Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Oscar Nominations Report 2012

Okay, I know this is a ridiculously delayed reaction, for various reasons which I won't go into, and I apologise most profusely on behalf of my hectic life that wouldn't allow me to finish writing this (I've actually been writing bits and pieces of this post since the Oscar nominations were announced three weeks ago) but here, I give you my view on this years Oscar nominations.

Since the Academy Award nominations were announced, the general reaction has been that there were huge injustices throughout many categories. Many people and films were expected to feature in the shortlists which didn't, and other cast, crew and films appeared which were a complete surprise, and, in some cases, perhaps undeserved.

Before I begin my long rambling about the nominations, I should say that I haven't seen the majority of the nominated films and actors this year, unlike last year where I'd seen nine out of ten of the nominated films for best picture by the time the awards came around. Yes, I'm disappointed with myself, and my OCD is screaming at me a little, but my point is, I can't give much of a personal opinion on this matter because I haven't seen all of the performances or films for myself. I will, however, discuss films I have seen that I think deserved a nomination, and of course those who I think are undeserving.

We'll start with the verdict on the Best Actor category.

The two on the left are the most suave men on Earth.

There was no surprise when Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and George Clooney (The Descendants) were announced, and they are both fully deserving of their nominations, as is Gary Oldman, who I was worried was going to get overlooked as he did at the Golden Globes. But, even though he has only a slim chance of winning when he's up against Dujardin and Clooney, it's lovely to see him get his first-time recognition in a role that he really deserves it for. Brad Pitt was always in contention for the Best Actor nod, but really he probably didn't deserve it as much as some other actors who were left off, and only got recognised because he's such a big name and there was a lot of publicity surrounding the film. I haven't seen him in Moneyball but, from what I've read, although he was good, he didn't give the best performance of the year. And finally, we have Demian Bichir, who really came out of nowhere to grab that last Academy acknowledgement. Now I know a lot of people aren't aware of him at all. I'd heard of the film (A Better Life) but that wasn't seen by many people and there was absolutely no hint beforehand that he was even being considered. Though I would say it is nice to see an underdog come and steal some spotlight, I do feel that some performances were completely overlooked, and, though I haven't seen his performance, I think a lot of people are asking what he's doing on the list.

As for the actors that were overlooked, I think we need to start with one of the most surprising.

About 98.542% of people I spoke to, as well as critics I've read, expected Michael Fassbender to be on this list for his role in Shame, which garnered him near-universal acclaim. Now I haven't seen the film myself yet, though I definitely want to get round to that (I shall be watching this alone, in a dark room), but I can't really understand why he was left off the shortlist. My only guesses would be that either it was too risque a subject for the Academy to award the proper attention to, or it wasn't widely publicised enough and therefore didn't get the attention it seemed to deserve. Another guess would be that he's too young for the Academy to really consider, as they do have a terrible track record for acknowledging actors that aren't middle-aged. But whichever way you look at it, this was quite a shock, and personally I think there are at least one or two actors that could have been bumped for him instead.

The other actor that had been surrounded by major Oscar buzz was Leonardo DiCaprio. Before J. Edgar came out, there were talks of this being his year, and finally getting the recognition he deserved. Again, this is a film I haven't yet seen, but it seems the view is that although his performance is very good, it wasn't as amazing as everyone was expecting. This is probably because it was hyped up so much that it was such a tall order to fill everyone's expectations, but still, most people thought he was a shoe-in for a nomination.

Onto Best Actress now, and, like its male equivalent, there was a mix of "well obviously!" nominations and "why her?" nods. There was absolutely no surprises at Meryl Streep collecting her record 17th nomination for The Iron Lady, which she's widely expected to win. Also, Michelle Williams was an unsurprising nomination for My Week With Marilyn. Viola Davis' performance in The Help seems to have gained her very good reviews, and she's been recognised by other organisations and academies for her role, even picking up a SAG award (don't get me started...) so it wasn't unexpected. The two surprises were Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which, although she was brilliant in, was a bit surprising because although there were a few murmurings about a nomination, there weren't any big indications that she was actually going to get one. And lastly, Glenn Close, who is indeed a fantastic actress, snagged a nomination for Albert Nobbs. Now I know I'm not the only one who hasn't heard of this film before, but since it's Glenn Close I'm putting money on the fact it's probably a deserved nomination. Still, that doesn't really make up for the fact other actresses were consequently overlooked.

Charlize Theron's role in Young Adult has gained her some spectacular reviews, and I honestly cannot wait to see this film. A few critics have said she's better in this than she was in Monster, in the role that gained her an Academy Award in 2003. There has been quite a bit of outcry about her exclusion not just from this shortlist, but from many others this year too. So, although the Academy are just following in the footsteps of the other awards this year, it seems like Charlize has been done a great disservice.
Another actress who has been overlooked is Tilda Swinton for her role in We Need to Talk About Kevin (a film which itself was overlooked, but we'll come to that later). We know that the Academy is very aware of her, considering they gave her an award back in 2007. Again, her snub is probably due to lack of promotion and awareness in America. No, she probably wouldn't have won if she had been nominated, considering who she would have been up against, but it would have been nice to see her acknowledged.

And lastly, there has been a ridiculous amount of backlash at the fact Olivia Colman was left off the list for Tyrannosaur (still unsure whether she's a Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress contender - she's been nominated for both in other awards). Her performance has been named as outstanding by basically every critic I've heard talk about her, and even from the little clips I've seen she does seem quite deserving of a nomination. Still, again it's probably due to lack of awareness on the Acadamy's part (though that doesn't excuse BAFTA, who should be aware of such homegrown talent).

