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‘Avatar’ doesn’t belong among best pictures nominees

avatar_poster.JPG Nominees for the “82nd Annual Academy Awards” were announced earlier today and for the first time in several years there were no major surprises.

It was no surprise “Avatar” got a best picture nomination, although the film really didn’t deserve it. “Avatar” is visually stunning. It just lacks the quality writing and performances that should be the key reason for earning consideration among the best of the year. That being said, “Avatar” is the leading contender to win the best picture Oscar.

Star Trek” and “Where the Wild Things Are” got overlooked in the top category. Both were visually stunning and also featured better writing and performances than “Avatar.”

As for my predictions, I picked 24 of the 30 nominations in the top five categories including going five for five in the best actor category.

The biggest mistake was the nomination of Penelope Cruz for “Nine.” Not only was it one of the least interesting performance in the film, her selection kept Julianne Moore from being nominated for a superb performance in “A Single Man.” Moore’s snub is the biggest miscue of this year’s Oscar nominees.

For those of you who have not seen this year’s list of nominees, the entire list is on the jump, with links to past reviews and interviews:

Best motion picture of the year
“Avatar”
“The Blind Side”
“District 9″
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
“A Serious Man”
“Up”
“Up in the Air”

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Penélope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Best animated feature film of the year
“Coraline”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Secret of Kells”
“Up”

Achievement in art direction
“Avatar”
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
“Nine”
“Sherlock Holmes”
“The Young Victoria”

Achievement in cinematography
“Avatar”
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“The White Ribbon”

Achievement in costume design
“Bright Star”
“Coco before Chanel”
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
“Nine”
“The Young Victoria”

Achievement in directing
“Avatar,” James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker,” Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” Lee Daniels
“Up in the Air,” Jason Reitman

Best documentary feature
“Burma VJ”
“The Cove”
“Food, Inc.”
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
“Which Way Home”

Best documentary short subject
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
“Music by Prudence”
“Rabbit à la Berlin” (Deckert Distribution)

Achievement in film editing
“Avatar”
“District 9″
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Best foreign language film of the year
“Ajami” (Israel)
“El Secreto de Sus Ojos” (Argentina)
“The Milk of Sorrow” (Peru)
“Un Prophète” (France)
“The White Ribbon” (Germany)

Achievement in makeup
“Il Divo”
“Star Trek”
“The Young Victoria”

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Avatar”
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Sherlock Holmes”
“Up”

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog”
“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog”
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36″
“Take It All” from “Nine”
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart”

Best animated short film
“French Roast”
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty”
“The Lady and the Reaper”
“Logorama”
“A Matter of Loaf and Death”

Best live action short film
“The Door”
“Instead of Abracadabra”
“Kavi”
“Miracle Fish”
“The New Tenants”

Achievement in sound editing
“Avatar”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Star Trek”
“Up”

Achievement in sound mixing
“Avatar”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Star Trek”
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”

Achievement in visual effects
“Avatar”
“District 9″
“Star Trek”

Adapted screenplay
“District 9″
“An Education”
“In the Loop”
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
“Up in the Air”

Original screenplay
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“The Messenger”
“A Serious Man”

Responses to "‘Avatar’ doesn’t belong among best pictures nominees"

D says:

Your second and third paragraphs are RIGHT ON!

Kathy Mahan says:

I think “Avatar” deserves to be there. Simple story, yes. But, so what, it looks amazing.

Mike Scott says:

Rick… you already know how I feel about Avatar! It absolutely deserves not only the nomination, but the win! Visually stunning, technologically brilliant and inventive, a sweeping love story (with giant blue aliens!), amazing battle scenes. What more does your average Joe/Jane want for their ten bucks (or $15 in IMAX 3D!) http://bit.ly/bomkQV

Michael says:

Doesn’t surprise me that Dances with Smurfs was nominated for Best Picture, though I don’t agree with it. Yes it was visually stunning and a technological breakthrough, but that doesn’t equal Best Picture. The story was ok at best, honestly it’s a rehash to Dances with Wolves to me.

I was happy to see District 9 in there, but question the reasoning of putting Up in both Best Picture and Best Animated.

Lisi says:

I could take an amazing looking photo while riding my bike but that doesn’t mean it should get nominated for best motion picture.

D says:

Dances with Smurfs! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…love it! But wait, shouldn’t it be Smurves? ;)

BJ says:

I would absolutely put Julianne Moore in Supporting Actress & I would take out Penelope Cruz & Maggie Gyllenhall (it was a generic performance). I thought Imelda Staunton would get a Supporting Actress nod for ‘Taking Woodstock’. The film was okay, but her perfomance stole the movie.

Does ‘Avatar’ deserve to be nominated, yes. Does it deserve to win? No. The better choice would be “The Hurt Locker” or “Inglorious Basterds”. But we don’t vote. Hollywood does. So it will go to ‘Avatar’ because it is James Cameron’s first picture since ‘Titanic’.

Rick Bentley says:

Thanks for reminding me of “Taking Woodstock.” Her performance was great. I also failed to mention it was a shame Viggo Mortensen and “The Road” were not nominated.

