10 Underdogs Oscar Missed

By Erik Waldman

At least a month before the big night, the Oscar nominations are announced and they always leave mixed emotions. The nominees and fans are left shocked by who gets nominated and who does not. Usually, the most shocking announcement are the names left off of the list.

For example, Nicolas Winding Refn’s action packed Drive was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. It received a 93% on Rottentomatoes with a total of 203 fresh reviews. Also, Albert Brooks received a Golden Globe nomination for his chilling performance. The film received only one Oscar nomination, for Best Achievement in Sound Editing? I am not saying that the sound editing wasn’t brilliant. This film mesmerized me; the sound editing was the last thing I thought about. One of the best films of the year only gets one Oscar nod in a technical category? Where’s Ryan Gosling? Where’s Albert Brooks? Where’s Nicolas Winding Refn? Finally, where’s the Best Picture nomination? Did the Academy pay attention to Drive’s brilliance? I bet they were only paying attention to the action sequences to see how the sound was executed.

The Academy really missed out on a thought provoking action film. Not only Drive, but also a lot of other films did not have a nomination that each film truly deserved:

DRIVE

Best Picture, Best Director (Nicolas Winding Refn), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Ryan Gosling), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Albert Brooks)

Drive takes the term “action film” in a completely different direction. Many people would expect a brainless action film like Transformers or Fast and the Furious, but Drive is not like those films at all.

With the stylish direction of Refn, the film follows a very understated and cool stuntman by and terrifying criminal by night. Ryan Gosling protects the family of an ex-con from a menacing Albert Brooks. The film is more artistic and thoughtful than any of the thoughtless Fast and the Furious films. Drive brings us an intelligent screenplay, entertaining characters,

Refn’s wonderful direction and visuals that are out-of-this-world. Why would the Academy miss a film like this? Not only that, Refn’s direction brings this film to life with a new touch on the action genre. Ryan Gosling delivers the cool of Steve McQueen, the personality of Michael C. Hall, and the attitude of Daniel Craig. Gosling brings us a worthy action hero that makes his character even more entertaining.

The biggest snub of this film was Albert Brooks. First, he’s never played a villain before. After seeing this film, it looks like he’s done it many times. Second, Brooks brought so much life to a terrifying and demented character. Brooks sent a chill down my spine every time his character was on screen. Third, where’s the Oscar nod? Brooks himself was not happy about his snub, saying to the Academy “you really don’t like me.” I’ve seen a lot of Brooks’ films and he can be comedic and dramatic. This film, he’s terrifying. Besides its only Oscar nod, Drive’s potential four Oscar nods were a complete misfire.

SHAME

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Fassbender)

Michael Fassbender had a tremendous 2011. His films X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, and his should-be Oscar nominated performance in Shame proved that he should have finished 2011 with at least an Oscar nod for his versatile year.

The Hollywood Foreign Press recognized his work, while the Screen Actors Guild and Academy did not. I thought the Academy appreciates actors who get completely naked (Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises). I guess not.

Not only the nudity, in Shame, Fassbender completely embodied a frank portrayal of a sex addict perfectly. What was it about his performance that the Academy did not see? Hopefully nothing. Was it the film’s subject matter? At least nominate the actor who had to go through with it. Fassbender’s chilling performance may have been one of the biggest snubs of the Academy Awards.

J. EDGAR

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Leonardo DiCaprio)

Leo received a Golden Globe nomination and a Screen Actors Guild nomination, but no Oscar nod? The Academy really gave the actor a lot of false hopes. Is this because the film J. Edgar was poorly reviewed? That might have been it.

Leo has been nominated three times before and did not win, but his performance, as Hoover is a sign that Leo is tackling extremely challenging roles. I believe that Leo is on a mission to win an Oscar and he’s playing as many challenging roles as he can. His performance as Hoover was the sole reason to see the film, which is a sign that his mission is working. Unfortunately, the Academy completely forgets about him. Not cool.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Tilda Swinton)

 Similar to DiCaprio, Swinton received both Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for her powerful performance in Lynne Ramsey’s dark adaptation. Swinton delivered a very subtle but brilliant display of anguish after her son massacres his school. Swinton displays every emotion this role requires because she is a masterful actress.

