Errors, omissions and general hilarity: it’s Awards nomination time again

Appalling to discover what it takes to get me back here, isn’t it?  Nominations morning. Kiss and cry time.  So much real, consequential stuff came down during the last months of 2013, yet, mostly, I hung back from writing.  Omit a few names on the Academy Award ballot and I’m fired up, ready to go. I fear it’s simply the mark of the beast, so better get to it. The less frivolous stuff is TK, I swear. .

First the outrage, then the love.. It seemed to me that three actors absolutely held their films together and at least two of them, Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Joaquin Phoenix (Her.) did the best work of their lives. Unfortunately, the Actors branch didn’t agree.(Churls among us might even call it Redford’s first unmannered performance, but you know churls.) 

I would have put Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips as the hard pressed, resourceful freighter captain on that list too, except that, idly, I started to watch Philadelphia on TCM the night before the nominations, and after Hanks appeared, I couldn’t stop. No matter how that film sits with you, then or now, watching it cleared up one thing fast for me. Captain Phillips isn’t a career best for Hanks, it’s simply what he’s been doing all his acting life, working with a strength, integrity. delicacy and — within limits — range that has only intensified with time.

If there’s an irony to Hanks’ lack of recognition, it’s in the supporting actor nomination for the terrifyingly good Barkhad Abdi as Captain Phillips’ chief adversary among the Somali pirates. Guess who Abdi is shoulder to shoulder with for 90% of his scenes? You have to have flint to strike sparks.

Before we leave Captain Phillips, its editing nomination (for Christopher Rouse, in his third film for director Paul Greengrass) seemed virtually inevitable, but how could there not be one for Greengrass himself?  Shades of Ben Affleck and Argo, although that didn’t turn out too badly, if anyone can remember back to the 2013 Awards.  

I am going to hold the fierce good thought that Fruitvale Station’s complete shut out for director Ryan Coogler and actors Michael B.Jordan and Octavia Spencer only gives Independent Spirit award voters a clear sense of what they can do to right some big oversights. The Indie folks love stuff like that; it makes them look less like panting wanna-bees and more like Spirit voters.of old, free thinkers who gave Best Director awards to Lodge Kerrigan, Everett Lewis, Whit Stillman, Nick Gomez, Carl Franklin and, oh yes, David O. Russell. Those were the days.

L. to R.: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, director Ryan Coogler

And while we’re in Omissions vein: I really hope it didn’t look too much like Jonestown over at the T Bone Burnett scatter Thursday. To call attention to Burnett’s immaculate round-up of folk songs which gave the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis its very backbone, CBS Films sent prospective voters everything but an Inside Llewyn Davis scratch ‘n sniff. You may have noticed the double-truck ads. For this massive effort they got two nods, for Bruno Delbonnet’s rapt, incisive cinematography and for the trio who did the sound recording. Entirely worthy but well short of high CBS hopes. Harsh, Academy, truly harsh.

What might be called the Inside Llewyn Davis Situation has not gone unnoticed close to home, either. Tucker and Lily feel keenly the lack of recognition for their orange brethren (all 3 of them) who gave character, attitude and certainly legs to Llewyn Davis himself.

Before we leave film music, you won’t hear more heartfelt American bluegrass than in a gem hidden among the five Best Foreign Film nominees. The Broken Circle Breakdown, from Belgium is a stunner, an intimate contemporary love story whose brilliantly fractured narrative carries a genuine gut punch. It may take a minute to adjust to a bluegrass lead  singer whose other mode of expression is her artful and ever-expanding tattoos, but this is a case where her ink is beyond decorative, it’s her message to the world. (Great good news: Scarecrow,Video, invaluable and essential as ever, tells me that Broken Circle has a March 11th DVD release.)


We should all have known Sally Hawkins (a supporting actress nominee for Blue Jasmine) years ago, after her effervescent, many-faceted Poppy in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky (2008).  As I remember (a dangerous phrase), a broken collarbone on another shoot, before Happy Go Lucky’s U.S. release kept her from doing the intense NY publicity push Leigh’s film needed. Her performance became a cherished, “minor” prize-winning open secret. She picked up awards from stateside critics’ groups, a first at Berlin, even a Golden Globe during that group’s more louche era, but for Academy voters she might not have existed. As of Thursday morning, she does. She’s in one of the most densely packed major categories, still. . .she’s there, at long last. (And what did Hollywood find for Hawkins first, for her quirky, lean-in-closely unique fizz?  Godzilla.)

