MOVIES: The Oscar Race is on

One of my favorite mornings of the year is the day when Academy Award nominations are announced. I’m always fascinated to see how months of speculation can be confirmed or destroyed in a matter of minutes.

Tuesday morning’s nominations proved to be more of the latter, with the announcements going pretty much as expected. I correctly called 24 out of the 30 nominees in the six major categories , with half of those nominees really not surprising me that much.

Here are my initial reactions to the announcements. I will save my actual picks for my usual Thursday column the week of the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24.

I’m really pleased with the overall strength of the best picture nominees. I think ‘No Country For Old Men,’ ‘There Will Be Blood,’ and ‘Juno’ are the top 3 films of 2007 and ‘Michael Clayton’ isn’t too far behind. ‘Atonement’ is probably the only movie I couldn’t make a case for and it was still pretty good. I’m also very happy to see Paul Thomas Anderson finally get a directing nomination and I am elated over the inclusion of a song from ‘Once’ in the best original song category.

The biggest surprises had to be Tommy Lee Jones’ nomination for ‘In The Valley of Elah’ and Laura Linney (for ‘The Savages’) and Cate Blanchett (for ‘Elizabeth’) finding their way into the best actress race. Jones was good in an underrated (and underseen) film and I’ve always been a fan of Linney, so I can live with those.

Blanchett, however, should not have been nominated for a movie that was bad melodrama at best. Why not reward someone like Angelina Jolie (who gave her best work to date in ‘A Mighty Heart’) or Amy Adams (absolutely delightful in ‘Enchanted’) instead. Blanchett’s nomination, along with the inclusion of ‘Surf’s Up’ in the best animated feature are probably the two-least deserving of all.

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