Slate senior editor Dan Kois joined critics Troy Patterson and Dana Stevens on our Facebook page to chat with readers about this year’s Oscar nominations. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity.
Dan Kois: Hey everyone. Thanks for coming to the Slate Oscar chat. Dana, Troy, and I have been writing about the nominations here.
Dana Stevens: Hey all, just arrived! Thanks for trying this with us—we've never done it (unless you all had one last year and I wasn't invited. You did, didn't you?)
Mani Mobini: Why is Hugo such an OVERRATED film? And Melancholia didn't even get one nod. Should we really take the Oscars seriously after these picks?
Dan Kois: Of course we shouldn't take the Oscars seriously as a judge of artistic merit! But when was that ever the case? The Oscars reward their kind of movies, and trying to predict that (and argue about it) is fun.
Dan Kois: And the Oscars are worth arguing about because of the publicity and box office they can bring to otherwise ignored films.
Troy Patterson: Hello! I see that Mani Mobini is disappointed in the omission of LVT's gut-punching Melancholia. I'm going to submit that Lars, being a difficult filmmaker, will only get invited to this rodeo on occasion when he expresses his Dancer in the Dark-type kitsch streak. Also, Lars, being a difficult person, got himself permanently disinvited from this party with his Nazi joke at Cannes.
Joseph Malefatto: Hugo was gorgeous but it frankly felt more like a Universal Studios feature than a coherent movie—not just because it was in 3D but because it was sooo tied in its own fakey-fakey movie world. The only part with any authentic feeling at all was, tellingly, the clips from old Méliès movies.
Dana Stevens: I agree with you point for point on Hugo, though many people I know were moved by it. I do think it's the kind of movie that will appeal to academy voters. But I don't see it winning any non-tech awards (except maybe adapted screenplay.) Then again, I'm a notoriously lousy Oscar prognosticator.
Dana Stevens: The main reason I don't see that happening for Hugo, btw, is that people will think Scorsese won too recently for The Departed, and maybe showed his hand too much in wanting it too badly.
Barbara Roden: Is best supporting actor Christopher Plummer's to lose? Or could the (generally older) academy members split their vote between him and Max von Sydow, and let someone else come up the middle?
Dana Stevens: Re: the Plummer vs. von Sydow faceoff in best supporting actor: did the horrible thought occur to anyone else that it may come down to which of the two is older and in worse shape? Both are veteran actors getting awards for a lifetime of work (neither has ever won, correct?). It may help Plummer that Beginners is a movie that's easy to love. I haven't seen Extremely Loud yet, but I hear it's kind of a disaster.
Troy Patterson: I think that Plummer is the biggest lock—a veritable double deadbolt—on offer in the acting categories.
Adam Vermillion: How did Tree of Life not get an editing nomination? I must not understand the category.
Dan Kois: Yes! That is surprising. (The editing nominees are: The Artist, The Descendants, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Moneyball.)
I'm also surprised that TINKER TAILOR didn't get an editing nod—both that and TREE OF LIFE seem almost constructed in the editing room in a way that the academy often recognizes.
Maggie Dziubek: Where are Drive and Shame?
Troy Patterson: Hi, Maggie! Drive and Shame are both sulking somewhere—not because they were snubbed but because they're the sulky type, which is why they were snubbed. Too much sex and violence and violent sex for Oscar's taste …
Trevor Baum: No Tilda Swinton, no Michael Fassbender, no Kirsten Dunst, no Lars Von Trier, no Albert Brooks, and no Ellen Barkin. Yikes.
Dan Kois: I can't say I'm really surprised at the omission of Tilda, Fassbender, or Melancholia. All three are difficult movies, at least by the standards of the academy, dealing with dark themes in artful ways. (Or at least people who love Shame think it's artful.) They're not films made for old people, which are who vote for the Oscars.
Troy Patterson: … However, you remind me that Mark Harris, who does Oscars coverage at Grantland, tweeted awhile back that he'd like to see a movie titled Drive of Shame, a feature-length staring contest between Gosling and Fassbender. Winner gets to keep Carey M.
Dana Stevens: The omission of Shame doesn't surprise me at all—the fact I thought it was a terrible movie aside, it's just not to the academy's taste—but I was sure Albert Brooks would get nominated for Drive. The surprise in that category was Jonah Hill—what endeared him to the academy all of a sudden? Just the need to shout out a newcomer?
Paul Notley: One of the more annoying things about the Oscars is that cunning people set up a narrative and suckers fall for it. For example, back for 2002, Miramax went around saying "Isn't it time a musical won best picture? By a stunning coincidence we happen to have one right here." In retrospect, The Pianist, Spirited Away, Russian Ark, and The Two Towers are much better choices.