The oscar nominations are in, and let’s say I am both pleased and incredibly shocked. First off, I did not expect Tree of Life to be nominated for best picture and director. This is good. Secondly, I did not expect Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to be nominated for best picture and Kung Fu Panda 2 to be nominated for best animated film. This is bad. What shocked me the most are the lack of nominations in some areas. Gary Oldman finally got nominated after years and years and years and years and years of quality work, so congratulations to him.
As usual, like every year, there is something that I find rather upsetting. Before I continue, yes me being upset by an awards show and its nominations is pathetic. I’m not one for “they have to win or else they are not any good!”. It is not important for filmmakers or actors to win. Still, I see the Academy Awards as a bit of a festival and a night to congratulate and remark on what a year we have had. 2011 really wasn’t too bad of a year film wise, either. It started off pretty badly but it certainly dished out some instant winners by the end. So why do I get upset? I guess upset is the wrong word. It implies that this is emotionally damaging to me and that I need treatment. I guess a more proper word would be confused. I don’t think awards, again, are do or die, but I like it when filmmakers and/or actors get the recognition they deserve. In fact, I’m more of a person who cares about who gets nominated instead of those who win (most of the time, anyways). I don’t have many complaints outside of the acting nominations. I knew Drive wouldn’t be nominated as great as it is (and it is far more deserving than a few of the films that were nominated), but I don’t want to get into politics and why some of the films were featured there instead of Drive. So, who are the worst snubs of the year? The lack of Fassbender and Swinton, of course.
Fassbender had one hell of a year. He starred in four fantastic films and was pretty much the focal point for all of them. He’s a terrific newcomer in the acting world, and Shame was to be his final stamp on the world in 2011. He got nominated by pretty much every other awards ceremony, so why not the Oscars? This was a shock and a half because this was pretty much a shoe-in. Then we have Tilda Swinton’s lack of a nomination for We Need to Talk About Kevin. Like Fassbender, Swinton’s film was carried solely by one character, and she delivered. She took part in a film that dove into a scary topic and didn’t make it a sobfest or offensive. Her actions were so humane and realistic, you swear she was upset at you. At least she’s won an award before, but still, her performance should definitely have been recognized by the academy.
Let’s not forget the lack of Mortensen and Brooks for best supporting actor, or Carey Mulligan for supporting actress (she was in two films that could have easily qualified). Also, I am not surprised about Ryan Gosling and Andy Serkis not being nominated, even though both were absolutely terrific last year. that being said, what can you do? Spielberg made a comment during the ceremony in 2009 that basically implied that all nominees are winners. Not all classic performances and/or films have won but they have grown through time and have solidified themselves as the best. Why don’t we look at twenty of the biggest snubs in Academy history? I guess we can’t, but we can look at twenty I feel were snubbed. I have ten nominees that did not win that I feel should have, and ten selections that were not nominated at all and should have been (hell, they probably should have even won).
TEN OSCAR SNUBS THAT WERE AT LEAST NOMINATED
10. Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I’m Not There
Okay, she wasn’t called Bob Dylan in the film, but who the hell else is it? Her performance of the many in that film is the most like the Bob Dylan we know from the media, and her impersonation was spot on. Hayden Christensen was shown his place.
Lost to: Tilda Swinton-Michael Clayton
9. Federico Fellini-8 1/2
This magical film is brilliant, because it is a literal case of writer’s block transformed into cinema. Fellini couldn’t come up with anything else, so he made a film about himself being unable to make a film. He explores Guido (the director in the film that can easily represent himself) and his childhood as he and his character try to find a means to an end. Directed and made incredibly well.
Lost to: Tony Richardson-Tom Jones
This film predicted television, movies, and even politics decades before our world fell for the traps of corporations. For that reason alone it passes the test of time. Then there’s the cast which is one of the best in any film, as this NBC-meets-Shakespeare story unfolds before our very eyes in the best way it could have been. I know that the film that ended up winning is so dear to everyone, but I definitely think Network was more deserving, because what happened in the winning film was expected. What happened in Network was dreaded and shocking.
Lost to: Rocky
7. James Woods (Richard Boyle-Salvador)
How James Woods hasn’t won any form of Oscar yet is surprising. The guy is easily one of the best American actors of our generation. He devours any scene he’s in and leaves no remains for the other actors to chew off of. That’s just when he’s a supporting character, too. In Salvador, he reenacts the true story of Richard Boyle to top form. He’s as intimidating as ever, but he’s hard to hate. It’s difficult to make a character that exists in real life, and even is alive during the release of a picture (that even helps work on the picture, like in this case) multi layered, because it’s hard to gauge what is too unlikeable or too good. Woods made it look easy as pie.
