Remembering the day after the night before in 2015 when it was Birdhood versus Boyman, but there will be no talk of the twelve year project or the corridor tracking shots here today. It is both apt and ironic that CitizenFour won gold, because it had a famous journalist carrying the conspiracy through the media, just two years after the very same writer had a huge, shameful hand in covering Zero Dark Thirty in mud. And what was with all the invites for people they did not nominate that year? I don’t remember that many would-be nominees being asked to present instead. I mean, parts of the show appeared to be delivered as part of a guilt trip to the talent they had failed to acknowledge. And on that note, there’s more than 2014’s snubs to look at.
Adapted Screenplay — Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men) 1992 — Robin Write
A Few Good Men was one of the unlucky few to gain a Picture nomination but miss out on Director – what did Rob Reiner have to do generally to get noticed? The film also missed out on Adapted Screenplay, which in my view was a surprise when you look at the competition that year. So Aaron Sorkin was one of the ones to be left out. The screenplay, his first for motion pictures believe it or not, was based on his own play, was clear and solid in its serious execution, balanced the turbulent bond of the law colleagues driving the narrative, and also maintains that poise of compelling theater. Sorkin probably had little idea, too, that a few good lines have been quoted regularly the past couple of decades.
Picture — They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? 1969 — Steve Schweighofer
Nine Oscar nominations – count them, nine – for this uniquely existential film (for Hollywood, anyway) about a grueling dance marathon, yet the film holds the current record for having the most nominations without receiving a nod for Best Picture. All voters select best Picture nominees and the film gleaned nods in most categories ranging from acting (3) and directing to editing, writing and production values. Was it the nasty title? We don’t like it when they shoot horses, do we? Perhaps it was the philosophy that the game of life is fixed before we even show up, which is not exactly a tenet to which Hollywood subscribes. Maybe it was the downer ending where, at sunset, instead of riding off into it together, one character shoots the other character in the head? Or perhaps the destruction of various characters en route to that downer ending? AMPAS did select X-rated Midnight Cowboy as their choice for Best Picture that year, sending shockwaves around the globe, so we know they have it in them to see the merits of a not-so-happy ending. As MC Rocky (Gig Young) would say, “Around and around they go. Yowza, yowza, yowza!”
Cinematography — Shane Carruth (Upstream Color) 2012 — Robin Write
Upstream Color is a lucid, engaging, and for the most art bewildering motion picture experience. A film so brilliant but still leaves you uneasy and lost, both during the viewing and long after. Maestro Shane Carruth is the one-man band responsible for this, writing, directing, starring, producing, editing, composing the music. Wow. A unique achievement indeed, but perhaps the finest accolade here ought to be for his cinematography. Vivid and bright, somehow comforting even in it’s darkest moments. So wistful at times, what we see is often crisp and clear, Carruth is experimenting with naturally blurry lenses and immaculate close-ups with such expertise you would not believe this is his only cinematographic credit to date.
Leading Actor — David Oyelowo (Selma) 2014 — Matt Fischer
David Oyelowo played Martin Luther King in the 2014 film Selma. Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma is based on the 1965 march from Selma Alabama to Montgomery. Oyelowo portrays King as a dynamic figure with flaws and smart political skills. There are times in the film, especially during the public speeches, that you forget that you are not watching King himself. Oyelowo doesn’t generally look like Martin Luther King, but his mannerisms, demeanor and voice are convincing enough that its hard to believe that he was not nominated for a Best Actor Oscar that year. Selma suffered a few blows that can hurt a films Oscar chances. The late release date didn’t give the movie or Oyelowo time to gain any awards momentum. The film was criticized by some as not being completely accurate and taking too much artistic license. Some had issues with the portrayal of LBJ and his relationship with King. These critiques should not have prevented Oyelowo from being given a Best Actor nomination for one of the best performances of 2014.
Director — Ava DuVernay (Selma) 2014 — Robin Write
Well, where do you start with Ava DuVernay? She is clearly charismatic, candid woman. She was humble in Selma‘s lack of awards distinction, and more sympathetic that her cast and crew were omitted. And she has been a great ambassador of her peers, and openly grateful to those that have supported and loved Selma. She is clearly a talented film-maker too, producing an important historical story on film with what appeared to be expert ease. There are not many outside of the applicable voting bodies that would not have DuVernay in their Best Director five. And this is warranted acclaim based on the accomplishment of Selma first of all, before regard to honoring a director who is black, or a woman.
What are your thoughts on these choices?