I’ve never done an Oscar post but, hey, this half a film blog, it’s time for a new post and the nominations came out this morning. If you need a primer on who is nominated, click here.
If you read my last post, 2013 In Review, you read about my favorite films of the year: her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Prisoners, American Hustle and Before Midnight. I won’t go over my reasons for loving these again. But while it is no surprise Prisoners received little love from the Academy, it’s a damn shame Llewyn Davis also was almost completely overlooked, save a well deserved nomination for Cinematography, which, thankfully Prisoners also received. Prisoners is simply too dark and unsettling for the current Academy to embrace. It’s also regarded as a mystery-thriller. While Prisoners is much deeper than a standard mystery-thriller, this type of movie rarely gets love from the Academy, hence Alfred Hitchcock’s scandalous lack of nominations over the years. Llewyn Davis, though… well, I guess I can’t say it is a huge surprise, given how many people did not like the film. Those of us who love it, though, continue to champion it as one of the best films in many years. I am confident years from now this snub will be looked back on as, well, a polite terms would be short sighted.
I’m thrilled her was nominated for Best Picture. I was worried. It’s so modern and original and deep I figured a lot of the older members might not get it. (This happened when the equally brilliant Inception was completely overlooked.) Spike Jonze thankfully received a well deserved screenplay nomination and has, I think, a very good chance to win. His not being nominated for Best Director, though, is a huge shame, particularly given his slot was taken by Martin Scorcese. The Wolf Of Wall Street isn’t a bad film. It’s enjoyable, sure, and boasts some terrific performances. But it’s overlong and undisciplined with little to say about anything. As with many Scorcese movies, it’s a huge mess. The elegance, humor, beauty and creepiness of her, combined with the fact it has a great deal to say, should have given Jonze the slot. But, to be blunt, Scorcese can shit on toast, submit the toast and get a nomination. My own guild, the Directors Guild Of America, did the same thing to my great irritation. DGA, you at least should know better. Alfonso Cuaron pretty much has a lock on Best Director for Gravity. When he wins, it will be deserved. But David O. Russell could be a surprise win here and that would make me just as happy, even more so to be honest. I love American Hustle and think Russell is the best director working in Hollywood today. Two years in a row all four acting categories have been filled with actors from his movies – Silver Linings Playbook (winning Best Actress) and American Hustle. A year before that, with The Fighter, three actors were nominated and two won. This is very rare and is indicative of the work he is doing.
Cate Blanchett is as sure a thing as can be predicted this Oscar year. She’s a wonderful actress, one of the best, and her performance in Blue Jasmine is stunning. If she were to lose (isn’t going to happen) I think it would be only to the surprise and wonderful nomination of Amy Adams for American Hustle. I wrote about Amy Adams in my year end review so I won’t go on about her again here but if anyone can sneak by Cate, Amy could do it. Kudos to the Academy for this nomination.
The surprise snub was Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks. Sure, Saving Mr. Banks is in many ways a superficial crowd pleaser designed to tug at the audience’s heart strings. But Emma Thompson’s work was incredible. Even in such a polished, celebratory film, she had a dark toughness that gave the movie an edge it needed. She deserved a nomination over Meryl Streep. Look, I’m as big a Meryl fan as anyone. Check out my video tribute to movies below and you will see an entire section devoted to her. But both the film August: Osage County and Meryl herself missed somehow. I saw this play, which was 3.5 hours long, three times in one week. (Obsessive? Me??) It’s one of the great triumphs of the American Theatre, deserving of every accolade it won, including the Pulitzer. But the filmmakers stripped the play of its outrageous humor, turning what was shocking and hilarious on stage into something depressive and a bit dull on film. They also backed off the ghastly meanness of the mother, Violet. Whether this was Streep’s decision or the director John Well’s decision is hard to know. Perhaps they felt audiences could not handle Violet as depicted on stage. If you have only seen the movie, you have no idea the depth of meanness and ferocity of Violet. The movie’s Violet is a pale comparison. The movie was also hurt by condensing the play so much. Many of the characters were given a very short shrift.
I did, however, think Julia Roberts was terrific in A:OC. Even though her character also was stripped of humor, Roberts was stellar and strong and I am glad she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Jennifer Lawrence seems the front runner here for her balls out, hilarious and wonderful work in American Hustle but don’t count of 12 Years A Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o to slide in. An award for Nyong’o could be 12 Years A Slave‘s big win, unless American Hustle and Gravity split the vote and it wins Best Picture.
The big news for many this morning was the ‘snub’ of both Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips (a movie I did not particularly like) and Robert Redford’s career defining work in All Is Lost. Both snubs were indeed a surprise. The big news for me, though, was the deserved nomination of Christian Bale in American Hustle. Bale truly is a chameleon. His work in Hustle is so good, he wasn’t getting a lot of love in the awards season run-up. He makes it seem too effortless. This nomination gave me the greatest pleasure this morning. Bale is amazing in the movie. 5 minutes in you are not watching an actor who gained a lot of weight and created the best worst toupee/combover in movie history. 5 minutes in you are instead watching Irving Rosenfeld, a fat, bald but charming con artist who becomes the surprising heart of the movie. Bale won’t win but this is a good example of the nomination being what is important. Thank you Academy. He’s great, the movie is great, go see it if you haven’t and enjoy. I was also glad to see Leonardo De Caprio get nominated for a terrific star performance in The Wolf Of Wall Street. He frequently doesn’t get the recognition he deserves and while the movie was just fine, I’m glad to see his work was highlighted, though this was probably what knocked out Redford.
It’s indeed a shame James Gandolfini was passed over for his lovely work in the equally lovely Enough Said. Perhaps not enough members saw the movie. For me, this is the most boring category of this particular year. Jared Leto has a very strong chance for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. As for me, I’ll refer you back to Bill Murray’s brilliant comment about this category on Saturday Night Live in years past.
It’s been a very, very strong year for movies. That’s terrific. While not every picture that deserved a lot of nomination love received it (case in point, Before Midnight, which also should be up for Best Picture and hopefully will at least win the Adapted Screenplay Award), the nominations are pretty strong, even given some very big snubs. In some of the categories, the work was so strong there was no way everyone deserving of a nomination could fit into five slots.
Many of these movies are being rereleased around the country because of the nominations. Do yourself a favor and go check out some of the best movies of the last few years. And if you haven’t yet seen it, check out my own film geek love fest I created to movies in the 3 minute video below.