5 Oscar Could Have Beens: 2005

Crash. The verb to describe the significance of Jack Nicholson’s announcement, as well as the actual name of that Best Picture winner. It was a collision that knocked Brokeback Mountain off the road right at the very end. I won’t mention that this collision was not avoided by Lionsgate making a late DVD Screener dispatch, or some much more shameful homophobic publicity by noted AMPAS members. Opinions of Crash as a movie are mixed, but Ang Lee’s seamless motion picture should have been one of the great and most loved Best Picture winners in the Academy’s history.

This was a year of accomplished, solid films, like Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, Pride & Prejudice, Munich, Walk the Line, The Constant Gardener, and A History Of Violence. This was a year were King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha bagged the same amount of gold statuettes as Crash and Brokeback Mountain. The year Reese Witherspoon charmed the pants of nearly everyone as June Carter. And the year George Clooney directed one movie while growing a beard for another (“I guess I’m not winning Director” he joked when receiving his Supporting Actor prize). This was also the year that the Song winner was about how hard it is out there for a pimp. And also the year when the Academy Honorary Award was given to the great Robert Altman – ironic in the year an ensemble movie wins Best Picture.

My original could-have-beens list were to include two for Original Score, Mark Isham (Crash) and James Horner (The New World), Supporting nods for Clifton Collins Jr (Capote) and Maria Bello (A History of Violence), as well as an Actress nomination for Naomi Watts (King Kong). Instead I opted for some more surreal, but still warranted potential choices. No, I won’t be singing about Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Nor would I acknowledge Cameron Crowe’s rather flat Elizabethtown here. There was no Madagascar or Robots by the way in the Animated category. There were some audience and critics favorites that might not have quite fitted the Academy’s criteria, including Serenity, Wedding Crashers, Broken Flowers, Cache, and In Her Shoes.

On that note, here are five more that slipped under the net:

Best Actress – Radha Mitchell and Radha Mitchell (Melinda and Melinda)

To say that in the last thirty years Woody Allen has been churning out great roles and stellar performances from his actresses is an understatement (just look at his Oscar-winning form with both Actress and Supporting Actress). His muse this time around is Radha Mitchell. Her striking dual role (kind of) here was originally campaigned for Best Actress prior to the Golden Globes under Comedy or Musical, which is not quite fair enough, as Melinda and Melinda’s prime tone and premise is based on the parallels of comedy and drama in our lives. It is a clever notion, and a delightful enough movie, perhaps why it weighed slightly away from the Drama category with the HFPA. And perhaps one of the reasons it sadly was not rewarded at the Oscars. Mitchell is quite perfect here though, and transcends between her two personas with great skill. She is, of course, the stand-out, but there is some admirable acting on show – Will Ferrell is particularly interesting as he dips his toes in the semi-dramatic pond. I felt Mitchell tended to be an actress on the cusp of roles that would perhaps establish her as an acting force to be reckoned with. And in Melinda and Melinda she is afforded two bits at two very different cherries. Successfully affecting with both.

For Your Consideration In Most Categories – Sin City

So you are an Academy voter, what do you do with Sin City? Let’s start with the maestro Robert Rodriguez, who not only directed this visual and audio feast, he also had a hand in the music, visual effects, and is credited with the editing and cinematography. In another reality, Rodriguez could have made Oscar history. A Best Director nomination was not beyond the realm of possibilities. It is unlikely Sin City would ever contend in the acting categories, but had it the chance, you could not really argue with Mickey Rourke or Benicio Del Toro. And it would have been a shoo-in for Ensemble if that category existed.  Really, though, this could have snagged nominations for Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects – and possibly Art Direction and Cinematography. For the record, Austin Film Critics awarded it with the Animated Film prize, in Cannes that year (where it was in competition) it was given the Technical Grand Prize, and the St Louis Film Critics gave Sin City the award for Best Overlooked Film (or Most Original, Innovative Film). Innovative and overlooked – yeah, that does that sound familiar.

Best Original / Adapted Screenplay – Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)

Based on, only to some degree, the Brett Halliday crime novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them, Shane Black has faithfully brought the touch of romance and of comedy to that detective story, and brought his tongue-in-cheek edge to modern day Los Angeles. By touch of comedy I mean this has more crafty laughs than many other comedies that attempt to be intelligent. What is so damn smart about Black’s screenplay for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is that it’s really, genuinely funny moments (and there are a lot of them) are not just the lines of dialogue, but also the physical actions. Accidentally peeing on a dead body, or an aimless hand flick gesture that required words, don’t seem so humorous read from the page. But executed on the screen they come to life as they are supposed to. Of course credit has to go to what appears to be inch-perfect casting with Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan.

Best Actress – Natalie Press / Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love)

My Summer of Love is reminiscent of Heavenly Creatures and the more recent Love Is The Warmest Color in its inevitably regarding the clutch for romantic freedom bound to go sour. It is highly unlikely, or at least rare, that a small British movie would be recognised at the Oscars, let alone have it’s two lead actress nominated. Natalie Press plays a girl living with her apparently reformed brother (was violent, now religious) who immediately befriend’s Emily Blunt’s boarding school drop-out (or rather she was kicked out). Both girls appear to have emotional baggage, and naturally find in each other a form of spontaneous bond – and later declare an eternal love. Both actress are nothing short of glorious with their sombre stares and optimistic smiles. Blunt has gone on to build an impressive movie résumé since then, so we can appreciate her ability to portray the bad influence portion of a young love affair. Press, who is lesser well known now, is Blunt’s equal as an actress here, and immaculate in showing us a vulnerable and sympathetic girl ought to lap up all the love she can get.

Best Original Screenplay – Judd Apatow and Steve Carell (The 40 Year-Old Virgin)

This is going to be a funny movie even before you see it because of it’s title. Or at least, promise to be for that reason. In this business, the notion of a man not having sex by the time he is thirty, let alone forty, is unimaginable. Thus, funny. Steve Carell is given the role of a lifetime (surely), to show us the sympathetic side of such a life dilemma, but also the hilarity this can carry with it. The screenplay, which is very funny by the way, is not directly about a forty year-old loser the title may suggest. It is about his quest for love and sex, and to put away toys and games, as though he were just a late-starting teenager. This was Judd Apatow’s feature film début, and though he seems to have ran with this style of comedic movie and cast (Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann etc), this effort is arguably the finest. The premise brings with it some very real and amusing scenes (the chest-waxing stands out), but it also has the dialogue that can be demonstrate the naivety (“I’m a virgin,  I always have been.”) and the sometimes blatantly juvenile (“Everybody’s dick looks big on sixty inch TV, my sister’s dick looks big on TV”) that only enhance the whole thing. You would find a funny line in this script by just closing your eyes and putting your finger on any page.

Originally published 14th November 2014.

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