This year is all about three people: George Clooney, Paul Haggis, Diana Ossana. Clooney is the first person to get producer/director and acting nods for two different movies. Haggis was up for writing Million Dollar Baby last year, and is now up three more times as writer, director (his debut) and producer of Crash. Diana Ossana is the one who got the rights from Annie Proulx many years ago; she'd never made a feature film before Brokeback Mountain and now she's up for producing and co-writing it. So congratulations to them. They deserve this. Now, on with itemized reactions to and observations of the nominations:
1. Boring. No surprises. Howard and Knightley come close, but they were always on the shortlist. I saw Hurt coming a mile away. I would've appreciated the presence of Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Joan Allen, Ralph Fiennes, David Cronenberg, Thandie Newton and Angus MacLachlan.
2. This is the first time since 1981 that the best picture nominees' corresponding directors have all been nominated.
3. Judi Dench, who has been making movies since the '60s, gets her fifth nomination in eight years. This is Woody Allen's 21st over 28 years. John Williams gets his 44th and 45th (he's won five, but none since '93). McMurtry's last and only previous nomination was in '72. Tim Burton gets his first.
4. MTV Films has two babies in the mix, Hustle & Flow and Murderball. The studio's last nomination came in '99 with Election, which starred...
5. ...Reese Witherspoon, who told reporters in Berlin that she was "completely surprised" by her nomination. Fräulein, you are a fräud. You weren't tipped off by the Golden Globe and awards from SAG, the Broadcast Film Critics, Boston Society of Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, Online Film Critics and San Francisco Critics Circle? Give me a break.
6. Four of the five best pic nominees were produced by small studios or specialty divisions of bigger ones (Munich, of Universal and DreamWorks, is the major player of the bunch).
7. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room gets its nomination the day after the trials begin.
8. Maria Bello is snubbed again (her last expected nomination was for The Cooler a couple years back). She was a victim of the leading/supporting factor, which probably split her vote. She should've followed the lead of...
9. ...Jake Gyllenhaal, who gets a supporting nom for a leading role. It's just one of the moves in the chess games that studios play.
10. My favorite, Roger Ebert, got a lot of things wrong in his Oscar coverage, but corrections have since been made online. He reported that Clooney was a producer on Good Night, and Good Luck and that Don Cheadle was a producer on Crash. Ebert's an institution, but someone should still factcheck him.
11. I am pleased that Bird York's "In the Deep" was nominated for best song, but it was released in 2003 as part of her CD "The Velvet Hour." It was my understanding that eligibility was limited to songs written specifically for a movie (this was why Moulin Rouge's "Come What May" was disqualified in 2001; it was initially written for Romeo + Juliet). What gives? On the plus side, there were only three noms in the song category, which should be abolished anyway.
12. I love Catherine Keener, but I see no reason for her inclusion. The spot should've been filled by Thandie Newton.
13. Haggis was a writer on "The Facts of Life," which featured Clooney.
14. Oscar pool stuff is forthcoming. Stay tuned.