Wednesday, January 15, 2014

For Their Consideration:

Once a year, Siskel & Ebert used to do a show entitled “Memo to the Academy” in which they would give their recommendations for worthy recipients of Oscar nominations. They were usually pretty insightful, often very fair, and almost always completely ignored. It made for an interesting discussion, in any case. Now that they’re both dead, nobody does as good a job of offering up hypothetical honorees. I don’t presume I’m anywhere near the caliber of critic that Siskel or Ebert were, but I feel more qualified to offer up my suggestions this year over any previous year. My Cinetopia Golden Ticket combined with my regular visits to the Hollywood Theatre means I’ve seen pretty much every movie worth seeing in 2013. Since the 86th annual Academy Award nominations will be announced tomorrow, I thought I’d submit my own today.

The thing that infuriates me about the Oscar nominations ever year is how political they are. They’ll often nominate somebody reputable who’s coming to the end of their career just because they never won before. Or, they’ll nominate somebody who should have won last year because the person who actually did win last year should have won the year before. Then, of course, there’s favoritism shown to films with a combined box office and critical success when lesser-known (but equally good, if not better) smaller films go ignored. They often confuse good writing with good acting and vice versa. And, this may sound paranoid, but I think they snub certain people that they think might give an inflammatory acceptance speech in the event that they win.

In my fantasy world (which you are about to get a glimpse of), I have tried to select nominations (of the major awards) as fairly and objectively as I am capable of. That means, even if I didn’t care for a particular movie or the performances therein, I still tried to recognize it as fine work and give credit where credit is due. That also means that, just because I love a particular film immensely, doesn’t mean it deserves top prize. Another disclaimer: In the spirit of fairness, I have only selected motion pictures I have seen personally. No speculation here or decisions based on reputation or internet buzz, only films I can personally vouch for. In cross-referencing my choices with the nominations (and recent winners) of the Golden Globes, I don’t believe I’ve left anybody out, either. Also, just for fun, I have offered up “alternates” or “runners-up,” if you will, just to show who barely got edged out. In other words, people and movies I wouldn’t mind seeing nominated in place of one of my original five choices. Narrowing down the nominations to five in some categories was incredibly tough (especially in the director category), but I’m only submitting five nominations for best picture because I think the ten nomination concept is total bullshit. So, if you’re willing to indulge me, here’s what should in all fairness be nominated for the upcoming 86th annual Academy Awards:

Best Picture:

Best Director:

Best Actor:

Best Actress:

Best Supporting Actor:

Best Supporting Actress:
Alternate: June Squibb, Nebraska

Best Original Screenplay:
Alternate: Her

Best Adapted Screenplay:

There might be some discrepancies in the screenplay categories because I’m not 100% as to whether some the titles I selected are adapted or original scripts. For instance, I’m pretty sure that Dallas Buyers Club and Fruitvale Station are original screenplays, but they are based on true stories, so maybe technically they should be considered “adapted?” Not sure.

Some other notes on my selections:

I know it’s a tremendous cliché to include Meryl Streep in the nominees for best actress to the point where it almost feels automatically obligatory, but she really truly deserves it for August: Osage County. I wouldn’t say she necessarily deserves to win, but she certainly deserves the nomination. Shailene Woodley, in the same category, is probably the least likely to get nominated and that breaks my heart. She brings so much depth and authenticity to her role as a teenager struggling with her first love and yet does it in such an understated and naturalistic way that I can only assume the reason she’s likely to be overlooked is because she’s so real in the part. Likewise Tye Sheridan’s performance in Mud. Peter Sarsgaard in Lovelace is a perfect example of a movie that’s not so great but a performance that is. So, don’t count on seeing him on the ballot, either. Rooney Mara will probably be passed over as well since Side Effects came out so early in the year. I hate it when that happens.

Tom Hanks is another actor whose nominations often come across as nothing more than “Yeah, we like him,” but – like Meryl Streep in August: Osage County – he deserves this nod. The last five minutes alone of his performance in Captain Phillips are enough to justify the nomination.

Fruitvale Station is this year’s Cinderella underdog, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a simple, modest film, but so flawlessly crafted and injected with such realism that one feels like they’re watching a documentary. The fact it’s a true story makes it all the more haunting. I’m sure it won’t win much (because 12 Years a Slave deserves to dominate), but I hope it at least gets recognized.

There are few nominees in there from movies you’ve probably never seen and people you’ve probably never heard of, but that’s the point of the Oscars – to honor the worthy, not the famous. So, when the nominations are announced tomorrow, you’ll know why some of them suck: It’s because they didn’t check with me first.

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