In a year where we saw Hollywood market the worst titled movies to us–Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and yes, Silver Linings Playbook, it’s probably no surprise the Oscar nominations were going to be strange this year. Like always there are really glaring oddities, and after a lot of speculation that we’d see more of the same with the new round of selections, Oscar again fell into its normal traps.
The key problems with the Academy Awards include the marketing barrage that occurs, productions pushing advertising to encourage votes, and even the desire to position the Oscars toward a new, younger audience that becomes evident in more popular than critical nominees. Over the course of several years of Oscars you see unmistakable patterns that develop and the Academy Awards nominations, if not by design then at least as a result, is its own club that favors past nominees over new entrants. Same old news this year and more yawns than excitement. So let’s see what they got right.
Argo for Seven Nominations. Argo was nominated for seven categories, including Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing. So this is all fitting for such a brilliant film. But no nomination for director Ben Affleck? You look at his work on Argo compared to the ultimate films up for best director and you really have to shake your head.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey makes the list. The Hobbit was nominated in three categories that are no-brainers: Production Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, and Visual Effects. But what makes no sense is an Academy that enlarged its list from 5 to 10 nominees in the Best Picture category and The Hobbit doesn’t even make the slate. That’s just criminal. And no nomination for the most elaborate and beautiful costuming put on film to date? Incomprehensible.
Quentin Tarantino’s unique artistry gets recognized. Tarantino is in his own class when it comes to amazing film cinema. Even if you might not like one or more of his films, he has the most diverse catalog of successful films of any director, especially considering how young he is in his career. So we must applaud Django Unchained as a Best Picture, Cinematography and Sound Editing nominee and the brilliant Christoph Waltz in the Supporting Actor category. The nomination for Tarantino for his original screenplay is a well-deserved nod. But like Affleck, skipping Tarantino in the director category for the ultimate list of five is another Academy misstep.
James Bond makes a great showing. Although we expected to see Judi Dench in the Best Supporting Actress category for her work in Skyfall, we are happy to see Skyfall get a deserving nod for its extraordinary cinematography, and sound editing and sound mixing nominations. And the one shoo-in for Oscar must be Adele’s sultry recording of the movie’s theme song. Add that to the original score nomination and Skyfall fared pretty well for a popular franchise movie with five nods.
Brave and Aardman get animated film nods. Brave and the Aardman’s latest film The Pirates! Band of Misfits are solid nominations in a full slate of five nominees for best animated film this year, Disney/Pixar’s work on Brave was so extraordinary it should have bumped at least half of the Best Picture nominees off the slate. Like Best Picture nominee Beauty and the Beast before it, Brave was an easy contender for Best Picture nominee, if not taking the win, too. And what about a nomination for voice work by Kelly MacDonald?
The Simpsons catches up to South Park. One surprise is seeing The Simpsons finally catching up to South Park as Oscar nominations go. The Simpsons got a nomination in the animated short film category (South Park was previously nominated for best song for the film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut).
Visual Effects gets some good contenders. The Visual Effects category is often the only exciting category to genre film fans at Oscar time. This year The Avengers received its only nomination in this category, with good competition from the futuristic 3D computer holograms of Prometheus, and of course, The Hobbit, which is our pick to win if we had an Oscar ballot.
Arrow costume designer gets seventh nomination. Although we think the costume category had some glaring omissions this year, we’re happy to see the designer of the Green Arrow costume for the CW Network’s TV series Arrow receive another Oscar nomination. Colleen Atwood was nominated for Snow White and the Huntsman, her seventh nomination. She previously won Oscars for Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, and her stunning costumes from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
John Williams cements his status as Mr. Oscar. With John Williams’s nomination for best original score for Lincoln, Williams’ total career Oscar nominations reaches 48. The most nominated person other than Williams was Walt Disney at 59. When you consider that Williams scores his work by himself while Disney’s productions were such wider group efforts, Williams’s personal Oscar success really is without equal. Whether or not the composer of The Lost in Space theme wins his sixth Academy Award (he has wins for Fiddler on the Roof, Star Wars, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, and Schindler’s List), John Williams is the Wolfgang Mozart, Peter Tchaikovsky, and Ludwig von Beethoven of our day.
And that’s pretty much all the good news for the nominations for the films of 2012. The Academy Awards will be presented on the ABC Network on February 24, 2013.