Two perfectly pleasant and accomplished movies, with a taste of France and the movies, went head to head in 2012. But we are not going to talk about either of those today. Two gorgeously shot movies, that had opinions stretched either end of a see-saw, also scraped Best Picture nods. We won’t be talking about those either. There were some bold and surprising inclusions though (good or bad depends on which side of the fence you sit on) in other acting categories. George Clooney, Viola Davis, Emmanuel Lubezki did not win by the way. On the bright side (well, the very dark side actually), the Film Editing win that year was a pleasant surprise. And anybody who knows anything about this bonkers horse race will tell you, that is a huge award to win considering the movie was shut out in many other categories. Onward, the following five non-nominees span 60 years.
Original Score — Michael Nyman (The Piano) 1993 — Robin Write
This omission still makes me rub my eyes and look again. The Piano, with characters that love music, with a narrative driven by music, and a movie score that is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most heard in cinema history. And Michael Nyman was not nominated for Best Original Score. I am not going to bash the other nominations in this category, there is no point – this should have been there. The explanation for this derives from part of the music is an old folk tune, thus not wholly original. Oh dear. The Piano was nominated eight times, and won three of the biggest awards of the night, so it was clearly loved across the board. So shocking is this I suspect there are those out there who when asked would say this won the Oscar that year for music. One of the great snubs.
Documentary Feature — Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog) 2005 — Steve Schweighofer
Sometimes a documentary can achieve dramatic heights that exceed where any fictional film would dare to go, but Werner Herzog got more than even he had bargained for. Tim Treadwell was a grizzly bear enthusiast, a very sentimental one at that, and wanted to prove that it was possible for both species – bear and man – could maintain mutual respect and tolerance by living in close proximity to them. He proves his point, but also discovers that all bears (like all people) are not necessarily going along with the idea. Herzog uses about five years of footage shot by Treadwell himself and edits the way to the denouement when Treadwell encounters the bear that is the exception. What ensues onscreen and off (Herzog wisely blacks out Treadwell’s final footage, leaving just the sound) is shocking – Treadwell’s camera was running when he and his girlfriend were attacked, killed and eaten by one particular bear that just didn’t want him around. The film, like nature itself, is raw and uncompromising it both its beauty and terror. Far too much reality must have given poor Oscar the vapors. No nomination.
Picture — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher) 2011 — Al Robinson
In 2011, David Fincher released one of the darkest and most interesting films in his catalogue, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was adapted from the 2005 Swedish novel from Stieg Larson, which is about a journalist who is hired to search for a wealthy man’s missing grandniece who disappeared back in the 1960s. In the film, which keeps pretty close to the novel, the journalist is played by Daniel Craig, and he’s assisted to a strange but brilliant young woman named Lisbeth Salander, who is a computer hacker. The film was largely ignored by the Oscars for a reason I can’t understand. Fincher has consistently been one of the best directors around, and his films are concise, interesting, and entertaining. The film has great performances, especially from Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, and it has gorgeous cinematography from Jeff Cronenweth. In my opinion, the Oscars missed out not nominating it for Best Picture and it’s easily as good and even better than some they did nominate, such as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Tree of Life. I’m just saying…
Adapted Screenplay — Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde, Whitfield Cook, Ben Hecht (Strangers on a Train) 1951 — Steve Schweighofer
What I consider Hitchcock’s most overlooked film originates in the rich and edgy imagination of crime novelist Patricia Highsmith and her first novel. It’s a tale of a criss-cross murder arrangement that’s layered with suspense, social commentary, a little politics, and a subtext that hints of sexual tension between the two protagonists. The screenplay went through a few iterations, with Hitchcock finally cribbing the carousel sequence near the end of the film from another book entirely. Screenplays-by-committee rarely gel (Casablanca is another successful example) but this one works on a number of levels, making it one of Hitch’s most complex films. Unfortunately, this Oscar season was exceptionally strong in adaptations, with A Streetcar, Named Desire, A Place in the Sun, La Ronde, The African Queen and Detective Story. That’s a solid and formidable list, but Strangers on a Train easily equals them. Highsmith subscribed to the idea that anyone is capable of murder in the right circumstances, as did Chandler and Hitchcock, and the screenplay is loaded with pithy comments such as, “When an alibi is full of bourbon, it can’t stand up,” and “I may be old-fashioned, but I thought murder was against the law.”.
Leading Actor — Robin Williams (Mrs Doubtfire) 1993 — Robin Write
With the Academy’s history of favoring drama over comedy you can understand characters saving thousands of lives, or wrongly imprisoned, or being fired for having AIDS, might carry more credibility than a character who puts on a dress. It is not always as black and white as that, especially not with the likes of Robin Williams. There are comparisons, of course, to Tootsie, but that notched an impressive ten nominations to Mrs. Doubtfire‘s one (which it won for Make-Up). Williams is in terrific form though as the dad who wants desperately to make amends and see his kids, but also as the flamboyant housekeeper – and at times hilariously in between. When comedy performances get rewarded, this is where you look.
Some glaring omissions so far, what are your thoughts?