13 February 2013

The Academy Awards That Should Have Been, Part I

Look, I don't want anyone thinking I take these kinds of things very seriously. I don't. This is just idle conversation about Oscar snubs that kind of annoyed me (and still do). I've confined these snubs to just movies I've seen since I began paying attention to such things, so you're not going to find me pitch a fit about something that happened in the 50s. Because of the length, I'm breaking this into a few different parts. Without further ado, I present...

The Academy Awards That Should Have Been
Part I: Actors and Actresses

SNUBBED: Pierce Brosnan -- The Matador {"Julian"}

NOMINATED (79th Academy Awards, 2006)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio -- Blood Diamond {"Danny Archer"}
  • Ryan Gosling -- Half Nelson {"Dan Dunne"}
  • Peter O'Toole -- Venus {"Maurice"}
  • Will Smith -- The Pursuit of Happyness {"Chris Gardner"}
  • Forest Whitaker -- The Last King of Scotland {"Idi Amin"} <--winner li="">
I've only seen two of the nominated performances: DiCaprio and O'Toole. Sure, Blood Diamond was a more compelling human interest film and yes, DiCaprio gave a solid performance (dubious accent and all). But was it as daring as Brosnan's turn as the narcissistic hit man past his prime? Likewise, I was impressed by O'Toole's dirty old man and in truth, if I'd had a vote, I'd have voted for O'Toole to make up for decades of him being denied a much-deserved Best Actor award, but for my money it was Brosnan who gave the best performance of the year.

SNUBBED: Val Kilmer -- Tombstone {"Doc Holliday"}

NOMINATED (66th Academy Awards, 1993)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio -- What's Eating Gilbert Grape {"Arnie Grape"}
  • Ralph Fiennes -- Schindler's List {"Amon Goeth"}
  • Tommy Lee Jones -- The Fugitive {"Samuel Gerard"} <--winner li="">
  • John Malkovich -- In the Line of Fire {"Mitch Leary"}
  • Pete Postlethwaite -- In the Name of the Father {"Giuseppe Conlon"}
Again, I've only seen two of the nominated performances. This time, it's Fiennes, who should have won; and Jones, who did win, but shouldn't have even been nominated over Kilmer. Long after the comparisons of Tombstone and Wyatt Earp have been relegated to Western history magazines, Kilmer's pitch-perfect Doc Holliday casts a shadow over both films. Kevin Jarre's screenplay was full of rich dialog anyway, but Kilmer got the best lines - or perhaps, he made the most of them. He dominates every frame he's in, and he's missed in every frame he's not.

It's a bit harder for me to think of actress snubs that really bug me, which may be an indictment of how poor the offerings for female roles are in any given year or maybe a reflection of how poorly I've explored films that feature prominent female roles. Maybe both. For the next two, I kind of got a bit nit-picky.

Also, even more egregious than Kilmer's snub is Djimon Hounsou's heartbreaking performance in Amistad

SNUBBED: Audrey Tautou -- Amélie [aka: Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain] {"Amélie Poulain"}

NOMINATED (74th Academy Awards, 2001)
  • Halle Berry -- Monster's Ball {"Leticia Musgrove"}
  • Judi Dench -- Iris {"Iris Murdoch"}
  • Nicole Kidman -- Moulin Rouge {"Satine"}
  • Sissy Spacek -- In the Bedroom {"Ruth Fowler"}
  • Renée Zellweger -- Bridget Jones's Diary {"Bridget Jones"}
It's not often that a foreign language film is nominated in other categories, but Amélie netted five total nominations including Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound and Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen), so I see no reason why Audrey Tautou should not have been nominated for her insanely charming performance in the title role. If you can watch Amélie and not fall in love with Tautou, you shouldn't get to vote on awards based on movies.

I've only seen Zellweger's performance of the five actual nominees and even though I enjoyed that film and Zellweger herself in it, there's just no way I could have picked her over Tautou.

