So this was the year of Oscar contender movies like Hyde Park on Hudson, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Magic Mike. You can see where I am going already with this. Yes, none of them managed a single nomination between them. Matthew McConaughey was possibly the closest to being nominated, for Best Supporting Actor for Steven Soderbergh’s not-just-a-male-stripper movie. Both also made very different that year, McConaughey was menacing in Killer Joe, and Soderbergh directed the slick chase flick Haywire. A couple of other notable non-nominees were the beginning of the franchise The Hunger Games, and indie gem Safety Not Guaranteed with Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass – I will shout-out these kinds of movies all day long regardless of any success with the Oscars.
Best Director – Ben Affleck (Argo)
On the flip side then the big winner was Argo, taking Best Picture, but not Best Director. No, to win any Oscar you have first to be nominated. And Ben Affleck, pretty nailed on, was surprisingly nowhere to be seen when the nominations where announced. Now whatever we say about Argo in hindsight, it was clearly well liked going into the awards season, so that was a bit of a shocker indeed. Ironic at the time was Affleck picking up the Critics’ Choice Best Director just hours later. And soon momentum would build up again, and whether or not the run of wins for Argo that followed was a kind of backlash for his snub, that Oscar miss for Best Director was a peculiar blip indeed.
Best Supporting Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
An unrelated casualty was Leonardo DiCaprio, who although has been Oscar nominated for some of his great work, at the time was pretty accustomed to the fact he is often a mirage to the Academy. What hurts about this particular omission is two-fold. Firstly, the eventual winner of Best Supporting Actor was his Django Unchained co-star Christoph Waltz. Secondly, DiCaprio pretty much devoured the movie every second he was in it. His performance was so bold and ferocious, as impressive as he has been on numerous occasions prior, we had not quite seen DiCaprio in this kind of form.
Best Actress – Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
Marion Cotillard already had a well-earned Oscar on her shelf. It appeared though that Emmanuelle Riva was the French woman of the moment for her performance in Amour. There was room for two. As a woman suffering a tragic accident that leaves her with the loss of her lower legs, Cotillard is in career-best form. Toughness and vulnerability, she demonstrates through her acting, the performance in Rust and Bone is a terrific example of her range. The Academy missed a great opportunity here. Again.
Best Original Screenplay – Rian Johnson (Looper)
As screenwriting is my field I often can’t talk the Oscars (snubs or otherwise) without delving into the conceptual categories. Especially when a screenplay like that of Looper by Rian Johnson is not nominated as Original Screenplay. Knowing how it all works generally this still felt like a long shot in practice – but it should have got in. They say it starts with the writing, and Johnson follows through with his expert execution. A narrative that shifts you out of the way just when you think you are figuring out where it is going. The time-shifting is a real testament to creative story-telling, and grabs hold of you right until the very end when you can only watch the characters reach their destiny, whether we want it or not we accept it is the right conclusion.
Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
While the film critics were wowing Zero Dark Thirty, aiding it’s potential to be a serious Oscar front-runner, Glenn Greenwald was writing in The Guardian about how the movie actually endorses the kind of torture it depicts. There was then direct criticism of those praising the movie, and the snowball of controversy got bigger and bigger, tarnishing the movie with so much mud it got stuck. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal attempted to defend their creation, but it was too late. Boal got the Screenplay nod at the Oscars, but although plausible he was favorite to win at some stage, he lost. Jessica Chastain was in a similar pole position but did not win Best Actress. They were nominated though. Bigelow, for Best Director, was astonishingly not. Having made Oscar history a few years earlier to a well-earned reception, Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty now become victims of a truly damaging smear crusade. It really was game over.
Originally posted 20th December 2014.