Marji says:

Hollywood was bought and sold a long time ago. And James Cameron has a lot of money.

“Avatar” had virtually no plot, but why should that matter with a Best Picture nomination?

Rick Bentley says:

It should matter a lot. We aren’t talking just the best looking movie. To be a best picture contender, a movie should not be weak in any area. Look at the others. They all combine good writing, great performances and beautiful direction. One out of three doesn’t cut it.

brodiemash says:

“Avatar” deserves to be nominated but not to win Best Picture. MAD PROPS to the Academy for putting “District 9″ on that list, though.

Ruth says:

I agree. Certain criteria should be achieved or it diminishes the purpose of the awards. Sad commentary sometimes when glitz or technology overrides all else.

Kevin B says:

your analogy is absurd. When your “motion picture” rakes in $2 billion globally, let’s talk.

Kevin B says:

Virtually no plot? How can something have virtually no plot? You may not have liked the plot, it could have been a virtually dependent plot, but a plot either exists or the movie is a blank screen for 90 minutes– and I’m sure film theory students could argue that has a plot which speaks of the human condition.

I thought Avatar was trite, but we can’t discount its significance.

D says:

I disagree about Avatar, the writing was extremly unique and creative. Yes, there were some cheesy moments, (“I see you.”) but the writing and visual effects do deserve recognition. As for Star Trek, that movie was terrible, the plot was weak and the acting, so-so.

Scott says:

District 9 was really cool, no doubt, and I imagine very few people saw it, so thumbs up on that pick.
I haven’t seen Avatar, but I have heard that is visually spectacular, that said, if you haven’t read this yet, you should check out the comparison between Avatar and the 1995 Disney animated film Pocahontas http://www.buzzfeed.com/reddit/james-camerons-pocohontas-err-avatar , it’s both funny, and apparently accurate. So now you have a film that is unoriginal, maybe even plagiarized, with nothing special in the acting dept, yet visually amazing, I don’t think that should equal a nomination let alone a win in the best picture category. Now The Fantastic Mr. Fox, was great all the way around, just sayin’…

Lisi says:

A bad analogy for a bad movie.
If revenue is our gauge for quality we have some major problems. Give the designers an award, or the the cool new cameras, but a tired, unoriginal story (which by the way they gave away right off the bat-unobtainium? I still don’t know if they mined any after they destroyed their tree house or why it is so valuable) with crumby acting should not be given such an all encompassing award.

Ethan says:

The writing? The story was a note for note rendition of Fern Gully. My friend Sean and I were calling parts of the plot ten minutes before they happened (the rogue pilot defending the interests of the main character, the doctor being pronounced dead on the way to being transformed, the militaristic general forsaking the formally good relationship with the main character.) No part of any dialogue in the movie could ever be inspiring or unique and there was no surprise. Visual effects? Sure, it was very pretty; the best motion picture category should be reserved for films that have the overall best package, and just having one aspect (pretty blue people) shouldn’t be enough to earn it such a merit.

Danielle says:

I take it back, Avatar’s plot is a strong story. In fact, here’s a markup of its summary that proves it. (or click above) Good stuff.

http://images.huffingtonpost.com/gen/130283/original.jpg

George (Duke) says:

I think AVATAR was phenominal…the story was great, too… the visual the best of all time…popular..$2 billion dollars proves that…what an experience to be “in” that AVATAR world…especially in 3D. I will never watch it in 2D…(seeing trailers on the various talk shows proved that to me)…BUT THE MOVIE WILL NOT WIN BEST PICTURE…to my recollection SCI-FI never has won…DISTRICT 9 was a favorite of mine and that will not win…HURT LOCKER will win and so will its director (who just won the DIRECTORS GUILD)… the selections for picture were predicted…but BIG should have stayed as ANIMATED only…never in the best picture category…INVICTUS should have been added to the TEN.

Rick Bentley says:

I agree with you that science fiction films have been treated poorly by the Academy. But, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won in 2003. Although it is more fantasy, at least it was a partial nod to the genre.

Craig says:

Best Picture nominations are given to the best all around movies. If you want to be recognized for writing, look to “Best Screen Play”. If you want recognition for acting, look to “Best Actor” or “Best Actress”. Best picture isn’t about any one of these elements, but rather all of them coming together for a cinematic experience. I for one, really enjoyed Avatar and thought it was deserving of a Best Picture nomination. I know I enjoyed it a lot more than Inglourious Basterds (in my opinion, the worst of Tarentino’s movies).

Also, I’ve heard (haven’t seen the movie yet) that the plot of the Blind Side was very trite and has been done again and again. I know it was based on a true story (Michael Oher) but that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen the same old thing again and again (for those railing against the unoriginal plot of Avatar). And the reason for the dominance of Matt Damon’s character in Invictus was supposed to be his hulking frame (6′ 3″ 250lbs) but as we all know, Matt Damon is lucky if he’s 5’10″. Pretty glaring weakness if you ask me.

For an experts opinion, check out ESPN’s Sports Guy’s take: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/091231