I love movies. I have loved movies all my life. I grew up on them. When I was eight years old, I managed to convince myself I would make movies when I grew up. Now I am in the process of getting a degree in Film Studies. I write about film more than ever before, partly because I have to for my classes, mostly because I enjoy it, because I have something to write about. Sometimes it helps me understand the film better; sometimes it helps me understand myself better.
I created this blog as a place to showcase my work, and also as an incentive to keep writing reviews, analyses, and essays over breaks, when there’s no one here to grade me.
I have tried many times, and failed, to explain in a coherent manner why it is that I love films. Here is my best—and most coherent—guess.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Oscar Nominations – This Year It's All About Who's Not There

Well, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters—i.e. the people who hand out those tiny little golden men everyone seems to be talking about today—have had their say. Here is my response.

Dear Academy,      

Why must you prove, again and again, that we don’t know a damn thing?  I am one of those people (read: slightly insane people) that wake up every year on the set day of the Oscar nominations announcement more excited than at Christmas. But this morning, my presents were all weird, like I got bits and pieces of different toys, all mashed together into one confounding contraption. Some parts are awesome, but overall the result is just kind of maladjusted.

It’s turning out to be a three-horse race this year, with David O. Russell’s American Hustle and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity leading with ten nods, followed closely by 12 Years a Slave’s nine (although, surprisingly, missing out for Cinematography and Original Score). What award will go to whom March 2 at the Oscars ceremony might surprise, and a split between best picture and director looks likely. My money’s on Cuaron and 12 Years a Slave, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if Russell picked up his first writing Oscar for Original Screenplay, in what’s starting to look like the most competitive category after Her’s win at the Globes.

I’m ecstatic about some of this year’s nominations: The Wolf of Wall Street included in so many categories despite the controversy surrounding Martin Scorsese’s record number of f-words and general (in my opinion, wrongly perceived) glorification of sex, drugs, and dollars; Alexander Payne’s nomination for Nebraska; the recognition of Spike Jonze’s Her in five categories, including Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and (yay!) production design; and, unexpectedly, cinematographer Roger Deakins’s nod for Prisoners (headed for yet another epic loss, unfortunately). But this year it’s all about who’s not there. Big names and big pictures, predicted nominees and even predicted winners were left off the list.

The biggest shock, to me, was the unfriendly treatment Inside Llewyn Davis received at the hands of voters. The Coen brothers, once the Academy’s sweethearts, got only two nods for their latest film, for Cinematography and Sound Mixing. You know who else got two nominations? The Lone Ranger. This sad surprise was followed closely by the disappointment of not seeing nominations for Emma Thompson or Tom Hanks (for either Captain Phillips, an expected shoe-in for lead actor, or Saving Mr. Banks for supporting).

Ron Howard’s Rush and Lee Daniel’s The Butler didn’t make a single entry on the list of nominees, not even for supporting players Daniel Bruhl and Oprah Winfrey, respectively, both of which were leading the predictions pool. All Is Lost lost out in all categories but Sound Editing, and Lone Survivor only grabbed nominations in the two sound categories. Blue Is the Warmest Color, which won the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes last year, was universally shut out.


So, by category, here are the biggest snubs and surprises:

Best Picture: Llewyn Davis nowhere to be seen, along with Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, while Philomena is getting all the love

Director: Spike Jonze (Her) and Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) left out in favor of Alexander Payne (Nebraska) and, thankfully, Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Actor: perhaps the most snubby category of all, ignoring Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Forest Whitaker (The Butler), and Joaquin Pheonix (Her); unexpected (but not undeserved) nods to Christian Bale (American Hustle) and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)—going on his fourth nomination and no wins, so look out, Ejiofor and McConaughey

Actress: with Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) out of the picture, and Amy Adams (American Hustle) in, it’s between Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) and Bullock (Gravity)

Supporting Actor: Daniel Bruhl (Rush) overlooked in favor of Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Supporting Actress: Oprah Winfrey (The Butler) loses out to Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Adapted Screenplay: All’s well as far as I’m concerned

Original Screenplay: I shed a tear for Llewyn Davis, but holy shit, Academy, this is gonna be a tough one: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, and Nebraska. Good luck with that.

Other Snubs:

Foreign Language Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color

Cinematography: 12 Years a Slave

Original Score: 12 Years a Slave, All Is Lost

Original Song: “Please Mr. Kennedy” (Inside Llewyn Davis), “Young and Beautiful” (The Great Gatsby)

Now that the shock, confusion, and frustration are starting to slowly subside, here’s to another year of great movies!

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