Crossposted on & commissioned by Film.com
Last Tuesday, I was hoping for a pleasant morning. For an Oscars 2010 kind of morning, where you wake up and find out that District 9 got nominated for Best Picture. Instead it was an Oscars 2009 kind of morning. A The Dark Knight got snubbed for Best Picture kind of morning. Translation: A really bad morning.
The only happy surprise of the main 8 categories? Michelle Williams getting a nod. But there was no Ryan Gosling. There was no Julianne Moore, though no one really thought she'd make it in. And most upsettingly, there was no Andrew Garfield, the heart and soul of The Social Network. His snub alone began to unravel my previously stable belief that The Social Network has Best Picture locked up (now almost completely shattered by The King's Speech winning at the SAG Awards). If the actors branch, the largest branch of the academy, didn't appreciate his performance enough to get him a nod, does that mean they don't appreciate the movie enough?
But then something even worse was announced. The nominees for Best Director. Don't get me wrong. I love David Fincher. I love Darren Aronofsky. I love the Coen Brothers. I even love notoriously crazy David O Russell. But the fact that Christopher Nolan, a director committed to using the language of cinema to not only tell a story, but make you think and make you feel in ways you don't even understand or realize you're feeling until it's over - the fact that one of the most innovative, creative, most aspiring to cinematic greatness directors working today did not get a nomination for Best Director is disappointing at best. But, and not to beat a dead horse, Tom Hooper, who impressed me directorally only in his casting of the three leads, did. And then won the DGA award later that week. Because the universe hates me.
So when the director nominations were announced, I got worried. I immediately went online, found the complete list of Oscar nominations...and I didn't like what I saw. There were more snubs than the obvious - more than Gosling, Garfield, Mila Kunis & Nolan, Waiting for Superman in Doc, The Town in Picture. So here is my list of the top eight most upsetting snubs.
8.Lisa Cholodenko - Director - The Kids Are All Right
No one seemed to prognosticate that Lisa ever had a chance, but since I believed that the top five would have been The Social Network, The King's Speech, Black Swan, True Grit or Inception & The Kids Are All Right (if following the genre standards set by the aughts), I was still hoping that maybe the directors would reflect this. Unfortunately it seems as though The Fighter would have potentially taken that last slot, leaving The Kids Are All Right out in the cold and Cholodenko with it. But her direction was actually quite remarkable. The way the scenes were framed & lit that seemed to inform the relationships, the comfort levels in each location, the lingering shots, the attention to detail, the warmth - plus it really feels like open, honest acting from everyone in the cast. There is no schmacting, there is no indicating, Cholodenko knew exactly how to capture what she wanted. I was so sincerely hoping there would be a slot for this movie in direction and not just because Lisa is a woman, though that would have been a cool plus side coming off of last year's historic win for Kathryn Bigelow. Le sigh.
7. Daft Punk- Score - Tron: Legacy
This movie would be a big fat nothing without two things: The visuals & the score. Daft Punk MADE this movie work for me. Looking at Tron: Legacy as one long Daft Punk music video suddenly made it not suck. Aside from the fact that it is absurdly necessary for the movie to even work on any level, the score is *awesome* to listen to. It's atmospheric when it needs to be, triumphant when it needs to be, popping when it needs to be, forlorn when it needs to be - each track is distinct, yet clearly Daft Punk and clearly from Tron: Legacy. I've listened to it on multiple occasions for multiple reasons and was really hoping to be able to say "Oscar nominees Daft Punk." Not everyone can be Three Six Mafia, I suppose.
6. & 5. Visual FX: Tron: Legacy and Scott Pilgrim
The other aspect that made Tron for me was obviously the VFX. The ways in which Tron utilized 3D and the IMAX screen to actually help tell the story (as stupid as the story was) I thought deserved some praise. This movie looked so utterly cool, it's the first time I have *ever* excused a terrible story and terrible dialogue because I loved the effects so much. I was so taken with this universe, I felt like I was actually inside it and I loved every moment. No one can deny the feat that was accomplished with the visuals and those very visuals have been a subject for discussion since we first got a glimpse of what would be at Comic-Con three years ago.
Then you have Scott Pilgrim, which played with vfx in a very different way, but still a style I've never seen before. They play into the environment and help specify that this world isn't exactly our world, but rather a much more badass one. Or, to be slightly more accurate, a much more EPIC one.
It seems endlessly strange to me that the opening sequence of a movie, Hereafter, featuring a type of effect that has been done many times before, tsunami, (see: Deep Impact, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, etc etc etc) deserved a nomination more than two films that really created something unique and essential to the storytelling of the film. Using fx as a flavor of ice cream itself instead of the cherry on top, if you will?
4.& 3. Sound Editing & Mixing - Scott Pilgrim & Black Swan
I don't know much about sound. Which is precisely why I think Scott Pilgrim & Black Swan deserved some recognition. Sound played essential roles in both of these films and not in the obvious action movie sense.
In Scott Pilgrim, there is almost *always* a specific sound cue designed to help tell the story - whether it's by referencing something else, setting the location, keeping the pace, directing the audience's attention - sound plays a HUGE role in the movie. The choices in sound were actually on the same level as the choices in music and special effects, to the point where all three departments were working together to create the most immersive result possible. It mystifies me that that much detail doesn't deserve some recognition. I don't see how "train sounds" is more innovative or creative than what Julian Slater and his team did for Scott Pilgrim. I'm sure Unstoppable's sound was edited perfectly, but to what imaginative end? With Pilgrim, Every punch with a different person sounded different. There was a specific sound scape running through every scene, playing a vital role in letting us know what to think & how to feel. It's a travesty Pilgrim was snubbed here, nothing less. For more, head here.
Then you have Black Swan, in which the sounds affect environment as much as the cinematography and production design do. They are integral in creating atmosphere, in getting inside Nina's head, in suggesting emotion. The cracking, the whispering, the breathing, the sound was almost a living entity. It is an artistic use of sound, both in editing and mixing that has sadly gone unnoticed by the academy. Fore more on Black Swan and sound, head here.
2. Lesley Manville - Actress - Another Year
Now THAT is a performance. Yes, the other actresses were fantastic and I begrudge none of them, but it would have been wonderful to see Manville sneak in there. Her performance is almost beyond description. Her character is so thoroughly authentic that you have trouble believing she's real. It's difficult to play unstable that accurately. Watching her, I was uncomfortable, but couldn't pull my eyes away. Every choice was fascinating. I'm honestly not sure any other actress nominated could have pulled off that character. I was positively in awe and absolutely believe the reason she didn't make it is that simply not enough actors saw Another Year to get her quite enough votes.
1. Lee Smith - Editing - Inception
The one you've probably heard the most bitching about on Twitter and rightly so. A crucial element in Inception was tricking the audience into thinking we are following a much more straightforward story than we actually are. To edit so seamlessly that we don't realize anything is truly strange until the end of the movie. Like a dream itself. Part of what makes Nolan so masterful is his ability to make a movie like Memento and really make us feel like we don't have a short term memory, to make a movie like Insomnia and make us feel like we have insomnia, and with Inception, to make us feel like we've been dreaming, or to go even further, than we've been incepted. (Sidenote: I LOVE Inception theories.) But this would not be possible without top notch editing. The only reasonable explanation for this is that Smith ended up as #6 and by a remarkably small margin.
If any of these snubs affected you the way they affected me, check out the nominations for the second annual Fangirl Awards...Scott Pilgrim got 14 nominations. Take that, The King's Speech with 12 Academy Award nominations! ... I'm not going to be happy on Oscar night, am I?