The harbingers of doom.
Carnage, I tell you. Absolute carnage.
By the time the nominees for the 85th annual Academy Awards were revealed, the overwhelming buzz coming out of nomination morning was not about who was included, but who was left off the list.
Because there were so many names left off.
Usually, you can count on one or two well regarded names missing out on an Oscar nomination. It’s just the way it goes when there are only five nominees in most categories. Some people get left behind. But this year represents a high water mark in the number of heavily favored, big name individuals whose names were not called… the supposed locks that weren’t locked in at all. A whole swath of expectations crashed and burned.
Talk about a bloodbath.
The most jaw-dropping omissions took place within the Director’s category.
The Director’s Guild nominations, a usually reliable indicator of where industry sentiment is heading, only named two out of the five eventual nominees for Oscar’s Best Director; Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and Ang Lee (Life of Pi).
Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Ben Affleck (Argo) and Tom Hooper (Les Misérables) were all thought to be safe bets going into this morning… yet none of them were nominated. It’s like some gold-plated version of The Hunger Games. Even Django Unchained helmer Quentin Tarantino, who was thought by many to be a potential spoiler in the category, was also left off the roll call.
I cannot overstate how shocking a development this is. These were the biggest directors of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. The winners of critic award after critic award. And they were all snubbed. And with these directorial omissions, you’ve got to consider the Best Picture chances of their respective films have all but disappeared.
Not since 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy has a movie won Best Picture without a corresponding directing nomination. This will not, in all probability, be the year that that stat will be rendered moot.
It didn’t end with the directors.
The Screen Actors Guild, also usually reliable, included many of the names missing from this morning’s announcements. Helen Mirren, Marion Cotillard, Javier Bardem, Nicole Kidman, John Hawkes and Maggie Smith were all missing from Oscar’s list. So were much loved performers such as Matthew McConaughey, Ezra Miller, Samuel L. Jackson and oft-snubbed Leonardo DiCaprio. Apparently, Oscar was hellbent on treating some people like Taylor Swift’s exes.
It didn’t end with the actors.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Rust and Bone, Cloud Atlas and Looper… every single one of these films was expected to be players in some capacity. And they all scored a grand total of zero nominations.
What does all this all mean going forward?
It means that from here on out, only three films have a realistic shot at getting Best Picture now. And I’m being a bit charitable.
Looming large over the morning was Spielberg’s Lincoln. With a field-leading twelve nominations overall, it was the absolute force of the morning. Reading the very early tea-leaves, you’d have to consider that film the prohibitive favorite to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Lee’s Life of Pi followed with eleven nominations. Its weakness continues to be a lack of direct actor support. None of the actors in the film were nodded and films without nominated actors aren’t often invited into the winner’s circle (films like Slumdog Millionaire are an unusual exception).
One favorite doesn’t have to worry about actor’s support. Silver Linings Playbook managed eight nominations this morning, half of them in the acting categories – accomplishing the rare feat of scoring nods in every acting category.
But let’s not forget that Silver Linings’ director, David O. Russell was not mentioned by the Golden Globes or the DGA. That’s a real problem. It is also a comedy and comedies have proven to be kryptonite to Oscar voters. But it is a strong player, nonetheless.
The only other films with the crucial Picture/Director/Screenplay support are Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild. That’s it. Those are the players.
One already senses that autopsies are being written about the films that went wanting.
Did the torture controversy send Academy members running away from Zero Dark Thirty? Does this mean Affleck is doomed to get the Martin Scorsese treatment for all his movies? Did all of those weird close-ups and Dutch angles doom Les Misérables?
The answers are probably; not ready to make that call; and… Russell Crowe’s singing also helped (talk about scenes of torture).
The biggest losers in all of this, in my humble opinion, are the seemingly hundreds of critics groups and associations that are all playing a losing game of trying to influence the Oscar race.
The films mostly benefiting from their creatively dead groupthink have now been rendered also-rans in the race. The movies these voting bodies have championed to the point of nausea have, mostly, been spayed and neutered.
