You Snub Me! You Really Snub Me!
This time last year there was a collective *gasp* when Ben Affleck, who had virtually locked up every Best Director award (Golden Globes, BAFTA, Directors Guild of America, et al) for his smart, tense political thriller/pat on Hollywood’s back Argo, wasn’t invited to Oscar’s party. His film would still go on to snag the ceremony’s highest honor—Best Picture— but the Academy overlooking (er, neglecting?) Affleck’s highly celebrated directorial effort remains one of the more head-scratching moments in Oscars history.
The 2013 Academy Award nominees were announced this morning, and it appears the members felt like intensifying the voltage on its WTF-o-meter. While the nominations list contained its fair share of pleasant surprises (Jonah Hill landing his 2nd Best Supporting Actor nod despite his absence at the Globes; Pharell Williams’ Best Original Song nomination on the Despicable Me soundtrack; Steve Coogan for his work on Philomena’s adapted screenplay), its cup runneth over with snubs. Let’s take a look at the five most glaring omissions from this year’s Oscar nominees:
1. Tom Hanks; Captain Phillips: America’s Most Trusted Man hasn’t been able to trust the Academy to recognize him in any capacity for over thirteen years. His subdued, understated performance as the real life merchant mariner who finds his vessel hijacked by Somali pirates undergoes the sharpest 180 degree turn in the 3rd act as the fear, shock and trauma cause him to completely unravel. It’s arguably the most breathtakingly powerful performance of Hank’s career, and was all but guaranteed to be a shoe-in in the Best Actor category after strong placement at the SAG Awards and the Golden Globes. Early rumors projected him as a double nominee thanks to his safety net role as Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, but Mr. Hanks once again was left out at sea.
2. Best Original Song; Inside Llewyn Davis: The Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture categories were already overcrowded with legitimate competitors so I can (kinda) understand the justification for Oscar Isaac, The Coen Brothers, and Inside Llewyn Davis being excluded from their respective categories. But “Please Me Mr. Kennedy”, in all of its satirical and pitch-perfect-60’s-folk beauty, being a no-show in the Best Original Song category just feels like a case of censorship gone awry.
3. Spike Jonze; Best Director: If the honest and delicate meditation on human connectedness found in Her didn’t crown Spike Jonze as the emotional auteur of this generation, I don’t know what else could. Her showcases a director who has created his own cinematic language and a visual style that manages to feel both completely ordinary yet exceptionally distinct. His humanism is highlighted in his writing (Mr. Jonze did land a Best Original Screenplay nomination, deservedly so) but without Spike behind the camera navigating the actors within his vision, Her wouldn’t have been the film this generation needed.
4. Oprah Winfrey; The Butler: I can’t say I am surprised that Lee Daniel’s The Butler was shut out of the Best Picture and Best Director categories; the film’s initial buzz fizzled due to a premature summer release and, well, on the account of it not being that good. Perhaps The Weinstein Company saw greater potential in focusing its campaign behind its sleeper Philomena (to huge avail, as it landed a Best Picture nomination). But Oprah was never overshadowed, as she consistently netted nominations (SAG, BAFTA) for her powerhouse performance as the wife of the titular butler, her first dramatic offering since 1998’s Beloved. It’s no easy feat to make us forget we are watching Oprah (with all her sanctimonious personal politics) on screen, but she managed to do so expertly in The Butler.
5. James Gandolfini; Enough Said: We rarely got to see the delicate side of James Gandolfini, the man responsible for allowing American television audiences to sympathize with the violent anti-hero Tony Soprano for the better part of a decade. His turn as a vulnerable, sweet divorcee in Nicole Holofcener’s emotional romantic comedy showed just how much range he truly possessed. A posthumous nomination would have been a perfect endnote to an already iconic career. Unfortunately, we will only get to honor Mr. Gandolfini in the “In Memoriam” reel this year.