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Oscar picks lead to lots of chin-stroking

Citizen Staff Writer

Let the Oscar-talk begin.

The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards are in, with some interesting winners, perplexing losers and head-scratching surprises. The biggest head-scratcher is how the heck “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” picked up 13 nominations, including best picture, best director and especially the best actor nomination for Brad Pitt, who spends most of the movie with his celebrity face hidden under special makeup making him look either lots younger or lots older.

“Benjamin Button” is a totally pointless film about a guy who is born the same size as a baby but suffering from osteoporosis and other illnesses of old age. Then his body slowly becomes younger as he grows up. So after 40 years he looks 20 but has lots of experience.

For some reason, the picture is being compared to “Forrest Gump.” Which is confusing because the two movies aren’t anything alike, except for being hopelessly sappy. Tom Hanks as the Gumpster even got to look like himself from beginning to end, though he did talk funny.

Pitt’s publicity agent must have quite a political vote-seeking machine amped up to make such an impact on the Academy’s nomination process. Paramount Pictures did spend $150 million to make “Benjamin Button,” directed by David Fincher, a man more famous for such action pics as “Fight Club” and “Se7en.”

Another famous face in disguise is Robert Downey Jr., nominated for best supporting actor in the wacko comedy “Tropic Thunder.” It’s about a bunch of actors pretending to be soldiers in a jungle war movie. What seems most remarkable is how Downey played the role in blatant blackface and didn’t get a single complaint about being racist.

In the movie, the character Downey plays is an Australian bloke so dedicated to method acting that he had his skin darkened to get a better idea what African-American soldiers felt like serving in the Vietnam War. The whole idea is a ridiculous stretch and didn’t even pay off with some unforgettable laughs. Yet, Downey’s name is on the list of nominees along with Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”; Josh Brolin, “Milk”; and Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road.”

Ledger is the sentimental favorite, of course. His performance as The Joker far exceeds the intensity of anyone else.

But “The Dark Knight” did get shut out of the running for best picture, along with its director, Christopher Nolan. An even bigger surprise is how the cast of “Doubt” received nominations for best actress (Meryl Streep), best supporting actor (Hoffman) and two for best supporting actress – Amy Adams and Viola Davis. The actors in virtually all of the movie’s major roles were nominated, yet the film was snubbed for best director and best picture.

How can that be? It just isn’t logical.

More chin-stroking is being inspired by the sinking TV ratings for the Academy Awards show each February. Last year’s Oscar shindig had the smallest audience yet, reported at 32 million viewers. This decline corresponds with the rising popularity of computers as a source for entertainment.

In 1998, when “Titanic” was king of the world, the ratings soared, with 55 million viewers watching Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet smile a whole lot. This precipitous decline is being blamed on the Academy Awards Committee. They just keep nominating the wrong movies, directors and actors.

If more popular movies were nominated, the theory goes, more people would tune in to see if their favorites win anything. When the nominations go to pictures no one has seen, who cares? It’s like watching a football game when you haven’t cheered at a single game for either team.

Well, yes . . . that would also describe the Super Bowl.

Oscar nominations lead to lots of chin-stroking

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