5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 2014

I first posted this article the day after the night before in 2015 when it was Birdhood versus Boyman. There will, though, be no talk of the twelve year project or the corridor tracking shots. I won’t be discussing narrative neglect of the homosexuality, or the under-rated Felicity Jones, or even touch on a great march, or the year’s most famous hotel. And I certainly won’t be delving into the “hero” killer marksman, or the poor little drummer boy.

What am I going to cover here? The predictions? Boo! How about all the campaigning? No thanks. The winners that night? It was covered everywhere else. Thank God though for Jack Black and Anna Kendrick, pretty much saving Neil Patrick Harris from his own opening number. While it did not get much better, his hosting was by no means a disaster. Not in comparison to some of the other lazy production shenanigans. Cutting the 4 minute songs down to 2 minutes. Don’t do that. Stop playing music early over the winners – though the orchestra were out-sounded on numerous occasions by the awards recipients. The In Memoriam section, pretty as it was, really ought to have paid much, much more respect to those we lost. I wanted to see classic old movies clips. Remind me what we are missing, and make me cry like a baby.

It is both apt and ironic that CitizenFour won gold, because it had a famous journalist carrying the conspiracy through the media, just two years after the very same writer had a huge, shameful hand in covering Zero Dark Thirty in mud. I also had a negative opinion towards the prospect of certain winners, until they delivered their heart-felt, message-riddled speeches – and I perhaps changed my outlook. And what was with all the invites for people they did not nominate? I don’t remember that many would-be nominees being asked to present instead. I mean, parts of the show appeared to be delivered as part of a guilt trip to the talent they had failed to acknowledge.

If you will, then, allow me to say just a few words about these very obvious and thoroughly spoken of missing candidates:

Best Director – Ava DuVernay (Selma)

Well, where do you start with Ava DuVernay? She is clearly charismatic, and comes across as an honest woman. She was humble in Selma‘s lack of awards distinction, and more sympathetic that her cast and crew were omitted. And she has been a great ambassador of her peers, and openly grateful to those that have supported and loved Selma. She is clearly a talented film-maker too, producing an important historical story on film with what appeared to be expert ease. There are not many outside of the applicable voting bodies that would not have DuVernay in their Best Director five. And this is warranted acclaim based on the accomplishment of Selma first of all, before regard to honoring a director who is black, or a woman.

Best Actor – Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner)

Mr. Turner may be something of an acquired taste, but with some rather surprising technical nominations with AMPAS, it still left a few scratching their heads with the absence of more prominent mentions – specifically Best Actor winner at Cannes Timothy Spall. A Mike Leigh regular, Spall was remarkably strong in the central role. He devours every scene he walks in and out of, but also those scenes with little action or dialogue. An impacting presence, but also brings to the performance some real gritty emotion, pain, and passion.

Best Actress – Scarlett Johnasson (Under The Skin)

People may have forgotten how good an actress Scarlett Johansson can be. Take your minds back to Lost In Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring, and I would also add A Love Song For Bobby Long to that list. Following a shift in genre over the last ten years, Johansson has been gathering some much more credible attention with strong voice work in Her, a commanding lead role in Luc Besson’s return to form Lucy, and as a man-skinning enigma in Jonathan Glazer’s eerie, but brilliant Under The Skin. Donning a convincing English accent, she creates a greater presence in the more silent, minimally expressive aspects of the role. And this should be seen as integral to the tone of the movie, rather than a lack of excellence in the performance.

Best Supporting Actor – Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice)

Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice manages to be sharply funny, a larger than life presence, and yet still remains a subtle presence. A memorable one all the same. In the Best Supporting Actor race, he tended to sit in that number six slot (whatever the fuck that really means) for the whole duration. The fact Paul Thomas Anderson movies don’t quite sit well with voters on a consistent basis, not to mention there were mixed feelings this new movie, should not really come into it. Brolin’s performance here is big and bold, and quite frankly, classic supporting stuff.

Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

Early on in the awards season, A Most Violent Year made a cracking start with the critics, and I so desperately wanted, and thought, Jessica Chastain would carry that impeccable supporting turn right through to the Oscars. That was more a failure on the part of voters than my own naivety. At least that’s what I think. What I also think is that Chastain’s role in J. C. Chandor’s toned-down crime drama could well have been the most assured performance of the entire year. It stood out beyond anything else for me, and with or without her extraordinary body of work (including the partly responsible Interstellar), warranted a firm place as Best Supporting Actress.

Originally published 24th February 2015.


One thought on “5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 2014

  1. I'm right there with you Robin. Ava DuVernay should have been nominated. She seems intelligent, respectful, and genuine. That's a winning combination. I would have added Paul Thomas Anderson for Inherent Vice. After reviewing that film, it's jumped into my top 5. I LOVED it so much more the second time. I'm glad to see you did give credence to Josh Brolin. His character was maybe my favorite character in any movie of 2014. As for Jessica Chastain, she's terrific in everything. I've never been dissapointed by her.


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