Film Feature: The Biggest Snubs of the 2013 Oscar Nominations

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CHICAGO – I expected to write this feature from a relatively satisfied place. After all, it was such a good year for film and it seemed likely that the Academy were going to make some smart, forward-thinking decisions this morning. And then they took several steps back. Taking safe routes when more interesting ones were available. Proving they still have a broken system that factors in politics, beloved source material, and the studio industry over actual quality. Don’t get me wrong. They made some very good choices this year, although it would have been difficult not to make at least a few. My favorite nominations? Michael Haneke, Joaquin Phoenix, Denzel Washington, Emmanuelle Riva, Jessica Chastain, Naomi Watts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Gatekeepers” & “The Invisible War” for doc, and, of course, Adele.

Let’s get to the mistakes. And I don’t just list the snub like so many people do. I list who should be kicked out in their place. I limited myself to one per major category - the big 8 - and then two others just to fill it out. So while I have multiple complaints in some categories, these are just the biggest snubs.

Best Makeup: “Looper”

Looper
Looper
Photo credit: Sony

I know some respected journalists who I believe are STILL convinced that the makeup work that turned Joseph Gordon-Levitt into a young Bruce Willis was CGI. Nope. It was all practical, all makeup, and apparently too good for the Academy to realize it was actually physical effects and not created by a computer. As for what should have been left out, any of the three, given this was the best makeup work of the year, but I guess I’d pick “Hitchcock,” given my overall dislike for the film as a whole, including the obvious makeup that turned Hopkins into Hitch. I guess makeup is just better when it calls attention to itself in every frame.

Best Sound Editing/Mixing: “The Impossible”

The Impossible
The Impossible
Photo credit: Summit

It opens with a wall of sound as blackness gives way to crashing water and the roar of a plane engine. Through the entire tsunami sequence, sound plays a major, crucial role in the impact of what even the detractors of J.A. Bayona’s film would admit is a success - the technical recreation of natural disaster. Pull the overrated “Life of Pi” from both categories and replace it with “The Impossible”.

Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Photo credit: Summit

Stephen Chbosky adapted his own semi-biographical book with a delicacy and honesty rarely seen in this genre. By showing compassion to his characters and finding humor and romance in their truth, Chbosky merited comparison to Cameron Crowe and John Hughes. It certainly took a more delicate touch than what David Magee did with Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi.” I’ll try not to pick out “Pi” as the one that doesn’t belong in every category. Although that will be difficult.

Best Original Screenplay: “Looper” by Rian Johnson

Looper
Looper
Photo credit: Sony

Movies that have more Oscar nominations than Rian Johnson’s daring, complex, sci-fi masterpiece — “Mirror Mirror,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Ted,” and “Prometheus.” Easily one of the best screenplays of the year was left out as the Academy, once again, ignored great genre work because some members see it as lesser. Admittedly, I love all five of the nominees here. It’s arguably the strongest category overall on the night and the strongest its been in years. But “Looper” needed to sneak in over any of the nods except for Boal. If I had to pick, over Haneke’s work on “Amour,” as much as I admire that film.

Best Supporting Actress: Rosemarie Dewitt, “Your Sister’s Sister”

Your Sister's Sister
Your Sister’s Sister
Photo credit: IFC

I know this one was never going to happen but I need to go out on a limb a bit here with a more inspired snub choice than obvious ones like Judi Dench in “Skyfall,” who’s good but not great, and Ann Dowd in “Compliance,” who I absolutely love in that film but it’s a lead role through and through, so I can’t argue she should have been nominated for Supporting Actress even if some groups were silly enough to award her that prize. Dewitt steals “Your Sister’s Sister” and she’s one of the most interesting and charismatic actresses working in independent film. A nod for her would have extended the bridge back to the indies given this year’s overwhelming focus on major studios and major films (as small as “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is, don’t forget that Fox Searchlight is the one that pushed it over the top.) And as much as I love Jacki Weaver in general, even she was surprised at her nomination.

Best Supporting Actor: Samuel L. Jackson or Leonardo DiCaprio, “Django Unchained”

Django Unchained
Django Unchained
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

You know, one of the actual supporting actors in Quentin Tarantino’s great work. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christoph Waltz in “Django” but he has more dialogue and as big a character arc as Jamie Foxx. He’s a co-lead. And so his nomination in supporting actor and the way it pushes out great work by Jackson and DiCaprio is frustrating. (I know I said one per category but I would have loved to see Matthew McConaughey here too for “Magic Mike.” It’s a nod that will happen soon. I’m sure of it.)

Best Actress: Rachel Weisz, “The Deep Blue Sea”

The Deep Blue Sea
The Deep Blue Sea
Photo credit: Music Box Films

The five picks for Best Actress are one of the strongest collections of nominees that the Academy have ever cited and the inclusion of great works by Emmanuelle Riva, Jessica Chastain, and Naomi Watts (my top three in this category) makes me very happy. And I really like the other two nods as well. However, if I had a ballot in my hand, Rachel Weisz would have been on it over the lovely and sweet Quvenzhane Wallis. Sorry, I hate to be the guy suggesting the most beloved story of Oscar morning was “wrong” but Weisz’s work in “Deep Blue Sea” should have been recognized.

Best Actor: Denis Lavant, “Holy Motors”

Holy Motors
Holy Motors
Photo credit: Indomina Group

Once again, a nomination that I knew was never going to happen but a boy can dream. There was arguably no more daring, complex performance in any film in any category than Lavant’s chameleonic work in Leos Carax’s critical darling. Once again, this is a very strong quintet of choices from the Academy this year and I’m SO HAPPY that Joaquin Phoenix didn’t get snubbed but I wish Bradley Cooper had waited for the better performance I’m sure he’ll someday give to get his first nod.

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty
Photo credit: Sony

This one is so baffling that I can barely stand it. I’m doing these in order of category and so, technically, they’re not ranked because this would be number one of the last decade if they were. She not only should have been nominated but she should have won. And what the Hell happened? Was it sexism? Did they say, “we gave her one a few years ago, she’s set for now”? Was it because it came out so late and the voting schedule was moved up this year? (Which arguably hurt Quentin Tarantino’s chances too). I’m simply stunned that a group of qualified directors looked at the films of 2012 and didn’t see the detail in Bigelow’s work. There are people who considered Ang Lee’s work on “Life of Pi” or David O. Russell’s on “Silver Linings Playbook” greater directorial accomplishments. I’m rendered nearly speechless by that last sentence. I’ve been a defender of the Academy for years, more so than most critics, but this one nearly breaks me.

Best Picture: “The Master”

The Master
The Master
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

Honestly, the collection of nine films to represent the Academy’s choices of the best of 2012 is not that bad when you step back and really look at it. They nominated the major films from Sundance (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), Cannes (“Amour”), and Toronto (a few) and they cited films from multiple demographics, including works as diverse as “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Django Unchained.” However, the film that I believe truly represented the work of an auteur playing with daring, complex ideas that would have made this an even-more-impressive and diverse list is P.T. Anderson’s “The Master.” I had prepared myself in recent days for it not to get in but I held out hope. Hope and the Oscars are two things that often fail to co-exist.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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