Oscar Biggest Snubs

Oscar’s 2012 Biggest Snubs

Yes, it’s that time of the year again,when newspaper and magazines are covered not only by the news of the movies that got nominated for the most prestigious Awards, but also the mentions of the ones that didn’t. When those golden statuettes are handed over to the makers behind the “Artist” (Let’s all face it: it’s going to happen), some big names are not going to be there among the audience. In fact, some truly deserving movies have been absolutely snubbed! Social networks like Twitter or Facebook all had their chances to raise their concerns about what’s gone unnoticed by the Academy. Most people seem to have been raging especially about one absence:  Ryan Gosling. Obviously writing and complaining about all this could seem a pretty pointless exercise… But not necessarily… The history of the Oscars is full of great snubs (and consequently people going up in arms against the Academy), but it’s also full of strange victories which might not have been particularly deserving, if it wasn’t for the fact that they happened to follow some great snub (most notably: Whoopy Goldberg missing out for “The Color Purple” and the following winning for “Ghost“, or even Martin Scorsese’s constant snubs over the years and his recent win for “The Departed”, just to mention a few). It is well known that Oscars are not aways given to the most deserving film (or person).In 1994 Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption both lost out to Forrest Gump. In 1998 Saving Private Ryan was shockingly beaten by Shakespeare in Love (cute film, yes, but Oscar worthy?)In 1989 Driving miss Daisy won over 4 more deserving films “Born on the Fourth of July“, “Dead Poets Society“, Field of Dreams, “My Left Foot“…  And back in 1980 Ordinary people won over both Elephant Man and Raging Bull. Many of those movies that today we consider masterpieces never got an Oscar: Taxi driver, Goodfellas, Apocalipse Now and Citizen Kane are just 4 of them… And I could go on forever. But the travesties don’t stop with Feature of Films. When it comes to awarding actors and directors it is just as bad: Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, David Lynch never won. Ralph Fiennes lost in the year of his brilliant performance in Schilndler’s List and somehow Marisa Tomei won as a supporting actress for My Cousin Vinny” (yes, I am not kidding!). Ok, let’s stop here, before I get a heart attack…

This is my list of the 10 biggest snubs for 2012. Let me know if you agree.

1 ) Ryan Gosling

This is the second time in a row that Ryan gets snubbed by the Academy. Last year for some obscure reason he was not even nominated for his great performance in Blue Valentine ,which was just as strong and powerful,l if not more, than the one by the nominated Michelle Williams (here’s my review of that film). It’s all even more shocking this year, since not only he seemed to be the front-runner with his dramatic (and yet restrained) performances in both Drive and the Ides of March, but also he also showed us his comedic timing with his supporting role in the surprisingly good Crazy Stupid Love.

 2) The Adventures of Tintin. The Secret of the Unicorn

Ok, we all probably agree that this wasn’t the greatest masterpiece of all time: the story felt segmented and slightly anticlimactic towards the end, the comic timing wasn’t always there, and the character of Tintin wasn’t always as engaging as he could have been. But as a piece of animation, it was impressive, rich, inventive and skilfully put together. Instead the Academy chose to ignore Spielberg’s first foray into 3D animation veering towards a much the more restrained and old-fashioned approach of A Cat in Paris  (Click here to see a clip from it) and Chico and Rita (here’s the trailer). While this was surely a choice to be praised and commended for, I’m not sure the same can be said about nominating uninspired filler-films like Kung-Fu Panda 2, Puss in boots. Even Rango, though probably the most deriving one on the US list is in the end rather forgettable.