I'll move onto films now. For those who don't know, the rules changed this year regarding Best Picture nominations, where there could be a shortlist of between five and ten films, as opposed to the ten it has been in previous years. I don't really know why this is - surely just stick to ten and give more films the recognition? But anyway, nine films were announced, some deserving, some really, really not, and again, others completely overlooked.

The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, and War Horse were all pretty much expected, with The Artist being the early favourite to win, and War Horse, in my opinion, not really deserving to be there but not unexpected. Other nominees Midnight in Paris and The Tree of Life were also not hugely surprising considering the favourable reviews they've been given, especially the latter. Moneyball and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close were the most surprising, having been given less acclaim than the other nominees; as for the last one, as far as I can tell it's about some irritating boy obsessing over a key, even if it does contain 9/11 themes and stars Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. But this only adds up to nine. Why would they not only exclude extremely worthy nominees, but not even fill the potential ten spaces? My theory is that they wanted to leave at least one space free to prove that the new rules aren't completely redundant - after all, if ten films were nominated everyone would have been questioning why the new rules needed to be put in place. Yet at the same time it feels like some were nominated for the sake of it - I'm almost certain that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was nominated based on it's summary, because I haven't heard great things about the film itself. But this doesn't excuse the fact that other more deserving films were left off the list in favour of some of these which actually made me quite angry when they were announced.

We'll start with Super 8, which anyone who has read this blog knows I'm a huge fan of. It's genuinely one of the best films of last year, and received critical acclaim. There's not a fault in the entire film, and in my opinion this is the biggest crime the Academy have carried out this year. It just proves that they are complete snobs when it comes to sci-fi films, prefering them to the challenging dramas, some of which are on the list undeservingly. I am disgusted. But again, the Academy are not the only ones who've done this, so actually I take back what I said; sci-fis are overlooked and unappreciated in the film industry full stop, and that is a major issue that needs to be sorted out. After the success of Lord of the Rings, I thought we would see a change in this, but apparently not.

Shame is another film that most people thought would get the nod, but, like it's star Michael Fassbender, it has been cast aside for less worthy films, probably for the same reasons that Fassbender was snubbed. There's not really a lot else to say about this one except the Academy really need to widen their range of consideration and look beyond the obvious.

The same goes for Drive, Ryan Gosling's most acclaimed offering this year (for the record, he should probably have been nominated too either for this or The Ides of March). Other films include We Need To Talk About Kevin and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but my theory is that they just weren't as embraced in America like they were over here, and that's a real shame because they are both fully deserving films.
And what's with The Adventures of Tin Tin being left off the animated film shortlist? As much as I like Rango and am now rooting for it to win, surely Tin Tin was the most heralded animation of last year? Maybe it's more American snobbery over including the British, who this year have been so strong that perhaps they merely feel intimidated and overwhelmed by our brilliance. Or maybe I'm making excuses that make us look good. But still.

Okay, other nominations for some of the more random categories: Where was Alan Menkel's Best Song nomination for 'Star-Spangled Man' from Captain America? I know I personally didn't hear a better song in film this year - it's on my iPod. It's probably the fact that the film itself would never have been taken seriously for awards consideration, and therefore one of the most deserving aspects got overlooked in the process. Such a shame.

Another one is for Diablo Cody for Best Original Screenplay for Young Adult. I've already spoken about Charlize Theron's oversight, but I've heard that Cody's script is better than her Juno one, for which she picked up her first Oscar. It's another one I'm not really understanding and am struggling to explain. Also for that category is J.J. Abrams for Super 8. It would fit right into the apparent theme of nostalgia the Academy seem to have this year, since it's basically a tribute to the 70s and Abrams' own childhood. And it's so brilliantly witty, heartwarming, and tragic all at the same time, it literally has everything. Why, Academy, why?!

I have another suggestion which I know I will probably result in me accused of being biased and showing favouritism towards, but Water for Elephants deserved some awards in the technical categories. I said in my very first review that it would no way win awards for screenplay, directing or acting, but the sets and costumes were stunning, and so realistic. It does deserve recognition for it's art design and costume design (maybe even make up as well, though The Iron Lady will most certainly win that anyway). Also it perhaps should have been recognised for its cinematography, which is really visually stunning. It makes the film look so good without the use of special effects or cheap tricks, just amazing camera work. I think it's an underrated category anyway, but this film really should have been included in the shortlist.

I could go on for days about the many injustices, but I'm going to wrap it up now. I just have one last point to make, that really needs to be said and that I've been getting mildly irritated by for weeks now.

Why are people getting upset and angry about the fact that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 wasn't nominated for Best Film? It wasn't even the best film in the franchise (controversial!), and none of the others were nominated, so why would this one be? It was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects, and it's unlikely to win either of those anyway (Art Direction will go to The Artist if there's any justice, and Visual Effects will should go to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, because that was truly incredible). So, ridiculously obsessive and oversensitive fans, just enjoy the films and revel in the knowledge that it's the most successful film franchise of all time, and stop getting all shirty about the little things like undeserved Oscar nominations.

Okay, I'm stopping now. I may post my predictions up here in a couple of days, but I've pretty much said here who I think will win so it all depends on whether I can find the time. And if you're planning to watch on Sunday, let me know! Kathryn and I will be watching it live all night, so feel free to get in touch.