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>Oscars 2011: Who Was Robbed?

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Oscars 2011: Who Got Snubbed?
There’s no pleasing everybody, but these films & performances should have been Academy Award contenders. See our list of Oscar snubs & oversights. .
Christopher Nolan, Noomi Rapace and ‘The Ghost Writer’ top our list of near misses.
After eighty-some years of Academy Awards, it should be clear to almost everyone that Oscar nominations are a measure of the moment, not a marker for the ages. And you could say that the films of the moment are “The Social Network” and “Inception,” both scoring 8 nominations. “Network” channels the pulse of the modern world of virtual relationships and communication breakdown and it downloads into Oscar season with dozens of wins from awards associations and critics groups, while the cerebral action thriller “Inception” piles on the technical nominations for its marriage of conceptual ingenuity and visual invention.

In terms of sheer numbers, however, the comfort of tradition triumphs over the discomfort of the contemporary: “The King’s Speech,” this year’s feel-good triumph-over-adversity drama, dominates with twelve nominations, followed by the ten nominations from the Coen Bros.’ most popular film to date, “True Grit,” an old-fashioned western infused with their sly sensibility.
In other words, no surprises in this year’s announcements. It pretty much came down as predicted: the final prom of the absurdly overcrowded awards season with the homecoming kings and queens pretty much sorted out. But just because it followed the script doesn’t mean it was the right script. Here is our scorecard on Oscar’s slights and oversights: they shoulda been a contender. 
‘King’s Speech’ leads Oscar noms   
 The nominees for the 83rd annual Academy Awards have been announced.”The King’s Speech” received the most nominations, including best picture. The best picture nominations were also given to “Toy Story 3,” “Black Swan” and “True Grit.” The Oscars will be televised live on ABC.Jessica Alba was nominated for the most Razzies in the worst actress category this year. 

Picture
Oscar opened the Best Picture list to ten nominees last year, not out of guilt for leaving out so many worthy nominees, mind you, but as a way to make sure the big audience-pleasing Hollywood movies that Middle America (in other words, the Oscar telecast audience) has actually seen would find a place in the show. This year they score with blockbusters “Toy Story 3” (both number one at the box office and one of the best reviewed films of 2010) and “Inception,” Hollywood hits “The Social Network” and “True Grit” and success stories “The King’s Speech” and “Black Swan.”

 What did they miss? I don’t think anyone expected “Let Me In,” the remake of the Swedish winter-dark vampire thriller “Let the Right One In,” to show up this year, being both a remake and a horror film, but this perfectly-realized film surely deserves a nod as much as (if not more than) most films that made the cut. “The Town” was widely predicted to be a nominee and Peter Weir’s etched-in-earth survival drama “The Way Back” was the best film of 2010 that no one saw in 2010. But the most egregious absence is Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer,” which swept the European film awards yet is nowhere to be seen on this year’s list of nominees. The smart, gripping, subtly Hitchcockian thriller may have simply come out too early in the year, or maybe the recent extradition controversy simply churned up a belated Polanski backlash. Either way, this is the Best Film of 2010 to come out of the nominations empty-handed.

Actress
It seems like every year we start the early Oscar prognostications by complaining of the dearth of stand-out roles for actresses (a fair complaint, mind you) and arrive at the nominations with more worthy performances to honor than spots available to them. Which is, cliché aside, why it is indeed an honor just be nominated. In a year so rich with fully-realized performances and characters, it may have been inevitable that Lesley Manville’s heartbreaking turn as an aging single with impulse issues and a weakness for wine in Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” would get missed in the shuffle.
It’s a fearless creation and a standout performance in a generous ensemble piece that flew under the radar for most people.
Foreign films are regularly missed in this category so it’s no surprise that the powerhouse performances of two South Korean films, Kim Hye-ja as the driven mother of “Mother,” and Jeon Do-yeon of “Secret Sunshine,” and the incandescent glow Tilda Swinton brought to “I Am Love” were overlooked. But how could Oscar forget the one foreign language performance that defined and drove a worldwide phenomenon: Noomi Rapace, the Girl with the Stieg Larsson Trilogy. Her fierce incarnation as punk hacker Lisbeth Salander is the fire that powers the otherwise workman-like screen adaptations of the novels and is the interpretation by which the American remake will be measured.
Actor
There’s not performance in this category that we didn’t see coming and certainly none are undeserving of the nod. And yet… Oscar favorite Robert Duvall was a longshot for his marvelously shaggy turns as a backwoods eccentric in “Get Low” and Ryan Gosling’s improv-chic intensity in “Blue Valentine” offers the kind of dramatic fireworks that impress fellow performers. Edgar Ramirez was never even a hopeful in this category since “Carlos” was deemed ineligible but it was one of the most complete and complex performances of the year.
Yet to my mind, the most overlooked performance in this category is Michael Douglas’ disgraced businessman and aging roué in “Solitary Man,” a creation of charm and charismatic confidence and vanity, which Douglas captures without a trace of professional vanity or knowing asides to the audience. Sure, it’s a small, forgotten film from early in the year, but the man bounced back from beating cancer and delivered one of the best performances of the year. What else does he have to do to get Oscar’s attention?
Supporting Actress
Hailee Steinfeld was dropped here to give her a better shot, despite the fact that she is in practically every scene of “True Grit” and the driving force of the story. She should have been put in her correct category (which she richly deserves for holding her own against powerhouse fellow nominee Jeff Bridges) and Olivia Williams slipped into this list for her layered work in “The Ghost Writer” as the long-suffering wife with a secret behind her yearning eyes and perpetual sigh of resignation.

