I know, I know. Ranting about, reflecting on, and rationalizing this year’s Oscar nomination snubs is so last week. But as I ponder the selections in the acting categories, it occurs to me that this year, perhaps more so than any in the recent past, the Academy’s choices all seem particularly slanted toward the straightforward: fine actors delivering dialogue well, if not especially inhabiting or transforming the material. In a year filled with top Hollywood talent—and a few critical darlings—delivering full-bodied, immersive performances in rather unorthodox roles, it’s hard to not be disappointed that the Academy didn’t take more risks in compiling their shortlists.
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Leading Annapurna Pictures, we have a young woman with every financial resource who never has to work a day in her life. Instead, she wrote a check for $35 million so the world would have The Master, a masterpiece which could only earn a profit in some alternate universe. She funded Zero Dark Thirty, the most deliberately provocative film of our time. With the inclusion of just these two films, the quality of the American movie market improved tenfold over previous years, thanks to a wealthy motorcyclist who tweets Jean Cocteau quotes. That’s right, kids. There’s someone out there with intelligent taste and a lot of money who wants to get your movies made. Cynics be damned: No one could look at the blatant facts of The Master - massive budget, no commercial prospects, complete creative control of a great director - and not see that this is a producer who means business (and none of what that implies.)
What do Michael Haneke and Jean Renoir have in common (besides their deeply humanistic, but vastly different approaches to portraying life you mean?)? They both have directed foreign language films that went on to receive a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. In 1938, Renoir’s La Grande Illusion was nominated for the big Hollywood prize, becoming the first movie not in the English language to receive this honor. The WWI-set masterpiece lost to a now mostly forgotten Frank Capra comedy and curiously wasn’t nominated for anything other than Best Picture, meanwhile in 2012, Haneke’s Amour, a devastating take on old age, went on to receive a total of five nominations including one for lead actress Emmanuelle Riva.
I think I find myself in the minority of all issues Ben Affleck. First, I was a fan of the actor. Yes, from Good Will Hunting on I enjoyed Affleck the Actor in such films as Armageddon, Dogma, The Sum of All Fears, and even the much maligned Jersey Girl.
I joined the consensus for a few years when he broke through as a director. Gone Baby Gone, his first effort, is based on my favorite novel and is now one of my favorite films. The Town is incredibly entertaining and is oft-quoted around my home (“I’m putting this whole town in my reahview.”).
During an eight-year span, Amy Adams went from being an unknown, to becoming one of the top eight actresses nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award (meaning they have been nominated four or more times). Looking back at her relatively short career (her first starring role was in the cult comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous in 1999) Adams’ rise is especially significant because it’s rare to see actors become so prominent with what seems to be a lack of interest in being the main star.
The actress has headlined a handful of movies, none of which have been especially memorable (Leap Year was downright forgettable) but it’s never been for her lack of trying; Adams always seems to have a ready disposition, the kind that reminds one of a young Julie Andrews or Doris Day. Adams’ wholesome qualities—that button nose is too cute for words—first convinced us of her talent in Junebug, a small independent movie where she surprised audiences by playing a pregnant woman with a penchant for meerkats and naivete. If the movie seems to punish her wholesomeness, Adams sees beyond the limitations of the screenplay and turns in a performance for the ages. Her Ashley is the one thing you remember long after the movie’s over.