As Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence and Academy president Tom Sherak woke up at the crack of dawn for the 5:30 a.m. (PST) announcement of this year’s Oscar nominations a little while back, media and film professionals, as well as movie buffs like me, were all glued to television sets around the world for this annual press conference.
As in most years, it’s also a time of disappointment, as favorites are left unmentioned and popular drivel steals a slot here and there. Thinking to this Sunday's award show, I have to look at the nominations one more time to finalize my thoughts and prepare for the ceremony. Having seen over 120 of the films eligible for awards this season, I ultimately must “vent” about how wrong Oscar got it in this, the 84th year of passing out gold trophies. I could care less about how people look on the infamous ‘red carpet’–I care about quality filmmaking and acting, so when the wrong people or films do or don’t get honored, I feel the only thing I can do is post it somewhere to provoke conversation and debate. Here, in my humble opinion, are six missteps the Academy made this year, and I welcome your comments (just be ready to defend them!).
1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close gets a nomination for Best Picture
If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting through the 9/11 sapfest ELAIC, I’m sorry. It’s the film that proves that if you add Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock to anything, you will get an Oscar nomination. I expect next year there will be a two-hour movie where Meryl Streep simply reads from the phone book with a foreign accent and the Academy will honor that too. It’s utterly disgusting, but reinforces the old saying “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.” Hanks, Bullock, and the rest of the cast and crew have been campaigning hard for this film, and it paid off–unjustly leaving smaller, more deserving films like Win Win and Take Shelter (to name just a couple) to abandon their dreams of gold.
2. Octavia Spencer from The Help gets a supporting actress nomination
Everyone from critics to my mother absolutely loved the performance of Octavia Spencer in one of the year’s most popular movies. If you live under a rock and don’t know what The Help is about, it chronicles the lives of Southern African American maids during the Civil Rights movement. Spencer will probably win for her role as a sassy, smart-mouthed maid who knows how to dish it out as well as she knows how to make a pie. My problem with this role and nomination are that this part has been done dozens of times before, but just in a different setting. The racially driven ‘sassy black woman’ appears in barber shops, church choirs, and street corners in many a film, but not until she is a maid does the Academy recognize talent. It strikes me as a bit racist. The difference between Spencer and her fellow nominee Viola Davis (for lead actress) is the lack of emotional depth. Spencer simply provides comedic one-liners and a cry, and she got the nomination. She did a great job with what she was given, but it’s far from Oscar-worthy.
3. Rooney Mara from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gets a best actress nomination
A year ago, I was pulling for Noomi Rapace to get an Oscar nomination for her role in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Her performance as computer hacker Lisbeth Salander from the beloved book series by Steig Larsson was revolutionary. Sadly, she didn’t get nominated. Rooney Mara’s transformation as the same character in the English language adaptation was far less notable, but surprisingly she did make the cut. It’s kind of disgusting that a professional film organization can’t get past subtitles and bestow honor where honor is due. Mara wasn’t bad, but the last time I checked, you don’t get an Oscar nomination for a ‘wasn’t bad’ performance.
4. No screenplay nomination for the brilliant Win Win scribe Thomas McCarthy
If you haven’t seen the small town drama Win Win, you need to right that wrong immediately. It’s easily one of the year’s best films, and one of the most overlooked movies in quite some time. I could argue a nomination in almost every top category, but the one where I thought it stood the best chance to get honored was for best original screenplay. It just proves that the Academy will choose a woman having a bout of diarrhea (in the nominated Bridesmaids) over smart dialog and unique characters. I’m sure writer/director McCarthy will end up here in the future for another movie–he’s one of the best out there–but it’s a shame he’s not joining the party this year.
5. Jessica Chastian gets a well deserved nomination…but for the wrong movie
You might not know her by name, but if you’ve seen The Help, The Debt, Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus, The Tree of Life, or my personal favorite of hers, Take Shelter, you have already seen this up and comer in action. Nominated for her role as a ditzy outcast in The Help, Chastain doesn’t show nearly as much emotional depth and range as she did with her role in Take Shelter. As a devoted wife to a man who may be going crazy, she was the emotional core to Take Shelter and delivered an award-worthy performance. Apparently not enough people saw that film, so thankfully for her she had other 'Help'-ful things to fall back on.
6. No supporting actor nomination for Albert Brooks in Drive
Probably the year’s most evil villain, Brooks’ part in Drive stole the show. The bloody thriller would have lost something had Brooks not been so perfectly horrible in one of the hardest R-rated movies I’ve ever seen. Despite the graphic content, I really thought he would get the nomination. Fortunately, he’s already joked about the snub on Twitter–but I’m sure deep down it hurts.
Those are, in my opinion, the biggest missteps of this year. As far as I’m concerned, The Artist is the best movie to come out in quite some time and I hope that takes home a bundle of awards, including Best Picture. This Sunday, Feb. 26, will answer all of our questions, as the 84th Academy Awards show will air live on ABC. Who will you be pulling for? Who do you think was overlooked?