I’m glossing over armloads of favorites mainly because, with the exception of Gravity, which mercifully I saw before House Arrest began, I’ve watched almost everything else on screeners. Each time I do, I imagine sharing the room and the moment with the film’s director, sleepless after weeks balancing the sound, correcting the color, getting every finicky detail tuned to perfection. . . . Oh the horror, the horror!!!

Now that they’re rushing so many films back into theatres,  I am looking forward to getting my fill of repeats on very big screens (12 Years a Slave, Gravity — Yes again. And again —. perhaps even another fling with The Grandmaster) before they all go away, March 2nd, and only the winners survive.  .

Let me finish with a Kite Day update. First: I can say absolutely that I walk better than Bruce Dern.  I always did.  As of last week, however, I can now get up the stairs to our bedroom — and all my clothes, and while you might not want to see my knife-work from up close, I’m cooking again.  Next is our car’s stick-shift, which is still a bit beyond me, although the day can’t come soon enough in some quarters. My husband has taken to calling me Miss Daisy. He says all he needs is the cap.

9 thoughts on “Errors, omissions and general hilarity: it’s Awards nomination time again

  1. Sheila, this is a delight. So is hearing that you’re healing. As Don always says when someone asks how we’re doing, “We lurch along.” Lurch along, and love to you and Saint Herman.

  2. Yummy, and well worth the wait. Glad you are climbing to new heights again!
    love from Calistoga.

  3. Always exciting to see a new post here! Truly love your knowledge, insight, and (not leastwise) way with words. So glad, too, to hear you are able to access your full wardrobe again. Frivolous or non, looking forward to the TK!

  4. Sheila dear, Wonderful to be able to read such insightful comments once again. Especially the idea that people judge on screeners and not on a full on theater experience. And to hear how you are physically progressing from the Kite Day incident. Thank you. Love, Janet.

  5. Ah! My eyes lit up to see a new Critic Quality Feed post! I guess I’m starved for your sparkling writings! I am in total agreement about Redford & Phoenix being un-nommed.

  6. I was hoping we’d hear from you regarding the Oscars! Also glad to hear you’re making it up the stairs! I, too, was surprised that INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS missed so many deserved nominations. Especially since films of far lesser quality (IMHO) got nominations in its place. And I agree that it’s a shock and a shame that Redford and Phoenix didn’t get nominated! This will be the first year I don’t watch the Oscars. Ever. They no longer hold much meaning for me beyond a childhood fantasy of what they were and an adult fantasy of what I want them to be. I was not a fan of CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, sadly. I’m one of the ones who found it to be a bit too much American propaganda for my tastes. And while I thought Hanks began the film with a strong performance (and ended with one as well), the second half of the film devolved for me and Hanks’ perf was dragged down with it (is it okay to disagree? :). I blame the writing for that more than Hanks. The film went from unique and unusual to rote and expected (too harsh?). And my least favorite film this year was GRAVITY. Clearly I’m in the minority on this one. And I saw it twice just to make sure! For me, it felt like an overlong videogame (Frogger?) with great 3D effects. I wish someone could explain to me what they saw in this film beyond the effects. And I just want to say that, even when we don’t agree, I always LOVE hearing your thoughts and opinions! I’m also glad you mentioned screeners. So many critics fail to mention screeners. I think they play a HUGE role in the films that get nominated. So many great films from companies and filmmakers who cannot afford to send out screeners (FRUITVALE STATION?) and simply remain off the radar of most Academy voters. It’s a shame. Most of the best films I saw from last year have gone virtually unheard of. Living in L.A., I get to speak with many Academy voters and, it seems, they focus generally on the screeners they receive and not much else. Like I said, most of the films not represented by free screeners are films most of the voters and wholly unaware of. If only there was a better way to level the playing field without a huge marketing budget tipping the scale so unfairly. I’ll spend Oscar night ignoring the Oscars and watching one of those potentially great films that I didn’t receive a screener for. That’s another way, for me, to honor films from 2013.

  7. That was fun to read and it’s nice to hear the passion in your voice for the topic (nice, but no surprise!).

    We’ll catch up this weekend?     Caitlin B. Hartford   


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