“If it was a disappointing year for film,” said Christopher Orr in The New Republic, “it's an awful one for the Oscars.” With the exception of "scrappy Slumdog Millionaire," the nominations lavish attention on "a range of high-minded, middlebrow entertainments engineered for Oscar consideration with assembly-line efficiency”—Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Benjamin Button, and Doubt. Boring.

“The idea of being deserving or not is beside the point with the Oscars,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. Most of us love to hate them, “and even our frustration with the Academy is part of the fun.” The nominations this year “offered a few surprises amid a gaggle of complete nonsurprises”—that’s nothing new.

It’s all the hype that ruins the Oscars, said Andrew Gumbel in the Los Angeles Times. “This year, I already hate The Reader, Revolutionary Road, and The Wrestler, even though I have seen none of them.” But I also prematurely hated Chicago, which won six Oscars in 2003, and now I love that film. Maybe with time and distance this year’s nominations will make more sense, too.