It’s Oscar nomination day! A movie-nerd’s, minus a bunch of them, favorite day to argue about something pointless. I love it; genuinely.
What I don’t love is the “snubs.” I believe in the idea of somebody talented getting overlooked for their work. The element that has always bothered me is random blogs/publications/said nerds stating of pile after pile of snubs. Proclamations akin to, “These six people should have all been nominated!” There are only so many slots and so many names to fit into them; that is the game.
This is why I concocted the Oscar Replacement Game several years back. If you want an actor or cinematographer or whatnot to be recognized by the Academy, you must say who is getting the boot. Additionally, one can’t merely say, like I want to, “The Master should be nominated in nearly every category!” You can only pick a movie once to sub in, with only one nomination per movie to shun. Game goes ten categories - of your choosing - deep.
Let the games begin!
There appears to be a misnomer that The Master arrived to mixed reviews in 2012. In fact, according to Metacritc there was no other movie #1 on more critic’s lists when all was said and done. Paul Thomas Anderson’s tale of religion, ego and post-war America is a cinematic marvel; visually arresting with plate after to plate to chew on thematically and narratively. Ang Lee’s adaptation of the popular novel Life of Pi was close in the visual department, nowhere near in the others. While Lee’s movie features a wondrous middle hour, it’s bookends are shaky, where The Master never missed a beat.
I know that Hugh Jackman gives a good performance in Les Miserables. I’m fine even labeling it as great. However, Jackman feels like he has amazing scenes, not a whole part from beginning to end. Perhaps that’s an odd quibble considering the nature of my replacement for him is Denis Lavant in Holy Motors. Lavant is playing a single character through out, but also takes upon various roles (mobster, concerned dad, freakish monster) along the way; all of it is of a piece. No performance was as full of surprises as Lavant’s and that fact should not be overlooked.
It pains me to say this as a huge Naomi Watts fan; she doesn’t deserve all of the acclaim this year. Her turn in The Impossible merely lacks the depth of part, which consists of screaming and coughing in bed. Watts does both perfectly; that’s not enough. Cecile de France in The Kid with a Bike takes a basic character structure (a woman performs an act of kindness and takes in an unwanted child) and imbues it with the heart and occasional anguish necessary. We never learn what makes de France decide to put up with the titular young man and we never need to. She makes the gesture authentic via warmth that skews cloying for concern.
This was the year we got Matthew MConaughey back. After years slumming (also making money) in bad rom-coms and weak melodramas where the only tool he used was his natural charm, McConaughey tried something new. Magic Mike was the capper, featuring McConaughey unleashing his slight sleaze into something conniving and selfish. In Argo, Alan Arkin did the Alan Arkin thing. The off-handed dismissals and raspy-laugh was aces for the role. It was also a familiar flavor whose celebration is a tad head-scratching.
Few, if any, directors could make Zero Dark Thirty the gripping and unflinching piece of cinema that compels even as we know its details. You can reach into a bucket and pull out a handful of filmmakers capable of constructing Silver Linings Playbook. Russell’s efforts aren’t pedestrian, just not notable enough to be included in the Best Director category, even at thirty deep.
Greig Fraser’s molding of Killing Them Softly probably had something to do with many an audience’s displeasure with the film. The picture didn’t only look grimy and disgusting, it snuck off the screen and into your lap with putrid browns you could smell and nights so dark the bones chilled. Janus Kaminski’s cinematography in Lincoln used a Ken Burns-esque color palette; fitting and a tad safe.
Adam Stockhausen’s designs in Moonrise Kingdom are vibrant, playful and wholly genuine in construction. The pieces produced for The Hobbit are largely identical to what the creative team did ten years ago with Peter Jackson. The consistency makes sense, while lacking the pop we have seen before.
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” in Ted is a sweet little nothing. “100 Black Coffins” by Rick Ross is a visceral earworm that launches Tarantino’s into it’s last hour of insanity.
Martin McDonagh was recognized for his little seen and supremely funny 2008 picture In Bruges, not so for his little seen and supremely funny 2012 release Seven Psychopaths. In its place, why not remove John Gatins’ Flight screenplay and the problematic sense of cool it hovers around with.
This category has grown interesting in recent years, skipping over some of the loud wackiness and chase scenes Hollywood animated movies insist on having. 2012 appears to be an off-year for that, with Tim Burton’s thoroughly mediocre, navel-gazing (of a sort) Frankenweenie getting admiration where Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s The Secret World of Arrietty, with its delicate rhythms and calm sense of wonder, being sadly forgotten.