No matter how complete and thoughtful the list of Oscars nominees are, there’s always some who are left out who perhaps should not be. Though this year’s list of top films were fairly tight and limited, there were still some significant snubs from various categories. I’ll break them down here; some that were universally decried, some just from my own personal experience with the films of 2012.
2013 Oscars Director Category
I’ll cover this much more extensively in my Oscars director race next week, the nominations for this year’s Oscars are nothing short of perplexing. Two past winners were notably snubbed besides Best Picture nominations: Katheryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, won for Hurt Locker) and Tom Hooper (Les Miserables, won for The King’s Speech). Two other previous Oscars winners were also passed over: Ben Affleck (Argo, won for writing for Good Will Hunting) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained, won for writing for Pulp Fiction and 2 previous Director noms).
Nominated in their place were the directors for Amour (Michael Haneke) and Beasts of a Southern Wild (Zeitlin). Most insiders were shocked when both Haneke and Zeitlin were announced; most figured it would be a long shot that one of them would be nominated, let alone both. Even Zeitlin thought so, giving a soundbite to the effect of thinking he was out when he heard Haneke’s name first.
Looper – Picture, Director, Writing
If you haven’t seen Looper, you really need to. It’s an incredibly well done film with terrific acting, taut writing and directing, and a real message to convey about morality and the idea of sacrifice for the greater good. It was marketed (and had to be) as half sci-fi, half shoot-em-up (and it does have these elements), and this was likely its downfall. Very often, people have a tendency to confuse subject matter with the quality of a film (The Dark Knight rises being one of the most famous examples).
Moonrise Kingdom – Picture, Director
This is a terrific little film that deserved a lot more than just a writing nomination and $45 million at the box office. Wes Anderson is a director with a talent for dialogue and quirk, and his movies always bring something different to the table (for better or worse; I hated Rushmore, but loved this and The Darjeeling Limited). He made the terrific decision of surrounding the inexperienced child leads with a diverse and experienced cast of Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton and others, and made a little story seem like something a lot more.
The Avengers – Writing (Joss Whedon)
The Avengers was a terrific, fun film. But it deserves an Oscars nomination due to Whedon’s whip-smart writing. Whedon had to take four major characters (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Hulk), combined with four less major but still important people (Nick Fury, The Black Widow, Hawkeye and Agent Paulson), introduce them in a way that someone who hadn’t seen the four other movies would understand and yet leave enough time to tell a story. Whedon accomplished all of this, and still managed to add layers and depth to each of his players while keeping his pacing high and building tension with each passing scene. If an impossible but well executed writing task doesn’t deserve an Oscars nomination, I don’t know what does.
Django Unchained – Director, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson
Both DiCaprio and Jackson turned in Oscars-worthy performances that brought both a strong sense of evil and humor to the film. Christoph Waltz received a nod for his role in the film, and likely people didn’t want to see two, let alone THREE, actors nominated from such a controversial movie. But they were certainly deserving of Oscars nominations.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Writing, Ezra Miller (Supporting Actor) & Emma Watson (Supporting Actress)
There’s a lot of film about coming of age and fitting in in High School. Most of them suck, or at least devolve into schmaltzy cliches within the first few frames and seldom deserved to be mentioned for Oscars. While Perks did suffer from some of this, it did everything so well you didn’t really notice. You also didn’t fully understand what the film was REALLY about until the ending, yet it felt fully realized and true – another difficult feat. Ezra Miller and Emma Watson were also snubbed for Oscars nominations here, though Miller much more than Watson. With a depressed and quiet leading man, it was up to Miller to add flair, personality and comic relief to the film, and he virtually stole every scene. Watson was much more subdued most of the time, but did a terrific job of capturing the emotions of each scene and proving she is much more than the girl from Harry Potter.
The Sessions – John Hawkes (Actor)
I can’t fully explain this one unless you’ve seen the film. John Hawkes plays a guy who can’t move anything besides his head, yet is a full-time writer and manages to engage in a sexual relationship. Just check it out and see if you disagree with me.
The Dark Knight Rises
You’ll notice I didn’t list any specific Oscars category here, but I want to discuss it anyway. First off, let me say that the TDK trilogy from Nolan rank among my favorite movies of all time; all three of them. Also that I liked Rises better than The Dark Knight, but that the latter was the superior movie overall. Why is this? Rises suffers from an odd thing from a 2 hour, 50 minute movie: It’s TOO SHORT. Let me explain: Nolan initially turned in a four hour cut to the studio for Rises, and supposedly it got a standing ovation from all the studio big-wigs. The story was huge and very ambitious; a number of characters were introduced and Nolan really wanted to shine a light on a world fraying at its edges. However, the film wasn’t as good because parts of it were too rushed, condensed or stilted. One notable point in my view is when Bruce Wayne does actually “rise”, the moment of triumph is so cut off that it’s hard to have any emotional connection to it. This doesn’t mean that he should have cut the film; he should have found a natural breaking point and split it into two films. It feels like Nolan sacrificed his vision in order to meet a run-time and not annoy his audience by showing two films. Had he have done this, the film might have been much better received (and plenty of films have accomplished the split just fine).
NOT A SNUB: Skyfall and Javier Bardem
Many praised Bardem’s role. In my opinion, Bardeem was one of the worst parts about the movie and everything functioned better without him. His entire arc makes little sense under scrutiny, and Bardem plays his villain so far over the top it’s past the point of believability – even in the world of Bond. Even though the film devolved into an ending reminiscent of Home Alone (which actually works), Bardem’s role hurt the movie, not raised it up.