The Oscar for biggest snub goes to . . .
Critics almost universally recognized 2013 as a fantastic year in cinema. Renowned film critic David Edelstein even went so far as to call it a “miraculous year,” and Robbie Collin of “The Telegraph” agreed: “2013 was a vintage year for cinema . . . throughout the last 12 months there has certainly been some kind of magic in the air.” Thus, it should come as no surprise that, while there are a number of blockbuster films and famous performers and directors that appear among the nominees in the 86th Academy Awards, there are more still that did not receive an invite to the prestigious award show. In fact, in a year like this one, those who the Academy did not nominate, were, in my opinion, even more notable than those they did. Therefore, in preparation for this Sunday’s Oscars, I have compiled a list of what I believe to be the most egregious omissions from award consideration. Keep in mind that these are not all the awards to be presented on Sunday, merely seven of the more prominent honors.
Best Original Song: “Over the Love” by Florence + The Machine (“The Great Gatsby”)
Look, I understand many critics did not share my enthusiasm for Baz Luhrmann’s modern take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. However, a vast majority at the very least expressed enthusiasm for the film’s soundtrack, which rap mogul Jay-Z produced. Therefore, I was stunned to find none of the original songs even under consideration by the Academy. Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” was the top hit from the movie, but I believe Florence Welch’s song truly was one of, if not, the best movie songs this year. Where “Young and Beautiful” is catchy but lyrically vapid, “Over the Love” features Welch’s soaring vocals, heart-wrenching emotion and powerful lyrics that actually relate to the film (“I can see the green light/I can see it in your eyes”). Not only was this song robbed of an award, the audience was robbed of a potentially fantastic live performance at the show.
Also snubbed: “Atlas” by Coldplay (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”), “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey (“The Great Gatsby”), “Fixer Upper” by the cast of “Frozen”
Best Animated Feature: “Monsters University”
Is this snub a moot point? Absolutely. If anything but “Frozen” wins this award, there will be no tomorrow. But the prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” was incredibly well-conceived, building on jokes from the old film and utilizing the same tongue-in-cheek humor that reaches both children and adults. At the very least, Mike and Sully deserved to be nominated over the largely uninteresting sequel to “Despicable Me.”
Also snubbed: “The Blue Umbrella” (for Best Animated Short)
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, “Her”
Amy Adams played a prominent role in two Best Picture-nominated films, and critics are lauding her for the wrong performance. In “American Hustle,” she is entirely unconvincing, and at times is downright obnoxious, as a “bad girl with a heart of gold” who can’t seem to get a grasp on what her accent is. Yet, for this role, Adams won the Golden Globe for Best Actress and now is nominated in the Oscars in the same category. Conversely, she’s delightful in the modern romance film “Her.” She nails the part as a down-to-earth, supportive friend of the troubled protagonist, and in the sole scene where she actually shows a burst of angry emotion, she’s entirely believable. This is the Amy Adams that deserves recognition.
Also snubbed: Carey Mulligan, “The Great Gatsby” and “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Octavia Spencer, “Fruitvale Station,” Oprah Winfrey, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney, “Gravity”
This one was a toss-up for me, as I really wanted to recognize Will Forte. The “SNL” alum makes a subtly brilliant transition into a mostly dramatic role in “Nebraska.” However, I was far too impressed by Clooney. Little has been made about his role, as Sandra Bullock has (deservedly) received the bulk of the accolades for acting in this film. But Clooney shines as Matt Kowalsky, the humorous, savvy veteran astronaut who works to help, comfort and inspire Bullock’s Ryan Stone. He plays his part so well and so realistically, he makes you forget you’re watching George Clooney.
Also snubbed: Will Forte, “Nebraska,” Daniel Brühl, “Rush,” Joel Edgerton, “The Great Gatsby”
Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” one of the highest critically-rated films of the year, struck out on major Oscar nominations. It’s a shame, too; the simple drama about a struggling musician amidst the ‘60s folk scene was expertly-crafted, very well-acted and featured a brilliant soundtrack. Not only should it have scored a Best Picture nomination, the brothers Coen should have been considered for this award. Their simplistic, witty, artsy style is what made this film work. After being recognized for greats like “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit,” as well as poignant smaller films like “A Simple Man,” you’d figure the Coens should have at least been nominated for this movie as well.
Also snubbed: Spike Jonze, “Her,” Baz Luhrmann, “The Great Gatsby,” Paul Greengrass, “Captain Phillips”
Best Actress: Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”
I’m not too surprised that the Academy shutout “Saving Mr. Banks,” a charming but ultimately safe movie. In my opinion, however, Emma Thompson is one of the few truly great actresses of our time, and in this movie, she showed the audience just why that is. Where Tom Hanks was not entirely believable as Walt Disney, Thompson played British author P.L. Travers brilliantly. Her blunt sass was hilarious, her little mannerisms (for instance, a frequent light scoff) were fantastic and her emotion was realistic. The Academy should have taken a cue from the Golden Globes, and considered her for this top award.
Also snubbed: Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight,” Greta Gerwig, “Frances Ha”
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, “Her”
In the Academy’s defense, this was an incredible year for leading actors. It’s hard to argue that any of the nominated five do not deserve to be nominated, at least in the sense that they did not do a great acting job. Nevertheless, some omissions for this award were ridiculous. A true great, Forest Whitaker is phenomenal in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” Newcomers Oscar Isaac and Michael B. Jordan played very different roles, but both were remarkable, and truly carried their respective films. Veteran Tom Hanks turned in what may have been his finest acting role ever, or at least in the last decade, playing the title character in “Captain Phillips.” Joaquin Phoenix, though, gets my undesirable honor of receiving the worst snub of the year. Phoenix was nothing short of amazing in “Her.” He simply disappears into his role, turning protagonist Theodore Twombly into a weird but everyday guy, a believable sad sap. His performance is so real and so heartbreakingly effective, that it makes everyone in the audience sincerely want happiness for Twombly. Phoenix should not have just been nominated for Best Actor, he should have won the award, which, this year, is saying something.
Also snubbed: Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips,” Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Michael B. Jordan, “Fruitvale Station,” Forest Whitaker, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Best Picture: “Fruitvale Station”
Though the Golden Globes entirely ignored this movie, I had held out hope for the Oscars, as the latter generally includes an indie favorite for consideration. Alas, for some reason, the Academy also entirely ignored “Fruitvale Station,” which took both the Grand Prize Award and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, among its many other accolades. This is one of the few films of the last year that actually deeply affected me. It’s not an easy watch by any means. The true story of Oscar Grant, a young man murdered by subway police a few years ago in Oakland, is haunting. In addition to some aforementioned incredible acting jobs, director Ryan Coogler brilliantly toes the line of this racially charged story. His purpose is not to condemn the race of anyone involved, but simply to tell a largely unknown story. After extensive research with family, friends, witnesses of the incident and others involved with the story, Coogler portrays Grant not as a saint nor as a menacing thug, but rather as a young man with some serious issues that he is trying to overcome. Movies like these run the risk of straying from reality, but by all accounts, Coogler’s story is very close to what actually took place. “Fruitvale Station” is hard, gritty and emotional, but it is a brilliant, powerful and important movie. It is an absolute crime that the film won’t even be considered for Best Picture.
Also snubbed: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Frozen,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”