And while were on the subject, as much I love Amy Adams, her tough mick-chick from “The Fighter” is a lightweight here. I propose Mia Wasikowska, whose bright incarnation as the teenage daughter in “The Kids Are All Right” was much better than just all right, or Greta Gerwig’s fumbling, directionless personal assistant in “Greenberg,” as sharply defining of modern life as anything in “The Social Network,” in Adams’ place. Other worthy contenders: Mila Kunis in “Black Swan” and Dale Dickey’s searing work in “Winter’s Bone.”
Supporting Actor
Geoffrey Rush got his nod for resisting his penchant for overacting (and simply for appearing in the feel-good success story of the 2010 Awards season), taking the spot that Sam Rockwell might have snagged had “Conviction” been a film worthy of his performance. Jeremy Renner earned his nomination as the season’s unrepentant criminal wild card with a neighborhood code in “The Town” but what about Michael Fassbender’s more reckless creation in the edgy “Fish Tank.” Rising star-of-the-moment Andrew Garfield is a surprise omission for his wounded turn in “The Social Network” and Matt Damon was overlooked for his easy-going support in “True Grit,” while Pierce Brosnan’s cagey performance as a restlessly indignant Prime Minister trying to rehabilitate his legacy with a memoir was so slippery it slipped right out of contention.
But the most overlooked performance of the year is surely Richard Jenkins as the aging father figure to a wolf cub vampire girl in “Let Me In.” In a few short scenes, a mere handful of lines and a haunted presence of desperation, jealousy and willing subservience, he offers a complicated portrait in unconditional love and sacrifice with primal purity that becomes a force of human nature.
Director
Christopher Nolan seems to be the glaring omission here for his painstaking realization of the most cerebral and multi-layered blockbuster action thriller ever. “Inception” was both cheered and criticized for its dense architecture and Nolan is an architect supreme. Otherwise there are no surprises here. Which I find a little dull.
In place of the tasteful craft and audience-rousing triumph of Tom Hooper’s work in “The King’s Speech,” I nominate the unsettling atmosphere of shrouded secrets and hushed conspiracies unerringly created by Roman Polanski’s in “The Ghost Writer.” And I challenge the solid, all-American street-smart grit of David O. Russell’s direction of “The Fighter” with the more fully and fiercely realized rural noir etched into the stark Ozark poverty of “Winter’s Bone” by Debra Granik.

More snubs:
Adapted Screenplay
I give props to “127 Hours” for the sheer ingenuity of turning an essentially uncinematic story into a something lively and involving, but its surface brightness and simple psychological reduction pales next to the ominous suggestion and character mysteries Robert Harris and Roman Polanski bring to “The Ghost Writer.”
Original Screenplay
What happened to the art of the original screenplay? The five nominees didn’t have a lot of competition, but the sly social satire of Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give” offers more convincing dramatic discomfort than the sturdy street-smart conceits of “The Fighter.”
Cinematography
The handsome but prosaic cinematography of “The King’s Speech” rode the crest of popular sentiment into this otherwise well-picked category. The perfectly-pitched atmosphere of gloom and mystery painted by Pawel Edelman in “The Ghost Writer” is certainly a glaring omission, but let me remind you of the even more insidiously unsettling imagery Robert Richardson carved into Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island,” a film where the eerily ominous surfaces are not as they seem.
Foreign Language
Just one question: how did the hypnotic “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” which justly won the Palm d’or at Cannes, not even make the shortlist? It’s a rhetorical question, mind you, but it does point to a system of rules and procedures that leaves a lot of the best films in the world out of consideration.
Documentary
If there is one truism in 21st century film culture, it is that there are more great and good documentaries than ever being made and distributed. Non-fiction filmmaking and storytelling has never been better and there are not enough slots to honor the Best of the Year, this or any. So while we bemoan the absence of “Waiting For ‘Superman'” or “The Tillman Story,” can we point to a film that doesn’t deserve its nomination?
Animated Feature
Only three nominees this year (there were five last year, but not enough films “qualified” this time around; apparently “Yogi Bear” was not accepted as an animated feature) and perhaps that’s as it should be. Fans of “Tangled” will be disappointed it didn’t make the cut, but otherwise this is a case where the three nominees really do represent the best of the year.
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