Oscar snubs its nose at you, Matt Damon (et. al)

"What do you mean I didn't get an Oscar nomination? I gained 40 POUNDS!"

Every year begins with the same blasted vow: I won’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I won’t get sucked in. I’ll be strong and aloof. In short, I swear I won’t let myself get emotionally involved in the Oscar race.

PFFFFFFT. Go on. Now pull the other one.

Yeah, so that never happens. Never comes close to happening. It’s all gibberish. Maybe my real resolution should be that one of these days I might flush all these delusions of keeping my heart out of the Oscar race down le porcelain bowl … but it won’t be this year! Especially not this year, when the Best Picture race got expanded to 10 (what a nice, big, fat round number, no?), a sure signal that the Academy had opened its ranks to deserving films that, before, never would have had a chance.

While that may be true (say what you want about “Avatar,” but rare is the blockbuster that crashes the Best Picture ball), in true Academy fashion these snobbish cats have doled out some fairly glaring and some just-plain-wrong snubs. They are as follows:

Best Picture / “Star Trek,” “Two Lovers” — Mental gymnastics are required to reason out why “Avatar,” with its amazing visuals and so-so storyline, merited an Oscar nod while “Star Trek” did not. J.J. Abrams’ energetic, heartfelt summer blockbuster is nothing short of a total reinvention. Thrilling action, special effects, wit, verve, inside jokes, great acting — “Star Trek” has them all in spades. James Gray’s “Two Lovers takes what could have been a Lifetime TV movie — an aimless, emotionally damaged man (Joaquin Phoenix) torn between two women — and turns it into a nuanced character study with almost no melodrama, and a very fine motion picture deserving of some statues.

Best Actor / Damon, Maguire, Phoenix — Oh, the triple negligence the Academy has perpetrated in this, its 82nd awards season. First is their thoughtless brush-aside of Matt Damon, who comically and painfully captured the disordered mind of whistleblower Mark Whitacre in Stephen Soderbergh’s deceptively jaunty “The Informant!” (His acting there was better than “Invictus.”) Second was the blatant disregard of Tobey Maguire’s blistering portrayal of a POW so ruined by war that he cannot reclaim his family and life in “Brothers.” Last but for certainly not least is the absence of Joaquin Phoenix’s name, which is a travesty considering his troubled Leonard Kraditor in “Two Lovers” may be the most haunting, commendable piece of acting he’s ever done.

Best Actress / Abbie Cornish — In the Focus Features 2006 film “Candy,” Abbie Cornish gave us a glimpse of her blossoming talent, but in “Bright Star,”* about Romantic poet John Keat’s short-lived, passionate romance with Fanny Brawne, she emerges fully formed. She gives beaming vitality, spirit and life to one of poetry’s greatest-known muses, and for that she deserves much, much acclaim. Why, Academy, do you insist on withholding the love?

Best Supporting Actress / Laurent, Rossellini — Considering the hot, exhilarating mess of a spectacle that is “Inglourious Basterds”, perhaps it’s inevitable that someone would get lost in the mix. That someone, however, should not be Parisian actress Mélanie Laurent, for her Shosanna is the emotional center of the film; her outstanding one-on-one with Waltz in the cafe should have cemented that award. Isabella Rossellini, who plays Leonard’s worried mother in “Two Lovers,” is no less subtle or devastating. Her quiet performance is a thing of beauty, and it’s the crowning achievement of a career that hasn’t had that many. 

Best Original Screenplay / “The Brothers Bloom” — Rian Johnson is the man who gave us “Brick,” that outrageously stylish mix of gumshoe talk and teen hormones. And now this, a wildly twisty dramedy about two conmen brothers — one wants out; the other turns long cons into art — and the rich, innocent mark they’re about to bilk out of millions. Is it arty, maybe a bit too arch and complex? Maybe. Does it possess the kind of fiendish cleverness and originality Hollywood sorely lacks? Abso-damn-lutely.

Best Original Song / “Stu’s Song” — I’m not about to argue that “Stu’s Song,” hilariously performed by Ed Helms in “The Hangover,” is overflowing with the emotional depth of, say, “The Weary Kind” or has the glitter-and-sequins of “Take It All.” But it’s still an tremendously funny tune that manages to be clever and neatly sum up what “The Hangover” is all about. And that last line is PRICELESS.

*Review forthcoming

22 Responses

  1. I think that a number of these categories were almost complete washes. Christoph Waltz is the only one who belongs in Supporting Actor and Mulligan and Sidibe are the only ones who should have gotten Best Actress noms. Abbie Cornish gave the best lead female performance this year period, and I’d bolster Waltz with Paul Schneider (Bright Star), Red West (Goodbye Solo), Tom Waits (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) and Peter Capaldi (In the Loop). To fill in the Actress category, I’d nominate Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist), Cornish and Yolande Moreau (Séraphine). Also, Alexis Zabe should have been nominated for cinematography for Silent Light and Olivier Assayas for Best Director for Summer Hours. There are more, but this is getting out of hand already (oh, and Vinessa Shaw for Two Lovers. Represent).

    • I love Meryl Streep, but “Julie & Julia” is not her best work — doesn’t eclipse “The Devil Wears Prada” (she and Emily Blunt were the best things about that chick flick) and doesn’t even approach “Doubt.” Vinessa Shaw was shockingly good — shocking because she’s never done anything remotely this good before — and might indeed deserve a nom. “Bright Star” was shamefully ignored.

