I don’t generally get too upset about the Oscar nominations. It’s an industry award, so it’s more about film people recognizing their peers than it is about the absolute best of the year. There are also a limited number of slots in each category (something I wish they’d change for everything, like they did for Best Picture). It’s inevitable that some of the best films and performances will get left out, and 2013 is no exception. So, let’s just say I’m annoyed on behalf of these movies.
What Got Robbed:
1. Inside Llewyn Davis – This is the most egregious omission, since it was considered a contender by many observers. The Coen Brothers’ portrait of a folk musician navigating the early ’60s New York scene wasn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser. In fact, it turned off some viewers, mainly because it’s a comedy that doesn’t always seem like one, and its lead character (Oscar Isaac) is kind of a dick. But Isaac is terrific in the role, the music (including a few original songs) is great, and the script is witty and complex. But all it got were nods for cinematography and sound mixing. WTF, Academy?
2. All Is Lost – In any other year, Robert Redford would have a Best Actor nod locked up. His performance as a sailor stranded alone in the Indian Ocean is the very definition of “tour de force” – especially since he’s 77 years old and hasn’t been in front of the camera in years. It’s also a one-man show with very little dialogue, and a masterpiece of directing (by J.C. Chandor) and editing (by Pete Beaudreau). All it got from the Oscars was a sound editing nom.
3. Enough Said – Nicole Holofcener’s sweet, funny romance may have descended into sitcom tropes, but it still delighted me (and many others). Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini are a surprisingly, genuinely adorable couple, and Holofcener’s script is full of smart observations about the challenges of love, especially after a certain age. And what did it get for being this awesome? Zippo, that’s what.
What Robbed Them:
1. August: Osage County – This adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play is shrill, oppressive, and melodramatic – and that’s in its better moments. The fact that Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts got acting nominations just proves that Streep will get nominated for everything she does (it’s the law), and Roberts can always count on accolades for playing against type. Those slots should have gone to actresses who weren’t directed to swallow the scenery whole.
2. Dallas Buyers Club – In this case the acting nods are justified, although Matthew McConaughey is still playing a variation on his usual persona (just a very effective one). But the movie itself is muddled and heavy-handed, and would not have been on anyone’s radar without McConaughey and Jared Leto.
1/2. American Hustle – I really liked David O. Russell’s fictionalization of the ABSCAM scandal. It’s a fun movie with first-rate performances by the appropriately-recognized Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s hardly Russell’s best work, however, and Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper aren’t in top form either. It deserves nominations, just not so many of them.