Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Noticed: Oscar Nominations

They’re out. I called all five Best Picture nominees. Not that it was hard. THE AVIATOR, MILLION DOLLAR BABY and SIDEWAYS were locks. I just assumed that the Academy would make conservative choices.

Ignoring Paul Giamatti is the most glaring oversight in recent Oscar history. SIDEWAYS, represented in so many other key categories, revolves around his performance. The omission could mean that support for the movie isn’t that deep. It’s entirely possible that it could go home empty-handed, which would be a shame.

I love the post-nomination analysis that says Clint Eastwood “got” Giamatti’s slot. As if anybody can parse the Academy’s arcane voting system. And why treat the nomination of a major star who anchors a Best Picture candidate as unexpected?

Alan Alda’s supporting nod for THE AVIATOR was a pleasant surprise. He’s in the movie’s best non-Cate Blanchett scenes as a senator so accustomed to power that he doesn’t realize how transparent his caginess is. (“On the committee? Or chairman of the committee?”) Alda has a shelf full of Emmys, but he’s still underrated as an actor.

The writers’ branch distinguished themselves with nods for THE INCREDIBLES and BEFORE SUNSET. I never thought of the latter as an adaptation, but I’ll allow it. I would have liked to have seen nominations for Patrick Marber’s CLOSER script and the landmark digital video cinematography of Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron in COLLATERAL. They’ll just have to settle for being historically significant.

Any bets that we’ll hear some conservative complain that THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was only nominated for tech honors while the “pro-choice” VERA DRAKE scored in three major categories?

Overall, it’s a dull list. Chris Rock has his work cut out for him.

Classics I Somehow Missed: Peyton Place (1957)

Is this considered a classic? Probably, because the title has entered the lexicon. As Rosemarie said in the middle of the movie, “This town’s so crazy with the secrets it’s like ... well, Peyton Place.”

I turned it on as a lark, expecting a dated soap opera. Instead, I found myself riveted for the full 162 minutes. More than a few scenes are genuinely shocking. Credit a strong script by frequent Hitchcock collaborator John Michael Hayes. He weaves the many threads in Grace Metalious’ novel together beautifully. Although the climactic speech is a little much.

For me, the film’s biggest surprise was the performance of Russ Tamblyn. His character starts out as a bookish kid dominated by his mother. After Pearl Harbor, he enlists in the paratrooper corps, the most dangerous duty available. When we next see him, he’s relaxed, confident, and – hell, I’ll say it – sexy. Tamblyn conveys a complete transformation with a few well-chosen gestures. He was deservedly nominated for an Oscar.