Crash. The verb to describe the significance of Jack Nicholson’s announcement, as well as the actual name of that Best Picture winner. It was a collision that knocked Brokeback Mountain off the road right at the very end. I won’t mention that this collision was not avoided by Lionsgate making a late DVD Screener dispatch, or some much more shameful homophobic publicity by noted AMPAS members. Opinions of Crash as a movie are mixed, but Ang Lee’s seamless motion picture should have been one of the great and most loved Best Picture winners in the Academy’s history. I’m sure many have easily the imagined the what-if scenarios, but in 2005 Crash was the alternate reality.
Visual Effects — Sin City (2005) — Robin Write
So you are an Academy voter, what do you do with Sin City? Let’s start with the maestro Robert Rodriguez, who not only directed this visual and audio feast, he also had a hand in the music, visual effects, and is credited with the editing and cinematography. In another reality, Rodriguez could have made Oscar history. It is unlikely Sin City would ever contend in the major categories, but would have been a shoo-in for Ensemble if that category existed. Really, though, this could have snagged nominations in any number of tech categories, and I was blessed with drawing Visual Effects out of the hat. For the record, Austin Film Critics awarded it with the Animated Film prize, in Cannes that year (where it was in competition) it was given the Technical Grand Prize, and the St Louis Film Critics gave Sin City the award for Best Overlooked Film (or Most Original, Innovative Film). Innovative and overlooked – yeah, that does that sound familiar.
Leading Actor — Jack Nicholson (The Shining) 1980 — Bianca Garner
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. You can call Jack Nicholson’s performance in Kubrick’s horror masterpiece The Shining, a lot of things but dull is not one of them. Nicholson is always at his best when he’s let off his leash to chew up all of the scenery and sink his teeth into a meaty role. Nicholson’s performance is the most memorable, he is the man your mother warned you about; unhinged, violent and narcissistic. The character of Jack could have simply been campy and over the top, but Nicholson manages to bring some depth to a character with a very average background (he’s basically a drunker meaner version of Stephen King). There is something hypnotizing about watching a human being descend into madness, and this is what we get with Nicholson’s troubled writer, it’s not a role that anyone could simply churn out and we get the impression that Nicholson had to tap into something dark and almost primal within him. Nicholson unfairly didn’t get nominated for Best Actor at the 1981 Oscars, The Shining is the first film that we associate with Jack Nicholson’s name, and that just proves how much of an impact that performance has.
Leading Actress — Radha Mitchell and Radha Mitchell (Melinda and Melinda) 2005 — Robin Write
To say that in the last thirty years Woody Allen has been churning out great roles and stellar performances from his actresses is an understatement. His muse this time around was Radha Mitchell. Her striking dual role (kind of) here was originally campaigned for Best Actress prior to the Golden Globes under Comedy or Musical, which is not quite fair enough, as Melinda and Melinda‘s prime tone and premise is based on the parallels of comedy and drama in our lives. It is a clever notion, and a delightful enough movie, perhaps why it weighed slightly away from the Drama category with the HFPA. And perhaps one of the reasons it sadly was not rewarded at the Oscars. Mitchell is quite perfect here though, and transcends between her two personas with great skill. I felt Mitchell tended to be an actress on the cusp of roles that would perhaps establish her as an acting force to be reckoned with. And in Melinda and Melinda she is afforded two bites at two very different cherries. Successfully affecting with both.
Original Score — Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Revenant) 2015 — Steve Schweighofer
Sakamoto may have won a single Oscar – the only one he has ever been nominated for – in The Last Emperor sweep in 1987, but that doesn’t diminish his accomplished soundtracks for The Sheltering Sky, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Babel, and Little Buddha. Oscar’s greatest disservice to the composer their oversight of what is perhaps his most original composition was the score for 2015’s The Revenant – a completely original, minimalist and organic soundtrack that captures nature as it enfolds and nearly suffocates the wounded and abandoned Hugh Glass. Sakamoto often works in tandem with another composer on his film work – for The Revenant, it was German techno-stylist Alva Noto, with whom he often collaborates. Oscar has some bizarre and medieval rules regarding what music qualifies to get an invitation to dinner and what does not. Critics have been wailing about these restrictions for years, but in the case of Sakamoto’s score for The Revenant being shunned, they hollered, “scandalous,” and called it “single-minded lunacy.” Will Oscar ever evolve? Not unless they can hum along, I’m afraid.
Adapted Screenplay — Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) 2014 — Robin Write
I, and many other peers, have drummed on about this huge piece of film voting neglect. Gone Girl, as David Fincher’s movies were irresistible to the the Academy in recent years, was completely shut-out barring the Best Actress nod for Rosamund Pike. A film extremely popular and anticipated for months, made a shit-load of money, earned very positive reviews, and adapted brilliantly from her own smash book by Gillian Flynn. Not a particularly strong year for adapted works, so this seemed like a sure-thing, not to mention a touted winner, and an ideal opportunity to reward strong women in the field of writing.
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