The Academy increased the number of Best Picture nominees to 10, in an attempt to make the field more commercial. However, this will also be the year remembered for a few arthouse films sneaking into major categories. Most indie distributors have an annual berth in the Best Documentary or Best Foreign Language Film categories, but it was a pleasant surprise during this morning’s announcement, to see some recognition alongside Hollywood contenders. For starters, young distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories saw its release The Messenger garner two big nods: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson. These nominations are joined by Oscilloscope’s Burma VJ getting a shot for Best Documentary Feature, giving Adam Yauch and David Fenkel of Oscilloscope a busy Oscar night for such a young company.
IFC Films saw its critically acclaimed arthouse hit In The Loop pull out a surprise nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. This is not only a major coup for IFC, but also a history-maker as the first day-and-date VOD/theatrical release to receive a major Oscar nomination. Speaking of political arthouse favorites, upstart distributor Music Box Films found its Italian biopic, Il Divo, snag a nomination for Best Makeup alongside Star Trek and The Young Victoria. Bob Berney’s new label Apparition may not have managed to get any acting nominations, but its films Victoria and Bright Star are both in the Best Costume Design category. Also worth noting: the entire Costume Design category is made up of arthouse releases (those two, plus Coco Before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and Nine). Talk about good timing: Best Foreign Language nominee Ajami will be released by Kino this weekend, while Best Documentary Feature nominee The Most Dangerous Man just began its theatrical rollout (by First Run) last weekend.
It’s a year with lots of Sony Pictures Classics titles peppered throughout the contenders (a staggering
12 13 in total), including major nominations for their release, An Education. But SPC also wedged itself into the Best Original Song category, with a tune from their film Paris 36 and the Best Cinematography section for The White Ribbon. Sony Pictures Classics, though, found an upset with the lack of a Best Documentary nomination for Every Little Step, making room for smaller films like Which Way Home. I guess it’s all relative, and in some categories, even the indie distributors are too big.