Thursday, January 10, 2013

The year the presumed favorites didn't even get nominated. Thoughts on the 2013 Oscar nominations...

Despite all of the pre-awards chatter and what-not, there were still a few surprises in this morning's Oscar nominations.  The biggest shock, for me anyway, was the inclusion of Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor in Django Unchained and the unfortunate exclusion of Leonardo DiCaprio (who I frankly expected to win) and Samuel L. Jackson (who gave the film's best performance) for same.  Waltz is fine, although it's interesting in that A) he's basically the film's lead character and B) he's playing a riff on the work he did in Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, but this time on the side of the angels (it's possible that voters simply voted for the most morally righteous white character in a film full of racists, ala Tommy Lee Jones's expected nom for Lincoln).  Django Unchained scored a best picture nomination (one of nine films nominated) but Tarantino was denied a Best Director nod.  The other massive snub was the exclusion of Ben Affleck for Best Director for Argo, despite the film being up for Best Picture and Alan Arkin snagging a Best Supporting Actor nomination.  I honestly can't figure that one out, as pretty much everyone who loved Argo gave Affleck full and complete credit for the film.  It's disheartening in that Affleck has made a real effort to use his star power to direct the kind of mainstream big-studio grown up genre fare that has been neglected over the last decade, and a snub can surely be read as 'Don't bother, just go direct Justice League'.  The Best Director category also provided the other mega-shock this morning, snubbing the proverbial front runner Kathryn Bigelow.  I'd hate to think the stupid 'torture debate' had an effect, but I think the stupid torture debate had an effect.     

Other than that, there's really nothing to "complain" about.  Yes, I think The Silver Linings Playbook is vastly overrated, so its noms for Best Picture, Best Director (David O'Russell), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Jackie Weaver), Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence, in a clear supporting role, natch), and quite surprisingly Bradley Cooper for Best Actor offer token annoyance, but oh well.  Heck, the sheer dominance in the major categories, as well as the above-mentioned snubs for the other front-runners, makes The Silver Linings Playbook a front-runner for a sweep in the major categories.  On the plus side of surprises, Beasts of the Southern Wild kicked ass this morning.  The happiest nomination for me was the not-entirely expected but very much hoped for Best Actress nod for Quvenzhane Wallace.  The film snagged a Best Picture nod and a Best Director nod for Benh Zeitlin, along with the expected Best Adapted Screenplay nomination.  Zeitlin and the somewhat surprise nom for Michael Hanke (Amour, which also received a Best Foreign film nod, a Best Actress nomination for Emmanuelle Riva, and a Best Picture nod) pushing out the expected nods for Tarantino, Affleck, and/or Bigelow. I'm relieved that ParaNorman got a Best Animated feature nomination and now I'm torn between my favorite animated film of the year and the sheer righteousness of seeing Tim Burton win his first Oscar for a stop-motion black and white animated feature.

It is indeed strange how many would-be front-runners got snubbed this year.  Weinstein's The Intouchables, which grossed $400 million worldwide, didn't get the expected Best Foreign Film nod, which is fine since it's a terrible movie.  Tom Hopper didn't get a Best Director nod for Les Miserables, which is fine because even many who liked the film think his direction was terrible (Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman got their expected nominations).  But on the plus side, that made for some unexpected nominees.  Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman all got somewhat unexpected and deserved nominations for The Master, which makes one wonder how close the rather divisive (and peaked too soon) picture came from sneaking into the Best Picture race. Helen Hunt snuck into the Best Supporting Actress category for The Sessions (IE - the one Oscar bait film that most of us forgot to see), and since I think she damn-well deserved her derided win 15 years ago for As Good As It Gets, I'm happy to see her out of the Pay It Forward jail.  The Dark Knight Rises got deservedly snubbed (although a sound nomination or two would have yielded comedic reactions) while The Avengers snuck in at the FX category level (although Life of Pi is the front-runner to win that).  I'm not a *huge* Skyfall fan, but I would have been fine with the critically-acclaimed action-adventure getting some Oscar love outside of the tech categories, as there has been a huge problem for ages regarding the automatic dismissal of popcorn entertainment that rises to the level of art.  Although Roger Deakins is arguably the front-runner for Best Cinematography and it would be fitting for Skyfall to win for its very best component.

For what it's worth, the race now comes down to Lincoln and The Silver Linings Playbook.  Lincoln leads the pack with twelve nominations, but The Silver Linings Playbook has nominations in all seven major categories, which is a true rarity.  Zero Dark Thirty goes from the proverbial Best Picture front-runner to an also-ran whose once preordained victory for Jessica Chastain now seems at best an underdog fight against Jennifer Lawrence. What's also a little disconcerting is that, aside from Beasts of the Southern Wild (The Moonrise Kingdom only received a Best Original Screenplay nom among major categories), all nine Best Picture nominees (and most of the nominees in the major categories) came during the unofficial October-December Oscar season, making release dates the most important factor in terms of momentum.  But overall it's a good mix of nominees.  The happiest nominations were ParaNorman and Quvenzhane Wallace.  The saddest omissions were Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson, although the most outrageous and arguably dangerous snub was Kathryn Bigelow's absence as it seems to indicate that the chattering, started by many who had not even seen Zero Dark Thirty, seemed to have a real effect.  And this will also make the possible Mark Boal victory for Best Original screenplay (not likely but possible) a bit awkward, as it means the male half of a two-person passion project wins while the female half doesn't even get nominated.  But the lack of clear front-runners as well as the surprise dominance of The Silver Linings Playbook will make for an unpredictable Oscar ceremony, as well as offering the possibility of several major surprises.

