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My Reaction: The Good, the Meh, and the Ugly, Part 3

January 25, 2012 1 comment

And now, the final segment of my three part thought piece on yesterday’s announcement of the 2012 Oscar nominations. After I’ve had a day to contemplate everything that has transpired, there’s still more than a handful of things that just aren’t sitting well with me. Like a bad case of food poisoning, they just aren’t letting me get any sleep.

Expect this segment to be longer than the others…

THE UGLY

 

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the nomination that was so phenomenally bogus, you could count on one hand the amount of pundits who were predicting it. And if they were, they did it through gritted teeth. Announced at the end of the linup, like Sharek and Lawrence were in on some kind of sick, inside joke, the ninth Best Picture nomination was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Despite not receiving nominations from the Producers, Directors, Writers or Screen Actors Guild, and being nearly universally panned by critics, the Academy somehow decided that this film was one of the nine best on the year. Granted, I will not be seeing it until sometime this weekend and therefore won’t be able to vent the movie through my own opinion until then. However, a film with a negative score from both Metacritic (46) and Rotten Tomatoes (48) has no business in any collective BEST Picture of the Year lineup.

Now, that we’ve gotten through with what shouldn’t be there, let’s get started on the long and sad list of the nominations that weren’t. Here come the snubs, and of them, one definitely reigns supreme. Steve McQueen’s unnerving and enlightening “Shame,” despite being one of the year’s greatest examples of direction, editing, writing, and all the other things that make up a damn good movie, failed to receive a single nomination. Even worse over was the exclusion of the film’s fine acting. Both Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan both delivered performances that all but topped their respective categories and are nowhere to be seen. While Demien Bechir’s nomination is an inspiring and heartwarming surprise, Fassbender should have shown up here based solely on merit. A fine waste of phenomenal acting.

There were a few other above-the-line snubs that really bothered me. For one, Bennett Miller should not only should have been among the Best Director nominees, but a part of the conversation this whole time. Who do people think directed this phenomenal film? It received some of the best critical reviews of the year and earned itself six Oscar nominations, and yet Miller has not received even a single mention from any awards body or film critics society this year? I suppose that the film’s script is so good that critics and industry-types thought that the film simply ran on autopilot, but I disagree. There’s a very visible sense of style, mood and pacing in the film that only a skilled director’s touch could have brought. I really wish this man made more films, but he picks his battles, very wisely.

Even though I didn’t come close to predicting her, for I knew that this would be in far too good of taste for the Oscars to stomach, Olivia Colman was the most unappreciated individual of the day. Her astounding work in “Tyrannosaur” is good enough to stand by some of the best of Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda. Poor U.S. distribution and a lousy campaign really stinted her chances, but I’d like to believe that, in a perfect world, this is the type of work that could take home the gold. Yet, as yesterday’s nominations showed, we do not live in a perfect world.

While it still managed to earn a Best Picture nomination, I was disappointed by the underwhelming overall showing for “The Help.” Aside from its three acting nominations, the film was overlooked in a lot of areas. I think that Tate Taylor’s lively and entertaining screenplay deserved a mention. Also, the colorful and authentic costume design, which brilliantly accented the setting and vibe of the film, was overlooked. I can only hope that what little support it has is still enough to push Viola Davis through to a well-deserved victory in the Best Actress category.

Another film that was highly unappreciated was Joe Wright’s livewire action-fest, “Hanna.” Despite receiving a nod from the Cinema Audio Society, the film’s outstanding sound mix somehow missed the cut. On top of that, I had hoped that in the wake of honoring a fresh new style of scoring with last year’s “The Social Network,” the Academy would see the fantastic electronic rhythms of The Chemical Brothers score. Instead, the music branch opted to go back to traditional themes, not even giving mention to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ fantastic follow-up work in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Speaking of the music branch, we come to probably the most appalling announcement of the morning. I am, of course, speaking of this year’s slate of nominees (or lack, thereof) for Best Original Song. There was a lot of fine work done by a wide range of artists this year, including “Lay Your Head Down” from Albert Nobbs,” “The Living Proof” in “The Help,” or the fantastic track “Think You Can Wait” from “Win Win.” And yet all they can conjure up is two nominations: “Man or Muppet,” one of the more underwhelming numbers from that title and “Real in Rio,” a song that most people who have actually seen the film cannot even remember.

