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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

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    Five Most Idiotic Oscar Nominations of the Year

    By Kyle | February 2, 2010

    5. Best Picture for “The Hurt Locker.” C’mon people: This movie is one great scene (which is essentially repeated three times, just to be sure we caught it) and a shapeless second hour. We get it: War is a drug. Four words do not a story constitute, let alone a great story, let alone a great movie. This movie reminds me of Tom Wolfe’s comment, in “The Painted Word,” that a postmodernist painting like something by Jasper Johns was essentially a rebus leading you to a single, simple message.
    4. Best Screenplay for “District 9.” Ooh, the aliens are kinda like black people in Jo-Burg shantytowns. Deep, man.
    3. Best Picture for “District 9.” Maybe on another planet. Not even a good or original sci-fi movie, much less an Awards Season Contender. “Iron Man” was about three times better.
    2. Woody Harrelson, Best Supporting Actor for “The Messenger.” Being all drunk and crazy (on a mission that would seem to require the opposite of these qualities) is all it is.
    1. Best Screenplay for “The Messenger.” A hummvee of anti-military cliches. Truly one of the worst “serious” pictures of the year, utterly lacking in interest.

    Question: Are the Oscars even worth watching this year? I suppose so, because Baldwin and Martin are pretty funny. And as long as “Inglourious Basterds” has a chance, I’m into it. Also I’m chuffed to see Nick Hornby getting a well-earned nomination for “An Education,” which also richly deserved its Best Picture and Best Actress nominations. Write more movies, please, Nick.

    Topics: Movies, Oscars | 38 Comments »

    38 Responses to “Five Most Idiotic Oscar Nominations of the Year”

    1. Robert P. Says:
      February 2nd, 2010 at 11:28 am

      I enjoyed Avatar immensely, but it just boggles my mind that it would be the frontrunner (frontrunner!) for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

      Yes, it’s impressive in Imax 3-D. However, place it on a 40 inch TV and it would be embarrassing to compare to a work of art like Inglourious Basterds, An Education or Up.

      I truly hope for the integrity of the Academy that a Best Picture winner will never contain lines as off-the-shelf as “I didn’t sign up for this!”

    2. Bugg Says:
      February 2nd, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      Would loves to see Tarantino win.

      More annoying-“Up in the Air”-there simply aren’t words to express the suckage that is this movie. Clooney brings all the emotion impact one would usually associate with a trip to CVS or paying a utility bill. You never for a second think anything other than George Clooney is acting in a movie.Of course we have the sassy sidekick, and the uglied up fling(complete with breaking into the old high school). If you ahve Danny McBride and Zach Galfanakis in your movie, how about a few laughs? The only real moment is the montages of real people who have been fired. That documentary would have been a much more interesting movie.

      And my wife hated it more that me.

    3. Rebecca B Says:
      February 2nd, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      Ok, I really liked District 9. I thought it was awesome. I didn’t see it as a heavy-handed parable about apartheid, but rather as a subversive satire about bureaucracy. I laughed from the very begininng. I saw it on a plane last October. Somehow I hadn’t read any reviews…so I wasn’t set up to hate it. I’m glad.

      Kyle – I read your review after and was bummed. I see your points, but it’s just not what I saw when I was watching the movie. Had I read your review I never would have watched the movie.

      Oh – I also liked Hurt Locker. I don’t think it’s a “great” movie (nor District 9) but it was pretty engaging. I like to think I’m not that easily engaged :). It looks great and the performances are pretty good (except for a couple of inexplicable cameos – Ralph Fiennes?).

      Anyway, surprised to see either one nominated for BEST PICTURE. Wow. But if they’re nominating 10 this year…works for me.

    4. Patrick Says:
      February 2nd, 2010 at 7:53 pm

      I also liked “District 9”, just taken at a literal level I thought it was an entertaining movie. I’ve seen 6 of the 10 Best Picture nominees. Of the bunch I saw, I liked “An Education” the most, feel about Inglourious Basterds the same way Kyle feels about “District 9”, so I hope Basterds doesn’t win (which of course means it will). “A Serious Man” was a really interesting movie, it has zero chance to win, but good to see it get a little recognition. I suppose it’s for just that reason they went to 10 nominees.

    5. KS Says:
      February 2nd, 2010 at 7:59 pm

      I haven’t seen many of the nominated movies, but I’ll probably watch at least some of the Oscars this year. Bush has been out of office for over a year, so it might be safe to watch again.

