Not too exciting of a list … "Babel" got the Best Picture nod that "Dreamgirls" deserved far more. I'm not saying that "Dreamgirls" is a great picture, just that it would have made a respectable Best Picture nominee due to it being both crowd-pleasing and classy. In contrast, Babel represents all that's worst about Academy voters' desire for self-glorification of their industry through rewarding pretentious but knuckleheaded tripe.
Good to see Mark Wahlberg get a Best Supporting nomination. I wrote in my American Conservative review of "The Departed:"
"The secret weapon of "The Departed" is that it can afford to relegate a sizable star, Wahlberg, to a small role, but then bring him back off the bench at the key moment. While most actors these days are the offspring of artistic types who took the Sixties a little too seriously (Damon, like many current stars, spent some of his childhood in a hippie commune), Wahlberg was a juvenile delinquent from working class Dorchester, near Southie. Hollywood typically misuses him as a generic leading man (in remakes, he has filled roles created by Cary Grant, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, and Michael Caine, none of whom Wahlberg resembles in the least). Finally, he gets to play a thuggish cop he might have grown up to be, with sensational results."
The usual anti-comedy bias is evident. Meryl Streep won a Best Actress nomination for "The Devil Wears Prada," but, then, she's always nominated (and, almost always, deserving). "Thank You for Smoking" and "The Science of Sleep" were shut out completely, not even Art Direction for Michel Gondry's marvelous "Science."
"Borat" did snag a nomination, but it wasn't for Sacha Baron Cohen's lovable performance, but for Adapted Screenplay. (Hey, wasn't this supposed to be a documentary showing us the unscripted truth about the anti-Semitism of Red State America?)
In the battle of the three talented Mexican directors, the distribution of nominations seems intentionally perverse. Alejandro González Iñárritu got the Best Director nod for "Babel," a horribly directed film. As I write in my American Conservative review:
"Dreadful as the screenplay is, the trendy direction might be worse. González Iñárritu spent a fortune to make "Babel" look like it was filmed on a cellphone. The annoyingly shiny images lack saturated color and fine detail. And the jittery handheld camera work belongs in an episode of "Cops," not in this 142-minute slog, where it induces motion sickness.
"Worse, the gratuitously chaotic editing intentionally makes the story needlessly incomprehensible to the half of the population with two digit IQs. If you cut up a picture of dogs playing poker into a jigsaw puzzle, those with the ability and obsessiveness to reassemble it successfully will feel quite pleased with themselves, but it's still just dogs playing poker."
In contrast, Alfonso Cuarón was relegated to the Best Editor category, even though his "Children of Men" was most memorable for its successful lack of editing, with single shots extending for many minutes, which would seem to be the very definition of a triumph of directing, not of editing. And Cuaron was nominated, along with a cast of thousands, for Best Adapted Screenplay, even though his script made a dopey hash of P.D. James' novel. Meanwhile, Guillermo del Toro got an Original Screenplay nod for "Pan's Labyrinth," as did most of the below-the-line talent on the film.