Before I go off on a rant about this year’s Oscar nominations, let me say this:
2013 was a pretty good movie year. I went to the movies more often than in the previous few years, and left the theater smiling way more than scowling.
Good stuff from both mainstream Hollywood and independents. Some great performances that will probably stand the test of time. It was also an amazing year for movies with female leads, with movies such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Heat, Gravity and Frozen showing that stories focusing on female characters can really rake in the bucks. In fact, Catching Fire currently tops 2013 in domestic box office.
So an array of great movies and performances means that OF COURSE there were going to be some big Oscar snubs. But, boy, a few of them really got my goat.
1. Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) not receiving a Best Actor nomination. YES, this was a VERY competitive category this year, no question. Any year they snub Tom Hanks and Robert Redford in lauded roles is a strong year for male leads. This is also a movie not many people curled up with and adored. It’s a difficult film about a difficult man.
That wouldn’t be such a big deal normally, but I think one reason Isaac was snubbed is not because his character is not nice, but because he’s a failure. Hollywood doesn’t like failures, even fictional ones.
This is a damned shame, because Isaac is magnificent in the role. He not only creates an indelible character, but also performs all but one of the songs in the movie live (most of the time, songs are recorded ahead of filming). Isaac is a professional musician and singer, but folk music is not his genre, and he’s completely convincing as a talented folk musician who can’t catch a break. I wish Isaac had caught a break here, because he’s an actor to watch now.
2. Gravity snubbed in the screenwriting category. Again, I get the reasoning behind the snub: many people complain the screenplay for Gravity is “lightweight” and didn’t have much of an actual story. I would characterize it as “lean,” not lightweight. It’s a very focused screenplay that keeps its mind on the survival of Sandra Bullock’s character. I applaud them for NOT giving into pressure to add things like a romance, or some silly conspiracy theory, or other unnecessary plot points.
The fact that they did not receive a screenplay nomination makes it highly unlikely that the movie will win Best Picture. It’s not unheard of (Titanic won without a screenplay nomination) but it definitely cuts down on its chances.
3. The knee-jerk nomination for Meryl Streep. Don’t get me wrong—I LOVE Meryl, adore her, she is the greatest actress of her generation. But it’s like they use her to plug a hole every chance they get to try to hide the fact that, in contrast to the male acting categories, it can be difficult to fill up the slots in the female acting categories. (The same could be said if Emma Thompson had won the slot for Saving Mr. Banks.) It would have been nice to see someone out-of-the-box take the slot, such as Brie Larson for Short Term 12 or Julia-Louis Dreyfuss for Enough Said.
4. The prejudice against the sci-fi/fantasy genres is now spreading to even the technical categories. WHAT. THE. WHAT. We now live in a world where a Jackass movie has an Oscar nomination, folks. Yeah, yeah, there are people defending its nomination in the Makeup and Hairstyling category, saying that in spite of the film’s quality, the makeup is an outstanding achievement.
O.K., if that’s the case, WHY was Cloud Atlas snubbed in the same category last year? No matter what ones opinion of the movie was, there is no question the makeup was amazing, transforming several actors so they could credibly play characters of different races and genders.
Even more absurd is The Lone Ranger nod in the same category. Sorry, but no amount of makeup was ever going to make Johnny Depp convincing as Tonto.
No matter how terrific I think Catching Fire is I knew it stood absolutely NO chance in the major categories. However, seeing it snubbed AGAIN in the makeup category is too much. Ve Neill has done incredible work on the two Hunger Games films; her snub can’t be for any reason other than snobbery. The same goes for Trish Summerville’s snub in the costume design category. Not only did she correct the missteps made in the first movie, she actually understood that fashion is an important part of the story. Katniss’ wedding dress transforming into the Mockingjay costume is a critical turning point, and she did a stellar job of making it a convincing moment in the movie.
5. “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey from The Great Gatsby was not among the Best Song nominees. Let’s see, a song that PERFECTLY embodies the themes of the movie, hauntingly performed—yeah, don’t bother to nominate it.
Let’s face it, it probably would have had NO chance of winning (if “Let it Go” from Frozen doesn’t win, I will think we have all been suddenly sucked into an alternate reality) but it certainly deserved recognition. Are people still griping about Del Rey’s Saturday Night Live performance from a few years ago?
Best Actor: Lots of people predicting Bruce Dern will win for Nebraska. I don’t think so. The “sentimental” vote for older actors is mostly a myth. More and more, Oscar goes for the younger actors. I think the race is between Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club). Ejiofor is the newish guy (as far as the Academy goes) in a strong movie. Hollywood loves when actors do something unexpected, such as McConaughey’s turn. Also, McConaughey has the Golden Globe and the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) award, so his may be a train that’s impossible to stop at this point.
Best Actress: I would make it between Amy Adams (American Hustle) and Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine). The Academy absolutely adores giving awards for the roles Woody Allen writes for women, so this is a big plus in Blanchett’s favor. However, Adams is on her fifth nomination and they may feel like it’s her time.
Best Supporting Actor: Between Jared Leto (Dallas Buyer’s Club) and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave). Leto has won the Golden Globe and several other awards. Fassbender is the “It” Guy actor. His work is beloved by many and this is his first nomination. However, the supporting categories tend to be somewhat unpredictable, so I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) nabbed it.
Best Supporting Actress: If 12 Years a Slave does a sweep of awards, I would expect to see Lupita Nyong’o get it. Lots of people predicting Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) will get back-to-back Oscars. I hope not. Love her to death, but she’ll have many, many opportunities to win in the future and all this would do is spark a backlash against her. This is another category where surprises happen, so it could be up for grabs.
Animated Feature: Frozen. Duh. Not just because it’s the Disney offering this year, but because it did a stunning job of melding what is great about their classic animated features with a more complex story and characters. The music is awesome. As I walked out of the theater, people in the audience were actually singing “Let it Go” as it played over the credits.
You know the last time that happened when I was in a theater?
Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave has the best chance here, I think. If it doesn’t do a sweep of awards, this is the logical place they can honor it.
Original Screenplay: My pick is Her, because I can totally see Academy voters going for a story of a man falling in love with a woman who doesn’t exist. If American Hustle sweeps a lot of categories, it might take this one, too.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron should take this for Gravity, regardless of which movie wins Best Picture. It was a stunning directorial accomplishment.
Best Picture: I don’t think The Wolf of Wall Street will win—in fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict it may end up with no awards at all by the end of the night. The Academy voting pool skews older and some were deeply offended by the movie. If 12 Years a Slave wins some early awards, I would think that’s an indication it will win Best Picture. There’s a lot of talk that American Hustle will get it. I’m not a fan of the film’s director, David O. Russell, but people could be right. For some reason he’s a critics’ darling and 12 Years a Slave may be seen by some as too brutal (translation: too honest) a film.
It should be an interesting Oscar race! What are your predictions? Let us know in the comments section!
2014 Oscar Nominees Complete List – (oscar.go.com)
Snubbed: A 2014 Oscars Tribute – (sleeplessthought.wordpress.com)