The bad news is that a bunch of actors and actors got nominations for films in which they played a truly bizarre (and not particulary audience-grabbing) array of unsavory occupations: heroin-smuggling (Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full of Grace), snuffing paraplegics (Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby), sleeping with your professor-husband’s grad students: (Laura Linney in Kinsey), taking your clothes off for dollars (Natalie Portman in Closer), and running a back-alley abortion clinic using the suds left over from your day job as a cleaning lady (Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake).
And natch, The Passion of the Christ, one of the biggest box-office grossers in history but a pariah-flick in Hollywood because it’s about, well, the passion of the Christ, got only a handful of throwaway nominations: cinematography, makeup, best musical score, that sort of thing.
Nonetheless, the lovely, out-of-the mainstream Sideways, a funny, powerfully acted meditation on the meaning of vocation and marriage, is getting the acclaim it deserves: nominations for best picture, best director (Alexander Payne), best adapted screenplay (Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor), best supporting actor (Thomas Haden Church, my favorite in the picture), and Virginia Madsen (best supporting actress). These are all virtual unknowns in filmdom, and I hope they sweep up the statuettes. (I haven’t seen the top nomination-sweeper, Aviator, but hell–it’s got Martin Scorsese and Leonardo di Caprio.)