So with all the movies released in the year 2013 it came down to two. Was it not always about these two anyway? The Picture (12 Years a Slave) / Director (Gravity) split at the Oscar was on the cards for a long time in my eyes. Both movies were excellent achievements in very different ways. And in their own ways. The third wheel American Hustle, thought it was as good as those, but thankfully, in spite of it being lavished with nominations it was, as I predicted, in a more realistic position to come away with zero Oscars than take Best Picture.
Captain Phillips and Nebraska also made Best Picture as expected, though Alexander Payne getting in and Paul Greengrass missing out in the Best Director category was perhaps not as expected. It seemed either nine or ten slots for Picture was not enough, or it was too many. A select few much fancies movies that did not make it though were The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Saving Mr Banks. The movies that actually made up the rest of the list were Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Fight among yourselves about what you believe was worthy or not.
For Documentary Feature there was no Blackfish or Stories We Tell. For Animated Feature there was no Monsters University (if my four year-old daughter was an Academy member it would have got in based purely on her love for the first movie). In the acting categories there was no Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), or Daniel Bruhl (Rush). In any category in fact, there was nothing for Enough Said, or Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, or The Bling Ring, or Labor Day. I could likely go on. Before Midnight and The Great Gatsby did show up, but had little to play for.
Nothing too, unsurprisingly, for The Wolverine. And I suspect there will be no Academy love too for the upcoming movies That Darn Wolverine, Dances With Wolverine, and The Talented Mr Wolverine. I’m joking of course.
On a more serious note I realized there was a Best Actress list as, if not more, impressive as the actual five nominees.
Best Actress – Berenice Bejo (The Past)
Earning an Oscar nomination for her whimsical, but very touching, performance in Best Picture winner The Artist, was really the first time I, and many others, had seen Berenice Bejo in the limelight. And we were impressed. Her performance in Asghar Farhadi’s The Past allowed us to see Bejo in a much more straight, dramatic role. She won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, but there was no such love with the Academy. In fact if I remember correctly I am not sure she was ever really in the top tier of Best Actress contenders. Shame.
Best Actress – Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks)
Someone who was in the top tier for Best Actress consideration pretty much the whole awards season was Emma Thompson with her commanding performance in Saving Mr Banks. The dismal thing here is the movie’s popularity seemed to wane rather quickly towards arrival of the Academy Awards nominations, and it did not even make the Best Picture short-list – and likely Thompson (and a less certain Tom Hanks) suffered as a result of this.
Best Actress – Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
So here we have an actress working under Noah Baumbach (professionally speaking, though they are dating), a writer and director known for more grounded, charming and lighter movies. The type of movies perhaps lot lavished with love at the Oscars. Whatever that means. That actress is the adorable Greta Gerwig. In Frances Ha her broad smile and vibrant character are by no means dampened by the black and white Baumbach uses to excellent low-scale comedy effect.
Best Actress – Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
Playing a young supervisor in a small care home for children with issues, Brie Larson is given the perfect platform to shine as an actress. An opportunity she takes by the horns and never lets go. I described Larson on Twitter once as a clandestine chameleon of an actress, recalling refreshingly her excellent and subtle work. In Short Term 12, a movie too down-to-Earth and small for the Academy perhaps, her portrayal of Grace should have been too good not to consider – the more you discover about Grace you more you wonder about her strength, and her heart.
Best Actress – Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Color)
When Blue Is the Warmest Color was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, it was not just the director Abdellatif Kechiche who took to the stage. The two actresses that rightly took the majority of the credit for the impact this film had were also asked to accept the award. Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux literally laid themselves bare with this one. Exarchopoulos was new to the scene, and just eighteen when Blue Is the Warmest Color was made. Her central performance carries the narrative, holding her own in a movie that required her to literally expose pretty much every inch of her body, heart, and soul.
Originally published 26th December 2014.