Yesterday, as you may have seen (if not then the list of nominees are at the end of this article), the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards were announced, and they rather… what’s the word… perplexing perhaps? For every expected nomination (here’s looking at you The Artist), there was a shock one, and for every shock there was an explainable snub. Since I, and I’m sure many other film lovers, find the Oscar’s choices somewhat baffling,  I thought I’d write down my thoughts and express them with you through the three headings of The Happy-To-See’s, The Snubs and The WTF’s. Enjoy!

The Happy-to-See’s 

I’m glad that Gary Oldman has been recognised for his portrayal of George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the category of Best Actor. It is a quietly subtle performance which doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, yet displays Oldman’s great skill and range. It is a crime that he hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar before, and sadly due to the lack of other award interest (aside from BAFTA, although that’s a given really) it is unlikely that Oldman will go away with the statue on the night. However, I’m sure Oldman still has some great performances to deliver in the near future.

Remaining in the Acting categories, it was great to see Nick Nolte receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his raw and hugely emotional performance in the otherwise ignored Warrior (more on that later). Nolte had been a front-runner from late last year, but then things seemed to quiet down on the Nolte front, with both the Golden Globes and BAFTA ignoring him. But thankfully the academy have seen some sense and honoured him with a nomination for his portrayal of Tom Hardy and Joel Edgarton’s estranged Father, who is desperately seeking the love of his sons after years of being a drunk.

Another acting nomination that made me smile was in the Best Actress category, in the form of Rooney Mara for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Her turn as troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander managed to stay fresh in light of the already impressive portrayal of the character by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish original. Mara’s Lisbeth almost feels like a completely different character, moving and acting in an animalistic manner, whilst at the same time managing to be both very vulnerable and incredibly intimidating. It’s an incredibly strong performance in a very tightly constructed thriller and hopefully we’ll get to see more of Mara as Lisbeth as well as other roles to test her acting ability.

In related Dragon Tattoo nominations, it’s great to see the film nominated for 5 awards in total, which include Mara’s nomination, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing and  Best Sound Mixing. Sure, they may be most technical ones, but I find the technical categories to be the most interesting and commendable, as they make up the components which support the performances and give a film its atmosphere, along with being the areas which contain some of the hardest working and skilled hands in the movie industry.

Snubs 

Now, I’d like to start with the biggest snub, Drive. It may not have been to all the audiences’ tastes, but I and many critics placed it as the Best Movie of 2011, and it certainly is admired by critics, brandishing a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet, Oscar failed to give it any recognition, bar a nod in Best Sound Editing. Like rubbing salt into a wound. I wasn’t surprised it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination I must say, cult movies such as this don’t tend to get that kind of award recognition. But not to give Albert Brooks, a front-runner for many months, a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his brilliantly dark role as a Mob Boss after Ryan Gosling’s Driver is beyond me. Plus, Drive is a film of a very definite style, fantastically retro with streaks of neon noir making it an ultimate art-house action movie. And this is down to the assured and unflinching direction of Nicholas Winding Refn. He thoroughly deserves a nomination, even if the film itself isn’t recognised in Best Picture. It is a case of the Oscar’s not really taking note of what has been popular with both audiences and critics.

I’m not sure how hard 20th Century Fox actually tried, but rumor had it, the studio was pushing for Andy Serkis to receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as Caesar the ape in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And why shouldn’t they? It is a highly emotive performance which carried the highly impressive film right through. Yet nothing. There’s an easy answer for this; motion capture. The Academy is yet to take motion capture seriously, and after this it’s hard to see them ever doing so. If this film couldn’t change their thoughts about it then I don’t know what will. Yes, it’s a CGI creation, but one that is actually performed, movement for movement and every frown, every smile, every face of anguish comes straight from an actor wearing a funny suit. It’s an incredibly dedicated form of performance and one that deserves better recognition, particularly Serkis who has been a pioneer in the technology from Gollum right up to Caesar.

