Oscars snuff out the "Dreamgirls"..and more!

by Eric Melin on January 28, 2007

in Print Reviews

This past Tuesday morning the Oscar nominations for movies released in 2006 were announced. Just one week after the triumphant “Dreamgirls” win for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes, it seemed that the Broadway-adapted musical was a shoo-in for a Best Picture nod.

As Borat would say, “Not so much!”

I would like to think that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences read my article posted on the front page of Scene-Stealers.com last week, and then made a wise and informed decision not to nominate “Dreamgirls” in the major categories of Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay. The fact of the matter is that their ballots had already been turned in by the time my article appeared. But they are an intelligent bunch, because that’s exactly what happened.

Some headlines read “”Dreamgirls” leads pack with 8 nominations!” This is misleading. Yes, it does have the most nominations. But when three of those are in the Best Song category, that’s not much to brag about. It is the only musical out there, after all. The only two nods in major categories were the expected nominations for Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy. The other three were for technical awards like Art Direction, Costume Design, and Sound Mixing.

Obviously, after viewing the other fantastic films of this year, they came to the same conclusion I did– “Dreamgirls” has some major problems. To read about them, check the review on this site.

Other reactions to the Oscar nominations:

Six nominations for the amazing “Pan’s Labyrinth”! Wow! After seeing this film two weeks ago, I was floored. I will now have to revise my Top 10 of the 2006 to fit this one in, since I hadn’t seen it in time to meet the deadline of that article. (The review will be here next week, when it opens at Liberty Hall.) I knew walking out that I had seen something special and wondered if it would resonate with Oscar voters the way it did with me.

That answer is a resounding yes. The promotion on this adult fairy tale was virtually non-existent until last week, and now it has warped into overdrive with the unexpected number of Oscar nods. It will win the Best Foreign Language award for sure (especially since Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver” was inexplicably left out) next month, and I predict big box office on the way. Despite the whole in-Spanish-with-subtitles thing, the word-of-mouth on this sucker will be huge. It is overflowing with original vision and packs an emotional punch like no other film this year, with the sole exception of “Children of Men.”

For a little foreign horror/fantasy hybrid to get the thirdmost nods (after “Dreamgirls’” eight and “Babel“‘s seven) of any picture this year shows enormous support. A big studio frontrunner like “Dreamgirls” should have received eleven.

More kudos to the Academy–recognizing Ryan Gosling as a crack-addicted high school teacher in the little-seen “Half Nelson” and Jackie Earle Haley as a sex offender in the little-seen “Little Children” is quite impressive. It shows that they were really doing their homework and seeing as many 2006 releases as possible.

“Children of Men,” the best movie of the year, had a poorly executed Oscar campaign and I thought it might be snubbed altogether, but I am excited to see it get recognition for its extended-take hand held Cinematography, its striking Adapted Screenplay, and its…Film Editing?? That last one has me a bit puzzled. Usually, the editing nominations are for a bit showier job than “Children of Men.” After all, don’t long takes mean that there were a lot less cuts? Hey, maybe they awarded choosing the right take to use or maybe they just plain awarded its restraint in that department.

Whatever the case, I was glad to see Thelma Schoonmaker’s complicated and exquisite montage work in “The Departed” get some recognition. I’ve said it before, but the first hour of that movie is one long montage of contrapuntal music, sound effects and wildly different images that convincingly move Matt Damon and Leo DiCaprio’s characters through some pretty unbelievable circumstances. It’s confident, assured storytelling, and she deserves this award more than any other.

Speaking of “The Departed,” it’s time to dole out some jeers as well. How could the Academy possibly give DiCaprio a nomination for the lousy, preachy “Blood Diamond” and “The Departed”? This is the most shameful omission of all the nominations. DiCaprio carried that film with his portrayal of a man constantly at the end of his frayed emotional rope. This shows a strange lack of support for “The Departed” (despite expected nods for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor), and it worries me. Another hint of their true feelings about the movie– they left Jack Nicholson out of the Supporting Actor noms (probably because he played Jack Nicholson), even while giving Mark Wahlberg one (for also playing himself, albeit with Wahlberg’s genuine Boston accent and better lines).

Then again, at the beginning of the year, nobody thought “The Departed” would even be considered an Oscar flick. Coming of of period piece Oscar-bait like “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator,” this was merely to be a return to the crime genre for Martin Scorsese. Now, he’s finally looking to pick up that long overdue Best Director Oscar for his biggest-grossing movie ever.

Shame on the Oscars for not nominating Sacha Baron Cohen and Catherine O’Hara. I am sick to death of these awards being so drama-centric, as if crying and screaming is so much harder than making people laugh. O’Hara did it all in “For Your Consideration” and was somehow still believable. Cohen combined daring and dangerous improvisation with a revolutionary approach to crafting a story arc (by using non-actors who don’t realize they are part of a story). I’m assuming that his lack of support comes from other actors being jealous of his trailblazing ways or stupidly looking down on this as a lower form of acting. The Academy’s block of voting writers obviously thought highly of this approach, as they nominated Cohen and his team of nouveau scripters in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

Random other cheers:

Paul Greengrass for directing “United 93”

Vilmos Zsigmond’s operatic mise-en-scene resulted in a Cinematography nod for the unfairly bashed “The Black Dahlia”

The lush Art Direction of the overlooked “The Prestige”

Thomas Newman’s expressive old-is-new-again Score for “The Good German”

Random other jeers:

The boring, safe choice: Will Smith for “The Pursuit of Happyness”? Boo.

Leaving out Michael Sheen for his surprisingly deep portrayal of Tony Blair in “The Queen”

Jennifer Hudson screams her guts out like she’s on “American Idol” again and she gets an Oscar nod? Ugh.

The made-for-TV look of “The Illusionist” gets a head-scratching Cinematography nomination

The challenging animation and twisted narrative of “A Scanner Darkly” was omitted in favor of more safe choices like “Cars,” “Happy Feet,” and “Monster House.”

Overall?

The telecast will be too long and Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker will collect statues, but at the end of the night, anybody could win Best Picture!

Let’s just thank God that we know it won’t be “Crash” again.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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