Lost to: Paul Newman-The Color of Money (side note: Paul Newman should have won way before this)
6. Mickey Rourke (Robin/Randy-The Wrestler)
There was a huge upset when this happened, and I’m not surprised. Mickey Rourke’s career died along with his confidence during the 1990’s, and this spectacular comeback was hard to miss. Rourke did not act as Randy, a former threat in the wrestling world. He was Randy. All of the sighs and looks of being worn out are real. This is one of the most vulnerable performances ever put to film, and, as good as the winner was, nothing should have beaten this flawless take on a fallen star.
Lost to: Sean Penn-Milk
5. Gloria Swanson (Norma Desmond-Sunset Boulevard)
Another very personal performance that somehow got trumped, Gloria Swanson as, again, a celebrity whose career is dead is hard to overlook. Unlike Rourke’s, Swanson’s character has no idea that her career is dead. Her passion to be loved by the world is scary, and her reaction to being unnoticed is even scarier. Swanson had to play the part of the entire silent film movement that died when talking pictures became big in the form of an egotistical, debutante witch, and she does so with so much sympathy and likability. This role is extremely difficult, because it could have easily have been made annoying.
Lost to: Judy Holiday-Born Yesterday
4. Al Pacino (Michael Corleone-The Godfather part II)
Pacino played a supporting character in the first film, and now it was his time to shine as the exact same character. Like his character, Michael, Pacino started off small but became a force to be reckoned with. We never doubted him or his strength like Michael was doubted, but did we know he was going to be one of the best actors of our generation? Not only was his star turning performance in The Godfather part II the one that jump started his career as one of the best, it was his best. He is all of the evil in the world trapped in one body, and yet you will always see traces of sadness and innocence, as the old Michael was never truly gone. Also, tell me if you’ve ever seen anger better acted than the climactic scene with Michael and his wife.
Lost to: Art Carney-Harry and Tonto
3. Orson Welles-Citizen Kane
I don’t mean for acting, even though he did a great job there. How did this guy not win for directing? How often is Citizen Kane talked about for how groundbreaking it is? I guess many groundbreaking films aren’t recognized until years after they’ve been released, but Citizen Kane was well received and adored at the time of its release. It’s not as if his directing went unrecognized, because it was both praised and critiqued for breaking Hollywood traditions. Long story short, this game changer was all thanks to the big brains of the entire operation, and he deserved to have won for it.
Lost to: John Ford-How Green was my Valley
2. Peter O’Toole (T. E. Lawrence-Lawrence of Arabia)
Before I start, Gregory Peck was fantastic in To Kill a Mockingbird. These two performances were neck and neck, but ultimately it was O’Toole that, I find, was more deserving. It’s incredibly challenging to lead an entire movie for four hours, never mind that film being about T. E. Lawrence. O’Toole makes Lawrence timid and clumsy at the start and a very unlikely hero, but the gradual change into a fearless leader is one of the most natural put to film. You can literally see every stepping stone that affected Lawrence’s life through his eyes and his reactions. It’s rare to have a role that can make you laugh (the start of the film) and also haunt you (like the parts where Lawrence becomes, without spoiling, aware of his actions), but O’Toole, being the master of the art that he is, did so at a time when he could have very well have been just another actor.
Lost to: Gregory Peck-To Kill a Mockingbird
1. Raging Bull
This film is simply one of the all time best. Everything about it is just perfect, even its few mistakes. There aren’t many movies that start off with a happy ending and end disastrously, but there aren’t many movies that are based on true stories that ended in train wrecks either. This story of Jake LaMotta, directed by Scorsese, was created when Scorsese thought he was due to die soon because of drug abuse. This was to be his last film, and thus everything was made in the film as if it were to be his opus. Thankfully it didn’t end up being his last film, but it remains his best. Scorsese should have won for directing as well, but the fact that the film itself didn’t win is a damn shame. The movie that won is good, I’ll say that, but it wasn’t revolutionary like Raging Bull.
Lost to: Ordinary People
THE TEN SNUBS THAT WEREN’T EVEN NOMINATED AND WHY THE HECK NOT?
10. Sam Riley (Ian Curtis-Control)
Yeah yeah, there was no way Riley would have won this year (against Daniel Day-Lewis? Not happening), but his scary portrayal as Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was spot on. The fact that the academy stepped over this film entirely is bad, but completely avoiding Riley’s performance is even worse. To play Curtis without mocking him or seeming overly fake is quite the task, and Riley, a newcomer to the acting world, did Curtis true justice.
9. Ridley Scott-Bladerunner
Scott’s been nominated for Thelma and Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. He wasn’t nominated for his bleak science fiction masterpiece? You know, the one that helped push boundaries along with 2001, E.T. and Star Wars? Those got some form of recognition in the directing department, so why not this film? Scott took a world created by Philip K. Dick and took his own spin on it. True, the final product is very different from the book in which it was based on, but that’s kind of what makes it special. Scott saw past the book in a story that allowed a creative mind to do just that. Bladerunner’s getting all sorts of recognition now, but it’s too bad that it didn’t at the time.
