Oscar’s Take on the….Oscars
It’s an odd title, but let’s go with it. The Academy Awards nominations were announced yesterday, with Gravity and American Hustle garnering the most nods at 10 each.The awards season is one of my favorite times of the year. Not so much because of the awards shows themselves, but more so because it gives critics and fans a chance to vent and make a case for films and actors not being recognized. You’ll hear the art house enthusiasts complain about how the Academy and general audiences just don’t get it, as well as the geek who pleads a case for Man of Steel, but the Academy doesn’t care. As a matter of fact, they make a lot of movies, actors and directors eat cat poop. Let’s look at the major categories and see who got snubbed.
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Academy opted for nine Best Picture nominations, which means another film could have been added. It’s unfortunate Inside Llewyn Davis was not recognized. The Coen Brothers’ sad tale of a musician struggling in New York’s folk music scene in the 1960s is a strong, emotional punch to the gut and a worthy entry to their acclaimed filmography. Also missing was Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which is considered to be one of his better works in recent memory. Sundance Film Festival favorite Fruitvale Station was another film worthy of recognition. First-time director Ryan Coogler surprised audiences with this emotional, powerful drama about Oscar Grant III, a young man who was fatally shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer early New Year’s Day in 2009.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern – Nebrask
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
The Academy’s man crush on Christian Bale may be bigger than mine. Though his performance in American Hustle was stellar, hearing his name announced was a surprise (a welcome one, though). It’s a stacked category this year, but golden boy Tom Hanks was left out despite turning in a remarkable performance in Captain Phillips and a solid one on Saving Mr. Banks. Also missing a nod was Robert Redford, who was a tour de force in All is Lost. Not many actors can carry a film all on their own, but Redford manages to hold your attention without any dialogue. I’m also disappointed by the lack of love for Joaquin Phoenix as the awkward operating system-loving nerd in Her. Phoenix delivers a sweet, haunting and soulful performance that only he could have pulled off.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
It’s hard to argue against any of these nominations. Cate Blanchett is the favorite to take the Oscar (and should be), but Emma Thompson deserved a nod for her portrayal of pain in the ass author P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
I remember when I watched Accepted and Superbad and thinking to myself, “Jonah Hill will soon become a two-time Academy Award-nominated actor.” The Academy loves this guy, and he definitely deserves it because he’s done a good job the past few years. He was great in The Wolf of Wall Street and a welcome surprise when the nominations were announced. I can’t complain about any of these nominees, but I wish the Academy had not forgotten The Way Way Back. It was a delightful, coming-of-age tale written by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (both won an Oscar for writing The Descendants) that got lost in the summer shuffle, and it was a memorable movie because of Sam Rockwell. He played the middle-aged, immature jokester with the heart of gold to perfection, and it made everyone’s performance in the film better. Even if Rockwell was nominated, it would have been difficult to take down Jared Leto or Michael Fassbender.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
I see no problems in this category, but several critics and writers have tried making a case for Scarlett Johansson for her vocal performance in Her. She did a great job of portraying an intelligent operating system, but to say she deserves a nomination is ridiculous. I’m not putting down voice acting in any way, but it would not be right to nominate Johansson after ignoring so many other performances from actors who lent their voice in previous projects. If there was anyone that ever deserved a nomination, it was Andy Serkis for his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not only did he voice the character, but he WAS Gollum thanks to motion-capture technology. Okay, my nerd rant is over. While I loved Johansson’s voice performance in Spike Jonze’s film, she did not deserve a nomination. So stop it, critics.
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
The surprise here was Alexander Payne. I’m a big fan of his work (Sideways, The Descendants), but Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and Spike Jonze (Her) both deserved a nod for their stellar work. Captain Phillips is a great thriller that left audiences at the edge of their seats (much like Argo did last year), and Her was a film to spark your imagination and make you question the modern day relationship. But it doesn’t matter because, in my opinion, there are only two directors worthy of taking the Oscar this year. Alfonso Cuarón will likely take home the statue because Gravity is a cinematic achievement. It’s the kind of film that leaves you in awe and makes you wonder, “How the hell did they make this?” The talented Steve McQueen also deserves an Oscar for his masterpiece, 12 Years a Slave. His unflinching, masterful direction isn’t intended to shock you (thought it will), but rather just simply open a window that allows you to see and judge the era and people for yourself. It truly is a haunting film that stays with you.
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Before Midnight – Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Captain Phillips – Billy Ray
Philomena – Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope
12 Years a Slave – John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter
This will be an interesting race. Before Midnight was a good film with even better dialogue. While it deserved more love from the Academy, it’s going to be tough to beat 12 Years a Slave and Philomena, which is the one movie gaining momentum at the right time.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
American Hustle – Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club – Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Her – Spike Jonze
Nebraska – Bob Nelson
Another good list of nominees, but Joel and Ethan Coen deserved to be nominated for Inside Llewyn Davis. Their period piece was one a film more appreciated when the credits rolled and the pain of Llewyn Davis sinks in. It was one of the better films of the year. But the best original script should go to Spike Jonze. Her is a very imaginative love story that will leave you wondering and thinking of our current state (love life and technology) and where we are going.