The Academy Award nominations have just come down; big surprises include the dissing of Dreamgirls (just nominees for best supporting actor and actress), and an adapted screenplay nomination (instead of best actor) for Borat. The biggest letdowns: Major nominations for Little Miss Sunshine, which (as Gene Healy pointed out) was insultingly trite, and for Babel, which (as Steve Sailer pointed out) has almost no reason to exist except to win awards. (The academy didn't announce documentary noms at the ceremony, so it's unknown if An Inconvenient Truth will begin anew its journey to the 8:20 block of cable news debate shows.) [UPDATE: See below.]
Most people who still care about the Oscars will probably be happy with the nominations, as 1)The Departed was a huge hit 2)National Lampoon's Redondo Beach Vacation (a.k.a. Little Miss Sunshine) was also a hit and 3)black people don't watch the Oscars. But it wasn't as weak a year for movies as this list indicates. First-release cinema, more than music and much more than video games, is completely controlled by the focus-grouped whims of major studios. In 2006 the studios throttled Idiocracy while pushing scores of witless teen comedies into thousands of theatres. Children of Men got a perfunctory end-of-year release. Check out the list of the year's best-reviewed movies (which doesn't include some fantastic stuff that didn't get any U.S. release) and marvel at how many never came to your city so the multiplex could make room for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
It's all self-defeating for the studios when Oscar time comes around. The people who vote on this stuff get DVD copies of the movies; their choices reflect the great stuff that you never saw. The only way you can see these films is to wait six months and rent or buy your own DVD copies, which is what most people do, as studios struggle to figure out why.
UPDATE: The list of nominations is up. Not only is An Inconvenient Truth nominated for best documentary, its drecky Melissa Ethridge theme song is nominated for best song. Since there are three nominations splitting the Dreamgirls vote, it could win.