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Nominations Snub Lasting Brilliance

Szymon Ryzner | Monday, January 26, 2009

The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards emerged last week and it seems that the criticism surrounding the selections is significantly more present than in recent years past. Best Picture nominations went to many deserving films, albeit films that everyone expected to garner nominations. Films such as “Milk” or “Frost/Nixon” could be nominated for Oscars simply because of their trailers, historical dramas, great performances, and successful directors. What the academy needs is to reinvigorate the film fan, to reform the interest in movies that seems to be on a decline. In spite of its flaws, “Benjamin Button” was put together extremely well. The artistic aspect of the film was excellent, and the technology used to make Brad Pitt age in reverse was stunning. “Benjamin Button” was also the most nominated film, and it gained nominations in every major category. Instead of stroking the collective ego of the academy community they should reward the films that teach, the actors that emote, directors who look outside of the standard awards scope and produce a film that is unique, memorable, and challenges the audience. “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Milk” are the only films that were nominated this year that brought something different and new to the table. The remaining nominees are a film about the holocaust, “The Reader,” a love story drama, “Benjamin Button,” and a historical drama, “Frost/Nixon.” No doubt all films of quality, but not films of substance, or of lasting significance.The films that left out of any contention were “The Dark Knight,” “The Wrestler,” and “Gran Torino.” Take “The Dark Knight,” a film that was taken very seriously publicly, was hailed by critics, and, above all, surpassed every expectation and elevated the superhero genre. Still, there were no nominations for the director, Christopher Nolan, who masterfully crafted this epic contribution, no doubt a film that will be talked about for years to come. Despite memorable performances, the only significant nomination for the film was a supporting actor nod to Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger was a good third of the film, if not half, and yet he is only given a supporting actor nomination.”The Wrestler” was snubbed too. The director, Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream,” “The Fountain,”) took a chance casting Mickey Rourke. It wasn’t going to be the box office smash it could have been if Nicholas Cage had remained in the role, but it was meant to be a comeback film for the motivated and talented Mickey Rourke. It was a labor of love and this is obvious, but apparently not obvious to the academy, which only nominated Rourke for best actor but left the film and director out of contention. The academy also managed to over look the films musical merits, which are found in the original song by Bruce Springsteen written for the film. “Gran Torino,” Clint Eastwood’s latest attempt was also obviously a labor of love for the actor/director. Despite a weak supporting cast, Eastwood was able to carry the film, and he was both entertaining and crafted an emotional tale of gang violence and family. He did not receive any nominations for his memorable performance despite the popularity among fans and critics alike.As there are many snubs, there are also charming revelations and perhaps even hope for the Academy within some of their other nominations. Robert Downey Jr., controversially played an actor who changed the color of his skin to effectively portray a black Vietnam War officer. It’s both entertaining and enlightening that Downey garnered a nomination for this very silly role. Though the nomination is nothing more than a novelty, it shows that perhaps the academy isn’t simply a collection of out of touch retirees. The academy needs to branch out. It needs to reward those who innovate, those who craft with love, and those for who are simply joyful in fulfilling their film industry dreams. The purpose of a film should not be to collect various awards. A film should be made to entertain, to be enjoyed, to teach and to provide the artists of this world with a way to share their talent. The Academy Awards should reward those who achieve these goals, who go above and beyond great filmmaking. It should reward those who truly love their work. It should recognize those who realize that creating reels of cinematic brilliance is the only reward necessary.