When the Oscar nominations were announced on January 10, nothing prepared us for the fact that the seemingly innocuous Silver Linings Playbook would make history by becoming the first movie in 31 years to receive nominations in all acting categories. This event has become a true novelty which occurs just once or twice every decade (it occurred nine times between 1942 and 1967, resulting in only two movies almost pulling off the hat trick winning three awards each) and most films associated with this achievement have become regarded as true classics.
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Among the many shocks to greet film fans on Oscar nominations’ morning, one of the biggest was the exclusion of The Sessions’ John Hawkes from the Best Actor race.
His especially Academy-friendly turn as a man in an iron lung seeking to have sex for the first time was seen as an early favorite to win, not just snag a nomination. Of course, he slid down at least one spot once everyone saw Daniel Day-Lewis absolutely own Abraham Lincoln. Yet he was still a virtual lock to be nominated.
Then he wasn’t.
Let me get this out of the way right off the bat (no pun intended): I am not a Dark Knight Rises apologist. While it’s not nearly the mess of a movie some people make it out to be, it messed up too much of the source story and had one too many twists. Bottom line, it wasn’t the cultural landmark its predecessor was in 2008.
That, though, highlights the problem with the Academy giving exactly zero nominations to Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy.
Sure, it’s gratifying when we see a deserving shoo-in get his gold (Javier Bardem’s terrifying – in both demeanor and hairdo, respectively – Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men; Heath Ledger’s lightning-in-a-bottle method approach to The Joker in The Dark Knight; Christoph Waltz’s Nazi with the unsettlingly elastic smile in Inglorious Basterds), but more often than not, it’s a relatively tame affair when compared with the rest of the slots that fill out the Big Four.
Much to my delight, Naomi Watts has once again been recognized by the Academy, earning her second Best Actress nomination. Much to my chagrin, she won’t win. Much to my post-chagrin delight, that’s fine by me. She shouldn’t win. Not now. Not for The Impossible anyway.
There is nothing wrong with the movie itself per se, just as there is nothing wrong with Watts’ performance. On the contrary, The Impossible is just about the best film about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami one could hope for (even if the backlash against director J.A. Bayona’s decision to focus on the ultimately triumphant story of a vacationing British family instead of its broader devastation does warrant some pause), and I wouldn’t necessarily have cast another actress to play Maria Bennett, a severely wounded mother trying to locate her husband (Ewan McGregor, who has a moment in the film that may be his finest) and two of her three children (the extraordinary child actor Tom Holland plays the son she’s able to keep by her side) among the wreckage.