegg and Tom Cruise break into the Kremlin and sneak down a guarded hallway using an iPad-powered projection screen that reflects exactly what’s behind it, basically making everything behind the screen invisible and greatly resembling, logistically at the very least, the shrubbery scene described above.  As the guard looks away the 2 spies creep forward.  When he looks down the hall, they stop.  There is both suspense and humor in this scene and the effect not only works well here, but all throughout the film.
Speaking of the iPad, the Apple product placement in Ghost Protocol is relentless.  But then again, what other product could they possibly use?  A Blackberry?  Now THAT would be a mission impossible.  Imagine if they showed some hi-tech piece of spy equipment doing something you’ve never even dreamed of and at the core of its power source is a Blackberry.  It would be too unbelievable and the audience would never buy it.  However, if you put an iPhone in the shot, then the audience would be more than ready to accept the idea of it powering almost any computer nick-knack or hi-tech device.
The opening prison break scene is a great way to setup the tone of the film.  Ethan Hunt is in a Russian prison where we see him bouncing a rock off the cell walls as the other prisoners’ doors open and, skeptical; they escape and begin to fight each other.  The light-hearted tone of the film is established as we see Ethan look into the security cameras at the tech-savvy, Dunn (Simon Pegg) and mimes for him to open other doors.  As Hawk exits his cell he puts his rock, which has fulfilled its purpose of killing time, back into the hole in the wall where it belongs.
Easily the most nausea-inducing and suspenseful scene in the film is when Ethan scales 11 stories of the Khalifa Tower.  Already 100 stories up, Hunt makes the audiences suffer just so that his now disavowed IMF team can break the hotel’s firewall undetected. The feeling is not lost on those who watch this scene through the cracks of their fingers.  I don’t normally make noise other than laughing while watching films, but when Hunt fell several stories I uttered an audible gasp somewhat resembling a 3-year-old getting her ears pierced.  This was shot so well that, for a split second, I thought I was falling with him. 
I’ll close my review with what I think are some really good decisions made by the filmmakers.
Good Call
Good call not using the masks.  In the first 2 films, it seems that the filmmakers couldn’t wait to start the pomp and circumstance of ushering in the masks.  In true tongue-in-cheek fashion, the mask making machine breaks down so the team has no choice but to NOT use them.
Good call not having Jeremy Renner’s character be a mole or traitor, though the character is a rather effective red herring.
Good call taking what would have been a normal, mundane foot/car chase scene and adding a vicious sand storm to up the intensity.
Good call dressing Tom Cruise up in a BEAUTIFUL blue suit (costumes designed by Michael Kaplan) just to destroy with sand and car wrecks.  Great costume design all around.
2011 in film has been a year of nostalgia sentimentality and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol contributes its fair share with an emotional, yet fitting ending that addresses the fate of his wife from the 3rd film and neatly ties it into the underlying sub-plot of this film.  James Bond take note.  The last two Mission Impossible films have greatly increased the legitimacy of the franchise.  J.J. Abrams rightfully went dark.  Brad Bird, with a steady hand, brings some humor into the mix and it’s a brilliant follow-up.  It always helps when the underlying story is interesting, yet not overly complicated.  There’s nothing fancy about the plot of Ghost Protocol.  There is simply a nuclear scare involving the Russians and that’s all that I need.