I am so baffled by this category, I keep trying to search for explanations as to how they could have screwed up so bad. Perhaps it’s due to a flawed balloting system or maybe any sense of good taste really has been exhausted from said music branch. Some people think that the Academy just really wants to do away with the category all together, after emplacing more and more restrictions on it and even nixing last year’s nominated songs from even performing live during the telecast. If they a reserious about ditching the award, then they should just do it. Don’t insult songwriters and viewers of the Oscars by nominating songs that, quite simply, have no business being nominated at all, let alone ousting much more qualified work. This category is one of the biggest jokes in the history of the Academy Awards, plain and simple.

That about does it for my thoughts on the matter. Now starts the final leg of the race. My next order of business will be my first round of winner predictions for this year’s awards. To be quite honest, the image looked a lot clearer before the nominations were even announced. This is going to take a bit of effort. Stay tuned…

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18 Official Contenders in Best Animated Film

November 7, 2011 2 comments

According to the Academy’s press release, there are 18 full length films that have been submitted in the category of Best Animated Feature, this year. As some of you know, there are certain Oscars (including Visual Effects and Documentary Feature) which actually get narrowed down to a series of finalists before the big event. Here is the list of films that have a shot of being nominated in this column:

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Alois Nebel”
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked”
“Arthur Christmas”
“Cars 2″
“A Cat in Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Gnomeo & Juliet”
“Happy Feet Two”
“Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil”
“Kung Fu Panda 2″
“Mars Needs Moms”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”
“Rio”
“The Smurfs”
“Winnie the Pooh”
“Wrinkles”

This list is pretty significant for two reasons. For one, the number of eligible films will dictate that there will be five nominees instead of just three. In order for that number to be assured, the Academy dictates that there must be at least fifteen qualifiers. Therefore, as long as all of these films meet their 2011 release dates, five of these films will be going to the Oscars. Since the award’s inception in 2001, we’ve only seen five nominees once in 2009 when “Up” took home the gold (wrongfully, in my opinion, over “Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

Another significant update this news seems to unveil is that “The Adventures of Tintin” will apparently compete as an animated film. Steven Spielberg and Paramount originally put up a fuss that the film should have it’s own category of motion capture media. In response, I like to quote Morgan Freeman from an Oscar round table in 2009 when he qualified “Avatar” and all motion capture projects as “basically cartoons.” Way to be a boss, Red. In the end, I suppose the film’s director conceded, perhaps realizing the film’s real potential at winning the Animated Feature award. It will likely be in a showdown with the year’s other major contender, the gorgeous yet creatively flawed “Rango,” if only since that seems to be the only other likely challenger that isn’t a hodgepodge sequel to a former winner or nominee.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this year’s race is that, for the first time in five years, it appears that Pixar will not be taking home the gold. To find the last time that another studio was able to take down that juggernaut, one must go all the way back to 2006 (the year “The Departed” won Best Picture, to put things in perspective) when “Happy Feet” narrowly beat out “Cars” for the Oscar. Ironically, both films have sequels competing against each other again this season. Since then, Pixar has kept knocking down the competition like bottles in a shooting gallery with films like “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” “Up” and “Toy Story 3.” I guess they will have to keep their seats this year and let the mantel pass to someone else.

The way this is shaping up now, I’d say our field will look like:

1. “The Adventures of Tintin”
2. “Rango”
3. “Cars 2”
4. “Puss in Boots”
5. “Happy Feet 2”

Alt 1: “Arthur Christmas”
Alt 2: “Winnie the Pooh”

In reality, the race really is down to those top two. “Cars 2” will make it in just based on the clout of it’s studio. Six months ago, “Puss in Boots” seemed like an odd choice for a contender. Yet the film is performing extremely well, barely dropping a dime in its second weekend from its opening gross. The “Happy Feet” sequel is very much up in the air right now. It will probably need to break the bank in order to stay ahead of the other dark horses.

Keep reading The Edge of the Frame for more updates to this year’s Oscar race. The finalists for Best Documentary Feature shouldn’t be too far away.