 3) Drive

In a year of so many average-to-OK films, surely this one should have made the list, not just as a film or for its directing (and of course for Ryan Gosling as I have just mentioned above), but also for its stylish look, sharp and yet never flashy editing (which gave the film an almost palpable tension) and its use of music. Instead, one of the best films of the year  was relegated to just 1 nomination of best use of Sound Editing (a nomination which I always find very hard to distinguish from Sound Mixing. In fact they usually always go together, except in this case where Moneyball was nominated for sound mixing instead of Drive). And while I am at it, I should also mention the non-nomination for Albert Brooks (who many thought was a shoe-in) for supporting actor. All quite shocking, I have to say. In fact, a real shame!… And talking about “shame”…

 4) Michael Fassbender

Whether you liked  Shame or not, nobody can deny that Fassbender’s performance in the film was truly mesmerizing. The entire film focused on Micheal’s face and his body as he literally exposed himself to us. His every single weakness, every single thought and every single body part is there for us to see, as his tortured soul descend more and more towards hell. And even if  Shame was a bit too much for the Academy’s taste, his performances in both Jane Eyre , A Dangerous Method should at least have been noted. One thing is certain: both Fassbender and Goslinghave been the actors of 2012, and yet neither of them appears to be nominated.

 5) Tilda Swinton

Tilda’s haunting and shattering performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin was absolutely astonishing and possibly one of the best of her career. The fact that she’s not even among the list of nominees is nothing short of truly baffling. It seems that the film is another of those “downer” which are usually too harsh, too depressing and basically just not friendly enough to appear next to the word Oscar. In fact, not only Tilda didn’t make the list, but nor the film, nor its director, nor its script, nor the truly terrifying Ezra Miller (as the “Kevin” from the title), not even the ever perfect John C. Reilly (as Tilda’s husband in the film) who’s always getting sidelined, but who sooner or later should really be recognised for his many great characters over the years.

 6) Senna

This wasn’t a big surprise since we already knew that the film had not even made the long-list among the documentaries to be considered for the nomination, but that doesn’t make it any less of a snub. In fact it’s probably an even bigger one! Not that Senna needs any more awards or recognition to prove how good it is.  Made of just archive material and no talking-heads Senna was one  of the most powerful film (not just documentary) of the year not just for the Formula 1 fans but even for people like me who can hardly tell you the difference between a Ferrari and a McLaren. Riveting, inspired, incredibly moving and yet missing from the Oscar 2012.

 7) 50/50

Of course this isn’t masterpiece and some people may argue it shouldn’t really deserve any Oscar, but if the Help is up there, together with Bridesmaids and, let’s face it, Midnight in Paris, why can 50/50 be there as well. After all it was one of the bravest films coming out of Hollywood last few year which not only was able to tackle a subject like cancer with the constraints of a comedy, but it also did it with great respect, incredible taste and yet without hiding away from the harsh reality of the subject matter. Anyone in the film deserved to be at least mentioned: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, acutely observed performance, Seth Rogen‘s honest turn as best friend of somebody who’s been diagnosed with cancer, Jonathan Levine‘s directorial decisions to handle such a delicate subject without any of the lush, or even syrupy and cheesy ways that usually come with such a Hollywood product. Even Will Reiser‘s script (written from his own experience, usually a winner formula for getting an Oscar) was snubbed by the Academy.

 8) Leonardo di Caprio

Leo has never been very lucky at the Oscars. In 1993 was nominated for his greatest performance in What’s eating Gilberg Grape, but lost our to Tommy Lee Jones for the Fugitive (yes, indeed!!), back in 1997 he was the only person in the whole crew from Titanic who was completely snubbed (though he was one of the main reason for the astronomical success of that movie). He also lost for both the Aviator and Blood Diamonds and was sidelined for his roles in Catch me if you can and Revolutionary Road. J. Edgar is definitely not a good film (And that’s why it received zero nominations! Here’s my review), but nor is The Iron Lady (and here’s the review for that one too) and yet that didn’t stop Meryl Streep for being nominated (and hopefully win her 3rd highly deserved Oscar!). Leo’s performance was not just the best thing in the film, but actually very good. Unfortunately it probably suffered too much by all those way-too-many layers of latex of all the prosthetics he was forced to wear, but I would have certainly chosen him over Brad Pitt in Moneyball (By the way, how strange to find Pitt nominated for Moneyball and not The Tree of Life).

