I don't know about anyone else, but I'm thrilled about Penelope Cruz's Oscar nomination for Nine (220 screens). I guess everyone hates this movie, and I know in my heart of hearts that it's not very good. It's frankly kind of a bad idea, although I haven't seen the stage play and I'm of the firm conviction that it is possible to make a good movie out of a bad idea. But that's not why the movie works. It works because it's so completely nutty, as only an all-star Hollywood extravaganza can be. (Plus, how many recent all-star extravaganzas can you name?) It's cheerfully clueless, and moves forward with pride and confidence. And Penelope is the best thing in it.
Penelope is the only one in the cast who seems aware that she's not making Great Art. Her "spitfire" character operates just left of the rest of the proceedings, and she's ready to go off if things get too sludgy or stiff. She draws your eye right to her: she's dangerous and sexy, but also funny and touchingly vulnerable. It's almost the same character that won her the Oscar last year, in Woody Allen's great Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and perhaps even similar to the role that earned her first nomination, in Volver (2006).