Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oscar Nomination Reaction

You know you're an Oscars geek when you're actually dreaming about the nominations, as I did last night.  In my mind, everything went pretty smoothly except for an absolutely chaotic Best Director field --- all of the would-be favourites were snubbed in favour of the likes of Hayao Miyazaki (The Wind Rises), Gabriela Cowperthwaite (director of Blackfish), Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) and two other completely random names.  Basically, it was an entire category of the proverbial Out-Of-Left-Field Fifth Nominee.  I suspect my dream was inspired by last year's Best Director snubs of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow, showing that even my subconscious has a hard time believing that happened.

Anyway, it's worth noting that none of my 'random choices' would've been undeserving.  (Hell, the film world would've exploded in joy had the Academy honoured the legendary Miyazaki with a nomination for his farewell film).  Maybe that was also a sign that this year's Oscar field is one of the deepest in recent memory.  I'm hard-pressed to think of any truly major snubs, as while there were other performances and films I would've loved to have seen in the mix instead, it's not like the actual nominees were chopped live.  I was fearing that some of the typical "Oscar movie" melodramatic nonsense like The Butler or Saving Mr. Banks would sully the field, but nope, we ended up nine Best Picture candidates that are, at worst, only pretty good.

My random thoughts….

* Like Silver Linings Playbook last year, David O. Russell directed a Best Picture nominee that scored nominations in all four acting categories.  Also like last year, one of those four wasn't deserving, so congratulations Christian Bale, you're this year's Jacki Weaver.  Bale is the only one of the 20 acting nominees who I wasn't crazy about, which is surprising since I think Bale is one of the better overall actors working today.  In a weaker year I wouldn't even have minded Bale getting in, but for 2013, it takes more than being mumbly and gaining 40 pounds to overcome great performances like Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, Robert Redford in All Is Lost, Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips and on down the line.  

* While I ripped Mr. Banks and The Butler earlier, I wouldn't have been too upset if Emma Thompson or Oprah had made the cut in the lead or supporting actress categories since both were very good in difficult roles.  The backlash against Saving Mr. Banks shouldn't have been unexpected, however.  For one, it's not a very good movie.  For two, the portrayal of P.L. Travers really left itself open to the obvious "well, she wasn't really like that" historical nitpicking.  For three, the portrayal of Walt Disney REALLY left itself open to historical nitpicking --- given all the charges of anti-semitism thrown Walt's way over the decades, it's hard to not roll your eyes at the kindly grandfather version of Disney that Hanks portrays in the film.  Film critic Wesley Morris also made a solid point in a recent Grantland podcast when he said that for creative-minded people, the message of Saving Mr. Banks is pretty insulting.  It's basically, "if you create something and believe in it, don't be afraid to turn it over to a corporation that could warp your cherished artistic creation since you've just got a bunch of daddy issues anyway!"

* Of the 20 acting nominees, seven are former winners; the entire Best Actress field save Amy Adams already have Oscars, and had Thompson made the cut, it would've just been the second time in Academy history that an acting category had an all-winner field.

* Of the 13 non-winners, five have been nominated before.  Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern and Bradley Cooper would be 0-for-2 with a loss, Leo DiCaprio would be 0-for-4 with a loss and Amy Adams would be 0-for-5.  Now, while Adams has a bit of underdog buzz going, there is no way in hell she or anyone else is beating Cate Blanchett this year, so poor Amy is staring at her fifth time coming up short.  If it makes her feel better, the only actors nominated more times without a win were Peter O'Toole (8), Richard Burton (7), Thelma Ritter (6), Glenn Close and Albert Finney (5), so that's pretty good company.

* I was very happy to see that both Hill and Sally Hawkins were nominated, as both are my favourites in their categories and both were definitely on the bubble to get nods.  Hmm, I suppose saying this is a bit of a spoiler for my upcoming Markademy Awards post, but, uh, ignore!  For Hawkins, it's doubly sweet since she was so badly snubbed for "Happy-Go-Lucky" five years ago.

* In the whole history of the Academy Awards, only Harold Russell and Haing S. Ngor come to mind as more unlikely acting nominees than Barkhad Abdi.  Great to see him recognized.

* Emmanuel Lubezki is the favourite to finally win a long-overdue Oscar for the cinematography for "Gravity."  While Lubezki is certainly deserving and he should have a couple of Oscars on his shelf already, his likely victory will continue the losing streak for Roger Deakins.  The Deak is about to go 0-for-11, and while Lubezki is clearly the best choice this year, hopefully Deakins' own breakthrough is coming sooner rather than later.  Deakins and Thomas Newman can buy each other a drink, as Newman could go 0-for-11 himself this year in the Best Original Score category.

* The single funniest Oscar nomination of the year is the Best Makeup nod for "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa."  The movie was co-produced by (get this) Spike Jonze, so that's a bit of consolation for him over not getting a Best Director nomination.

* This is the second time that Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke have been nominated for a screenplay Oscar for their "Before" trilogy, one of the more under-the-radar film achievements of the last two decades.  I'm a jerk since I've yet to see any of these movies.

* All of the controversy generated by "The Wolf Of Wall Street" wasn't going to harm its Oscar chances whatsoever, and sure enough, here it is with nominations for Picture, Director, Screenplay plus the two acting nods.  At the end of the day, did you really think a Martin Scorsese movie wasn't going to garner the necessary 5% of first place votes on the Academy ballot?  (Okay, Shutter Island didn't, but had it been released in November 2010 instead of February 2010, it could've been a different story.)  I personally loved WOWS and thought some of its alleged offensiveness was an overblown case of monocle-dropping by faint-hearted critics and viewers.

* No editing nomination for WOWS, however, which was a surprise given that Thelma Schoonmaker was doing the cutting.  (Though even the movie's biggest fans could've probably admitted that it could've been 10-15 minutes shorter.)  As usual, Best Editing is one of the key precursors for Best Picture.  If either '12 Years A Slave' or 'American Hustle' takes the editing Oscar, we could know our end-of-the-night favourite.

* Inside Llewyn Davis was almost entirely shut out.  I maybe shouldn't have been surprised since a) it's a difficult movie, and b) while the Coen brothers have gotten a lot of love from the Academy in the past, it's generally been for their most "relatable" films rather than their more esoteric stuff.  Except for A Serious Man, which I still can't believe actually for nominated for Best Picture, as much as I enjoyed that movie.  I was just bummed that the impossibly catchy "Please Mr. Kennedy" wasn't eligible for a Best Song Oscar since it wasn't an entirely original recording.  As in, it was partially based on an older song, not that the Coens were trying to pull a Shia LeBeouf.

* U2 GOT NOMINATED!!!!  Now, while "Ordinary Love" isn't exactly one of U2's all-timers, it's still a very good track, already a Golden Globe winner and it should…oh, what's that?  The song from Frozen is nominated?  Shit.  Yeah, the song from Frozen is going to clean house.

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