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Judge Michael Rankins • Location: Rohnert Park, CA
• Member since: April 2002
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Oscar and his friends
January 31st, 2006 9:09AM

No real excitement in the Academy Award nominations released this morning. Most of the names on the list we've already seen nominated at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards.

A few observations:

I'm sure some people will be shocked that Keira Knightley was tabbed for Actress in a Leading Role for Pride and Prejudice, but there's genuine talent behind that preternaturally lovely face. She won't win, but this probably won't be her last shot at an Oscar.

There are only three nominees for Original Song this year, but I'll be on the edge of my chair to see the production number they come up with for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow. I'm fairly certain this is the first Academy Award-nominated song about pimps. Doggone it, it's about time pimps get some love on Oscar night. I'm sure they've supplied plenty over the years.

I'm pleasantly surprised to see that Wally Pfister was nominated for Achievement in Cinematography for Batman Begins. That truly is a gorgeously photographed film.

That's an intriguing triad of films contending for the Animated Feature Film Oscar: Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, and Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Intriguing because we have traditional ink-and-paint animation (Howl) pitted against two stop-motion films (Bride and W&G). Not a single all-CGI picture in the bunch. Maybe there's still hope for the old-school styles of animation after all.

As tickled as I am to see George Lucas's latest bilgefest shut out of the Visual Effects prize, I'm stunned that Spielberg's War of the Worlds remake was nominated in that category. WotW was easily the worst big-budget film I saw this year, and frankly, I didn't find the special effects any more impressive than the rest of the movie.

We'll see how it all shakes out on Oscar night, March 5.


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