 Her performance is brilliant enough that I believed she actually is the mother facing every parent’s worst nightmare. Was she snubbed because she won back in 2007 for her performance in Michael Clayton. Come on! That’s no excuse! The Academy better watch out for Kevin.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Best Achievement in Directing (David Fincher)

 David Fincher always had the talent to exceed expectations about his films, especially after his successes of Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network. In his latest film, Fincher definitely directed to his very best with his adaptation of Steig Larsson’s first novel of the trilogy. The Director’s Guild of America recognized Fincher’s lurid and fantastic direction, but the Academy ceased to follow through with the DGA’s opinion.

This film could have easily been turned into a revenge fantasy. Fincher and screenwriter Steve Zaillian understood the novel and brought it to life in a dark and intriguing fashion. Fincher moves the film from shot to shot by taking his audience along for a ride to follow this amazing introduction to the trilogy. The two-time Oscar nominee brought us into this world exactly how Larrson envisioned his novel.

Fincher’s direction alone should have been the sole reason this movie was fantastic. He needed complete commitment from the brilliant Rooney Mara, and she received a much-deserved Oscar nomination for her role. Mara stole the film, but Fincher brought this film to life with an atmosphere only he can master and a style that brings us into the mystery. While I am happy Mara received a nomination, David Fincher should have his third Oscar nomination.

WAR HORSE

Best Achievement in Directing (Steven Spielberg)

Three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg has made a more than welcome return after a three-year absence from his director’s chair. With his latest film War Horse, Spielberg manages to impress and surprise once again. Spielberg always takes a sentimentalist approach to his films, especially with E.T. (my all-time favourite Spielberg film).

Spielberg’s brilliant direction with the deeply emotional farm scenes and the intense war scenes is clear evidence that he is one of the greatest visual storytellers with this heart-warming adventure.

The good news is the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year. Where’s the man who gave us the magic? He brought the horse’s journey to the big screen, and the Academy gives him absolutely no recognition for his latest work? How dare they!

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN

Best Animated Feature

It wins Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes, but is nowhere to be seen in the category at the Oscars? Is there an animated film that’s better than Spielberg’s adventure? In 2011, there definitely was not. Pixar usually brings the animation category to life, because it usually wins every year. The only Pixar movie that was released in 2011 was Cars 2 and that was a complete train-wreck. The only other film that I believe had any chance of winning Best Animated Feature was Spielberg’s first animated film.

The Adventures of Tintin included a lot of wonderful three-dimensional imagery, fantastic voice acting/motion capture, Spielberg’s always-amazing direction and a great screenplay. It was not the best film of the year, but it was better than the other nominees. Spielberg added his customary flair in this film in this that he included in Raiders of the Lost Ark. How does his nostalgic look at the Tintin series not agree with Academy?

The only films that I recognize Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Rango are nominated, and Tintin is not? I hope one of the two animated films I did not recognize wins, because the other three are not Oscar worthy. What does the Oscars have against motion capture?

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Andy Serkis)

Similar to Tintin, the Academy must have a grudge against motion capture acting. For Andy Serkis, they missed his scene-stealing turn as Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and now they missed his second motion capture performance as an ape (He played Kong in Peter Jackson’s King Kong) in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

With no dialogue, Serkis brings a physical performance that is so mesmerizing that I was able to follow everything his character Caesar was expressing. It’s physical acting at it’s absolute finest. Serkis’s performance was convincing enough as the ape aged to make Caesar the best character in the film. I could see the pain, depression, anger, happiness or any other emotion through Serkis’s deft facial expressions.

After the Academy missed his performance as Gollum, I would not have been shocked if they snubbed his performance as Caesar. The Critics Choice Awards noticed Serkis’s amazing work and gave him a nod. The Academy did not agree with the Critics Choice Awards and snubbed him. The apes deserve to take over the world for snubbing such an amazing actor.

THE DESCENDANTS

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Shailene Woodley)

Even though George Clooney was remarkable, why did the Academy miss the powerful performance of newcomer Woodley? The film did well with getting the nominations it deserved but it was one short. Shailene Woodley, known as Amy in Secret Life of the American Teenager, stole every scene she was in as Alexandra; especially the scene where her character is introduced intoxicated.

She could have easily overacted in this film, but she perfectly balanced her unbalanced teenage self with a young woman. Woodley displayed the correct amount of charisma to face off against Clooney’s father figure. She gets to express all of her acting chops in every scene she’s in with her amazing chemistry with Clooney.

