Naomi Watts in The Impossible

OSCAR NOMINATIONS: Please, Not Another Anna Paquin Moment. Thanks.

So I got some wrong and some right, but most of all it seems I hit one prediction on the nose early on: This is going to be the most interesting Oscar race in a long time, with awards being handed out scattershot across a bunch of worthy films.

Rather than begin with a milky froth of what, in my estimation, Academy members missed and misfired, let me highlight the underlying espresso coffee of what they got right:

No Best Picture for The Master.  Nor was PT Anderson nominated for Best Director.  Hooray!  As I said in my review, I found many decisions made in this film to have been fatal, namely the fact that the focus was on Joaquin Phoenix’s character, not on the Master himself as the title suggests.  Nobody has done the Scientology story before, it’s an incredible one, a delirious Citizen Kane, and this movie simply didn’t live up to expectations.  Phoenix is unlikely to win Best Actor, but Hoffman has a very good chance for Best Supporting Actor, although he will likely lose to,

Robert De Niro, who gave his finest performance in a decade in Silver Linings Playbook.  He was right at home in this superbly written role, and knocked it out of the ballpark.  His co-star Bradley Cooper also deserved to be nominated for Best Actor, even though I didn’t feel he was completely right for the role.  He is also unlikely to win against Daniel Day Lewis, but there could be an upset here; Cooper seems to be well liked.  Jennifer Lawrence, the female lead in SLP, is even more deserving of her nomination as Best Actress than Cooper is for Best Actor, but her performance pales in comparison to,

Life of Pi Tiger

OSCARS: It’s Midseason, So How Are We Doing?

So far, so meh.  I had high hopes for this award season contenders when they were just amuse bouches as trailers, but few if any are living up to expectations.

I suspect we might be seeing a minor cultural shift in entertainment preferences with this amicable, incestuous tug of war going on between premium TV and feature film.  Theatrical releases are becoming the short stories, the scripted dramas the more satisfying epic novels.  Like me, many people are downloading entire seasons and watching them back to back over a few nights, unless they can’t put the series down and pull marathon all-nighters to get them finished, just the way you might read a novel.

Philip Seymour Hoffman The Master

Not another elevator scene from Mad Men

Case in point: last week’s episode of HomelandThe interrogation scene between Damian Lewis and Claire Danes positively stomped a similar one in The Master; by comparison, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman seem like two puffer fish in a Mexican standoff over a choice piece of coral.  Both scenes are meant to be showcases of psychological brinksmanship, performance, and the delicate art of making rather humdrum over-the-shoulder reverse-angle editing exciting.