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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR # 357  (Vol. 8, No. 4)  This edition is for the week of January 23-29, 2007.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
Oscar Nominations: Reaction

Commentary by:
Michael A. Smith

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"Smokin' Aces"  by Mike Smith
Oscar Nominations: Reaction  by Mike Smith
The Tampa Film Review: A Retrospective  by Paul Guzzo
Ordinary World....How About that Jackie Earle Haley?!?  by Andy Lalino
Sniff Sniff....Love That JEH!...They Can't All Be Winners....Da Bears....Anerican Idol....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 4: John Cazale  by Mike Smith
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"What's the matter," Roy Scheider asks in "All That Jazz," "don't you like musical comedy?" Apparently at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the answer is no.

In what is probably one of the biggest shocks in recent years, "Dreamgirls," the big budget musical loosely based on the Supremes, was not nominated in the Best Picture or Best Director categories, even though the film won a Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture and director Bill Condon was recently nominated by the Director's Guild of America. "Dreamgirls" received a total of eight nominations, more then any other film, including three for Best Original Song. "Babel" followed with seven nominations, including Best Picture. The other three Best Picture nominees are "The Departed," "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Little Miss Sunshine." This marks the third time in four years that a film directed by Clint Eastwood has earned Best Picture and Best Director nominations. In addition to "Letters From Iwo Jima," Eastwood directed "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby," which won the Oscar in both categories in 2005.

Before I comment on the nominees for Best Actor I want to tell Will Smith "I'm sorry." When I did my film preview in November I commented that I saw no Oscar chances in "The Pursuit of Happyness." In my defense, the film hadn't opened yet and I based my comments on the coming attraction, which looked like the typical rise-from-the bottom-to-the-top story. However, I found the film to be well done and Smith's performance genuinely moving. Same for his son. The surprise nominee here is Ryan Gosling for "Half Nelson," a film that was in and out of theatres. At year's end, many studios send out screeners of films they deem award worthy. "Half Nelson" was one of them. In fact, that's how I saw the film and Gosling's nomination is more then justified. The rest of the nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio for "Blood Diamonds," Peter O'Toole for "Venus" and front runner Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland." This is O'Toole's eighth nomination (his first was for "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1963). Though he did receive an honorary Oscar last year, O'Toole has never won a competitive award. If he doesn't win he will become the actor with the most nominations without a win. If he does, that honor belongs to Richard Burton, who was the bridesmaid and not the bride seven times.

Best Actress features four veterans of these awards, with four nominees sharing a combined twenty eight nominations and three Oscars. Leading the pack is Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada") who builds on her record as the most nominated performer ever with nomination number fourteen. Streep already owns two Golden Boys (for "Kramer vs Kramer" and "Sophie's Choice"). The other previous winner is Judi Dench ("Notes on a Scandal"), who won a supporting trophy for "Shakespeare in Love." Kate Winslet picks up nomination number five for "Little Children." Helen Mirren, who has virtually swept all of the early awards, was nominated for her portrayal of Elizabeth II in "The Queen." Rounding out the category is Penelope Cruz, who earned her first nomination for the film, "Volver."

In the Supporting Actress category, the big story is Jennifer Hudson. The former "American Idol" castoff became a star overnight as another castoff, the angry diva Effie, in "Dreamgirls." Joining Hudson are Adiana Baraza and Rinko Kikuchi from "Babel," previous winner Cate Blanchett in "Notes on a Scandal" and 10 year old Abigail Breslin for "Little Miss Sunshine." Should Breslin win she would tie Tatum O'Neal as the youngest winner ever for a competitive Oscar.

Speaking of Tatum O'Neal, with his Supporting Actor nomination Jackie Earle Haley becomes the second member of the original Bad News Bears to earn an Academy Award nomination. I raved about Haley's performance as the troubled sex offender in "Little Children" and am quite pleased the academy recognized him. Another great surprise was the nomination for Mark Wahlberg in "The Departed." I thought if a supporting nomination came out of this film it would be for the flashier work of Jack Nicholson. However, with three Oscars on his mantle already, I don't think Jack is too upset to share the wealth. God bless the academy for FINALLY recognizing that Eddie Murphy is more then Axel Foley. Along with Hudson, Murphy gives "Dreamgirls" the emotional heart that drives the film. The rest of the field contains two previous nominees. Djimon Hounsou was recognized for his work as the father who fights to reunite his family in "Blood Diamonds" while Alan Arkin earned nomination number three (his first was forty years ago) as the grandfather of "Little Miss Sunshine."

The nominees for Best Director include two of the most influential film makers of their generation. Martin Scorsese, who has never won (how do you sleep at night, Kevin Costner) earned his eighth nomination overall and sixth for direction for "The Departed." He's joined by two time Best Director winner Clint Eastwood for "Letters From Iwo Jima." Rounding out the category: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for "Babel," Stephen Frears for "The Queen" and Paul Greengrass for "United 93." I applaud the academy for recognizing Greengrass who directed what was, in my opinion, the best film of 2006.

This week's commentary on the year's Oscar Nominations is ©2007 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2007, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.