There was much rejoicing when the Academy Award nominations were announced last Thursday – but spare a thought for those who weren’t included. Every year some hotly-tipped stars, directors and crew members must see their efforts go unrewarded – and here’s a look at this year’s surprise omissions, and why they might have missed out...
Category: Best Actress
Film: Rust And Bone
With Amour busting out of the Best Foreign Film ghetto with a cane in one hand and a glass of raw heartache in the other, no-one could accuse Academy members of subtitle dodging this year. But Michael Haneke’s film, and its standout, Emmanuelle Riva, may have taken the attention away from Marion Cotillard’s blistering turn in Rust And Bone. So versatile she could probably have played one of the killer whales, she captivated as Jacques Audiard’s resilient heroine in a much-fancied realist drama. Cotillard has one Oscar already though, and we suspect there will be others to come, so we’re not going to fret this too much.
Category: Best Actor
Film: The Sessions
The absence of John Hawkes’ name from the Best Actor category was the closest this year’s voters came to bloody-mindedness, especially with The Sessions’s co-star Helen Hunt picking up a nomination in a less demanding (though still tricky) role. Perhaps it was the lack of ‘big’ dramatic moments that deterred the Academy – Hawkes’ performance as a quadriplegic man searching for sex is playful and dialled back – or maybe there’s a groundswell against able-bodied actors playing disabled characters to account for his and Cotillard’s absences. Like the French actress, the ever-impressive Hawkes will be back.
Category: Best Visual Effects
Film: The Dark Knight Rises
While The Dark Knight Rises was never likely to do a Return Of The King and round off the trilogy buried under a pile of statuettes, Christopher Nolan’s battle-hardened VFX team did pull off another feast of visual wonder that arguably deserved recognition. As with Dark Knight and Inception, Chris Corbould and Paul Franklin pulled off a balance of physical effects (truck smash!) and CG (football stadium!). It might not have mattered much anyway, however: if Life Of Pi doesn’t win, we’re Tony the Tiger.
Category: Best Director
Film: Zero Dark Thirty
If there was one vote for every bazillion column inches of newsprint generated by Kathryn Bigelow and her CIA thriller, the Best Director category would have been sewn up long ago. Overlooking the film’s nuance, the rumblings about CIA leaks and its depiction of torture didn’t play well with Academy voters, it seems. Despite Zero Dark Thirty’s Best Film nomination, Bigelow joins Ben Affleck and Tom Hooper on the list of surprise director omissions, making her possibly the first director to miss out for a movie that was apparently both too right wing and not right wing enough all at the same time. At least she already has one Oscar to comfort her on this misfortune.
Category: Best Documentary
Few of the Best Documentary picks have landed on these shores yet, but if they’re half as good as Bart Layton’s five-star noir, doc-lovers are in for a treat in coming months. Like Undefeated’s Coach Courtney and Man On Wire’s Philippe Petit, its subject, AAA-rated trickster Frédéric Bourdin, was the kind of compelling protagonist the Academy usually loves – and we know that the film made the Documentary longlist, so it was presumably eligible. Perhaps it was only a Weinstein (or other studio push) away from Academy Award recognition.
Category: Best Original Screenplay
Rian Johnson’s sci-fi pressed many of the buttons Oscar voters appreciate. It was fierce, original and had a twinkle in its eye (“I’m from the future,” goes one of its choicest lines, “you should go to China”) – all the qualities that saw Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind win in 2004. Admittedly, it has been that long since a science-fiction script won the honour – Midnight In Paris (ahem) apart – with talkie dramas (Flight, Milk) and quirky indies (Juno, Little Miss Sunshine) regularly dominating the field, but Looper was well worth recognising. Looks like, unlike the rest of the world, Oscar voters are not yet in touch with their inner geek.
Category: Best Visual Effects
Film: The Impossible
Ewan McGregor can count himself unlucky not to be joining co-star Naomi Watts at the Kodak Theater, but it’s The Impossible post-production wizards who are most hard done by. If you’ve witnessed that terrifying tsunami on the big screen, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. In truth, the film’s tech wizards behind it didn’t get close to tux time – The Impossible missed even the Academy’s ten-film VFX shortlist – which, considering Hereafter was recognised for an inferior sequence, reveals a disappointing Hollywood bias in the voting.
Category: Best Director
If Oscar buzz is a mysterious, ever-shifting thing, it takes discernible shapes in the lead-up to February 24. But before this turns into a Green Lantern analogy, cast your mind back to that time (October) when Argo, and Ben Affleck in particular, was the name on everyone’s lips. It now seems a long time ago that he was warm, if not actually hot, favourite for a Best Director award. The fickle nature of Oscar campaigning and surprise love for Silver Linings Playbook and Beasts Of The Southern Wild among Academy members ended up squeezing him out. He can count himself unlucky – but it’s surely only a matter of time until he takes home a directing Oscar to match his screenwriting one.
Category: Best Sound Mixing
Film: Pitch Perfect
We’ll be honest, we don’t know if the sound mixing on Pitch Perfect was up there with his best work – although the title kinda implies it was – but we really want to see Kevin O’Connell, the man behind it, win an Academy Award so we’re calling this a snub. O’Connell has been nominated 20 times – TWENTY – and not won a single statuette. To rub salt into our wounds (though, in fairness, probably not his) his old collaborator Greg P. Russell is up for an Oscar this year for Skyfall. Someone just give this man an Oscar already.