We, as movie nerds, spend the entire year pissing and moaning about all the terrible shit that Hollywood crams down our throats—all the Little Fockers and Last Airbenders. For 365 days a year, the internet is all abuzz with contagious negativity. And then come the Oscars! It’s that time of year when the best—or at least the more ambitious—of what the year had to offer gets its time to shine! And what do we do? Why, bitch about what didn’t make the cut, of course! Dontcha just love us?
Sadly, I’m not here to tell you that I’m turning all that around. Nope, I’m here to continue that tradition, because, while this year’s Oscars don’t have any Avatar-sized black marks to show, there are still a few things that they just got wrong.
On the whole, though, the ten-nominee Best Picture format seems to have worked out a lot better this year than it did last year. The Academy seems to have a little more love for each of the nominated films—they all have at least four nominations, whereas last year, The Blind Side and A Serious Man only had two apiece, and An Education only had three.
And personally, I can get behind more of this year’s nominees than last year’s…which is strange, because I regard last year as being a way better year for movies than this year. The only Best Picture nominee that I just plain didn’t like was The Kids Are All Right, however I fully support the nominations for both Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo. Picture and Screenplay, though? Those were my two biggest problems with the movie.
I was also disappointed to see Andrew Garfield’s name not called in the Best Supporting Actor category for his work in The Social Network, but he’s a new young actor (with Spider-Man fame on the way) and I’m sure he’ll get another shot sometime very soon. I was, however, extremely pleased to see his costar, Jesse Eisenberg make the Best Actor cut, as I thought his performance was the best part of a very good movie.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World had made the shortlist for the Visual Effects Oscar, but was left out of the final nominees in favor of movies like Iron Man 2 (yawn) and Hereafter (triple-yawn). Second to Inception, Edgar Wright’s hilarious fantasy-comedy had some of the year’s most innovative and fun visuals. Consider this further evidence to the allegation that the Academy are just a bunch of boring old farts.
And Black Swan missed out on a Best Original Screenplay nod, as well, but that’s a film where the presentation was more effective than what was on paper. Obviously, I think that they could have bumped The Kids Are All Right‘s painfully stock and smug indie-family-drama script to make room for it, but whatever.
If there were nominations that Black Swan unjustly missed out on then they were in the sound department and the Best Supporting Actress department for Barbara Hershey. More people seemed to be talking about Mila Kunis as a potential nominee, but God knows why—she had a virtually do-nothing role with little-to-no complexity, and brought nothing unique to it. I would sooner nominate Jim Carrey’s interpretation of the role from SNL. Hershey, on the other hand, was way creepy, calling to mind a more believable version of Piper Laurie’s sad, scary, overbearing mother from Carrie. She was, for my money, just as good as Natalie Portman.
And then there’s the big one that’s on everyone’s lips, and rightly so. Just what in the hell does Christopher Nolan have to do to be nominated for Best Director? It’s baffling, really. Perhaps some historian with an easier means of researching this sort of thing than I do can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Nolan is the only director to ever be nominated by the Director’s Guild of America three times without ever being nominated for an Oscar. He was nominated by the DGA for the first time in 2001 for his breakout indie hit Memento, then again two years ago for the criminally snubbed Batman sequel The Dark Knight, and now for a third time this year for his wild sci-fi action flick Inception.
But did Oscar recognize his work? Yes, he did get two nominations on Tuesday for writing and producing the film, but the lack of recognition for his extreme talents at bringing the material to life is inexcusable. At least Hitchcock and Kubrick had a few nominations under their belts!
So yes…the Best Director snub is a big one and a tad unforgivable. Surely they could have set David O. Russell off to the side to make room for him, right? Oh well.
That’s not even what I’m here to talk about, though. In the title I promised to divulge the Inception snub that no one’s talking about and here I am bitching for three paragraphs about the one that everyone’s talking about.
Save for Visual Effects, if there’s one category where Inception was destined to get nominated even if it had been left out of the major races all together, then I would have to imagine that it would be Film Editing. Alas, it was nowhere to be found. Even True Grit, which earned the second highest number of nominations, was left out of this field.
