Kevin Noonan | Thursday, January 16, 2014
“Just happy to be here” is a pretty stereotypical quip from people trying to come off as humble in a generally grand and prosperous setting, people like championship-winning professional athletes, Nobel Peace Prize winners and, of course, celebrities. In other words, likely the least likely people to be humble on Earth.
With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences release of their nominations on Thursday for this year’s Oscar awards, quite a few people in the movie industry reached up into their cupboards to dust off their best “It’s an honor just to be here with all these talented people” lines.
But as with any awards contest, there’s always a few people who instead are going to be testing out their “I don’t do it for the awards, I do it for the art, for the people” quotes for the next few weeks. This year’s Oscar nomination group features it’s own snubs and surprises, despite nominating an excessive nine films for Best Picture. So here’s a look at whose agent is currently on the phone reminding them “You know Kubrick never won the one, so who needs ‘em, am I right, buddy? Please don’t fire me.”
Michael B. Jordan for Best Actor in “Fruitvale Station”
Best Actor was one of the toughest categories this year, with five more than deserving men nominated for brilliant work in fantastic films ⎯ Christian Bale for “American Hustle,” Bruce Dern for “Nebraska,” Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave” and Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club.”
And on top of that, there’s an equally impressive list of actors who didn’t get nominated competing for the snub list ⎯ Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips,” Robert Redford for “All is Lost,” Forest Whitaker for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and Joaquin Phoenix for “Her.”
“Gee whiz, what a banner year for roles for men in Hollywood, you don’t see that very often,” says somebody who I probably wouldn’t be friends with but still has point.
But all that aside, Jordan’s performance as Oscar Grant in the film based on the last day of Grant’s life before being fatally shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit Police officer can go toe-to-toe with any of the other established stars competing this year. In a film that refuses to dramatize or glorify Grant for the service of making a movie, but instead presented him as a real person with both virtues and flaws, Jordan put in a powerhouse performance of grounding the narrative and giving the character the texture and reality that made the film so powerful.
If Oscar voters didn’t notice or forgot about Jordan (the film premiered at Sundance in January of last year and was released in theatres in July), Hollywood studios have not: Jordan’s name has been tossed in the discussion of seemingly every major film project coming up in the next few years, including rumors of a Marvel superhero film.
Oprah Winfrey for Best Supporting Actress in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Come on, it’s Oprah.
Even that aside, word has it that Winfrey’s performance in what should just have been titled “The Butler” but for, according to rumors, Disney’s meddling and the film’s producer Harvey Weinstein and his infamously less than lovable reputation, was stellar. This is one of the few of the movies nominated for a bunch of awards that I haven’t actually seen, and so I can only comment so much, but reading reviews and trade journals, it sounded like Winfrey was something of a shoe-in, and was nominated in similar categories by the Critics Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Satellite Awards.
In his review for Rolling Stone, film critic Peter Travers said, “Winfrey is a full-throttle wonder, filling her role with heart soul and a healing resilience.” And in a category that fell prey to once again giving a nod to everyone and anyone that’s ever been in a bar with Woody Allen (this time Sally Hawkins for “Blue Jasmine”), you’d think a few more voters might’ve realized that, come on, it’s Oprah.
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” generally
For a film that won the Grand Prix Award (second place) at the Cannes Film Festival and has its own Wikipedia page for awards nominated and won, one might think that “Inside Llewyn Davis” and might have been able to score more than two Oscar nominations. And the nominations, for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing, while likely deserved, fail to shine any praise on the work of the film’s writer-directors, Joel and Ethan Coen. For two men who so come as close as any to defining the contemporary auteur theory in film, to not receive any nominations is a pretty big slight.
It seems the Oscars were just about the only place not to love the film ⎯ “Inside Llewyn Davis” won or was nominated for some combination of Best Picture, Best Screenplay and/or Best director by the British Academy Film Awards, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the Golden Globe Awards and the National Board of Review, among more than a dozen other awards givers-outers.
Likely, though, this will all work out for the best in the end, as it may just give the Coen brothers the inspiration they need to write and direct a morbidly hilarious film about a quirky cast of characters trying to rig an awards ceremony in their favor that inevitably leads to dastardly results.
“Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey from “The Great Gatsby”
I honestly was not a big fan of Lana Del Rey’s music before this song creeped and crawled its way deep into my consciousness after seeing “The Great Gatsby.” Or actually, I should say, after I heard it in the trailer, because I did everything I could to forget everything I could after seeing the actual movie. Its sad melody is haunting and spectacular and fits well with what this movie could have been, as well as working well as just a great song outside of the movie’s existence.
For the most part, this is a strong category. “Ordinary Love” by U2 for “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is a soaring tribute to Mandela’s work that recalls the best of U2’s work without being derivative or cheesy. “Let It Go” from “Frozen” and “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” are both fantastic songs, with “Let It Go” especially being one of the best songs from an animated movie I can remember in a long time (it still can’t hold a candle to “Blame Canada,” but what can?). “The Moon Song” from “Her” evokes the kind of folky weirdness that exudes from “Her” in a weird but nice kind of way.
The one outlier, though, is “Alone Yet Not Alone,” from the film “Alone Yet Not Alone,” which apparently no one, including myself, had ever heard of before it was nominated for this award. There’s nothing wrong with the song, but there is one interesting note ⎯ according to Deadline.com, the song’s co-songwriter used to be a Governor of the Academy and head of its music department. Just a coincidence, I guess.
“Spring Breakers” for Best Picture
Just kidding, that was the worst movie ever.