8. Gary Oldman (Drexl Spivey-True Romance)
Yay, Gary Oldman’s finally been nominated today. However, this should have happened years ago. Oldman’s part in the film is extremely short, but it’s basically the most unforgettable. His five minutes or so in the film inspired so many characters, including pretty much everything to do with Jack Sparrow. Oldman’s attention to detail, including his slimy stares and his spot on falsified accent made a character that was barely on screen still manage to stick in our heads.
7. John Malkovich (John Malkovich-Being John Malkovich)
Wow, that title made me feel like I was in the restaurant scene. Anyways, Malkovich is an underrated actor by far. I’d go as far to call him the American Jeremy Irons. I mean, he’s got a distinct voice, a quality of pure debonaire evil, and stage acting chops. Malkovich acted as himself in this film, and he does so with an intense amount of humor. He never makes fun of himself or is too serious about himself. Somehow, he seems so natural, and that’s difficult to do in a movie about mind portals. When Malkovich read the script and asked writer Charlie Kaufman if he was able to switch who the celebrity with the portal was, Kaufman replied “nope”. Now we know why.
6. Once Upon a Time in America
This one’s a bit iffy, because the story behind it is a rather sad one. This gangster epic was made by Italian great Sergio Leone, best known for his masterful western films. Once Upon a Time in America was made to be over four hours long and was cut down to about two when shown to American audiences. The mixed order of flashbacks and present day shots were put into chronological order as well. Leone was so upset that he swore never to make a film again. Sadly, he stuck to his promise until his death. The film was slammed and ridiculed. That is, until the full, proper film was released. The full length and proper order of the story was released and suddenly the world was opened up to a film of absolute brilliance. Because of this, it was ignored when the bastardized version was released, and it didn’t have to be that way.
5. Christopher Nolan-Inception
This guy was getting nominated by everyone, so all of the Nolan fanboys were excited and awaiting Nolan’s first Academy Award nomination. That day has not come yet. If any film of his was deserving of this nomination, it was definitely Inception: A dive into the subconscious of science fiction and film noir. This complicated plot could have been confusing, but Nolan made it simple to understand without making it childish. It was grande on every level, and was easily marketable to any form of movie fan. I’m sure Nolan will be nominated one day, but this snub was still a bit of a kick in the teeth, especially when every other organization recognized his achievement.
4. Marilyn Monroe (Sugar-Some Like it Hot)
Monroe is remembered as being a sex symbol and even for her troubled personal life. Her acting career should not be overlooked, and sadly it was even when she was at her best. Monroe as the ditzy and flirtatious Sugar in Billy Wilder’s drag queen comedy Some Like it Hot is captivating. Most of the time, people that perform as idiots seem unlikeable, and rightfully so. Monroe made us believe that men were falling at her feet because she somehow made her shallow, simple minded character hard not to like. Watch this film, and tell me you will think of her as a model first after seeing this performance. I dare you.
3. Audrey Hepburn (Eliza Doolittle-My Fair Lady)
It’s presumed that Hepburn was not nominated because she did not do all of the singing parts herself. Actually, she did do the singing parts, but a singer was brought in to sing on top in the final product. I don’t see why that should push aside the rest of the performance. Hepburn as the tramp-turned-socialite is hilarious and engaging. Her over emphasized Cockney accent somehow sounds as if it could be real, and her filthy approach to life seems too real. Her change of heart seems so unnatural in the play and script, but Hepburn somehow makes this magical turn seem plausible.
2. Seven Samurai
Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece was nominated for other awards (art direction and costume design), so why on earth was it not nominated for best picture? It’s the greatest form of any underdog story ever told, and it completely changed how action scenes and battle sequences were shot and projected. Its four hour length was probably of no concern back then (look at Gone With the Wind, Godfather part II and Lawrence of Arabia), so that can’t be an excuse. It even made an impact on America. Clearly it did anyways, since Hollywood made The Magnificent Seven (a western take on the same story). I guess this is second on the list because there is no clear reason why it was snubbed.
1. Renée Jeanne Falconetti (Jeanne d’Arc-The Passion of Joan of Arc)
Falconetti’s performance is easily one of the best committed to film. Most of the shots in the film are extreme close ups, so that alone is intimidating. Then she has to play the main role in the film. Then she has to play the role of a well known female figure in history and religion. Then she had to do all of this during the silent film era, so all of her cries and screams were not heard. The first question: How on earth did she pull this off? It’s impossible to watch this film without getting shivers down your spine and it’s all thanks to her. The humility she faces is some of the hardest cinematic material to watch (not including gore or anything of the like) because her emotions seep through the screen. This film was released in about the second year of the Academy Awards, and this performance would have been one of the first classic nominations if it were included, leading me to question two: Why wasn’t it?