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The Gripe

Why did Oscars leave 'Hairspray' high and dry?

By Chris Kaltenbach

sun Reporter

February 1, 2008

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Not a single Oscar nomination for Hairspray? Something's not right here.

No disrespect to the five Best Picture contenders, but Hairspray was more fun and displayed more energy than any of them. This musical ode to the transcendent joys of dance and desegregation in early-'60s Baltimore was a pure joy that, at last count, had left nearly $119 million's worth of audience with a song in its collective heart, a tap in its feet and a smile on its face.

Hairspray director Adam Shankman deserved an Oscar nod for making an old-fashioned, big-hearted movie musical that modern audiences could flock to. Nikki Blonsky deserves some recognition for coming out of nowhere to make a new generation of audiences fall in love with the effervescent and unflaggingly optimistic Tracy Turnblad. And John Travolta's take on grande dame Edna Turnblad deserved either a supporting actor or supporting actress nomination.

When was it decided that only contemplative films about big, serious subjects need apply for Oscar consideration? Atonement, No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood are all fine films. But must great films always be so deadly serious? (Does anyone believe the comedy Juno stands a chance?)

Still, 1952's Singin' in the Rain wasn't nominated either, and it's now considered a classic -- more so than Cecil B. De Mille's The Greatest Show on Earth, which won for Best Picture that year. Here's betting people will be humming "Good Morning, Baltimore" long after 2007's "best" films are long forgotten.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com