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Academy Award voters opt for the sunny over the dark
Like some Zen master clandestinely operating in the heart of Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has perfected the art of offering surprises without being surprising. Though specific Oscar nominations can be unexpected, the overall picture remains the same: the academy will always be the academy, doing the things it has traditionally done since what seems like the dawn of time. ¶ Some years, however, certain trends get more emphasis than others, and the nominations offered yesterday did say one thing loud and clear. Reacting to one of the bleakest years in recent American history, the academy shunned the dark side and stayed away, as audiences have traditionally done in hard times, from films that emphasized doom and gloom. ¶ So the buoyant " Slumdog Millionaire," a rags-to-riches film that nearly went straight to video, had 10 nominations, including best picture, and the optimistic animated feature "Wall-E" walked off with six, including screenplay. And it can't be forgotten that the partisans of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which topped the chart with 13 nominations, insist against considerable evidence to the contrary that the film is a positive emotional experience. ¶ That avoidance of melancholy is perhaps the best explanation for why two very different films, "The Dark Knight" and "Revolutionary Road," both considered serious Oscar contenders, were all but shut out of the eight categories major enough to be announced on national television.
By Kenneth Turan TIMES FILM CRITIC > > >
January 23, 2009