Ah, January. A month of cold, slush, snow, sleet and general shit that signifies the beginning of the end to winter. A month of perpetual monotony and crushing boredom that toys with our sanity on a daily basis as we are forced to remain locked up in our homes, protected from the terrible weather that howls and threatens us outside. We survive this long and brutal month with a carefully chosen supply of beer, movies, books and video games, relishing every new moment that manages to squeeze through the repetition, and cursing the ones we miss out on.
Yes, January is a cruel month devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever.
It is also the month when the Oscar nominations are announced.
A joyous time for filmmakers and film fans alike (but mostly for the filmmakers), this years nominations are a fairly predictable, but no less deserving, lot. However, as with any awards year, one can still wonder about the movies that didn’t make it – the good movies that apparently just weren’t “good enough” as it were. Deserving of an Academy Award? Perhaps not. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve any kind of recognition.
Here then, are a few movies that could have (and in some cases should have) been considered in this years Oscar race. (And a few I’m genuinely surprised didn’t make it).
Ben Affleck’s crime opus “The Town,” despite receiving rave reviews across the board (currently holding steady at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes) was pretty much universally snubbed come Oscar time. Sure, Jeremy Renner received a nod for Supporting Actor (and thank Xenu for that, I guess) but otherwise, nothing. While a nomination for Best Director might have been a stretch (though with this, and “Gone Baby Gone,” Affleck has shown that he is unequivocally a much better director than he is an actor, and will hopefully one day Kevin Costner himself a trophy) I was genuinely surprised that it was left out of the Best Picture category – especially considering the recent addition of five more spots. Sure, it’s not “True Grit” or “Winter’s Bone” good, but it’s at least on the level of “The Kids Are Alright,” “Toy Story 3” or the much over-hyped “The Fighter.”
Tron: Legacy/Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat in regards to “Tron: Legacy.” “Tron: Legacy” is by no means a good film. It is, in fact, a quite terrible film. However, that doesn’t necessarily take away from its technical achievements. The special effects are quite good throughout the film (including the de-ageifying of Jeff Bridges) and hold up with the effects on display in any of the other nominees. Ditto “Scott Pilgrim” a movie that benefits from not only having original and intriguing special effects, but by also being good. I was also amazed that neither film made any impact in the musical categories. “Pilgrim’s” songs, while perhaps the weakest part of the film, were no worse than anything else nominated this year, and "Tron's" Daft Punk enhanced score was also quite excellent. But, hey...at least "Tangled" got nominated for something, right?
“Monsters” is an odd choice, I know. I honestly can’t think of any category where it really belongs. While it is somewhat similar to last year’s dark horse best picture nominee “District 9”, it’s not nearly on the same level as that film – or any film nominated this year for that matter. And, with a budget of under $500,000, the special effects aren’t remotely Oscar worthy, especially when compared to such visual juggernauts as Inception or Harry Potter. Still, it’s hard not to root for such a great little flick, especially one with such a small budget and little to no fanfare or support surrounding it. Was there a place for it in this year’s Oscar race? Probably not, but few people would have complained if it had slipped in, and any sort of recognition for an original, independent production is always welcome - especially during this reboot and sequel happy era of film-making.
The Ghost Writer
Despite being hailed by many critics as Roman Polanski’s best film in years (and, despite his questionable legal troubles, the man does shoot a good picture), “The Ghost Writer” didn’t really make much of an impact when it was released. Thrillers aren’t normal Oscar fodder for sure, and as such “The Ghost Writer’s” genre may have been it’s eventual undoing. Still, there’s a lot to like here. Polanski’s assured direction is the main attraction, but it’s Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of a Tony Blair-esque prime minister that’s really underrated. With this film, Brosnan has shown that he’s a more capable actor than most people normally give him credit for, shedding his James Bond image to deliver a fine performance that could have been Oscar worthy. While I have no complaints with the actual supporting actor nominations this year, it’s nice to see that Brosnan may get recognition in the future, as he capably enters the twilight of his career.
I Am Love
This might be the most mind-boggling omission on the nominations list. While it was nominated fore best costume design (a worthy nomination) it was inconceivably left of the best foreign film ballot, a nomination that many thought it was a lock for. While it’s snub for best foreign film is fairly ridiculous, I was also surprised that there was no recognition for Tilda Swinton’s performance. Her performance in this and 2008’s “Julia” are both magnificently acted, and were both worthy of best actress accolades. Perhaps the film’s low distribution did it in; regardless, Swinton remains one of the most brave actresses working today, and deserves to be recognized as such.
Apparently "Inception" directed and edited itself. If there was one category where this film should have been nominated, it was film editing. That snub, combined with Nolan not be recognized as one of the best directors of the year, suggest that the only reason it was nominated for best picture in the first place was to please the general public, and hope that they actually tune in this year. If you thought Nolan was robbed when "The Dark Knight" was shut out, you ain't seen nothing yet.
So, there you have it. When you’re frantically trying to catch up on all of the major nominees this year in preparation for the Academy Awards telecast in February, throw a few of these into the mix as well. They may not be Oscar material, but that doesn’t mean they should be forgotten.
(For the record, I expect “The King’s Speech” to clean up this year – and deservedly so).