The Academy Awards are just under a week away, which means most of you probably don’t care. Be honest, it’s okay – personally, I don’t watch a single awards show, save maybe 20 minutes of the Oscars. But for those die hards out there, it can get pretty intense. The following is usually heard at some point in the first five or six categories, when a sentimental favorite falls short of attaining that shiny, bald statue:
“What?!? How did [insert critical masterpiece here] beat [your favorite film]? That’s bulls***.”
And that’s assuming that it even gets nominated. Though the Academy is generally on-point, it certainly has its shortcomings and quirks that often keep well-deserving movies and individuals from grabbing the gold. On January 10, the 2013 nominees were released, and though some of the selections were obvious, the absence of others sent fans and critics alike into a frenzy. Here are five films and people that Oscar somehow forgot when he went to send the invites.
1. Ben Affleck, Best Director
I don’t understand the apprehension that still accompanies Affleck into award season. He’s three for three when it comes to his work from the directors chair – Gone Baby Gone and The Town were each tied to an Oscar nomination and universal critical approval – but it seems his early 2000’s stint as Jennifer Lopez’s boy toy (and nine Golden Raspberry nominations) just won’t be forgotten. It was embarrassing, I realize that. But it was almost 10 years ago. We’ve all gone through phases, and he’s come out of it for the better. Argo is a force to be recognized, and the 40 year-old New Englander won the BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Director this year. So can we stop hating Ben Affleck, please?
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Leo has never won an Oscar… yeah, let that sink in. In addition to his lady-killing abilities and boundless class, the 38 year-old Titanic heartthrob is flat out talented. He’s got more Oscar and Golden Globe noms than he knows what to do with, and 2013 was the year he could have done some damage. Leo took a turn as Calvin Candie in Quentin Tarantino’s delightful Django Unchained – a role that saw him transformed into a malevolent, charming, and possibly incestuous plantation owner with a sharp wit and even sharper tongue. It was a daring move for DiCaprio, who usually plays a sympathetic role on screen. Yet he was commanding as Candie, the dominating, evil force of the film. What really blew my mind, however, was [spoiler alert] that in the climactic confrontational scene, DiCaprio actually slammed his hand down on a crystal glass, slicing open his palm. The actor took it in stride, incorporating the wound into the scene that Tarantino ultimately kept. If you’ve seen the film it’s an incredible sequence, one that somehow didn’t impress enough to garner a nomination. It might have just been that Django Unchained was too divisive a movie – Samuel L. Jackson was likewise snubbed of supporting actor honors and Tarantino was excluded from the best director discussion.
3. Moonrise Kingdom, Best Picture
I realize how much of a stretch this one is. Wes Anderson’s indie darling is nominated for this year’s Best Original Screenplay category, but it deserves more than just that. Moonrise Kingdom is a culmination of his eclectic works, and his entire filmography built up to the crescendo that this endearing period piece represents in his career. This ode to childhood summer love long gone should have stolen a feel-good nomination, but the cynical Academy hearts would have nothing of it.
4. Jean-Louis Trintignant, Best Actor
The heartbreaking role of a man desperately trying to connect with his disabled, dying wife should be the stuff that trophy bait is made of. Bait is perhaps too condescending a word here – Amour practically has the foreign film Oscar wrapped up, but it seems that the minds over at Academy central are too focused on the whole, and have forgotten the parts that comprise this French drama. When you consider Tintignant has only participated in the making of two films in the past 14 years, his performance becomes that much more impressive, and it makes the fact that he was never really part of the conversation for individual awards that much more of a shame.
5. The Master, Best Picture / Paul Thomas Anderson, Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson’s most recent, critically-acclaimed outing was nominated for numerous BAFTA’s and Golden Globes, and is up for Oscars in the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress departments. So why isn’t Anderson, or his film, for that matter, being considered? He hasn’t a single statuette to his name, though he’s been nominated for the likes of Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood (the latter earning Daniel Day-Lewis his third Best Actor win). Some critics even point to Anderson as one of today’s auteurs, so it amazes me that his characters can conjure a trio of noms when he can’t get even garner a mention.
Honorable Mention: Kathryn Bigelow, Best Director
To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with Zero Dark Thirty. Roger Ebert really got to the heart of it in his review, and though he gave the film three stars out of four, he stated that “the film’s opening scenes are not great filmmaking. They’re heavy on jargon and impenetrable calculation, murky and heavy on theory … There isn’t a whole lot of plot – basically, just that Maya thinks she is right, and she is.” The first half of the movie feels cumbersome when coupled with its adrenaline-fueled second half. Bigelow’s Bin Laden hunt relies heavily on the performance of Jessica Chastain as Maya and Mark Boal’s script, both of which I found to be largely underwhelming in the face of such praise. But for everything that the first 80-odd minutes lacks, the latter 80 makes up for in gusto. It’s a heart-stopping whirlwind that outplays just about any action scene I’ve ever seen. The realism and grit that are employed in the compound raid are second to none, and for that Bigelow should be rewarded. Does she deserve to win best director? Not a chance. But she deserves an A for effort, and some say nomination isn’t too much to ask for what many critics believe is the best film of 2012. While many critics are claiming she got snubbed because of her sex, I think the Academy saw what I did: an able attempt and a good movie, but one whose director falls just short of nominee status.