Oscar's a curious case

Published: Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 1:03 p.m.

Call this year's list of Oscar nominees "The Curious Case of Studio Revenge."

Whenever mainstream Hollywood gets walloped in nominations by upstart independents (as happened last year when "No Country For Old Men" meant no Oscars for old Hollywood), Tinseltown's major studios always make their presence felt at the following year's awards as in this year.

Case in point: At the 2005 Academy Awards, the big-budget Hollywood film "Cinderella Man" was left at the altar and the "King Kong" remake fell on its face while trying to scale box-office records like the Empire State Building.

Instead, four of that year's Best Picture nominees for the Oscar "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Crash" were made either by independent producers or studio specialty divisions. And the Best Picture prize itself went to "Crash."

One year later, Warner Bros.' "The Departed" sent independents packing by winning four awards (out of five nominations).

The cycle was set in stone a decade before when the Empire struck back with "Titanic" and its tidal wave of 11 Academy Awards for 1997.

How else really to explain "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" the Paramount and Warner Bros. co-behemoth which managed to snare an astounding 13 nominations including Best Picture? (That's just one less than the 14 for "Titantic," which tied for the record for nominations with "All About Eve" from 1950).

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" may be a respectable film and fits Hollywood's favorite mold of being a lavish, costume epic but does it really deserve front-runner status in a year when an audience favorite like "The Dark Knight" gets one nomination in a major category (Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor)?

And even when the Academy got some things right (major nominations for "Milk," a Best Actor nod for comeback kid Mickey Rourke), it still stumbled figuring out what to do with what it had.

Case in point here: Josh Brolin gets nominated for Best Supporting Actor when his big-screen presence in "Milk" qualified for a Best Actor nod (shades of the "Pulp Fiction" controversy, when Samuel L. Jackson received a Best Supporting Actor nomination though his role was as equally big in the film as John Travolta's, who was nominated for Best Actor).

Who can say what will happen Feb. 22 when the winners are announced.

Contact Bill Dean at 374-5039 or bill.dean@gvillesun.com.

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