Snubs and surprises
With the annual Oscars ceremony moved up to Feb. 24, the Academy released its set of nominations early this year. As usual, there are a set of unexpected inclusions and exclusions ruffling feathers in the industry and amongst the moviegoing public.
First, to get all the obvious ones out of the way that have already been excessively talked about, the following people/films were snubbed: Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Leonardo DiCaprio, "Moonrise Kingdom," Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, and arguably "Skyfall."
SNUB: John Hawkes for Best Actor in "The Sessions." Back in December, I predicted Hawkes would outright win, beating favorite Daniel Day Lewis. His complete lack of recognition baffles me. In "The Sessions," he plays a man crippled by polio using a therapist to lose his virginity. It's a difficult role that tugs the heartstrings, and is the type of performance the Academy would nominate even when it wasn't deserved. Hawkes has gained a lot of prestige over the last five years and the Academy tends to reward late blooming actors. The film was also well received and has garnered a number of other accolades. This is one snub I just don't see a reason for.
SURPRISE: Benh Zeitlin and David O. Russell for Best Director: A lot of talk has gone into the snubs of Affleck and Bigelow, but very little of the two directors that placed ahead of them, one of whom I'm happy about; the other, not so much. Zeitlin made his debut last year with the stunningly powerful "Beasts of the Southern Wild." While his film did earn a Best Picture, I wouldn't place it amongst the top five contenders, which the Best Director nominations have been used to represent since the Best Picture category was expanded in 2009. Russell's nomination is less surprising as his film, "Silver Linings Playbook" is a dark horse to take home the grand prize, but it's not really a director driven film. I can name several directors who had a much larger influence in the success of their movies. Not just Affleck and Bigelow, but also Wes Anderson, J.A. Bayona, Sam Mendes and Quentin Tarantino.
SNUB: "Cloud Atlas:" This picture, for which I will never run out of praise, was wrongfully shut out, not earning a single nomination. I suppose enough people disliked to warrant a Best Picture exclusion and having three directors may have made it ineligible for Best Director, but to go unrecognized for Best Adapted Screenplay or any of the production categories is criminal. Even those who hated it acknowledged the quality of the art direction, editing and most of all makeup. It's not easy to make Halle Berry appear as a Caucasian and Jim Sturgess as a Korean. The miserable train wreck "Mirror Mirror" receives a costume design nomination but "Cloud Atlas" doesn't; that's just not right.
SURPRISE: "Les Miserables" for Best Picture. You're probably wondering how this can be called a surprise. After all, it did win of the two Golden Globes for Best Picture and has been a contender since before it even finished production. Have you seen the critical reviews for it? While it sits at about 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, many of the positive reviews were marginal, and just as many of the negative reviews were overwhelmingly critical. I've seen it appear on far more lists of the worst films of 2012 than I have the opposite. It doesn't make sense that in a year as strong as 2012 a film can still earn a Best Picture nomination when over a third of the audience despised it.
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