There’s nothing like being nominated and pretty much knowing you have absolutely no chance at winning. Sure, this is the case for more than just the producers for “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” as there are plenty of films nominated that will go home empty handed. But, many of those films are not nominated for ‘Best Picture,’ so it’s just a little different from that standpoint. Here’s a film that probably for anyone reading this never saw and won’t see because it doesn’t look like something you want to see. That’s the truth for a film lucky to be here, as I could have easily picked something else to take its spot in this field of nine. Maybe a film like “Flight” or even “The Master,” even though the Academy would never put a film that hovers around the topic of scientology like this one did. I don’t know, I just tend to think about films like this when I see a nod instead go to something like “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” I get having the “artsy” pick in there, but why this one? Furthermore, I can’t believe enough Academy voters watched this and thought it was good enough to be nominated.
In order to even be mentioned in this elite group, your film would have had to have earned at least 5% of first-place votes during the nomination process. That means out of the roughly 5,700 Academy members, at least 285 of them voted for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” to be ‘Best Picture.’ Looks like a small number, but I doubt I could find five intelligent people that would vote for this film to be a ‘Best Picture’ candidate. It just doesn’t make any sense, proving even the new method by which these ‘Best Picture’ nominees are chosen is not perfect. Because you go back to any year prior to 2009 and this film is nowhere to be found, despite any awards it happened to pick up along the way at local film festivals across the country. Sure, it’s a great story to tell for a first time filmmaker like Benh Zeitlin, but that doesn’t mean we have to nominate him, his screenplay and the film for the highest Oscar prize. Then again, maybe this is just what’s become the norm from an Academy with an average age of 62, to which only 14% are under age 50. It’s no wonder we have such a wide range of choices when it comes to the ‘best of the best’ each year with these awards and why we see a nominee like this one.
Having said all that, it wasn’t the worst film I saw all year. And truthfully the nomination for
Quvenzhane Wallis was well deserved after watching her work her way through this maze of a story. I mean this kid is only eight and had to lie about that to earn the part in this film when she auditioned at the age of five, beating out 4,000 other contenders. That’s insane and yet, there she was treading dirty water and taking over scenes like she had been doing it all her life. Sure, it was against fellow inexperienced talent, but for her to do that in a film like the one here is rare. What a dominant performance and really one that deserves all the praise that it’s been getting the past nine months at nearly every festival or award ceremony like the one this column honors. And Wallis now owns the distinction as being the youngest actress to ever be nominated for the Academy Award for ‘Best Actress.’ That’s some big stuff right there for a nine-year-old. It just should have ended there, as not even the nomination for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ made a whole lot of sense given the dynamics of this story was based off a one-act play dubbed Juicy and Delicious. I have to see this play, because for the life of me, I can’t remember the last film I have seen that looked and felt like this one did, which is not necessarily a good or bad thing, just the truth about what I saw.
At the end of the day, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” should not be among this list of nominees. Plain and simple, it just does not belong, much like “The Tree of Life” didn’t last year, “The Social Network” the year before and “A Serious Man” the year before that. None of these films scream ‘Best Picture’ which is why they did not win, much less go home with a litany of Oscar statuettes. In fact, out of the trio, only “The Social Network” walked away a winner, having earned the Oscar for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay,’ ‘Best Original Score’ and surprisingly ‘Best Film Editing.’ I still don’t get that one, but I guess a win is a win, which I guarantee any other nominee would have liked to have been saying after that night. And sadly, that’s going to be the case here with “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which will not be among the winners from any of its four categories. So, while I would love to agree with President Barack Obama, who said the film was “spectacular” during an interview with People magazine, I just can’t in this forum.
To read my full review on “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” click here
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