CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
Film Feature: 10 Biggest Snubs of the 2014 Oscar Nominations
As there are upwards of 6,000 members in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, I simply do not have the time or wherewithal to graffiti on everyone’s house “Robert Redford?” However, I can at least make a post on the internet calling out those they have snubbed; exposing where their collective categorizing as a majority of old white males went wrong.
In keeping with Brian Tallerico’s Oscar snub list from last year, I am going to also share which films would be taken out in a snubbed one’s place, while focusing on the top eight categories - with two particularly impassioned snubs to round out an even ten. And as “Life of Pi” was the film to rail against in award season 2013, I will try, but flounder, to mask my painful disinterest in supporting the cause of kudos for Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.”
Best Documentary: “Stories We Tell”
With the Academy representing their soft spots for unusual subject characters (“American Hustle”), history (almost everything nominated) and family (“Philomena,” “Nebraska”), it is an unwelcome surprise that Sarah Polley’s incredibly delightful true life family saga “Stories We Tell” did not find its way into the “Best Documentary” bunch. By flipping the duty of storytelling onto her family members, Polley crafts an unforgettable tale about the hidden elements within all family trees, while maintaining a great heart for the film’s biggest star, that of the memory of her mother.
Instead of: The tale of two cult-famous New York artistes “Cutie and the Boxer” has a handful of verite peaks that alone make it worth a look (including the interactions with art gallery curators) but its subject matter doesn’t fill up a feature length as well as it may dream to. “Cutie and the Boxer” may have strong characters, but it doesn’t have the strength within the true-life story of Polley’s own personal narrative.
Best Cinematography: “12 Years a Slave”
Hand-in-hand with its dramatic content, “12 Years a Slave” becomes such a devastating cinematic experience due to its imbuing of atmosphere, which it garners from Sean Bobbitt’s camerawork. Adding a meticulous yet highly expressive language to the film, Bobbitt makes searing use out of extensive long-takes and the rule-of-thirds cinematography, all very elemental yet effective in his craft…
Instead of: … which comes with more cinematic immediacy than Phedon Papamichael’s nostalgic black-and-white pans in the dour “Nebraska.”
Best Original Screenplay: “The Place Beyond the Pines” by Derek Cianfrance & Ben Coccio and Darius Marauder
In terms of original storytelling, this past year has at least given us inspired gems like the survival poetry of “All is Lost,” the authentic recreation of a single day in “Fruitvale Station,” the folk song tales of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and even the moral spectacle of “Prisoners” by Aaron Guzikowski. But it is Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” that best boasts the promise and potential of original cinematic storytelling. It is one where ambition, scope, and confidence take a viewer on a sojourn through character lives to locations and times unexpected, with the constant charge of a high-speed chase.
Instead of: Without any question, “Dallas Buyers Club” would be replaced by Cianfrance’s film. Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack’s script is one that lacks subtlety, not just because of the wholly external recreations it inspires in its performers, but clunky dialogue and sloppy assembling of a story that can’t create a full, non-manipulated picture of its hero.
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Spectacular Now” by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
There is something to laud in a screenplay that somehow introduces a new episode to the near-universal high school experience, and this year’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is “The Spectacular Now.” With careful character control and sincerity in its angst, this story of a teen boozer (played by Miles Teller), creates a great amount of empathy for someone on the fringes of adulthood. The script, an adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, makes for a rich tale even with its initially cliche framing device of a college essay. Granted, director James Ponsoldt’s direction is the home run that turns “The Spectacular Now” into a grand slam, but he has one hell of a setup to work with.
Instead of: In a category that certainly is not filling space with bad titles, I’d take out “Philomena,” despite its character dynamic cuteness and graceful dramatic dips. Paraphrasing Carly Simon, “The Spectacular Now” just does it better.