January, 2011

2011 Oscar Race: What happened?

So as most of you might know the Academy Award nominations where read out today. As with every year, there are a handful of “snubs and surprises” as the media so puts it. And boy where there some surprises!
First off, where was Mila Kunis!? What I consider to be great acting or a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination, not a win, but just a nomination, is different from what the Academy thinks. What I think is a great performance is when you take an actor or an actress out of their comfort zone and place them in a situation that they have never been in before. Case in point would be Robin Williams in One Hour Photo, Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (which she won for) and this performance. When you think Mila Kunis you think one of two things: That 70’s Show or Family Guy. You don’t think Golden Globe nomination for psychotic bad-girl ballerina, do you? That’s what acting is; it’s taken someone out of there ordinary acting abilities and placing them where they don’t belong and having it work out, which is what Kunis did beautifully in Black Swan.
Of course we all know that Merly Streep can act and that she is possible one of the greatest actors of our or any generation, but all her work is the same: heart wrenching dramas, tearful sentimental films or biopic’s. For her next film she will be portraying Prime Minister Margret Thatcher. Safe to say we’ll see her nominated in 2012. But that’s not great acting. Streep is doing the same genre over and over again. Sure she dipped her hands in a few different genres, suspense with The River Wild, comedy with She Devil and It’s Complicated, even a musical, but you don’t see them getting critical acclaim. Mila Kunis took a chance and did something different and that’s a true actress. She definitely deserved the nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
I’m kind of mad that her spot was taken by new-comer Hailee Steinfeld, who hasn’t been nominated by any other major award group this year. And that The Fighter got two nominations for supporting actress when I really feel like it only deserved one. Amy Adams was good and gritty in her performance as Mark Whalberg’s love interest but it was Melissa Leo who stole the show as Marky Marks overbearing chain-smoking mother/manager.
I’m tired of the Academy not giving dues where there deserved. Although this year we did get to see a lot of names that we regularly wouldn’t associate with an Oscar: James Franco, although he is a fine actor, he most remembered for Spider Man. Jesse Eisenberg, who has been making his mark in the Indie genre but never truly boomed in Hollywood. Jennifer Lawrence who is relatively new to everything and Mark Ruffalo, who I honestly can’t see as a “Academy-Award nominee.” But still, that doesn’t cloud the fact that a lot of actors who got great buzz this year where left out.
Also, what happened to the Best Supporting Actor race? The Academy made good by following up with Christian Bale, who I believe is long overdue for an Oscar. His performances in American Psycho, The Machinist and even The Dark Knight where amazing and it shows that he has such commitment and versatility in his roles. He lost over 60 lbs to be in The Machinist and then bulked up incredibly to do Batman Begins. He truly is a ‘characters actor’ and this is his year. But what happened to Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake from The Social Network? Garfield already won a few awards as part of the billionaire duo that created Facebook but it was JT who really stole the show as Napster founder Sean Paker. His performance was remarkable when realizing that he is a singer and not an actor. If Beyonce could at least garner a Golden Globe nomination for Dreamgirls, JT’s performance was definitely a step above that and should have been acknowledged.
And perhaps the most upsetting news of them all in my book was Christopher Nolan being shut out AGAIN for Best Director. Nolan is a visionary. He has the ability to take a script that has elements that when read aloud, are probably deemed unbelievable. But he can take them and make them believable without the use of CGI or special effects. Probably one of the most memorable scenes in cinema this year was the zero gravity hallway scene in Inception, which is up for an impressive 8 awards this season. The entire scene was done without the use of CGI which is truly outstanding when you see it.
This is the third time Nolan has been shut out of this category, first and second where Memento and The Dark Knight. And what makes this even more mindboggling is that his movies have been recognized by the DGA so why not the Academy? I understand that people can argue that the Academy has a dislike for big blockbuster and big Hollywood productions and they tend to favor the quite dramas that go unnoticed but that hasn’t been true as of lately (i.e. Avatar). Plus, a lot of people say that The Dark Knight shouldn’t be nominated because it’s a comic book movie. Did we forget that Superman was nominated for 3 Academy Awards when it was released in 1978? Inception made a little over $800 million and was praised by critics upon release. Still, no nomination. I understand that it is a big deal to be awarded a Best Director Oscar. Martin Scorsese went years before winning Best Direction in ‘04 but he was still nominated times before. And it took Spielberg until 93’s Schindler’s List to win after critically acclaimed blockbusters like E.T and Jaws. Hang in there Nolan, your day will come . . . eventually. 2012 will be you year. The Dark Knight Rises hasn’t even begun shooting yet and it’s already creating a lot of buzz with the casting of Tom Hardy (also Inception) as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle aka Catwomen.
If The Dark Knight Rises is half as good as The Dark Knight was, Nolan has a sure fire hit on his hands. With 10 Best Picture spots to fill compared with only 5 when The Dark Knight was release in ’08, my moneys on TDKR at least being nominated for Best Picture. But 2012 is a long ways away and TDKR has some big shoes to fill. Not only are Hardy and Hathaway going to live in the shades of Ledger’s now iconic Joker but how many threequels do you know of that when on to the Oscars?
Here’s hoping to the future of the Academy Awards. This season’s winners will be announced on February 27th.

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