It’s been a little while, but this evening on the blog – we continue with my ongoing series of Oscar History posts and we’ve arrived at 2009. That year’s Academy Awards are notable for a couple of reasons. First, this was the year where the decision was made to expand the list of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. It’s likely not an accident that this occurred just one year after 2008’s commercial and critical smash The Dark Knight failed to make the five pic cut. This was the Academy’s way of including more commercially successful ventures. After all, there’s a direct correlation between hit pictures being nominated and the ratings of the telecast itself. Secondly, the real battle of nominated entries came down between the efforts of a couple that was married and divorced – James Cameron for his smash hit Avatar (which demolished all box office records) and ex wife Kathryn Bigelow for her war drama The Hurt Locker.
It would be Bigelow who would come out on top as The Hurt Locker would take Best Picture over her ex-husband’s blockbuster. The other eight nominated features: The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air. The success of Hurt Locker would relegate Avatar to winning only the tech categories.
Up would mark the first animated flick nomination (and first and only Pixar one) since 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and it hasn’t happened since. Basterds would mark Quentin Tarantino’s second pic nod after Pulp Fiction fifteen years prior.
As for movies that might have made my personal cut, I advocate for Steven Soderbergh’s underrated and hilarious The Informant! And if the Academy wanted to include high profile pictures, why not consider the acclaimed Star Trek reboot or comedy smash of the year The Hangover? I’m also a big fan of Zack Snyder’s graphic novel adaptation of Watchmen.
Bigelow would go onto make history by becoming the first female Best Director winner in Oscar history over Cameron, Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), and Tarantino. I may have found room for Neill Blomkamp’s impressive work in District 9.
Beloved actor Jeff Bridges would score his first Best Actor win for Crazy Heart, beating out George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), and Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker). Firth would go onto win the prize the following year for The King’s Speech. Once again, my Informant! love would have meant an inclusion for Matt Damon’s terrific work in it.
Sandra Bullock would receive her first ever nomination and a win for her hit football drama The Blind Side. Other nominees: Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia). Two names I would’ve considered: Alison Lohman’s great scared crapless work in Sam Raimi’s horror tale Drag Me to Hell and Zooey Deschanel in the rom com (500) Days of Summer.
Quentin Tarantino’s knack of finding the perfect actor in the perfect role landed an at the time unknown Christoph Waltz a win in Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds. Other nominees were Matt Damon for Invictus, Woody Harrelson for The Messenger, Christopher Plummer in The Last Station, and Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones. As I’ve mentioned in these posts before, the Academy usually ignores comedies and this race would have given them an excellent opportunity to nominate Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover. Also, I may have included Jackie Earle Haley for his work in Watchmen.
Mo’Nique would win Supporting Actress in Precious over previous year’s winner Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick (both nominated for Up in the Air), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart). I would have given consideration to either Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger for their roles in Basterds.
And that’s 2009 for you, my friends! I’ll get to 2010 at same point in the future…