Two perfectly pleasant and accomplished movies, with a taste of France and the movies, went head to head in the end. Hugo and The Artist. But I am not going to talk about either of them today. Two gorgeously shot movies, that had opinions stretched either end of a see-saw also made the Best Picture list. I won’t be talking about The Tree of Life or War Horse either.
Let’s not forget that there were also movies many people loved, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, A Separation, Bridesmaids, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Ides Of March, Shame, My Week with Marilyn – not one Best Picture nominee between them though. The rather flat and detached Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close got in instead. Nine films made the cut, and that got in.
There were some bold and surprising inclusions though (good or bad depends on which side of the fence you sit on). Demian Bichir (A Better Life), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) were all nominated for their Lead acting. And Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) made the Supporting list. Margin Call (J.C. Chandor) and A Separation (Asghar Farhadi) also landed Original Screenplay nominations – which was great.
In other also ran news, George Clooney and Viola Davis didn’t win Actor and Actress respectively. In probably the best shot movie of not just this year, Emmanuel Lubezki did not win Cinematography. And Rise of the Planet of the Apes did not win Visual Effects. On the bright side (well, the very dark side actually) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won Editing, 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.
So what else was missed?
Best Director – Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
There was a lot of credit due to director Nicolas Winding Refn (winner of the Best Director Prize at Cannes that year), as every frame, and transitions to those frames, seems paced to perfection. There is very little dialogue, and the electronic (and totally addictive) music gives this the feel of a perfectly executed music video with a compelling narrative. It gets into your bloodstream, while taking you on a bumpy ride. The violence is startling, but not necessarily because of the brutality, rather that we just know it is coming and Refn makes us wait. There’s a moment at the climax were you really do fear the worst. And what does the director do? Lingers. Brilliant.
Best Picture – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I remember when there were some wide-eyes and gasps when Rooney Mara’s name was read out in the Best Actress list. Few will believe me now, but she was in my predicted five. I gasped louder, and had wider eyes, when The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo failed to be nominated for either Picture or Director (David Fincher, who made the DGA cut). Now what you have to appreciate is that the movie obviously got some love with five nominations – that is more than four of the actual Picture nominees.
Best Actor – Michael Fassbender (Shame)
So with 12 Years A Slave winning Best Picture two years later, Steve McQueen can perhaps look back at the Shame disappearing act Oscar-wise and know they like him. I think the same sort of discussions were being had about whether or not the subject matter would repel the Academy (only swap race and slavery for pure sex addiction). The main topic on people’s lips (other than his penis) was the Best Actor race with Michael Fassbender very much in contention. You get sick and tired of talking (or thinking) about how a character who is perhaps not likable, or is behaving inappropriately, or is just someone the Oscar people don’t want to vote for. Well, they should be voting for their best actor, and Fassbender acts with every muscle and nerve here, in every single scene. A real shame indeed. Or sham.
Best Director – Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
It can be forgiven for assuming Moneyball is your standard sports movie, but it really is not. It is about baseball, sure, but it is also about giving those a chance who were perhaps previously dismissed, it is about the underdog, the moments of glory – not to mention the dynamics of a growing relationship between a father urging for success and a daughter with a talent for music. Bennett Miller cooks the story out in an engaging way without any of the fat. But, as Moneyball implies, how can you not be romantic about baseball? Miller hands those notions to you on a plate, he has a real awareness of his craft, and balances the drama and the more whimsical moments between the characters with such ease.
Best Supporting Actress – Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
What a brat. What a typical, badly behaved teenager. Yet it turns out Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), in Alexander Payne’s delightful The Descendants, is the real, true adult in the movie. Her own redemption, or whatever you might call her journey, is the most subtle, but perhaps the most influential. Touted for an Oscar nod, Woodley was getting high praise all over the place, mentioned in the same honorable way as her co-star – you know, George Clooney. Her most exceptional moment, and possibly the scene of the entire year, is when she receives the bad news while in the pool, ducking herself under the water so she can privately, for the moment, truly express the pain she feels. And what a nomination clip that would have made.
Originally posted 9th December 2014.