This year is one of lightness, not in the real world, but in the world of cinema. The dresses on the red carpet are not the only things that are prettily pastel. It is also a year of snubs. As the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced the Academy seemed to be saying, “Hah! We are not going to do anything you think. We are rebellious and like to make people angry. As such, we cannot even stoop to find a tenth movie for Best Picture. Oh and by the way everyone’s songs sucked, so take that Madonna and Elton John…you can stop fighting with each other now.”
My family, who likes to make a competition out of guessing the winners of all the movie award shows (for the Golden Globes just put your bets on what you think possibly could not win and that will be the winner) is at a loss for the Oscars. We thought that they would correct what the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards did strangely but instead they may have made it worse.
I am not really sure what happened with the Oscar nominations. All I know is people are angry and every prediction and guess is altered now. Let’s start at the top and throw in some Golden Globes comparisons for good measure.
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Tree of Life”
The Academy could not even find ten nominees. That must have been rough for them. Come on, it might have been a year of superb performances and less than perfect movies but there were a few they could have squeezed in. Last year they were able to come up with ten. This writer has seen all of the nominees, save “War Horse,” which seemed almost too sentimental to bear. Oh well, looks like that will have to be on the to-see list now. Some possible contenders could have been “Drive” (which got overlooked in general), “50/50” (an underrated film), “Young Adult” (great performances that were also forgotten), “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (what happened to make everyone forget this film that got a lot of buzz in its release?), “The Ides of March” (nominated for screenplay with a strong cast), and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (David Fincher predicted that his film would not be nominated). These films could not have been snubbed because they were too dark because in past years films like “The Hurt Locker,” “No Country for Old Men” and “The Silence of the Lambs” won Best Picture. It does not get much darker than that. Maybe we are in such a dark state today that the Academy wanted to see lighter movies recognized this year. In that case, other possible contenders could have been “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” (everyone seems to be determined to make sure the “Harry Potter” franchise is not given any accolades) and “Bridesmaids” (people may disagree on this one, but as a film it was stronger and more even than many of the nominees). Overrated is a word that can be used for some of the nominees. “The Tree of Life” was unclear and grasping at straws while “Hugo” was not incredibly memorable and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” was heartfelt but extremely uneven. Schmaltz and sentimentality are winning here. “The Descendants” and “The Artist” were awarded the Golden Globes but “The Artist” will be the winner most likely at the Oscars. Overall “Hugo” received 11 nominations while “The Artist” received 10. They are both a celebration of cinema but “The Artist,” a cleverly silent film, embodies that celebration.
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
Well we know which movie is going to be added to Netflix queues everywhere. Who saw “A Better Life”? Demian Bichir took the place of some nominees that had seemed like shoe-ins. Michael Fassbender bared all to no avail, Leonardo DiCaprio aged considerably without notice, and Ryan Gosling worked tirelessly and was not awarded for the marvelous fruits of his labor (more than “The Ides of March” he was fantastic in “Drive”). It is nice to see Gary Oldman finally receive a much deserved nomination. “Shame” shamed some voters obviously into not being able to vote for Fassbender, a brilliant actor. DiCaprio is the stepchild of the Academy Awards so losing his spot may not have been a surprise. Jean Dujardin is excellent in “The Artist,” but interestingly the film could win without any of its actors winning. Clooney won at the Golden Globes but we can only hope that a better actor will win the Oscar (and there are so many that are never nominated and awarded). Oldman or Pitt could be contenders but who knows? It’s a strange, twisted little toss-up.
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”
There are at least a couple of surprises in a category that seemed to be set already. Tilda Swinton (who has gotten fantastic reviews for the chilling “We Need to Talk about Kevin”) lost her place to Rooney Mara, a newcomer. Mara is great in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” but one cannot help but wonder how Noomi Rapace feels (she never received a nomination for her haunting, original portrayal of Lisbeth Salander). Also, what happened to Elizabeth Olsen? She sadly did not get to be the next Jennifer Lawrence. Charlize Theron is heart-wrenching in “Young Adult” and Kirsten Dunst is a whole other type of heart-wrenching in “Melancholia,” but this year may not have been the year for that when other uplifting performances with redemption were handy. Viola and Meryl are in the lead but Michelle Williams could be the dark horse in this category. Meryl and Michelle won the Golden Globes.
Best Supporting Actor:
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
The biggest surprise in this category is the absence of Albert Brooks. He is simply amazing in “Drive,” scary to the core. Jonah Hill is the youngest nominee, with Plummer and Von Sydow rounding it out as the distinguished actors. Nick Nolte is a bit of strange pick. Where art thou Patton Oswalt? He was definitely overlooked for his performance in “Young Adult.” Plummer will probably win the Oscar for his entire body of work as he won the Golden Globe as well.
Best Supporting Actress:
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
This is a surprising list with the nominees once again giving performances less cast in shadows than other possible contenders. There is no use in lamenting the missing Keira Knightley (“A Dangerous Method”) or Carey Mulligan (“Shame”). There is some excitement in wondering whether the Academy will be daring enough to give an Oscar to a woman who did some pretty unspeakable things in a bathroom sink. Melissa McCarthy, although lovable and hilarious, should probably not be awarded acting’s highest honor this time. Octavia Spencer seems to be the frontrunner.
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “Tree of Life”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Everything looks okay until…Terrence Malick? Why oh why must we be pestered with a movie that professes to symbolize so much more than it is able to get evoke? It is a strange world when David Fincher is snubbed in favor of Woody Allen, who does not manage to even make it to the awards shows and does not seem to give an Eiffel Tower. Usually the winning director is from the Best Picture, but the talented Hazanavicius may be thrown over for the favorite, Scorsese.
Some other surprises were the nominations of Kristen Wiig for original screenplay “Bridesmaids” and George Clooney for adapted screenplay “The Ides of March” (he may be a little worried now because the Academy does this spreading of wealth when you are not going to win, like when he won Best Supporting Actor for “Syriana” the year he was also nominated for Best Director for “Good Night and Good Luck”). Kudos to “A Separation” being nominated for original screenplay, a category in which we do not often see foreign language films. Other oddities were the absences of “The Adventures of Tintin” for Best Animated Feature, Angelina Jolie’s “In the Land of Blood and Honey” for Best Foreign Language Film, and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” for Trent Reznor’s score. The Academy was also unable to find five songs for the Best Original Song category, as there are only two songs nominated. For lack of a better word, that is a little jerky. Personally, “Man or Muppet” was probably not the strongest song in 2011. Glenn Close and Mary J. Blige may have had a good laugh about that.
The Oscar Nominations for 2012 prove that once again popularity is indeed not dead. Whoever the winners are though, hopefully Billy Crystal will have a bit of Ricky Gervais in him and make Eddie Murphy proud!