Motion-Capture related, The Adventures of Tintin, after winning the category at the Golden Globes, failed to receive a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category. The Academy may have once again excluded it due to the motion capture element of it, but unlike Apes, this is an example of the technology that is undeniably animated and cartoon-esque. So why it should be excluded when every other Awards board recognised it is strange. The category has been filled with the very little known likes of A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita, and fair enough to them as the recognition will be great for them. But placing Kung Fu Panda 2 over Tintin is something I don;t quite understand. Rango is included but that was beautifully animated and makes a nice change to the usual plethora of Pixar and Dreamworks, but Tintin had some amazing sequences in it that were truly impressive, making it hard to establish exactly why Oscar felt it wasn’t worthy to be nominated.

Now back to Warrior. The film is expertly crafted, features strong performances and although cliched, it managed to put its own spin on the sports movie by featuring UFC fighting. It has a story perfectly suited for Oscar, it should have been a shoe-in. But only Nolte gets recognition. Quite why this went unnoticed is strange, perhaps the studio didn’t campaign, but it seems too tailored for Awards for them not to have done. Last year, the similar, yet arguably more cliched, The Fighter garnered a total of 7 nominations. It may have had something to do with the Academy not wanting to praise a movie so similar to The Fighter so soon. Which is a great shame for Warrior, as personally, I think it is the superior film.

In terms of acting, it was a no-show for the likes of Michael Fassbender, supposedly very good in Shame, Tilda Swinton for her (again supposedly) fantastic turn in We Need To Talk About Kevin. The one that disappoints me is the lack of appreciation, across all award boards, for Kirsten Dunst’s performance in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. In respect to her previous work, it is like nothing she has ever done before. It’s a powerful, dark and troubled performance which fuels the films rather downbeat tone, but in such a way that you can’t help but admire it. A rather large injustice on the Academy’s side, although I’m sure Von Trier’s Cannes Controversy didn’t help the film in any way.  

Following my disappointment at the lack of nominations for my favourite film of the year with Drive, I’d now like to express my huge disappointment for the complete and utter lack of any nominations for my second favourite film of the year; 50/50. Nothing. Not a zilch, which is a huge injustice in my opinion. It told a funny and touching story with a witty and intelligent script and featured a heart rendering performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  JGL may not have got nominated due to the Academy having a reluctance to nominate actors below the age of 40 (could well be the reason for Fassbender’s snub as well) but I was very sad to see that Will Reiser’s personal script wasn’t nominated for Best Original Screenplay, especially considering what was (more on that later).

The WTF’s!?  

My first WTF. Bridesmaids. This years Hangover. Fair enough, give it that much. But two nominations in two categories that I really can’t see justification for. The first; Best Original Screenplay (this is what I was referring to above). The film is funny, but nothing entirely stood out to me as original or particularly that touching. Mostly because I found it hard to find a character in which to actually like. All the main female characters are fair too bitchy and self-centered to consider themselves worthy of your sympathy. Yes, imma gunna be hating on Bridesmaids here. There were much better original scripts this year (50 ‘freakin’ 50). And then the film went and got a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the form of Melissa McCarthy, who played the large and obnoxious member of the group. There’s the problem right there. Every comedy like has a large and obnoxious character in it. The character wasn’t anything original, and what McCarthy did with it, no matter how funny, was not in any way fresh or unique. Bridesmaids rant over.

Cue The Tree of Life rant. Now, it may have the Palm D’Or, and some, emphasis on the SOME, people found it deep and poetic and meaningful. I was not one of them. It is a very pretentious film with lots of pretty imagery that fails to connect in a coherent and deep meaningful way. I guess that’s Terrence Malick for you. Yet the film managed to earn a Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography nomination. The cinematography nod is more than justified, as it was a very beautiful film, but Best Picture and Best Director is not founded for me. Granted, there were quite a few people who found the film to be very profound, and I was hoping to be one of them. Refn should have had that director nomination, and 50/50 should have had a Best Picture nod.

I’ll just quickly mention the rather confusing decisions made within the Best Original Song category. There are only two nominations, a song from The Muppets and Rio. It seems very strange for this topic to just have two nominees. It’s surprising Madonna’s Golden Globe winning songs from her (probably awful) directorial debut W.E. didn’t make the list. 