      The one thing they got right, though, is Waltz. I hate to call him a shoe-in, but he’s clearly the best of the bunch.

  2. Personally, Two Lovers was the worst movie I saw this year, so I have some doubts about the rest of your problems with the Oscar choices, but I do like the other suggestions you made.

    • That’s too bad. I thought Joaquin was brilliant. But I will argue (respectfully, of course) that there’s no way “Two Lovers” was worse than the worst of 2009, which included gems like “G.I. Joe” (terrible), “Halloween II” (beyond terrible) and “All About Steve” (trash, absolute trash).

  3. I’m not sure how I really feel about increasing the number of nominees to 10. When it comes right down to it there is still only 1 Oscar awarded to the category. (Notice how I avoided saying 1 WINNER, I’m ready to M.C., Mr. DeMille). Why are they only increasing the number of nominees in that category? Why not all? Ten Best Actors, Ten Best Actresses… you see where this is going. I’m sure Meryl Steep could be persuaded to take on a few more films a year if it meant a few more nominations. Short of the 12 hour Oscar ceremony, I see no real downside other then keeping the attendees in their seats through the entire program.

    • I was never quite sure what the rationale was behind bumping it up to 10 in that one category, either — I suppose the PR spokesperson would parrot something like “we wanted to give more films a chance” or something. And I didn’t even consider that it would make the ceremony LONGER. Der. As if it isn’t long enough as it is, and it holds us hostage by randomly spacing the awards we REALLY WANT TO SEE and putting Best Picture at the end.

  4. I don’t think Candy came out this year. It couldn’t qualify, right?

  5. im no oscar buff and i try not to let it bother me too much, but the continual nomination of the likes of mirren and streep is just embarrassing. you can almost picture the voters with their forms… ‘Uh, Meryl must have been good in something or other this year, Ill vote for her..’

  6. Laurent was killed by category confusion. The Weinsteins campaigned her in lead actress because they thought it was a weak field when everyone with who watched the movie knows she was a supporting actress. She doesn’t have the name recognition of a Kate Winslet, so the voters wouldn’t have corrected it.

    I don’t understand how there was all the talk around Kruger. She didn’t really wow me. Her best scene was her final scene, and that was only because she enabled Waltz to knock it out of the park.

    • I agree her role may have been supporting, but it was the most noteworthy female performance I saw all year. It’s shame it wasn’t recognized in either category. Kruger, whom I don’t usually show much love for, was pretty damn good. The basement bar scene wasn’t quite Waltz’s opening or the lunch scene with Laurent, but it was another nail biting invigorating moment throughout the film. What was great about Basterds was how amazing each individual performance shown, small or no.

  7. Simply, I see Sandra Bullocks name up there and it makes me wince. Beyond all the other snubs (Matt Damon plays a close second though) this is a basic insult. Looking at all the categories it seems like the Academy was simply confused and picked a few films from which to place their nominations. “Precious” and “Inglourious Basterds” deserve their nods, but what of the other seemingly random choices? I’m very underwhelmed about even watching this years awards.

    • I think this year will forever be remembered as “Mish-Mosh Year.” How else can we explain the Best Supporting Actor category (excluding Hans Landa)?

  8. @ Everyone – Do you guys that I use some of your suggestions for my personal awards show, The Omies?

    • I did not know that, but the title is genius. And possibly way more accurate than “Oscars.”

  9. I agree with Ross about Meryl’s nom, seriously, give other more-deserving actresses a chance! We all know Meryl’s a great actress, no need to hit us over the head with it year after year. In the Best Actor category, I think there are lots of other actors more deserving than Clooney (i.e. Sam Rockwell, Sharlto Copley) I mean Clooney’s good I guess, but not THAT good. Btw, check out this article in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-chattman/the-forgotscars-honoring_b_445657.html I’d agree more with their picks.

    Meredith, I’m curious to read your Bright Star review. I agree Abbie Cornish delivered an Oscar-worthy performance, but I have a feeling we may disagree about the movie itself.

    • Cornish was the best part of “Bright Star.” It was good but not great … not great enough to make the top of 2009 list (for me).

      About the article: I LOVE that Zach Galifianakis and Tobey Maguire got some love, but I’m still mystified by all this hooplah over Mariah Carey in “Precious.” Yeah, she plain-janed it up and went low-key — especially compared to “Glitter” — but her performance can’t hold a candle to Mo’Nique.

  10. Laurent’s lack of a nomination in basically every single awards program this year is absurd. The scene in the cafe is one of the most moving and suspensful scenes from any film this year. What a shame.

  11. It’s been what… twenty years since Meryl won and about twelve nominations? Part of me worries that the Streep-centric love-in won’t stop with just a nomination.

    And it’s good to see that someone else noticed Laurent, who seems to have been mostly ignored, with all of the pre-nominations actress buzz on Basterds focusing on Kreuger – who was fine, but nothing outrageously special.

    • Agreed. Melanie Laurent’s scene with Waltz is one of the tensest in the entire film, and she does all that acting with her eyes. Plus, she’s the towering face at the end!

  12. Apatow films aren’t all about the raunch – not sure how you come to that conclusion. His greatest directorial effort, Knocked Up, has a a few trashy scenes, but its theme of a Peter Pan type finally having to grow up and accept responsibility for his decisions is a good theme, and it was the sparse movie that most men and women could like together, neither chick-flick nor guy-flick. A lot of his other movies treads similar ground. I like guy films, and I wish there were more of it out there – the world needs more teenage sex comedies in these depressing times

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