25 February 2013

The Academy Awards That Should Have Been, Part IV

Part I: Actor and Actresses | Part II: Production | Part III: Post-Production | Part V: Writing

The Academy Awards That Should Have Been
Part IV: The Movies

Having already looked at cast and crew, I now take a look at the movies themselves that should have been nominated over the years in various categories.

SNUBBED: 9 -- Shane Acker

NOMINATED (82nd Academy Awards, 2009)
  • Coraline -- Henry Selick
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox -- Wes Anderson
  • The Princess and the Frog -- John Musker and Ron Clements
  • The Secret of Kells -- Tomm Moore
  • Up -- Pete Docter <--winner li="">
Admittedly, this is rather crowded field. I very nearly chose to argue for Vals Im Bashir [Waltz with Bashir] for this but that was nominated in 2008 for Foreign Language Film so I don't feel it's as snubbed as 9. The animation here is amazing, and I only watched it on DVD. I imagine it's even more impressive on Blu-ray or in its natural environment, a theater. Not only that, but the environment is so richly developed that it truly feels like a world all its own on a visceral level I've not encountered very often. I've seen and enjoyed The Princess and the Frog and Up, and while I don't know that I'd pick 9 over either, I do feel it's as worthy of consideration as both.

SNUBBED: Confessions of a Superhero -- Matthew Ogens

NOMINATED (80th Academy Awards, 2007)
  • No End in Sight -- Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
  • Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience -- Richard E. Robbins
  • Sicko -- Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara
  • Taxi to the Dark Side -- Alex Gibney and Eva Orner <--winner li="">
  • War/Dance -- Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine
Documentaries are tricky because they have to both entertain and inform. Documentaries about concepts, science and abstract things are a bit easier to process than are docs about actual human beings. There, we sometimes find ourselves suspicious of the documentary's biases. Confessions of a Superhero takes a seemingly laughable premise - four "professional" cosplayers on the streets of Los Angeles - and presents a truly engaging look at people in the margins of society. Unlike a lot of other documentarians who have focused on über-fans, Matthew Ogens never condescends or patronizes his subjects. Superficial viewers may stop at mocking and dismissing what their dreams are, but I invite you to get past the fixation on superheroes and instead look at what these dreams mean to these four people. Maxwell Allen is disturbing as the aggressive Batman, admittedly, but the other three are likable and even inspiring.

I've only seen Sicko of the nominated films. That content needed to be put before audiences, but I feel that Michael Moore got too distracted with the NHS and the stunt at Guantanamo at the expense of maintaining focus and delving further into other key areas that he left unexplored. I'd pick Confessions over Sicko.

DOCUMENTARY (Short Subject)
SNUBBED: The Final Days -- Philip Rosenthal

NOMINATED (73rd Academy Awards, 2000)
  • Big Mama -- Tracy Seretean
  • Curtain Call -- Chuck Braverman, Steve Kalafer
  • Dolphins -- Greg MacGillivray, Alec Lorimore
  • The Man on Lincoln's Nose -- Daniel Raim
  • On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom -- Eric Simonson, Leelai Demoz
I haven't seen any of the nominated shorts, but I'll let you take six minutes to watch The Final Days and decide for yourself whether it was snubbed (it was).

SNUBBED: Persona -- Sweden

NOMINATED (40th Academy Awards, 1967)
  • Closely Watched Trains -- Czechoslovakia <--winner li="">
  • El Amor Brujo -- Spain
  • I Even Met Happy Gypsies -- Yugoslavia
  • Live for Life -- France
  • Portrait of Chieko -- Japan
I have yet to see any of the five nominated films, but I've become quite a fan of Ingmar Bergman's work in recent years and learning that Persona was snubbed invalidates the entire history of the FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM category for me. Or at least, it would if Amélie losing in 2001 hadn't already invalidated the category. Seriously, how does a nominee in this field net four other nominations and not win? I actually have a theory about it, and that's that post-9/11 American voters felt it was incumbent upon them to make a statement by picking No Man's Land. Anyway, Bibi Anderssen and Liv Ullmann were both captivating to watch in Persona, and its unflinching intimacy is the kind of storytelling that hits directly at why we even use art to discuss the human equation.

Also: I picked 1967 because that was the year in which Persona was released in the United States, after having previously played in Sweden and France near the end of 1966.

SHORT FILM (Animated)
SNUBBED: The Arctic Giant -- Max Fleischer, Producer

NOMINATED (15th Academy Awards, 1942)
  • All Out for 'V' -- 20th Century-Fox
  • Blitz Wolf -- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • Der Fuehrer's Face -- Walt Disney, Producer <--winner li="">
  • Juke Box Jamboree -- Walter Lantz, Producer
  • Pigs in a Polka -- Leon Schlesinger, Producer
  • Tulips Shall Grow -- George Pal, Producer
I haven't seen any of these nominees. I very nearly picked The Mechanical Monsters or Volcano, both of which are also excellent. What puts The Arctic Giant over the top? It's Superman fighting a Tyrannosaurus rex. No, really.

SHORT FILM (Live Action)
SNUBBED: Homophobia -- Gregor Schmidinger

NOMINATED (83rd Academy Awards, 2012)
  • Asad -- Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura
  • Buzkashi Boys -- Sam French, Ariel Nasr
  • Curfew -- Shawn Christensen
  • Death of a Shadow -- Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele
  • Henry -- Yan England
Yeah, that's right: I'm irked at this year's nominations. Again, I can't claim to have seen any of the nominees on account of failing to make it to any of the screenings around town the last two weeks, but I streamed Homophobia last summer and was very impressed by it. It's possible it was ineligible because it was available for streaming, though, so maybe that was the issue. If so, it's a stupid rule to have because it's so difficult for short films to ever find an audience outside film festivals that taking away streaming only stifles the format.

SNUBBED: Ghost World -- Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich and Russell Smith, Producers

NOMINATED (74th Academy Awards, 2001)
  • A Beautiful Mind -- Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Producers <--winner li="">
  • Gosford Park -- Robert Altman, Bob Balaban and David Levy, Producers
  • In the Bedroom -- Graham Leader, Ross Katz and Todd Field, Producers
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring -- Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Barrie M. Osborne, Producers
  • Moulin Rouge -- Martin Brown, Baz Luhrmann and Fred Baron, Producers
Ghost World isn't even the 2001 BEST PICTURE snub that annoys me the most, but I'm excluding Amélie here since it was at least nominated for FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM (where it should have won). But close behind that film is Ghost World, which is one of the most perfect "quirky" coming-of-age films of recent memory. Having read Daniel Clowes's original comic book story, I'm even more impressed by Terry Zwigoff's adaptation for managing fealty to the source material while also making thoughtful changes to suit the film medium.

I've seen four of the five nominees and I'd handily pick it over A Beautiful Mind, Gosford Park and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I'd have to debate with myself over Moulin Rouge. I think if Ghost World was released today, exactly as-is, it might stand a chance of meriting recognition from the Academy. In those pre-Little Miss Sunshine, pre-Juno days, though, I don't think voters were quite ready to get behind this kind of film for their highest award. A pity, because it's excellent.