Monitor: US comment on the Academy Award nominations announced this week

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The Independent Culture
CULTURE MEANS, in part, the effort to decide what culture means. But the meaning of the list of Academy Award nominees is perfectly ambiguous, just as it has been every year since 1929. It means whatever you want it to mean, however you choose to slice it. The movies nominated reflect the times, of course, but only so far. Cate Blanchett's and Judi Dench's separate versions of Queen Elizabeth resemble each other little more than they do Bette Davis's version. If nothing else, we are asked to believe that the list of nominees reflects the Academy's verdict on the state of the film industry. It reflects more accurately the state of lobbying within the film industry, as well as the industry's desire to project a respectable image before a worldwide audience.

The New York Times

WITH THE word "independent" getting bandied about so loosely, it would have been great to see nominations for Todd Solondz and Don Roos, the writer-directors of, respectively, Happiness and The Opposite of Sex. Nervy, outrageous and fiercely funny, both films sparkled with original dialogue, and both are more deserving of being called independent than the admirable but conventional Shakespeare in Love. (Edward Guthmann)

San Francisco Chronicle

WHILE OSCAR nominations used to be reserved exclusively for major Hollywood studio releases, this year almost the exact opposite was true.

What voters go for instead of Hollywood behemoths are the kinds of films that the academy has liked for time out of mind: stories in which involving characters outnumber skyrocketing explosions, in which narrative matters more than a hot soundtrack or barely legal stars. Abandoned by the grosses- crazed studios, voters now have to seek out independently made films to slake that particular thirst. The star names may be unfamiliar to casual moviegoers, but if they were to take the time to sample the nominated films, they'd feel right at home in terms of content and style. (Kenneth Turan)

Los Angeles Times