Golden Statues and Outrage: The Oscar Nominations

This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled the entries for each of their twenty four categories in anticipation of this year’s 84th Academy Awards show. As is always the case, response among critics and film writers has been mixed, characterized by raised eyebrows, occasional high praise and pleasant surprise, and most of all, ire. In case you haven’t seen the list yourself, or you just don’t remember who’s been nominated for what– because I can’t even remember who the Best Picture nominees are for more than ten minutes– I’ve reproduced the official list below.

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Best Actor
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Actress
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, and Nat Faxon, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, Moneyball
Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Animated Film
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Best Foreign Language Film
Bullhead (Belgium)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)

Art Direction
The Artist
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
War Horse

Costume Design
The Artist
Jane Eyre

Documentary Feature
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Documentary Short
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Film Editing
The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston, and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk, and Yolanda Toussieng
The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (Original Score)
The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams

Music (Original Song)
“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio” from Rio, Sergio Mendes, Carlinhos Brown, and Siedah Garrett

Short Film (Animated)
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Short Film (Live Action)
The Shore
Time Freak
Tuba Atlantic

Sound Editing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Sound Mixing
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Visual Effects
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

I don’t react to Oscar nomination announcements. I react to reactions to Oscar nomination announcements. Like last year, I’m barely on the boat for 2012’s ceremony; my lukewarm feelings are the same as they’ve ever been, and I won’t take up space by reiterating here what I established 365 days ago. Bottom line, I pay attention to the Oscars out of obligation. All other award shows barely make a blip on my radar, at least for the time being.

No, what’s more interesting to me is reading how other people read the nominations. The biggest surprises this year seem to be the nomination of The Muppets in the Best Song category, Demián Bichir’s Best Actor nod, and the shocking resurgence of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, gasping for breath with an indomitable defiance that’s almost impressive. The greatest affronts seem to be the summary snubbing of Michael Fassbender and Michael Shannon, two actors so highly praised for their respective performances in Shame and Take Shelter that their candidacy seemed to be a foregone conclusion, and the exclusion of Andy Serkis for his work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is to say nothing of Tintin being boxed out of the Best Animated Film category.

Is it worth quietly decrying these sorts of perceived offenses? Or is it reasonable to expect that everything we liked in a release year should get some kind of attention at the biggest cinematic awards ceremony of the year? With only two dozen categories, and only room for five nominations in each (save for Best Picture, of course), someone’s bound to get left out. I don’t have a problem with reacting with displeasure to the nominations– everyone is entitled to their own feelings, after all– but history’s shown us that inevitably, something we deem worthy of laurels will get overlooked.

So what do you think of the Oscars this year? Disappointed? Excited? Intrigued? Unimpressed? Where do you fit in? Who should have gotten nominated but didn’t? Who got nominated but shouldn’t have? Weigh in in the comments below!


12 thoughts on “Golden Statues and Outrage: The Oscar Nominations

  1. Yea I don’t have any problem with Fassbender/Shannon/Gosling being passed over because at the end of the day, there is many more than 5 very good/great male lead performances every year and some of them are bound to miss the cut. However, a movie like “Extremely Loud” (46% RT) getting a Best Picture nod really cheapens the whole thing

    • That’s probably the only nomination I actually think is worth protesting. I’m not sure how a film that’s taken so much critical heat deserves to be listed as one of the best films of the year. Makes no sense.

  2. Not having seen a lot of the nominees, I don’t feel like I’m really in a position to argue too strongly. Though since I hadn’t even heard of A Cat in Paris or Chico and Rita, I do wonder if Tintin was unfairly deposed. Of course, I hadn’t heard of The Triplets of Belleville when it got its nomination 2004, and that turned out to be a fantastic film, so maybe I’m just missing out there.

    What does irk me a bit, though, is that some categories are “short”. As happy as I am to see “Man or Muppet” nominated, and would be rooting for it regardless, were there really only two nomination-worthy songs across all of film? I get that perhaps there was a lot of diffuse nominating near the bottom that might have made it hard to pick which 3 out of several equally-nominated items gets in, but come up with some sort of working tie-breaker system. Don’t have a category be brief just because the nominators can’t come to a consensus. And Best Picture — eligible for 10 nominations — is also short by 1. I don’t know if a lot of people have, or would, notice, but when I see people decrying that Film X didn’t make it in, I can’t help but think that the empty slot would have been better off had it been used.

    • That’s actually true– I found the lack of nominees in some of the categories to be really strange. Why only two songs? Are we not sticking to 10 films in the Best Picture category? What kind of system is the Academy using here?

      Regarding Tintin, I haven’t heard of the other films either, but I don’t necessarily know if that means Spielberg’s film was snubbed. Maybe they didn’t want to nominate him in the Best Picture category and the Best Animated Film category.

      • I don’t know all the details to how the Academy does things, but I do know that for each award, there’s a section of the Academy with people whose job is related to that award who do the nominating for it. I.e., sound techs nominate for sound, actors for acting awards, etc., and everybody nominates for Best Picture. My speculation would be that they collate all the nominations, and pick the Top X Most Nominated for the final group of nominees. And the “short” categories might be because there’s no distinguishing factors at the tail end. I.e., “Muppet or Man” got, say, 5 nominations, and “Real in Rio” got 3, while 20 other songs got 1 nomination each so they can’t pick which 3 out of those 20 get the nod. I’d incorporate some other form of tie-breaker, but without knowing exactly what they’re doing, it’s hard to say just what.

    • I admit I’m a bit surprised that Albert Brooks didn’t get a nod. But I can’t say I’m that surprised that the film didn’t get more attention elsewhere. It’s not really the sort of thing the Academy favors.

  3. I don’t take umbrage at the nomination for EL&EC at all because I think that Rotten Tomatoes is a terrible barometer of adjudging film’s worth, and so many of the general reactions I’ve heard to it keep mentioning how Daldry unfairly got nominated for The Reader (an allegedly awful film) and I don’t mean to boil down all the criticism of it to that because there are those who genuinely don’t like, but it seems like the year’s December punching bag. There’s always that film at the end of the year which critics are much to earnest in taking down.

    I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t say whether it’s poor or not, but I feel bad for the AMPAS members who voted for it having to defend liking it.

    • I do not understand the sudden backlash against Rotten Tomatoes whatsoever. Rotten Tomatoes isn’t a barometer for judging quality. If you’re looking for something along those lines, go for MetaCritic, but the truth is that there’s no way to objectively determine a film’s value– even using pure mathematics. Rotten Tomatoes does the same that reading reviews from critics does; it provides contextualized opinions on films.

      I haven’t seen the movie either, mind, but it sounds like cheap, exploitative, manipulative garbage. I almost saw a screening this month, but backed out because I just decided to move on with my life. But Hanks and Bullock are Oscar darlings, so I can’t say I;m that surprised at its nomination.

  4. There are always acting performances that get overlooked. I get irritated when films get in over others because a certain director is “owed” or “a part of the fraternity”. How The Reader got in and The Dark Knight, Doubt, The Wrestler and WALL-e didn’t is still frustrating.

    • I’m with you there, Colin. I don’t think nominations should be handed out based on an artificial perception of entitlement; if your film is worthy of nomination, it should get nominated (granting that it receives the appropriate number of votes of course). Nominating someone who lost the race years back for a film that’s sub-par is kind of condescending. It’s almost a booby prize at that point.

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