Movies: Oscar nominations in the USA

Babel, film poster

By David Walsh:

79th Academy Award nominations: a disparate group of films

24 January 2007

The Academy Award nominations announced Tuesday morning confirm a recent trend: a growth in the overall seriousness of international filmmaking, in response to events, combined with significant limitations and confusion.

Three hundred seven feature films were eligible to be nominated for best picture this year by the 5,830 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The award ceremony will be held February 25 at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, and will be hosted by comic Ellen DeGeneres.

Leading the pack, Dreamgirls, loosely based on the history of The Supremes of Motown fame, directed by Bill Conlon (Kinsey), received eight nominations, but none in the prestigious best picture, best actor, best actress, best directing or best screenplay categories.

Babel, directed by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and featuring an international cast, gained seven nominations, including best picture, best supporting actress, best directing and best original screenplay.

The film attempts to treat pressing problems, including America’s “war on terror” and the plight of immigrants in the US.

“In the world of this film, misunderstandings and miscommunications yield human catastrophes—usually exacerbated by those in position of authority,” commented a WSWS reviewer.

Stephen Frears’ The Queen was named in six categories, including best picture, best actress (for Helen Mirren, not a surprise), best directing and best original screenplay.

While understated and occasionally timid, Frears’ work takes a relatively cold-eyed look at the British monarchy and political establishment.

It demonstrates the impact of an archaic, monstrous political set-up on its representatives.

“The Queen’s critical and intelligent attitude toward the institutions of state and their representatives,” wrote the WSWS review, “is welcome.

The lack of respect for the authority figures is healthy. However, this operates within certain definite limits.

The strength and precision of the performances, and their reverberations, may show us more than the filmmakers can articulate explicitly.”

A film by another Mexican director, Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth, was tapped for six nominations, best foreign language film and best original screenplay among them.

Del Toro’s film treats post-Civil War Spain and opposes the brutal reality and mythology of fascism.

A recent review on the WSWS commented, “It is a film of great hope and optimism, of defending the imagination under difficult circumstances . . . From the period shown in the film [the mid-1940s], many opponents of Franco were forced to go underground.

The film’s determination to defend and even honour their memory, even in small details, is praiseworthy indeed.”

Blood Diamond, directed by Edward Zwick, deals with the pursuit of diamonds and profit in Africa and its impact on human suffering on that continent.

We wrote on the WSWS: “Blood Diamond brings important problems to light. It does so, however, with far too much of a conventional touch.

While the film’s most intriguing scenes are those that deal with Sierra Leone and its political realities . . . the movie’s weakest segments are those seemingly superimposed for their box office value.”

Interestingly, the World Diamond Council (in which De Beers plays a major role) has apparently mounted a multi-million dollar campaign against the film.

The diamond firms are especially nervous because the Academy Awards ceremony is an event to which many film stars wear borrowed jewels, many worth millions of dollars.

Film history and socialism: here.

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