The first thing about being left out of the Film Editing category is that the chances of winning Best Picture dramatically plummet. Now, Inception didn’t really have much chance here anyway, but without a film editing nomination, it’s pretty much a done deal. The last Best Picture winner to not be so much as nominated in the Editing field was Robert Redford’s Ordinary People in 1980 (and that movie stole BP from Raging Bull, anyway, which won Film Editing that year).
The movies that did find their way into the category, all Best Picture nominees, were 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, and The Social Network. When it comes to categories with lesser clout, it can’t help but seem like a show of favoritism to some degree as to what will be nominated. Are they nominating films with truly remarkable editing or simply the films they liked the most that were competently edited? All of these films are well-cut, certainly, but were their editing room exploits more impressive than those of Inception?
127 Hours, I can see being on the ballot. It’s got to be a tough job to piece together a movie that takes place almost entirely inside a four-foot-wide space and still keep it cinematic and engaging. Danny Boyle and his editor, Jon Harris, had a tricky task on their hands and I wouldn’t dispute this nomination at all.
Likewise with Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Action is tough to edit (get a load of me, I say that as if I know from experience) and in this eerie psychological thriller, the ballet scenes are magnetic and intimate and tantamount to some of the year’s most stirring action films.
And I’ll give my utmost compliments to The Social Network, as well. It’s a non-linear story with lightning-quick dialogue and editing that needs to, and does, keep up with it all. David Fincher’s Facebook movie is an extremely talky piece of 21st century history, but it plays at times like a thriller. Of the nominees, this one will most likely win, and it will deserve it.
The King’s Speech, however, has a pretty basic task on its hands, as far as the editor is concerned. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie and it’s certainly competently-cut, but that might be the only reason why it’s here. With twelve nominations, it leads the way for all the other movies, and it would just be unimaginable for it not to be in this category. The final speech at the climax of the film, however, is certainly a stand-out as it cuts between the king, his speech therapist, his wife, advisors, and the people of his kingdom, as they all listen intently and with varying perspectives. Truth be told, this sequence alone is enough for me to support this nomination among the bunch.
And then we have The Fighter. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why this movie is here. It’s a good movie. Not a great movie, but a good one. And it’s a boxing movie a la Raging Bull! Perhaps that’s the only reason it was nominated here—boxing movie goodwill. However, if you ask me, the boxing scenes aren’t overly impressive and the whole movie fizzles out and rushes its way to an abrupt and awkward ending—problems that could have been tightened up and solved in the editing room and weren’t.
Now, for some reason the Academy thought that The Fighter showcased better editing than the blow-the-roof-off-your-mind three-tiered action tapestry of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. I’m gonna need someone to explain this one to me.
In Inception, Nolan establishes and executes three separate large-scale action sequences occurring on three separate levels of reality (or lack thereof), at three different speeds, all at the same time. And amid it all, the story remains not only entirely competent but all the more thrilling for it.
Like I said earlier, action is hard enough to cut—there’s so much happening, all at once and from so many different vantage points, and you need to make sure you’re maintaining a quick and exciting pace while making sure audience members can tell (and care about) what’s going on. But what Nolan and his editor Lee Smith have accomplished goes beyond mere physics-defying fast-paced action to engage the audience’s minds at full force all while feeding them the most delicious eye candy of the year. Inception is a near-landmark in “holy shit!” editing, and it was passed over.
Action-packed spectacles are often cited by the Academy for editing. Why, just ask The Bourne Ultimatum and The Matrix, both of which won the Editing Oscar for their years. The Dark Knight scored an editing nomination, but not this. I can’t imagine what missteps Inception could have possibly made for the Oscars to deem it unfit to sit in the company of The Fighter. If anyone else has any ideas, please—I’m dying here!
It honestly makes me wonder how the Oscars can even justify nominating Inception for Best Picture while leaving it out in the dark for both directing and editing. What exactly was it that they liked about it? Yes, the screenplay was justly nominated, but if you can’t baffle at the execution then you missed one of the key things that was so great about it! You’ve put it in the same field as The Kids Are All Right. And that’s not all right.
Looking back at past nominees, I just noticed that Air Force One was nominated for Best Film Editing. Air Force One! Now, I like that movie just fine, but…what the fuck?!