Remember in 2004 when Hollywood was all like, "Okay nerds…you were right. Lord of The Rings is literally the greatest human achievement this year."
And remember two years ago at the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony when Hollywood upped the number of Best Picture nominees to 10, as if to say, "Okay nerds. The Hurt Locker is pretty badass. But so was Avatar, and District 9, and Up, that football movie, and the one where Brad Pitt kills all the nazis." Good times.
Point is, Hollywood's tastes in the past decade have taken some Aragorn-level strides in making the Oscars more appealing and accessible to movie geeks of all ages and stylistic preferences.
So. What in the name of Sauron's fiery sphincter happened this year?
The list of nominees for the 84th Academy Awards was announced last week, and man is it a snoozer. Because we know you were probably too busy this year seeing good movies like 50/50, Drive, and Deathly Hallows: Part II, we took the liberty of summing up everything you need to know about the Academy's clunker of a list:
Up for 10 awards, including Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), Best Cinematography, and Best Original Screenplay
This movie about a smarmy silent-era film actor struggling to adapt to new times will almost surely take the big award because it's about Hollywood and how awesome Hollywood is and stuff. It's also a beautifully shot, emotionally stirring, totally black-and-white, totally silent experiment in seeing just what people will sit through in 2011.
The great irony of a win for The Artist is that Hollywood will essentially be admitting that Hollywood storytelling and visual style has failed to improve since the 1930s, thus making the industry's existence today totally irrelevant. Considering Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is up for three Oscars, they might be right.
Up for 6 awards including Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill)
Let's all take a minute to breath quietly and reflect on the fact that the chubby pantomime-humping guy from Superbad can now write "Oscar nominee" in front of his name forever.
Based on a book about a sport where people get paid to throw and hit things, Moneyball falls into the "inspiring true underdog" category of storytelling, which plays well with critics and with audiences who can't remember the last "inspiring true underdog" movie they saw about a year ago. If Jonah Hill wins the Best Supporting Actor award then we can consider the Oscar floodgates officially open for all manner of oddly-shaped goofball. We're personally banking on Will Ferrell for Best Actor 2013.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Up for two awards including Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow)
Up for 11 awards including—wait, really, 11?
A boy's awesome dad dies in a disaster, leaving only a cryptic keyhole-related mystery behind him. Whimsical adventure time ensues.
The only difference between these two movies is that Hugo is in 3D and features Borat in a starring role. The Academy gave it 9 more nominations than it's Extremely Loud counterpart, which is about 9/11. Now what does that say about Hollywood's place in reality?
Up for 5 awards including Best Actor (George Clooney)
George Clooney plays a lawyer (again) who must find the strength to forgive his comatose wife for having an affair (before she was comatose…we think), then take her off of life support. Sounds like a real crowd-pleaser.
What's significant about this nomination: Some recognition for George Clooney—finally! The poor man only had five nominations and one sickeningly self-aggrandizing acceptance speech to his name before this year. It's refreshing to see good things happen to good rich powerful people.
Up for 3 awards including best actress (Viola Davis)
A super hot white girl writes about the lives of African American maids in order to expose racism in 1960s Mississippi. And to get an awesome job in New York. But mostly the racism thing.
Viola Davis is a top contender for the Best Actress trophy for her role as Aibileen, especially if there's any truth to George Clooney's not-at-all-delusional assertion that Hollywood started the Civil Rights movement (you're welcome, disenfranchised masses).
Midnight In Paris
Up for four awards including Best Director (Woody Allen) and best Original Screenplay
A neurotic, soon-to-be-married man who's obsessed with the past finds a magical time-travel-mobile to the roarin' '20s while vacationing in Paris. You can totally relate, right?
This is actually a really fun movie, but for reasons that the Academy won't be recognizing. Adrian Brody's rhinoceros-obsessed Salvador Dali and Corey Stoll's pugilist poet Ernest Hemingway truly make this look into Woody Allen's nostalgic fantasies accessible. Who wants to fight!?
Up for 6 awards including Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (John Williams), and Best Art Direction
No, Horsey—put down the Howitzer! HORSEY, NO!!! THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO DIE!!!
We dunno. It's kind of like a war-era Air Bud with more expensive sets. John William can always use some more Oscars, right?
The Tree of Life
Up for three awards including Best Director (Terrence Mallick)
50% Sean Penn's fake childhood memories, 50% B-roll footage from Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Tree of Life undertakes the ambitious and impossible task of explaining human life in the universe.
Like life, this movie is beautiful and confusing and frustrating and not always a pleasure to sit through. So, mission accomplished, maybe? For the same experience in a fraction of the time we recommend watching a Youth Lagoon video instead.
There. That's literally everything you need to know about this year's Academy Award nominees.
What does your nomination list look like, HutHeads?