The Academy, in a strategic move to blunt the influence of these outside groups and make the race (and their multi-million dollar ceremony) fresh and exciting again, moved up their deadline for ballot collection.
This year’s Oscar nomination morning took place more than a week earlier than it has in the past. In previous years, especially since the glut of all of the other televised awards appeared on the landscape, the Oscars looked like Johnny-come-latelies. By the time the Oscar nominations were announced, the SAG awards, Broadcast Film Critics and Golden Globes had already handed out their hardware.
Not this year. The Broadcast Film Critics hand out their prizes tonight. And many of their nominees already know that their hopes for Oscar are over.
The Golden Globes takes place this Sunday and, aside from watching Tina Fey and Amy Poehler cut it up from the stage, the show will offer little in terms of influence on the race. Many of their nominees will be seeing the Globes as the end of their award season.
And that’s the point. The voters are now free to go their own way. And while many favorites will be turned to gold dust because of the compressed time frame, not having everything spelled out for us by the time stars are walking down Oscar’s red carpet does make for an unusually exciting race.
So maybe descriptors such as bloodbath and carnage are misleading. Maybe rebirth is a better word.
I have an Oscar question for you: there are two performances this year that I thought were really spectacular but only had two lines and about four minutes screen time each. I’m speaking of the housekeeper Sahar (Sheila Vand) in Argo, whose two lines are both delivered with real dramatic weight and both times really crank up the drama of the film, and the random factory worker who steals Fantine’s letter in Les Mis (Kate Fleetwood), whose malice shines through quite magnificently for a couple of minutes and then she is never mentioned again.
While neither of these performances have enough time to be varied enough to be oscar-worthy, do you think the academy will ever honor the extremely minor characters that can sometimes add so much enjoyment to one scene? After all, it could do a wonder for either of these women’s careers, as I’d never heard of them before.
–The Wizard in Oz
It’s funny, Wizard, that I instantly knew exactly who you were talking about. Yes, Shelia Vand and Kate Fleetwood were amazing in their small roles. I remember an actor named Max Perlich who was devastating with just a few small scenes in a movie called Georgia.
I wish that I could say that really, really small performances like those could catch Oscar’s eye. But remember that Oscar campaigns are backed by millions of dollars because an Oscar win is the best marketing tool a movie without explosions and alien invasions could ever have. And a studio is probably not going to back the campaign of an actor in one scene unless their name is Judi Dench.
I have been in a debate lately with a friend over this but do you think Adele deserves an Oscar for ’Skyfall’?
Oh boy, do I. I was happy, thrilled, aroused and maybe even slightly menopausal (who knew?) upon Adele getting the nod for her James Bond theme song. Here are just a few of the reasons why I think she deserves to win.
The lyrics are multi-faceted. What could have been a simple love song contains subtext that reflects the actual thematic current in the film… without calling attention to itself. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that it relates to what Skyfall actually represents for Bond in the film.
Also, it singlehandedly revived Bond theme songs which have mostly really awful over the past ten years. A notable exception being “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale because that theme at least rose to listenable. It’s also timeless. It evokes the spirit of those fabulous Shirley Bassey songs from the early Bond movies like Diamonds are Forever and Goldfinger.
And third… have you heard some of those other nominees? Everybody Needs a Best Friend? Really? Blech!
The answer to the last trivia question – Name the only editing team to ever win back-to-back Oscars for Best Editing. Also, what films did they win for?
The answer is the incomparable Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who edited David Fincher’s The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Thanks to everyone who participated. The winner of this week’s BriOut ShoutOut is…
To get your BriOut ShoutOut next week, be the first to correctly answer this week’s trivia question.
Name the last musical adaptation to feature an Oscar-winning original song? Also, what was the name of the song?
Fun or serious questions about the award season? Send them in to get answers. You can pose them in the comments section, email me at BriOutAE@gmail.com, or tweet them to @BriOutAE and I’ll get right to work. Answers will appear in next week’s column.