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Yet Another Oscar Blog : Part I

Which Oscar nominations surprised you?

The chances of me saying anything new about Thursday’s nominations are next to none. Many voices on the internet were quick to talk only about the ‘snubs’, as they do every year, and guess what, that’s what I’m going to talk about too -- at least concerning the directing category, for now.

To say there were snubs is a bit of an over-statement. Who is the real judge of what is and isn’t the best of the year, the most deserving? If there aren’t snubs, then the Oscars wouldn’t be much fun.

One of my favorite movies of 2012 is The Dark Knight Rises, and it did not receive a single nomination, even in any of the technical categories. Old me, five or six years ago, would be raising furious hell, but I don’t know if I care anymore, or at least, if it's a big deal. Last year I was only deeply passionate about one Oscar: Best Cinematography. It was the first award of the night, and Emmanuel Lubezki did not win for The Tree of Life. I loved that The Artist won all of its awards, especially Jean Dujardin for Best Actor, but all my focus was on Cinematography. 

This year I have something else to watch for. The film Amour surprised many with its five Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Film. Foreign Film was expected since the film began its press screenings, and while the other categories it was nominated for are entirely deserving, it breaches the Academy’s usual “rules” of not thinking outside the box.

This brings me to the Best Director category. The obvious ones were Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Ben Affleck. But if the recent DGA nominations were going to be any indication, this list could have easily included Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, and Tarantino or Lee would have been out. But what came as a shock, Bigelow, Tarantino and Affleck were all shut-out of the category. Instead we have Michael Haneke for Amour, David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

This certainly makes things interesting, as I already predicted that Ben Affleck would win Best Director for Argo at the Oscars. Even before that prediction, it was industry talk that the Director award would be between Spielberg and Affleck. It’s hard to say who it will go to now. Spielberg could win, however that would make it the third time he’s won Best Director. And if he does win, he’ll be the fourth director in the Academy’s history to collect two or more Best Director statues during a lifetime. The others include Frank Capra (winning three), William Wyler (winning three) and John Ford (winning four). 

I was hoping that Paul Thomas Anderson would receive a Best Director nomination for The Master. It was looking good early in the award season, but bad word of mouth from the movie going public didn’t help anything. It’s a film of big events on a personal, character level, it’s a film with phenomenal acting, but the public didn’t connect with the characters, or really, the story. One man told me he’d rather be punched in the face, than have to watch The Master again. Another said it was the rudest movie he’d ever seen. Another said it was a huge letdown because Anderson’s previous film, There Will Be Blood, was amazing. Both are different films from the same man. From Hard Eight / Boogie Nights to The Master, we’ve been witnessing the growth a very interesting individual. 

As Paul Thomas Anderson is a personal hero of mine, it’s a shame he wasn’t nominated for Best Director, however, I’m loving that Michael Haneke was. This nomination is more than deserving, as he is one of the most confident working directors. If you’re not familiar with Haneke’s style -- both in a substance and a technical perspective -- Amour may be more alienating than engrossing. The directing is precious, without ever being sentimental. He effortlessly portrays events without judgement, and without strong technical cinematic manipulations. Haneke's The White Ribbon is still my favorite film of 2009.

Having not seen Silver Linings Playbook, I can’t make an appropriate argument for or against. I’ve only heard good things about David O. Russell’s film. I will, however, make the comment that it’s the first time in three decades that a film is nominated for all the top awards; Actress, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Director and Picture. The last film to do so was Reds (1981). That’s quite an achievement. I’m just pleased that Russell was nominated for director. If he had been snubbed, I’m sure it would have been talked about for a long time. How could a director not be nominated if the stars sweep the acting categories? Ahem, The Master is nominated for Actress, Actor, Supporting Actor, but no directing nomination. 

Perhaps the biggest shock of the morning was the fact that Kathryn Bigelow failed to make the Best Director cut. Granted, virtually no-one has seen Zero Dark Thirty yet, but that doesn’t prevent the Academy from voting for it. The film is currently playing in five theatres -- in Los Angeles and New York. Time for some stats: 89% of the Academy voters live in LA, while 7% live in New York. 

In the coming weeks I will be back to talk about more Oscar things, share more opinions, more disappointments, and my predictions. Starting Friday, January 10th you can see six of the nine nominated Best Picture films at Willow Creek Twelve. Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Les Miserables, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty.

(See this link for Willow Creek Twelve's showtimes) 


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