Let’s pick through this year’s full-on melodrama at the Academy Award nominations and see what seems to stand out. Is this deep, inside stuff you can take to the betting window or the office pool? Good heavens no. I’m habitually awful at that game. This is a bemused look around by someone a little off to one side, and just crazy enough to take it all in.
You want depth, the internet now churns with writers whose depth of field in Oscar stats is stunning, although sometimes it seems that the Oscars are their only world.
For clarity, and a sense of proportion on the nominations (and all things Hollywood), I’d trust the New York Times team of Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes who, among other challenges, make the virtually impenetrable Academy rule changes clear, and do it with a sheen of wit. They’re non-geeky and nicely reliable.
As for me, it looks as though the Academy has tried to shake things up. A little. So we have Demian Bichir on the Best Actors list for A Better Life, and Nick Nolte as a Best Supporting Actor in Warrior. (Now to find those films!) We have the fortitude of the Animation Committee who resisted The Adventures of Tin Tin in all its mirthlessness, and having been left off nearly every of those churning prognosticators’ lists, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy came in from the cold. Thrilled to see its 3 nominations, which include its screenplay adaptation and Gary Oldman’s first acting nod. That was a wait. .
Now: who got robbed? For starters, Albert Brooks (Drive), who said as much and more. Even before today’s announcement, he was wickedly wondering how many more events he had to go to and watch Christopher Plummer win. For his part, Plummer keeps calling himself “a young kid of 82,” plummily, which should be enough to get his name stricken from the list.
While we’re over at Drive, what about its editing, which set the tempo of the whole film? Trade you that for the editing of Descendants. And what about Ryan Gosling, whether driving, playing politics in The Ides of March or with his shirt off in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Should be some kind of award for that, no?
How long before the Academy gets Andy Serkis? After his motion capture gave a soul to Gollum of The Rings trilogy, to King Kong and this year to Caesar, the genetically altered chimp from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it’s past time to recognize his near-genius. Where to put his mixture of art and technology is probably driving the Actors Branch wild: how about just calling his work acting?
You don’t want to think about Young Adult, without Patton Oswalt, who really needs to be in the Supporting Actor slot. The movie was on a thin edge as it was, I shudder to think where it would have been without him. Oswalt has perfect, corrosive pitch as the pity-proof victim of a brutalizing attack in high school who becomes Charlize Theron’s voice of reason, whether she wants him or not.
Because Oswalt cannot have Max von Sydow’s space (no matter what you think of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), why don’t we give him Kenneth Branagh’s imitation of Sir Lawrence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn?
It pains me to say this, because I think Michelle Williams [and Carey Mulligan] light up every film she’s in, but there should be an embargo on Marilyn Monroe. She cannot be “done,” and no one should have to try. In the most minor example, you cannot have gents in a screening room, as My Week has, slathering over the luminosity of “her” skin, because that glow was parceled out only to MM (and, don’t snicker, I’m serious, Mae West) and that’s all there is to that.
Finally, what about the phenomenal actor in nearly every moment of Extremely Loud, young Thomas Horn, if we’re talking about pure robbery? What were they thinking?
If you staggered through a shot-by-shot 16-point analysis devoted to Melancholia’s overture alone in a recent Sunday New York Times, you may wonder where that film stands with Oscar. Zip, zero, S.O.L. Not even the cinematography, which is truly other-worldly, let alone Kirsten Dunst’s soulful appropriation of melancholy itself.
You have to lay this in the lap of its Danish director Lars von Trier during its Cannes debut. It doesn’t help your cause to joke, appallingly. Cannes immediately banned him, and those who took his words at face value — not allowing for mordant Danish humor — condemned Melancholia along with him. That would seem to be the mindset of Academy voters, for whom its first prize at the European Film Awards in December 2011 cut no ice.
Today we have the flutters of acknowledgment from every nominee, a few of which even stand out.
Martin Scorsese whose ebullient and touching Hugo leads the field with 11 nominations, including Best Picture and Director, led off with his gratitudes, then added, “Every picture is a challenge, and this one, where I was working with 3D, HD and Sacha Baron Cohen for the first time, was no exception.”
Peter Straughan, co-adaptor of Tinker, Tailor, with his wife, the novelist/screenwriter Bridget O’Connor, said: “I wish more than anything in the world that my wife. . could be here to enjoy this moment. She would be so happy and so proud. I’m going to go and meet my daughter now and tell her how clever her mother was.” O’Connor died of cancer at 49, before filming was finished; the film is dedicated to her.
Finally, there was Glenn Close, whose Albert Nobbs nomination left her “Just elated. Elated, elated.” She told the interviewer that she had come back to her home from a green tea latte with her husband in the East Village, with the Oscars not even on her mind . . . when her publicist rang with the news.
About the nomination of the three-person make-up team who turned Close into Alfred she said, “I think their work is the opposite of the work in Harry Potter or Iron Lady. It was minimalist. It represents the fineness of the craft. . . . . Sitting in the chair,” she said, “was a meditative.”
Don’t know about you, but I’d kill to be there for the nominees lunch. Meryl Streep might just have a meditative of her own with Close about The Iron Lady’s make-up team, equally nominated.
Finally, the most unfathomable loss was the three-way shut-out of Michael Fassbender. So, Shame may have cut too close to too many bones, but no Jane Eyre or the absolutely thrilling duels between Fassbender’s Jung and Viggo Mortensen’s Freud in A Dangerous Method? Sheesh! Guess there’s nothing left for Fassbender to do but practice his golf swing.