Movie Maniac

many surprises among Oscar nominations

Oscar noms —I was pretty close in my predictions for the major category Academy Award nominations last week, further demonstrating my true movie geekness. I correctly called all of the noms for best picture and lead actress.

I missed by one in each of the other categories, but in most instances the person bumping their way in was the one who I thought would (darn you, Javier Bardem).

The only outrage I have is that Christopher Nolan didn't score a directing nod for "Inception." The film's technique is what made it amazing. At least he scored a screenwriting nomination for his novel concept.

My happiest surprise? That " Exit Through the Gift Shop" got a nomination for best feature documentary. It's a crazy portrait of an "overnight" street artist phenomenon, and examines what "real" art is. It's also a commentary on how fame is sometimes too easily achieved. The film — which many think is a hoax — is hilariously fantastic (it's available on DVD).

The Academy Awards will be presented live at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 on ABC and KAKE, Channel 10.

Reality show — Movies strive for realism. It's what makes us forget that we're watching two actors saying lines from a script.

But achieving that realism is more than difficult. Those two actors we're seeing on screen are actually in a room with 20 other people. They've performed the same scene 10 times already from different camera angles, and with each new take they have to be fresh and energetic, like the action they're performing is happening for the first time.

So when movies feel almost too uncomfortably real, it's a huge accomplishment. " Blue Valentine" does exactly this.

But it wouldn't have been possible were it not for its daring actors — Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams (who fully deserves her Oscar nomination as lead actress). Watching their roiling, combustible performances is like taking an acting class — it's phenomenal work. And considering that some of the scenes were improvised makes it even more impressive.

The film is now showing in Wichita at Warren east. But hurry and see it while it's here; it's a tough sell. "Blue Valentine" certainly isn't the feel-good romance of the year. It's dark and at times sad, but most definitely worth seeing.

DVD ideas — In the off-the-beaten path department, here are two movies coming out on DVD that independent film fans may want to check out.

"Nowhere Boy" (which came out last week) is a compelling portrait of a young John Lennon in his formative, volatile teen years. Sure, the film contains the early beginnings of the Beatles, as Lennon meets Paul McCartney and they begin to play music, but the real story is Lennon's atypical family dynamic, and how he grapples with his feelings after his mother abandons him. It's interesting not only for its historical insights, but also because it boasts a robust performance from Aaron Johnson ("Kickass"). He's turning into a young actor to watch.

"A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop" (coming out Tuesday) is novel mainly for its concept — it's a Chinese remake of the Coen brothers' independent classic " Blood Simple." Zhang Yimou ("House of Flying Daggers") directs this visually gorgeous re-imagining, setting it in an ancient, secluded Chinese desert town, where a noodle shop owner's scheme to murder his adulterous wife and her lover goes awry. The film is infused with some distracting cartoonish slap-stick humor, but for the most part it's a tense story — and Coen brothers fans will get a kick out of seeing how things unfold here vs. the original version.