SNUBBED: Maria Bello -- A History of Violence {"Edie Stall"}

I've classified this performance as supporting instead of leading, despite the fact Bello is billed second after Viggo Mortenson for this picture, because it suited me to do so. I invoke Rule Six, section 3 from this year's Academy Awards guidelines:
The determination as to whether a role is a leading or supporting role shall be made individually by members of the branch at the time of balloting.
NOMINATED (78th Academy Awards, 2005)
  • Amy Adams -- Junebug {"Ashley"}
  • Catherine Keener -- Capote {"Nelle Harper Lee"}
  • Frances McDormand -- North Country {"Glory"}
  • Rachel Weisz -- The Constant Gardener {"Tessa Quayle"} <--winner li="">
  • Michelle Williams -- Brokeback Mountain {"Alma"}
I've only seen Rachel Weisz's performance of these nominees. Bello's rawness resonated with me much more strongly than did Weisz's aloofness. Sure, her character was ultimately more tragic but does that make for a more compelling performance? I don't think I could have voted that way.


  1. I like your approach to this subject. All too often I see people complaining that so and so wasn't nominated in their year, but then they can't say what should have been left out to make room for them.

    I don't know where, but there was a piece a few months ago that reminisced about DiCaprio's Blood Diamond performance, noting that at the time there was a lot of people complaining about his accent. The only ones who didn't mind it was South Africans. I have no idea of knowing if this is true or not, of course. I also don't remember the film well enough to comment myself on it, but I do know that I haven't talked to enough South Africans to say what is and what isn't an accurate accent.

    I'm looking forward to the next parts in this series!

    1. It's hard for me to have a very informed opinion about any of these categories without seeing all of the films and performers that actually were nominated, of course. I decided instead of just a general "That should have been nominated" list, it would at least give some context to make note of what the actual nominees were in the appropriate category in the relevant year. I didn't originally conceive this as a whole series with one snub per category but as I started to organize it, it just became obvious that I may as well go the distance and complete the whole thing.

      DiCaprio was fine in Blood Diamond as far as I was concerned, regardless of the accent, but he was eclipsed by Djimon Hounsou. That guy should have at least two Academy Awards already, for that and for Amistad.

    2. As good as Hounsou was in Amistad, I would not have given him an Oscar over Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting (on this I suspect we might disagree) or Robert Forster in Jackie Brown. I'd give you Blood Diamond, though, at least of the ones that were nominated. Not a stellar slate that year.

    3. I can't say whether we'd agree or not re: Robin Williams as I've yet to see Good Will Hunting (I know!). Despite my being on record as not really liking much of anything he's done, I really did like him in One Hour Photo. That was a truly impressive performance.

      Even that, though, I would say failed to move me the way that Hounsou did in Amistad.

      Of course, I have quite a lot of biases that feed into my being impacted by that performance. For starters, I'm a native Kentuckian so I've grown up white in a part of the world that still has an awful lot of scars from the horror of slavery.

      I've toured the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, which features an awing display dedicated to the Middle Passage complete with a recreation of slave berths. There are overhead luggage compartments on planes that have more room and I regret to say that's not an exaggeration. I've seen firsthand leftover shackles from that era. Just seeing one in person, knowing that someone actually had the idea to make that for the express purpose of imprisoning another human being...it's sickening.

      In my collegiate studies, I took two courses of American history, two courses of Latin America & Caribbean history, African-American History and a course on black culture in the U.S. I also took a cross-cultural studies course in Barbados, touring the artifacts there from the slavery era.

      Interacting with not just the historical record, but the artifacts themselves as well as living where I do, I've got a pronounced interest in the subject matter of Amistad. I can dissect it both as a dramatization of history and specifically as a motion picture, but in either context, Djimon Hounsou's performance is devastating to watch. Everything I've ever imagined about men, women and children who were oppressed by that horror, he managed to convey with verisimilitude that grabbed me by my throat.

      I should have just argued him instead of Kilmer...even though thinking about Kilmer was the genesis of this whole damn project.