    6. timmy Says:
      February 3rd, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      I’m a little more outraged that “The White Ribbon” didn’t make it as a best picture contender. Why is it that they would allow an animated film to finally jump up to the best picture category but not a foreign film? also matt damon did deserve an oscar nod, just not for invictus the informant was definitely overlooked

    7. Lin Says:
      February 3rd, 2010 at 10:04 pm

      Ah, another Nick Hornby fan! Love love love his writing and would be very happy to see him honored, although the Oscars are pretty lame this year. I would like to include Avatar in your list of bad nominations. Don’t have family-friendly words to describe how much I disliked that movie.

    8. Dima Says:
      February 3rd, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      I don’t understand how someone can be so wrong about district 9? It’s almost as if you didn’t see it or watched it while in a bad mood.

    9. Dave Says:
      February 3rd, 2010 at 11:34 pm

      With the exception of the Smith’s comments on Hornby, everything else he has to say here is utter crap. What he doesn’t understand about good storytelling or life in the military or even how the world works would fill a book.

      And by the way, I’m an Academy member and he can kiss my ass.

    10. Kyle Says:
      February 3rd, 2010 at 11:37 pm

      Okay, Dave. Now, how much time did you spend in the military, exactly?

    11. Myke Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 12:56 am

      kyle, Dave has a point. My four years in the Marines..including ‘grunt’ time in the Vietnam Sandbox…my perspective on the “Hurt Locker” is the relevancy of the stress involved in day to day operations…not knowing if you will come back and what will happen…when. Leave it up to a woman director to get it right…after macho male directors continuously fill the screen with Bull—t.

    12. Gus Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 3:44 am

      If the ‘Go Colts’ didn’t tip me off that you’re a —–, your bashing Hurt Locker solidified it. Hands down one of the best movies of 2009.

    13. Matt Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 4:44 am

      Sadly District 9 was about the only truly original pictures nominated for Best Picture, next to Up and possibly Precious.

      Everything else was a sequal, or story completely ripped from something else (how can you not mention Dances with Smurfs).

      Also to comment on how ‘deep’ District 9 was is rather silly since neither Blind Side nor Avatar (both nominated for best picture) were that deep. Hell the first was a bad disney flick and the 2nd was Native Americans as blue people.

      The problems with District 9 you have pointed out are even more evident in the other films you forgot to mention, instead of supporting a horribly cliche and rather underwhelming story like Avatar, why not give the little guy a break (who inarguably did a better storytelling job, albeit without pretty 3-D visuals and bright colors).

    14. CJ Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 5:56 am

      The comments on The Hurt Locker pretty much made me lose faith in this critic’s opinion on anything. I thought THL was a fascinating war film and character study that amazingly avoided the usual Hollywood propaganda. I think Kyle was really bummed with the “war is a drug” line. In my view, the Avatar nomination was the idiotic one, at least in terms of film quality.

      I notice Kyle’s review of THL is rated a 63 on metacritic, 31 points below the average for the film. So it appears that he’s suggesting that virtually the rest of the critical community is made up of morons, I gather. A puckish fellow.

    15. clayusmcret Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 7:30 am

      I stopped watching virtually all awards shows almost 30 years ago. Now I’m down to not watching all awards shows – finally gave them all up about five years ago. Choices like District 9 give me reason not to want to tune in and getting to miss what the actors/actresses actually say during the awards programs make me glad afterward that I chose not to.

    16. Bugg Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 9:28 am

      As a “Member of the Academy” do we crucify you for picking “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan”, “Ordinary People” over “Raging Bull”, or “Dances with Wolves” over “Goodfellas”? That “I’M A MEMBER OF THE ACADEMY!” stuff doesn’t hold much water east of Hollywood. And our genial host is in fact a military vet.

      Also, Mr. Academy, with technology available to bring first run movies into homes with great TVs why are we still forced to trek to dirty smelly theaters at all? If you really wanted to stop iracy, you could do it tomorrow. The auto industry didn’t keep horse&buggy guys around, so why you folks feel compelled to care about theaters is beyond any business sense.

    17. Jim Richels Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 9:30 am

      Kyle, you’re an moron. They extended the nominees to 10 this to please people like you. I love how you bash the noms this year, yet offer no alternatives. Let me guess, Star Trek? Transformers 2? Which film blew your hair back? To you conservatives, if it’s not a Bourne movie or not starring Kevin Costner, it’s crap.