 9) Motion Capture Performance

During the recent Oscar campaign Fox has been asking Academy members to consider Andy Serkis’s turn as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes as one of the top male performances. However when it comes to Motion-capture technology, it is very hard to tell where does the actual performance come from:is it the actor behind the pixels or  the animator who took the performance and transformed it and enhanced it. It is a fair argument, however the same can be said about normal performances and direction orediting. Was that particular reaction just spot on because of the greatness of the actor or because of the way the director cheated the actor into it and the way the editor was able to smoothly cut it into the film (famously Hitchcock used to have fun in shocking his actresses by unzipping his pants and filming their reactions to be used in his films to be used in completely different contexts. And Spielberg himself told stories of how he got some of the best performances out of children by cheating, playing or even lying to them). Whatever the truth is, you can still tell Andy Serkis out of all the apes in Rise of the Planets of the Apes: his eyes in the film tell a thousand more words than any of the other performances in any other film of the year. It’s about time the Academy starts recognising this new art.

 10) Steven Spielberg

The Academy and Steven Spielberg have always had a troublesome relationship ever since Jaws in 1975 (which was nominated for best film, but not for best director). The biggest snub came ten years later in 1985 when The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars (except for director) and ended up winning none. In 1987 Empire of the sun won none of the 6 nominations (and once again Spielberg didn’t make the list),   Schindler’s list was the game-changer of course and Saving Private Ryan confirmed that things were indeed changing as he won his second Golden Award as best director (however missing out of best film, which shockingly went to Shakespeare in Love). Since then his films have arguably been less good (and this statement comes from somebody who adores Spielberg!!) so it’s not surprising to find the number of nominations and awards getting slimmer and slimmer. Even his 2005 Munich which received 5 nods, didn’t actually win any Oscar. War Horse is certainly a flawed movie, but some of the best sequences in it are good because of Spielberg and not despite of him. Nominating the film and not his director always makes very little sense to me. Even more so, in the case of War Horse (especially when it’s missing out against  In a year when even Tintin missed out on its chance for an Oscar it seems to me that we are going back to the early days when Spielberg was ignored just because it was Spielberg. We may have to wait until next year with the release of his next Lincoln to see whether the spell can be broken (or, somebody may argue, whether he can actually make a good film). If you’re interested,

11) Harry Potter

This has always been something peculiar: not a single Harry Potter movie has ever won an Oscar. Some of you may say “well, rightly so”, but it has to be said that this isn’t just the most successful movie franchise in history (close to 7 billion $ at the time of writing this, in the cinema alone) but it has been quite groundbreaking on the level of care and attention as far as set design, art direction, costumes, and special effects. And let’s not forget John Williams’ classic soundtrack. Were any of those elements any less impressive then the ones in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (which actually ended up getting awards left and right on every single instalment?). I would probably take this even further and say that the last few films have even been beautifully filmed and choreographed. recently a lot of fans have been campaigning for Alan Rickman to be nominated for the latest instalment. This is something that sort of makes sense if you have watched the entire series and considered the character that Mr Rickman has been creating throughout the 8 films. Unfortunately Academy awards doesn’t always work like that and to give something to an actor who only appears for a few minutes in a film (even though it has happened before) is something of a rarity. With 3 nominations this year, hopes are still high, but it will be rather shocking if even this film (arguably one of the best!) didn’t win anything.

12) Commedies

This is part of a never-ending debate at the Oscar: comedies very rarely get award recognitions, as if the genre isn’t to be taken seriously, or worse as if comedies were easier to make. That it probably one of the few good things about the Golden Globes, where awards are given to both comedies and dramas (though sometimes the line between them is very hard to define: is 50/50 a drama or a comedy? And what about the beautiful Beginners, incidentally another overlooked film at the Oscars this year). As any writer or director will be able to tell you, it’s a lot harder to make a smart comedy that is genuinely funny and feels fresh than a make people cry with one of those heavy-weight dramas, with period costumes or grand sets. However, once again comedies have been snubbed by the Academy in favours of those typical weepy (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close being the worse offender). And so Bridesmaids got overlooked for the best feature film, and so did My Week with Marilyn, Crazy Stupid Love and of course50/50. Oh wait, what about Midnight in Paris? Well, Woody Allen seems to be the only person on the planet whose film can be nominated for an Oscar, even if it’s only half memorable

here’s the definitive list of all the biggest Oscar omissions and snubs.