And finally, what is this film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close doing in the Best Picture nominees? For one, it has had terrible reviews, only just managing a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with most critics agreeing that it is a sickly sweet and somewhat irritating movie. When the Best Picture nominees were announced, I wasn’t too surprised with any of them, bar The Tree of Life, which I was more miffed about then surprised. We had War Horse, The Artist, Midnight In Paris, Hugo, Moneyball, The Descendants and The Help announced. A nice tidy number of 8. And then all of a sudden Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is sprung out. I hated the trailer, and couldn’t believe it had made it into the list of nominees following what I had heard about it. It may feature a very Oscar friendly plot and star Tom Hanks, but does the Academy not account for quality film-making anymore. That could be an incredible harsh presumption on my part, but just head over to http://www.aintitcool.com/node/52814. These guys are usually a great judge, and I take their opinion seriously. How can a film supposedly that bad really get a Best Picture nomination? And what the hell is with 9 nominations!?

Right. That’s my ranting over for now. It’s going to be a strange night at the Oscar’s, hopefully there won’t be anymore injustices as there are quite a few already if you don’t mind me saying. Although I am yet to see it, I would be more than happy to see The Artist clear house, as I think celebrating a silent movie in this day and age would be a welcome and refreshing change. And it would allow the world to see that the Academy isn’t completely against originality. So, now we just wait until the night of the 26th of February. Until then, happy watching!

Full list of nominees:

Best Picture

  • The Artist
  • The Descendants
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Moneyball
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse


Best Director

  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Alexdander Payne, The Descendants
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Best Actor In a Supporting Role

  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Mellisa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Demian Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis, The Help
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Animated Feature Film

  • A Cat in Paris, Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
  • Chico & Rita, Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
  • Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
  • Puss in Boots, Chris Miller
  • Rango, Gore Verbinski

Cinematography

  • The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
  • Hugo, Robert Richardson
  • The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
  • War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

Foreign Language Film

  • Belgium, “Bullhead”, Michael R. Roskam, director
  • Canada, “Monsieur Lazhar”, Philippe Falardeau, director
  • Iran, “A Separation”, Asghar Farhadi, director
  • Israel, “Footnote”, Joseph Cedar, director
  • Poland, “In Darkness”, Agnieszka Holland, director

Music (Original Song)

  • “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
  • “Real in Rio” from Rio, Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garret
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
  • The Descendants, Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
  • Hugo, Screenplay by John Logan
  • The Ides of March, Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
  • Moneyball, Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.  Story by Stan Chervin
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • The Artist, Written by Michel Hazanavicius
  • Bridesmaids, Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
  • Margin Call, Written by J.C. Chandor
  • Midnight in Paris, Written by Woody Allen
  • A Separation, Written by Asghar Farhadi

Art Direction

  • The Artist: Laurence Bennett (Production Design); Robert Gould (Set Decoration)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: Stuart Craig (Production Design); Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration)
  • Hugo: Dante Ferretti (Production Design); Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration)
  • War Horse: Rick Carter (Production Design); Lee Sandales (Set Decoration)

Costume Design

  • Anonymous, Lisy Christl
  • The Artist, Mark Bridges
  • Hugo, Sandy Powell
  • Jane Eyre, Michael O’Connor
  • W.E., Arianne Phillips

Documentary Feature

  • Hell and Back Again
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  • Pina
  • Undefeated

Documentary Short

  • The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement, Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
  • God is the Bigger Elvis, Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
  • Incident in New Baghdad, James Spione
  • Saving Face, Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Film Editing

  • The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
  • The Descendants, Kevin Tent
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

Makeup

  • Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
  • The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (Original Score)

  • The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
  • The Artist, Ludovic Bource
  • Hugo, Howard Shore
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
  • War Horse, John Williams

Short Film (Animated)

  • Dimanche/Sunday, Patrick Doyon
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
  • La Luna, Enrico Casarosa
  • A Morning Stroll, Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
  • Wild Life, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Short Film (Live Action)

  • Pentecost, Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
  • Raju, Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
  • The Shore, Terry George and Oorlagh George
  • Time Freak, Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
  • Tuba Atlantic, Hallvar Witzø

Sound Editing

  • Drive, Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ren Klyce
  • Hugo, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
  • War Horse, Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Sound Mixing

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
  • Hugo, Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
  • Moneyball, Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
  • War Horse, Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
  • Hugo, Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
  • Real Steel, Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Dan Glass, Brad Friedman, Douglas Trumbull and Michael Fink
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