    18. Jim Richels Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 9:35 am

      Dear Bugg,

      So right now, you can watch a film in a theatre, on dvd, on your phone, one your computer, on cable, on demand….

      And you’re complaining because in order to see a film when YOU want to see it, oh heaven forbid, you have to pull yourself up off the couch and actually drive to the theatre.

      I can see you now, in a lazy boy with giant bag of chips in your lap, “What do you mean I have to wait 3 whole months to watch a movie without moving from my seat in my home?”

      Quit being lazy. There’s a world out there beyond your TV room.

    19. Rob Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 10:19 am

      Dave “Mr. Academy” you are a tool and obviously way out of your league here so go back to your little elitist cocktail parties where thay bash flyover country and leave us normal people alone.

    20. Kyle Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 11:07 am

      @Jim Richels, since you asked, this is my top ten list. I suppose you’ll be surprised to learn “Star Trek” and “Transformers 2” are not on it. Obviously you are new to this blog.

    21. Rob Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 11:44 am

      To Jim Richels, Crap is about all you libtards know how to produce and so-call direct anymore. Spare us your artistic psuedo-intellectual garbage and join Mr. Academy at the next cocktail party moron.

    22. JohnBissell Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

      Hurt Locker, everybody in the military is either repressed because of “don’t ask, don’t tell” or borderline mentally ill, an ugly, stupid movie.

    23. 76United Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 1:34 pm

      District 9 was definitely one of the best movies of last year. In my opinion, second only to Inglourious Basterds. Your summation of District 9 is a bit off in my mind. Obviously it was a take on the plight of blacks in South Africa, but it didn’t beat you over the head with it’s message the way Avatar does. To me, District 9 is a drama with elements of sci-fi. Reminiscent of Alien.
      It goes beyond the treatment of the prawns in District 9. It deals with the main character becoming a prawn, having to clear his name and save his family. As well as realizing that the prawn and he need to work together to reach their objectives. (Spoiler Alert) The fact that the movie ends without a clear answer to what happens makes it more of a challenge to the viewer.
      Lists like yours irk me. How about instead of trouncing things you dislike, which takes no guts, how about picking things you do like?

    24. Brian John Murphy Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      I have to go with Vice President Biden on this choice…um…uh…you know…that…um program that is in 3D…and there is a whole science fiction thing happening…
      WOODRUFF: Avatar?
      Yes! Avatar!

    25. tublecane Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      Patrick said, “‘A Serious Man’ was a really interesting movie, it has zero chance to win, but good to see it get a little recognition. I suppose it’s for just that reason they went to 10 nominees.”

      Actually, I think it was expanded to 10 nominees specifically to avoid movies like “A Serious Man” (which I liked). They got a lot of flack last year for excluding “The Dark Night” and “Wall-E” in favor of stuff nobody had seen, for instance “The Reader”. Happily, future “Dark Knight”‘s will be included. Tragically, we have to live in a world where “Avatar” has gotten more recognition than “The Dark Knight” (ironically almost directly because of “The Dark Night”).

    26. tublecane Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      “The Hurt Locker” was a decent action thriller. You’re right, it only had one level beyond entertainment. Namely, “war is a drug”. And even that is less a serious critique of war and the men who fight it than an accurate discription of what the audience can expect from watching the movie. Namely, roller-coaster thrills. I won’t say cheap thrills, since the thrills were earned. But drug-like thrills nonetheless.

      Not the sort of thrills, in conclusion, that we expect to win Best Picture. If they were, a lot more action (excluding serious war movies which aren’t really action movies) and horror movies would have won.

    27. tublecane Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

      Myke said, “my perspective on the ‘Hurt Locker’ is the relevancy of the stress involved in day to day operations…not knowing if you will come back and what will happen…when.”

      Yes, and that’s ALL it was about. Nothing else, besides some stuff about a little kid who didn’t really die which goes nowhere. It was well executed, mind you, but not enough in my opinion for Best Picture. A lot of great, great movies, “Die Hard” for instance, worked perfectly on one level, but I wouldn’t honor them with the top prize either.

