Perspectives of the Oscar race clearly differ from year-to-year, person-to-person, trends and momentum can mean everything, they can mean nothing. Franchises can be misrepresented by nomination and / or wins tallies. Films outside the English language can be lavished but not considered for the top prize. Popular actors or actresses with multiple nods over the years can still be “ignored” for some of their best work. Important documentaries go unnoticed. Fine adaptations of well-known publications are missing in action come announcement time. Here are, by coincidence, five examples of such.
Adapted Screenplay — John Cusack, DV DeVincentis, Steve Pink, Scott Rosenberg (High Fidelity) 2000 — Robin Write
High Fidelity could have fared much better at the Oscars. When I saw it, I was at university, pining over girls, obsessing over music, and making top five lists with friends. So yeah, this was right up our street. The universal element this movie has is the screenplay. The story that centers around broken relationships and Rob’s (John Cusack) self-indulgent, and eventually self-redeeming, rants. And thanks to Jack Black too, some of the funnier lines are delivered to perfection. But when it is not downbeat or just sulky, this is still an amusing and sharp adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel – it carries over the tone and style of his writing really well. Where the Academy just not into good movies about music that year?
Picture — Das Boot 1982 — Steve Schweighofer
Wolfgang Petersen’s U-boat epic managed to snag six key Oscar nominations, including Directing, Editing, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay, Sound and Sound Effects Editing – the most ever for any German-made film, yet despite the “sure-fire” trio of directing/writing/editing, failed to get a nomination for Best Picture. Germany chose Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo as their entry that year in the Foreign Language Film category – it didn’t make the cut – but Das Boot was eligible for all other categories. It’s a totally involving work that inserts one into the bowels of a submarine, complete with all the tension, claustrophobia and chaos one can pack into a film experience, yet Oscar reserved it’s top prize for five English speaking efforts that, in my opinion, didn’t measure-up to Petersen’s extraordinary work. Gandhi eventually won in what was one of Oscar’s least interesting contests.
Leading Actor — Robert De Niro (Once Upon a Time in America) 1984 — Bianca Garner
It took 13 years for director Sergio Leone to bring his vision to the big screen, he envisioned a David Lean style epic with a runtime 269 minutes, chartering the rise and fall of a group of gangsters from their early days on the street to their old age. There seemed no one better suited for the lost and troubled gangster Noodles, a man who loses out on everything an alienates everyone around him. Robert De Niro is a very capable actor (he still is a capable and talented actor which seriously infuriates me when I see him running around in Bad Grandpa) but he shines in Once Upon a time in America. The character of Noodles isn’t an easy one to make sympathetic but somehow De Niro reveals a vulnerable hidden side to the gangster’s personality. De Niro presents us with a character who is trapped in a world he helped to create, his loyalty lies with his friends and his masculinity is in crisis. He is hiding underneath a mask, where he suppresses his soft caring side, his heart belongs with Deborah (Jennifer Connelly) but he is too much of a coward to reveal this weakness to her and his friends. He can’t stand to lose her so he commits a hideous, unforgivable crime. It’s amazing how quickly our view and opinion of the character of Noodles can so drastically change whenever he commits a crime or succumbs to his inner darkness. And this is down to sheer brilliance of De Niro’s performance. Sadly, the studio released Once Upon a Time in America after a brutal cutting and rearrangement of the film so it ran in a linear fashion, and the film flopped massively. De Niro never received much praise for his performance in 1984, but looking back we can admire his dedication to the role, and we can only imagine what other masterpieces the actor and the director could have created if it had not been for Leone’s tragic passing.
Documentary Feature — Blackfish 2013 — Matt Fischer
As soon as Blackfish premeired at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival everyone thought that it was not only a shoe in for a Best Documentary nomination, but it was going to win the whole thing. Blackfish explores the treatment of whales in captivity and sparked numerous protests at SeaWorld parks throughout the country. Viewers got a first hand look at how whales react to the stress of being held captive as well as the family bonds that they form. We hear orcas wail when separated from their young. The problem was easy to ignore until you saw it first hand. The protests picked up and attendance at SeaWorld plummeted. They refused to take part in the documentary but released a statement call the film inaccurate and misleading. The backlash resulted in SeaWorld discontuning their killer whale shows and completely changed how they operate. No other documentary that year was talked about more than Blackfish, yet somehow it failed to get a nomination.
Costume Design — The Empire Strikes Back 1980 — Robin Write
Many an Oscar year the Costume Design category is rife with the more traditional, classical attire of times gone by. And by default, and perhaps in the more lavish and detailed, it is to be expected. This was certainly the case in 1980. However, there is an abundance of sartorial imagination in the contemporary, the forthcoming and, of course, science fiction. The revolutionary costume design of The Empire Strikes Back continued in the visual splendor of the Star Wars saga, breathing even more life and innovation into it. No nomination here, in fact just a measly four in total after the Academy’s huge love for the 1977 film – which won Costume Design I might add.
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