Oscar 2012: Argo Fuck Yourself

“I don’t get no respect, no respect at all.”

After the revelation of the Oscar nominations Thursday morning, in a production that was supposed to highlight the comedic genius of Seth McFarlane (judging by his jokes–one about Hitler?–the Oscar show could be a long one) there was general consensus that most things went according to Hoyle, except for the WTF Best Director category. The director’s branch and the DGA are usually very similar–80 percent in most years. This year it was a shocking 40 percent, with three directors left out in the cold.

So what happened? Ben Affleck of Argo, Kathryn Bigelow of Zero Dark Thirty, and Tom Hooper of Les Miserables got DGA noms but no sniff from Oscar, effectively scuttling their films’ chances at Best Picture (and paving the way for a Lincoln win). In their place were David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, not a big shock, but also Michael Haneke for Amour and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, which registered pretty big on the Oscar seismograph.

The director’s branch, like the writer’s branch, tends to stray into art-house fare, but this was news. Was Bigelow overlooked because of the backlash from liberal groups about the incorrect use of water boarding in the film? If so, it didn’t stop the film from getting a few other big nominations. Was Affleck bounced because he has a less than serious record as an actor (Gigli, anyone?). The branch has never been reluctant to nominate actors (Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Tim Robbins), and Argo was a real director’s picture. What gives? I guess Ben shouldn’t feel too bad–Argo‘s Best Picture nomination means he is a nominee, for producing. As for Tom Hooper, it’s clear that though Les Miserables got some major nominations, including Best Picture, it didn’t get nominated for writing or editing, two key categories. Les Mis just wasn’t loved across the board.

The only other big surprise, at least to me, was John Hawkes being left out of Best Actor for this role in The Sessions. An actor playing a man who can only move his head in a well-received, if under-performing film, seems a natural. The film’s lack of impact, or its uncompromising sexuality, didn’t hurt Helen Hunt, who got a Best Supporting Actress nomination while going full monty. I think Joaquin Phoenix of The Master got Hawkes’ nomination, (the actor’s branch seemed to love that film, giving it three nominations, while it gone none elsewhere) coming back from a gaffe where he criticized the process of Oscar campaigning. Phoenix’s performance drove me to distraction–maybe it was a case of getting nominated for the “most” acting, not necessarily the best.

Aside from the above, the nominations were fairly predictable. Lincoln got the most, 12 (although not a Makeup nomination, even though it had much better makeup than Hitchcock, which did get nominated). Life of Pi was next, with 11, and got nominated in almost every category except acting. Silver Linings Playbook was the opposite, the first film since Reds in 1981 to have a nomination in each of the four acting categories. Despite criticism of a social nature, Django Unchained picked up some big nominations, including Best Picture, and Quentin Tarantino was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, even though a high percentage of words in the script are “n*gger.”

It’s also refreshing to see that the Academy doesn’t seem beholden to Mammon, as high-grossing films like The Avengers and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey only got technical nominations (The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises were shut out), while barely-seen art house films Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour got nominated in all major categories. Amour is the first foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (if you don’t count the American production of Letters from Iwo Jima) and only the ninth such film in Oscar history. And Beast’s Quvenzhane Wallis (I’m learning to spell that without checking) and Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva became the youngest and oldest, respectively, Best Actress nominees.

I haven’t seen all of the Best Picture nominees (still have Amour, Zero Dark Thirty, and Les Miserables to go), but already I think this is the best crop of nominees since the Academy expanded the category. Hollywood may continue to pander to teenagers, and cable TV may now be making the best entertainment available, but there are still some people who are trying to make good films. As Lincoln proved, they can even make money.


About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

24 responses »

  1. Was Anna Paquin a best actress nominee? Or supporting? Would this girl be the youngest best actress winner?
    And Affleck wasn’t nearly as respected as those other actors-turned-directors you listed, but damn, did he deserve an Oscar nomination for that film.
    It’s a strange phenomenon that actresses you would love to see naked most of their career only get naked at the end of their career.
    Yeah, big news for Zeitlen. That’s pretty huge.

