As my wife said, it's just not the Oscars if there's nothing to complain about. However, I was impressed that two of the year's toughest films, Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (389 screens) and Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men took the most nominations. Typically, the Academy is attracted to much less challenging and easy-to-categorize films (like Atonement). Both films are fairly bleak in their vision, but I suspect There Will Be Blood will sneak out ahead for two reasons: it's an epic, and epics almost always win. And, to quote a character from Sunset Boulevard, it "says a little something" about the current sociopolitical climate.
One of the biggest controversies cropped up over the foreign film category, which came up with five nominations that no one has ever heard of. (The Counterfeiters opens sometime next month and Mongol opens in June.) Not to mention that they ignored top contenders like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (opening this week) and Persepolis (30 screens). Thankfully the outrage has begun discussions on changing the stupid, ancient rules for the category. Currently these rules require each country to submit one film, and multi-national films, such as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (107 screens), to be disqualified. A small group of "specialists," rather than the Academy as a whole, votes on the small list of films. The documentary category was less obscure, and although I saw 19 documentaries in 2007, I only managed to see two of the five nominees, No End in Sight and Sicko. I have an Academy screener for Operation Homecoming that I hope to catch soon, and Taxi to the Dark Side (1 screen) is screening for Bay Area press next week.