This afternoon at 4:30 PM, I’ll be making a rare personal appearance (I make plenty of appearances, but not often as a person) when Gene Siskel Film Center holds a free panel discussion on the Oscar nominations, announced this morning. Betsy Steinberg of the Chicago Film Office moderates a group that includes Alison Cuddy of WBEZ, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, Steve Prokopy of Ain’t It Cool News, and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of RogerEbert.com. A reception follows.
If you’re interested enough to be reading this, you probably know already that Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis, one of the year’s biggest critical favorites, got shut out of all the major categories, an ironic fate for a movie about a gifted artist who realizes he’s a creative also-ran. The other big loser was Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney Pictures’ mawkish drama about its visionary founder and his wooing of Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers. There’s a great picture to be made about Walt Disney, a true cinematic genius who morphed into a cold and unhappy corporate titan, but it will never be made by Walt Disney Pictures. (Which is to say, it will never be made at all.)
When I coughed up a ten-best list a few weeks ago, I was taken aback by how many of them were documentaries, and now that the nominations have been announced, I think the Documentary Feature category is stronger than the Best Picture category. Included are The Act of Killing, Dirty Wars, and The Square, all of them essential reports from far-flung lands; another documentary, the harrowing and moving The Missing Picture, has turned up in the Foreign Language Film category, where it doesn’t stand a chance.
The Square opens Friday for a weeklong run at Film Center, and plenty of the other nominees are still playing around town: American Hustle, August: Osage County, Dallas Buyers Club, Frozen, Gravity, The Great Beauty, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street.