  2. That last sentence is grammatically incorrect. It sounds like you meant to say Lincoln was a good film, and I know you can’t possibly end your post with that…

  3. Wallis would be the youngest Best Actress ever (the record is currently held by Marlee Matlin). The youngest nominee ever is Justin Henry, for Kramer vs.Kramer. The youngest winner of any Oscar is Tatum O’Neal, for Paper Moon.

    And give it up, Filmman, Lincoln was a great film. You’re the only person on Earth who hated it.

  4. Only person on earth…hardly. You obviously don’t read the message boards on AICN.

    I can hardly imagine a less effective response! Maybe you’re being ironic (in which case I think it’s actually pretty witty).

    My biggest problem with the nominations is that Moonrise Kingdom was denied a Best Picture nom. I would have liked to see one for The Dark Knight Rises, too, but Moonrise Kingdom is much more disappointing.

    I’m happy to see Haneke nominated, although I still need to see the film. Who would have thought Haneke could get a Best Director nomination? Never would have thought it possible.

  5. Good call, then. Did you know that “facetious” is the only word in the English language that has all five vowels appear in sequence (i.e., fAcEtIOUs)?

  6. Awesome.
    I wanted to counter with ‘You’re the only person on earth who wants a best picture nom for Dark Knight Rises’, but I knew that’d be putting myself out there too much.

  7. And I don’t understand why I didn’t like Moonrise Kingdom as much as anyone else. It isn’t that I didn’t like it. The same thing happened with Mr. Fox. I just didn’t see what everyone else seemed to see.

  8. I haven’t seen it so this isn’t based on my own personal view of the film, but how come there was no push for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ to get BP nomination, or outrage that it didn’t get one? After all the non-appearance of the previous one in the series in the BP race was what allegedly led to the expanded BP list.

    As far as I could tell this TDKR was as well received and reviewed as the previous one, so was it just a case that there was a better standard of films at the top end this year?

  9. Argo wins at the PGAs. It really has the momentum now. Let’s look at the noms…

    Zero Dark Thirty – plagued by controversy
    Lincoln – not Spielberg’s best work
    Silver Linings Playbook – dark horse, but charming and feel-good
    Life of Pi – not Lee’s best work
    Argo – feel-good movie about heroic Americans in a politically significant time that’s free from controversy

    Beasts of the Southern Wild – never caught fire
    Amour – nobody’s seen it
    Django Unchained – no chance, too controversial
    Les Miserables – worst reviewed of the nominees

    I see this going Argo’s way.

  10. Only once in the the last 80 years has a film won best picture without its director being nominated (Driving Miss Daisy). Argo may do it, since voters seem to feel sorry for Ben Affleck, but I’m not convinced. The PGA is not a reliable indicator, and “not Spielberg’s best work” is no reason Lincoln won’t win–The Departed was hardly Scorsese’s best work.

  11. Yes, but The Departed was *light years* ahead of Lincoln in structure, writing, dramatic intent, and it was more factual than Lincoln was and it had a better ending and it was more entertaining and it had far better cinematography (but then 95 percent of Hollywood movies can say that (especially after the washed-out ‘sunlight window’ shot that made me throw up in my mouth) and it hewed more closely to a time and place and capturing that time and place and it had Leo.

  12. Filmman, I’m afraid to break it to you, but the Academy will not take your opinion of Lincoln into their voting.

    That being said, though, if Affleck wins the DGA all bets are off.

  13. Argo wins the SAG Best Ensemble Cast Award, their version of Best Picture. Argo is the frontrunner now, though it’s still tight. If Affleck gets the DGA – it would be an upset if anything else wins the Oscar.

  14. Just to play devil’s advocate (I liked Argo a lot, and will not be upset if it wins Best Picture) SAG is only a fifty-percent predictor. Other films that won the SAG for Best Ensemble: Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Birdcage.

  15. The Departed is actually an interesting case study when considering Argo v. Lincoln. The Departed didn’t win the Golden Globe, PGA, or SAG, yet it won Best Picture. It did win the WGA and DGA. At least there’s an interesting race this year.

  16. I think ARGO gets Best Pic while Director goes to Spielberg. If Spielberg doesn’t get it I think Ang Lee will be the one to snag it from him. SLP will have to settle for Best Actress and *maybe* Adapted Screenplay.

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