Tomorrow is Gay Christmas Eve, with Oscar nominations announced in the ayem, setting hearts aflutter and sending visions of sugarplum fairy Hugh Jackman dancing through heads. We have a good idea of who will be nominated, but who should be?
Best Supporting Actress — Catherine O'Hara, Where the Wild Things Are
No one does quirky menace quite like the flat-out genius O'Hara. Criminally (and meta-ly) ignored by the Academy for her soul-splitting turn in For Your Consideration, O'Hara creates characters that are exceedingly bizarre but who still possess a flicker of humanity that has a kind of gravitational pull. As Judith, the Wild Thing most wary of the strange little creature named Max, O'Hara veered erratically from lovable to scary without ever losing us. Though hiding behind a furry suit and a mask of CGI, she still managed to sketch a little portrait of so many people we know in our own lives — frustrated, scared of loneliness, worried that her hopefulness will only end up disappointing her. In an uneven movie, O'Hara was a consistent delight. Forget the Na'vi. This was the true animated magic in 2009.
Best Supporting Actor — Brian Geraghty, The Hurt Locker
While Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie are getting most of the accolades for their excellent work in this explosive (!!!!) drama, Geraghty deserves a lot of credit too. His Spc. Owen Eldridge possessed none of the dangerous swagger of Renner's gung-ho bomb diffuser or Mackie's calm centeredness, but in his nervousness and temerity the audience had, well, an avatar. With his beady eyes and apple cheeks, Geraghty was young and lost and scared to die, as many soldiers in that desert fiasco likely are. He did confident, unshowy work that more than lived up to the film's verite aspirations. Another unheralded supporting performer from an otherwise heralded movie is Denis Menochet from Inglourious Basterds, who did quiet terror so beautifully in that film's breathtaking opening scene. Good work, fellows! Here are your not-nominations.
Best Actor — Sharlto Copley, District 9
In the year's best film, first-time feature actor Copley gave a full-bodied, wonderfully alive performance that took us from loathing to pity to a strange kind of love. His obliviously cruel Joburg bureaucrat in charge of relocating an unwelcome stranded alien population begins the movie with a clueless friendliness and zeal — he pretends to treat (and thinks he is treating) the Prawns with kindness while dismissing them like cattle. But a ghastly turn of events sways him to a new cause and we watch him scrape off that muck of remove and finally (and ironically) embrace his humanity. Though growly old Jeff Bridges has basically emerged as a lock to win the durn award this year, and it's about time he won it, it'd still be nice to see Copley recognized for work that got a bit overshadowed by the rest of the film's marvel.
Best Actress — Ali Larter, Obsessed
Just as Michael Jai White cleverly mocked blacksploitation in Black Dynamite last year, Larter gave a hilariously sly and knowing performance in Steve Shill's well honed stalker movie send-up. Not normally known as a comedienne, Larter hit every line of campy cliche dialogue with a practiced flatness. Bringing to mind every eeeevil scorned lady from Lara Flynn Boyle in The Temp to Alicia Silverstone in The Crush, Larter has certainly done her hokey '90s thriller homework. Her dead-on performance was so good that we almost believed that she was just a ridiculously bad actress. That takes skill. That she had such an able sparring partner in Beyonce Knowles' raging mama bear shouldn't go unrecognized, either.
Best Director — Pete Docter, Up
We didn't see this because we're Grownups and don't see animated movies, but everyone else loved it and animated directors never get the legit credit they deserve, so give it on up for ol' Petey Docter, who sent Ed Asner up in the air to Pandora where he met some wild things and befriended a little boy. Precious.
Best Picture — Duplicity
We know, we know. Julia Roberts is really annoying. But this movie was just so slick and polished and cannily done that we can overlook the toothy one's awards show hooting and put this on our wish list. Look, it wasn't a terribly great year at the movies, and the ten likely nominees are pretty much the ones that should be there. But if we had to add an eleventh, we'd feel comfortable with this (almost completely) bloodless crime caper. A tale of corporate espionage that's remarkably unforced in its complexity, Duplicity was a bright and smart springtime flick that mystifyingly failed to connect with audiences. Roberts and cool-cumcumber costar Clive Owen aside, the film had natty supporting turns from reliable players like Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, the always-splendid Denis O'Hare, Kathleen Chalfant, and a gloriously dewigged Carrie Preston. "Movie for grownups" is sort of a condescending genre appellation, but that's exactly what Duplicity was. We can't wait to see what Tony Gilroy — who's now done dark and light with aplomb — will do next.