The Films Oscar Ignored

With the 2011 Academy Awards only a few days away, it seems like an appropriate time to look at some of the films which were undeservingly ignored by the Academy. Of course it would be ridiculous to assume the nominations would naturally align with your favourite films, however it is the complete absence of several films from Oscar consideration that raises some questions.

Every year certain filmmakers or films are snubbed by the academy, sometimes it seems unexplainable, others it is clear. More often than not, the reason seems to be the kind of genre the film falls into.

Horror, comedy and action are all genres which are most likely to not appear in the nominations, and while there have been exceptions to the rule, this largely remains true. It seems that every year when one of these genre films does get nominated, critics and the Academy actively work to fit the film into another genre. This year’s awards favourite, Black Swan, is a horror film which has been labelled as anything but, as a way to justify its presence in the awards.

Several months ago I predicted that Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Shutter Island, would be snubbed at this year’s Oscars, and unfortunately I was correct. The film was not received with widespread praise, however many critics did give it the recognition it deserved. Even with Scorsese’s last film, The Departed, sweeping the awards in 2007, Shutter Island was still completely shut out. With a fantastic performance from DiCaprio and several Oscar-worthy supporting roles, Shutter Island was robbed of deserving nominations. The cinematography and direction are also deserving of recognition from the Academy, however it seems that its indefinable genre is the main reason for the Academy’s snubbing of the film.

Stranger still than the lack of nominations for Shutter Island, is the snubbing of Mark Romanek’s heartbreaking Never Let Me Go. The film has many of the ingredients which are ripe for Oscar consideration: it is a period film, a tear-jerker as well as it features many-up-and-coming actors giving beautiful performances. And yet, with all of these things going for it, it did not receive a single nomination.

I have thought about why this film did not receive any nominations for quite some time as it was my favourite film of the year, and what it seems to be is the subtlety of the film. The performances are all incredibly strong, yet they are not showy or over-the-top.. The direction and cinematography portray this alternate version of England as both beautiful and lacking in emotion. It all adds up to a film which creeps up on you emotionally, with devastating force. This subtlety in direction and acting allow for a film which was far too easy for the Academy to ignore.

Unless a comedy has elements of drama, it is very unlikely for them to be nominated in any category. This year’s over-appreciated The Kids Are Alright, is certainly a comedy, yet due to its dramatic elements it was able to receive multiple nominations. While I am not going to argue Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Versus The World deserves a position as a Best Picture nomination, it is deserving of other considerations. Wright has only directed three films, yet his control over the medium has made him one of the most masterful directors working today. From Best Director to Best Cinematography, the film is deserving of several awards, yet its place as a comedy leaves it without any acknowledgement from the Academy.

Each year the Academy ignores some of our favourite films, and we accept it as their prejudice towards certain genres. This is mainly an issue due to the fact the Academy Awards hold such prestige and are commonly accepted as the final word on the best films of the year. Watching the awards this Sunday I will not be on the edge of my seat wondering if the best film of the year wins the award it deserves, as the best film of the year was not even nominated.

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3 Responses to The Films Oscar Ignored

  1. Scott Nye says:

    Never Let Me Go‘s only shot at the Oscar was having Fox Searchlight, who are becoming the new Miramax of Awards-season marketing (only with better films), behind it. All hope was lost when they abandoned it completely once it starting getting negative reactions in limited release, and their wide release pattern was consequently a shrug at best.

    The film, on its own terms, never had a shot without strong studio support. It’s a decidedly un-American (which is not the same as anti-American) move to not have the characters try to escape their destiny, something we’re very accustomed to in any film in which a character is trapped in an unappealing situation. But in getting hung up on that detail, audiences lost the larger points of the film and were probably not open to the emotional impact. Which is really too bad. I just hope people start to let it in in the years to come.

    The Shutter Island neglect actually surprised me a little bit more, despite its genre roots. I thought it actually benefitted from coming out early in the year, giving people time to come around on it and look past the plot mechanics, and I saw it pop up on quite a few top ten lists. Looking at the Movie City News ranking (http://moviecitynews.com/2011/01/the-top-tens-january-12-2011/), which aggregates every Top Ten list they can get their hands on, it came in at number 24, but when you remove all the films that would never, ever get nominated for Best Picture (Greenberg, Mother, Let Me In, Inside Job, Dogtooth, I Am Love, A Prophet, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Ghost Writer, and Carlos), that moves it up to 14, which is well within striking distance. But alas, hell hath no fury like people who look at plot mechanics first and foremost.

    As for Scott Pilgrim (which I would absolutely argue deserves a Best Picture nomination), well, yeah…that’s the Academy for you. Dedicated to promoting film as art without really giving a shake about recognizing when it is. Guess you could say that about all three of these, really.

  2. i definitely agree with the shutter island omission. that’s a travesty

  3. RunningSiren says:

    So many good films and directors were not nominated this year. The only reason The King’s Speech made it was because of Harvey Weinstein’s PR machine. Danny Boyle should have been nomated for 127 Hours; Never Let Me Go’s director and cast should have been nominated, and Shutter Island’s director and Leonardo DiCaprio. The Academy Awards are becoming more and more irrelevant and the show itself more and more boring.
    More reason for blogs like this to spread the word about many of the deserving films that we see throughout the year that just don’t have the huge PR budgets available to them.

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