      “Leave it up to a woman director to get it right…after macho male directors continuously fill the screen with Bull—t”

      If she’s the first person to ever get the stress of war and fear of death onto the screen, I’ll eat my hat. That’s like saying the latest teen slasher pic was the first one to get the shrill shrieking right. War movies only happen to be one of the most popular film genres of all time. Believe me, it’s been covered. Gosh, people have short memories.

    28. kishke Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

      The Hurt Locker was tense and often interesting, but Kyle’s right, there was not much story. And the scene with James haring off on his own on a private insurgent hunt was ridiculous, as was the one where the three OED guys make like a platoon or two and go gunning for an imaginary bomber. The sniper duel in the desert, though, that was great. As was the point in that scene where James gives Sanborn the drink. It was the first indication that James is not just some lunatic redneck. There were a number of those small touches that gave the characters depth. So overall, yes, a good movie, but I don’t think it’s one I’d watch twice.

    29. Daniel Crandall Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      I was expecting to see a comment about the Avatar Best Picture nomination. Maybe that’s elsewhere on Kyle’s site. I always thought the Academy had a category for Best SFX. Oh, well. If only Lucas was more overt in his Star Wars prequels with left-wing ideology, then he too might have received a Best Picture Oscar nod. Live & learn, Georgie Boy, live & learn.

    30. RG Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 2:41 pm

      Yes, The Hurt Locker may be the best Iraq war film out of Hollywood this year but it is still truly idiotic. It doesn’t get almost anything ‘right’ in its depiction (and if if it doesn’t have realism then what else does it have to offer? It’s goofy “War is a drug” drivel?) It’s no wonder THL is despised or at least utterly dismissed by most vets.

      Yes, as dumb as The Hurt Locker is maybe even more profoundly stupid is District 9. Dances with Insectisoids (and more evil corporations and their merc henchmen up to no good – oh, yeah, that’s great writing). Popular culture has sunk to new levels of mediocrity when films like Hurt Locker and D9 are nominated.

    31. CJ Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      I think what’s idiotic is he lists the Hurt Locker nomination as “idiotic.” By definition, then, that means all the critics who praised it and picked it as best film are idiots (idiots do idiotic things). I strikes me mostly as an attempt to be provocative. It’s too bad, because I think it’s a well made, intelligent film and actually one conservatives can have fewer qualms about than most of the junk filmmakers are giving us these days (Avatar).

    32. purveyor Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

      I liked the film The Hurt Locker a lot but I do agree with Kyle that it is way overrated. Perhaps it is because of the desire to give a woman a best director trophy. As for AVATAR I liked that film too but felt outside the special effects there isn’t much to the film. My favorite is Inglourious Basterds because to me it was the most fun movie to watch this year. Now this film is loaded with striking sequences that to me is what entertainment is all about. Take for instance the projection room sequences. Who would have thought the gal was going to get hers. Exhilarating film.

    33. Pete Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 4:51 pm

      To the “White Ribbon” booster. Foreign language films have been nominated for Best Picture several times. Off the top of my head I can think of Il Postino, Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Z.

      Foreign language films often place someone in the Best Director slot. Fellini snared 3 or 4 all on his own.

    34. Paul Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 7:35 pm

      Am I the only one who though watching ‘District 9’ was exactly like watching a sci-fi version of ‘The Office’.

      It was almost the same acting, camera moves, plot, etc.

    35. Bugg Says:
      February 4th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

      Spare Imax, there’s objectively really nothing intrinsically wonderful nor visually superior about a movie theater when compared to almost any decent HDTV. You can make arugments about people being lazy or stupid, but that’s an opinion, not a fact.Fact is the way movies are sold to their customers is imbecilic and backward. It’s going to take one big studio to decide it can make a ton of money and end piracy by selling direct to it’s customers. And do it by cutting out the middle man and putting first run movies in a pay per view subscription plan or one shot format or both.

    36. Kyle Says:
      February 5th, 2010 at 12:16 am

      Paul, yes….I said in my original review that I was really tired of the fake-documentary format. It’s been a cliche for a while.

    37. Bugsy Says:
      March 6th, 2010 at 12:13 am

      Inglourious Basterds? Tarantino? People actually think that movie and Tarantino deserve AWARDS? IB was one of the most idiotic movies I’ve ever seen.

      I just don’t understand why people thought that was some kind of “brilliant” movie when it should have been a comic book.

      There’s no accounting for taste.

    38. kishke Says:
      March 7th, 2010 at 10:43 pm

      I too thought IB was kinda dumb.