Okay, it's time for me to wake the kids and get them ready for school.  What are your thoughts on the Oscar nominations?  Happiest surprise? Saddest upset?  Who or what are the front runners now that the nominations have actually been announced sans many presumed front runners?  Sound off below!                       

Scott Mendelson

Here is the complete list, stolen from First Showing:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
David O. Russell - Silver Linings Playbook
Ang Lee - Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg - Lincoln
Michael Haneke - Amour
Benh Zeitlin - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
Hugh Jackman - Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
Denzel Washington - Flight
Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts - The Impossible
Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin - Argo
Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
Amy Adams - The Master
Sally Field - Lincoln
Anne Hathaway - Les Misérables
Helen Hunt - The Sessions
Jacki Weaver - Silver Linings Playbook
Amour - Michael Haneke View Trailer / More Information
Django Unchained - Quentin Tarantino View Trailer / More Information
Flight - John Gatins View Trailer / More Information
Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty - Mark Boal
Argo - Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild - Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi - David Magee
Lincoln - Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook - David O. Russell
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph
Amour (Austria/France)
Kon-Tiki (Norway)
No (Chile)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
War Witch (Canada)
Anna Karenina - Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained - Robert Richardson
Life of Pi - Claudio Miranda
Lincoln - Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall - Roger Deakins
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart
Adam and Dog - Minkyu Lee
Fresh Guacamole - PES
Head over Heels - Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare" - David Silverman
Paperman - John Kahrs
Asad - Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
Buzkashi Boys - Sam French and Ariel Nasr
Curfew - Shawn Christensen
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw) - Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
Henry - Yan England
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel's The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman
Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Mirror Mirror
Snow White and the Huntsman
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
Anna Karenina - Dario Marianelli
Argo - Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi - Mychael Danna
Lincoln - John Williams
Skyfall - Thomas Newman
"Before My Time" from Chasing Ice
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from Ted
"Pi's Lullaby" from Life of Pi
"Skyfall" from Skyfall
"Suddenly" from Les Misérables     


Jed Pressgrove said...

I agree with you about Deakins. Even though it's hard to care about the Oscars given the obvious and predictable politics, I hope he wins.

I'm guessing that Lincoln will dominate awards night.

Biggest snubs: Moonrise Kingdom and The Cabin in the Woods deserved more nominations in the major categories.

Nicholas said...

Cabin in the Woods?

Ziserwahn said...

It's odd. It's almost like they are split half and half between forward thinking nominations and the same old school thinking. Is Silver Lining really on par with Annie Hall? I still haven't seen it due to the ridiculous release window.

bulldog said...

While I liked Alan Arkin in Argo, and have yet to see DeNiro in SLP, my long shot wish for that category was a nod to Michael Pena in End of Watch. I really wish there was some love for that film. It was one of the best films of the year to me.
Also, shouldn't Helen Hunt be in Lead Actress Category? Haven't seen the movie, but it looks like she had a fantastic amount of screen time.

Jed Pressgrove said...

Yep. Along with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, it has put fun and intelligence back into the horror genre. I would've nominated it for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay at the very least.

Of course, if you're a traditionalist like many people in the Academy, you fail to recognize the artistic merit of the best horror movies.

Phillylo said...

i was pretty disappointed by movies in 2012... the hyped releases mostly
didn't deliver, and i feel like the nominated selections were not
spectacular. my personal favorite this past year was "Monsieur Lazhar"
(which probably doesn't count as a 2012 release?), although "Beasts of
the Southern Wild" sticks out in my mind as one of the few truly
inventive products of this past year.

maxim said...

I'm not especially happy for Miss Wallis from "Beasts." Think Tatum O'Neal.

I think you're misusing "proverbial." You seem to want to it to mean "supposed," but it actually means "as in a proverb." For example, "She was curious, like the proverbial cat," referencing the proverb, "Curiosity killed the cat."

Michael O'Farrell said...

The Academy has a history of nomination blunders (and embarrassing Best Picture wins : prime example: "Crash" for 2005). When masterful films such as "Saving Private Ryan" and "Brokeback Mountain" miss the Big Prize but get seemingly compensated with a Director win, something is rotten in Tinseltown. Clearly it is an outrage that Kathryn Bigelow was denied a directing nod. The Oscars cannot be taken seriously by anyone who seriously loves the Art of Film.


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