The nominees for the 81st Academy Awards have recently been released and like most critics and film buffs that I know I am far more interested and excited by the outcome than I like to admit. The Academy Awards are notoriously political, conservative and populist, and are rarely a barometer of good quality filmmaking. In just the past ten years two extremely average films (Shakespeare in Love and Crash) and four popular good-but-not-that-great films (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) have won the Best Motion Picture of the Year award. But then again, American Beauty very much deserved its win and I was also pleased when Million Dollar Baby won. The last two years have actually seen awards go to deserving recipients across the board and giving the top prize to The Departed and No Country for Old Men made me think that the standards have lifted at the Academy.
I’ll post another piece closer to the time with my notoriously inaccurate predictions about who will win and who I think should win, but for now I thought I’d share my thoughts about the actual nominations.