This was a performance of a lifetime for her and the Academy passed off the best breakthrough performance since Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. I hope Woodley continues to search for more roles like Alexandra.

50/50

Best Original Screenplay (Will Reiser)

Will Reiser wrote a screenplay that is as personal as any screenplay has ever been written. I was given the advice in a writing class “write what you know.” Since Reiser was diagnosed with cancer and had to fight it while dealing with his friends and family, he wrote exactly what he knew.

This was his screenwriting debut and it could not have been any better. It must have been extremely difficult to write a comedy about cancer. The film could have been extremely offensive if a cancer survivor did not write it. Only a person that actually experienced this type of event can write any kind of film about their experience. This is not entirely a comedy. There are a lot of dramatic moments, but when the film becomes humorous, it’s really funny. Yes, it’s dark humour, but it really works with the subject matter. The screenplay displays cancer in a lighter manner than really serious films about cancer do.

Not only does the film present comedic set pieces, Reiser does a wonderful job bracing us for an unpredictable falling action and finale. The Academy missed a wonderful chance to nominate a screenplay with guts and bravery about one of the toughest subjects to write about.

Fade Out

Even though these films were not nominated in their respected categories, the actors, screenplays and films should not kill themselves about not getting a nomination. They worked hard, but I don’t think they did what they did to get an Oscar nomination. All of these people did this because they love what they do. Some of these people are veterans while others are newcomers. For example, Shailene Woodley shined in her breakthrough performance in The Descendents. She displayed a performance that was beyond brilliant; it must be unbelievable of how big the list of casting directors that want to hire her.

David Fincher directed another great film and he’s never going to stop taking his audience on a ride with his style and direction. He’s getting more and more critics and fans on his side every day. If the Academy didn’t recognize their work, it doesn’t mean that they should stop for working so hard and getting nothing for it. As long as they keep doing what they love, they will continue to succeed, and eventually receive Oscar recognition.

The 84th Academy Awards are Sunday February 26th.

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About The Author

Erik Waldman My name is Erik Waldman. I am a Film/Media Arts major at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Currently, I am a junior studying abroad at Foundation International Education (FIE) in Kensington. On June 6th, 1991 I was born to Howard and Lisa Waldman in Abington, Pennsylvania. The first film I saw was The Lion King in 1994, and I have loved going to the movies ever since. Even though I was three years old, I remember having a great time watching the movie and enjoying the experience. I attended Holland Elementary, Holland Middle School and graduated from Council Rock High School South in 2009. During my senior year at high school I took a filmmaking class and immediately fell in love with making movies. I wrote and directed two short films and I created three short commercials for an assignment. Also during my senior year I participated with the school’s choir in a tour across England and I loved every minute of it. When it was time to apply for college, I wanted to go to a college that was close to home, because I love being close to my family. I wanted to major in filmmaking because I wanted to learn more about the process than I learned in one semester in high school. Temple University was my top choice because I am the fourth generation in my family to attend, the school is well known for its film program and it has a study abroad program. After two and half years attending Temple, I love the school and its film program, because the professors know exactly what they’re talking about and making the movies has been a blast. I’ve written and directed five short films since my freshman year at Temple and I absolutely love it. I applied for study abroad in London after my sophomore year ended because I wanted a new experience to cherish for the rest of my life and to return to England for the first time since my high school choir trip. I was happy to learn I was able to apply for an internship during my stay in England. I applied to Raindance Film Festival, because Raindance has an amazing history of screening famous directors’ films, such as those of my favourite filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, and they have film classes I would love to attend to learn something I have not yet learned at Temple. A film festival is a great place to start meeting people who in the film business and it’s an amazing experience to write about on a resume. Since January 5th, England has been fantastic. I’ve been exploring London a lot since my arrival and I’m picking up the culture a lot faster than I thought I would. I’ve walked around Hyde Park, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster, Bath, Stonehenge and more. I know there’s a lot more to look forward to, including a football match I’m attending on St. Patrick’s Day, Greenwich, the London Eye, my trip to Dublin, and possibly attending some concerts while I’m here. I feel very happy being in the United Kingdom and I can’t wait to see what else it has to offer. 

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