The Tree of Life – Review

The Tree of Life (2011) 

Directed by Terrence Malick. Starring Brad PittSean PennJessica Chastain.

What really makes me angry about this film is that behind the preposterous, pretentious, tediously slow, shockingly simplistic muddle of philosophical clichés, there was actually a good story waiting to be told by a potentially great director.

Those scenes with the kids for example (whose acting was particularly graceful and natural) were indeed nicely handled and gave you a little hint of how much better the film could have been if only director Terence Malick had been a little bit less full of himself.

Instead he decided to cram it all with heavy, pretentious, superfluous, confusing and rather conventional voice over, plastered all over the soundtrack, preventing his audience from any emotional response to the film.

All that was enhanced even more by the constant choral musical score (including requiem from Bach, Mozart, Gorecki, Respighi, Holst and God knows how many others) which gave the film the same monotone feel throughout.

It’s as if there was only one gear controlling the pace of this film.

The parallel with Kubrick’s 2001: A space Odyssey comes quite natural: in a way this film has the same ideals and touches most of the same grounds as Kubrick’s classic and because of that, dare-I-say, falls into the exact same faults: the sketchy narrative, overblown abstractions and the slow pace.

By while in Kubrick’s’ case, those “faults” were also counterbalanced by the gripping relationship between man and machine and a strong sense of wonder towards heaven and earth, in the case of Malick’s Tree of Life, there’s a certain pompousness which makes it really annoying. Also it is both too inaccessible and too obvious. Finally Malick’s detatched style makes it really hard for anyone to care: in my very humble view the film should have been much more focused on the central story.

There was absolutely no need to show us the beginning of the Universe, nor the end of the dinosaurs age (incidentally, the dinosaurs looked better back in 1993 when Spielberg made Jurassic Park!). In fact, there was probably not even need for Sean Penn to be there at all: everything the film wanted to tell us was right there within the central story of the American family in the 50s.

And there was definitely no need for that terribly smultzy and contrived final sequence which was supposed to show the end of the world and give us a vision of “heaven” but  actually ended up looking more like some outtakes from the actual film’s wrap party, with all the actors re-uniting again and congratulating each other on how good they all were. Or was it just Malick’s own version of the finale of the TV series LOST?

Everything in the film is heavily soaked in symbolism and religion. I read somewhere that Brad Pitt’s character was supposed to symbolise the “Old Testament” and his wife was the “New Testament”. I did noticed that the two of them were never shown talking to each other, and if they were it was always through a glass or from far away or  even off-camera, preventing us from hearing their dialogue or to see them interacting with each other.

But does all this stylish trickery and heavy subtext really make the film any better? Certainly not for me.

In fact it  is all too disappointingly literal and frustratingly patchy that in the end it just comes out  as cold and distant. So much so that I just couldn’t really care about anyone in this film… and for a film that’s about life and love that is a terrible fault.

All these attempts to elevate the small-scale, intimate family drama by intercutting cosmic sequences of the beginning of the universe in order to give a deeper meaning to the soul-searching of the characters are finally not enough to compensate for a lack of dramatic involvement and in the end, they just overwhelm the actual story.

Even the beautiful cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (where everything seems to be filmed at magic hour) becomes self-indulgent, repetitive and tedious. There’s only a certain amount of trees, waterfalls and shots of glinting sun flaring at the lens you can take.

It’s hard to believe that this is only Terence Malick’s 5th feature film as a director since 1973. The Tree of Life has all his distinct signature trademarks (the beautifully photographed shots of nature, the use voice over and music and the themes of the film themselves), but are they just trademarks or is he  actually making the same sort of film over and over again?

Whatever the answer is, apparently all this was enough for the judges in Cannes to assign it the Palme d’or, back in May 2011.

Some people in Cannes said that Malick is more of an “artist” then a film-maker. But as somebody once also said “to make art is to fail” and he clearly does fail with this film, mainly because he just tries too hard. If only he hadn’t aimed so high, he would have certainly made a better film, but as it stand “The Tree of Life” is an epic failure…

5.5/10

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