On January 24, 2011, there came almost no surprises to the list of nominees announced for this year's Academy Awards. The boundlessly successful Hugo led the pack with 11 nominations, with The Artist making a close second with 10 nominations. Every year, most people seem to be satisfied with the nominees, but there will always, forever be complaints about who didn't make the cut. Two years ago, the Oscars even doubled their nominations for Best Picture from five films to 10, and everyone still had those one or two films they thought deserved to be recognized.
So, although there were some fantastic films I did not expect to see on the lists, like Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life, I'm still going to put in my two cents for the names that weren't called Tuesday morning. Like most years, the reason for the snubs was either the film didn't make enough money, it was R-rated, or both.
A film I did not expect to be nominated for anything but still deserved to be was the feature film debut of visionary Sean Durkin, the disturbing Martha Marcy May Marlene. Most likely due to the horrific subject matter of the film and the gross of less than two million, this independent masterwork did not rise to the top of the Academy's list. Without question, Durkin's careful slow camerawork and hauntingly subtle writing was some of the best of the year, and he was rightfully recognized for it, winning Best Director at Sundance Film Festival almost a year ago. His beautiful muse, newcomer Elizabeth Olsen, gave by far one of the best performances of the year, playing the easily influenced and traumatized young woman and should be recognized for her immense talent. John Hawkes, who brilliantly played the mysterious cult leader, was nominated for an Oscar last year for the Oscar's indie favorite Winter's Bone and could have easily snagged a nomination this year as well.
Another festival favorite, this time at Cannes and TIFF, was Lars Von Trier's dive into the human psyche at the end of the world, Melancholia. The morbid and gorgeous film gained praise for Von Trier's unique and stunning filmmaking but predominantly for arguably the best performance of the talented Kristen Dunst as the mentally ill main character, Justine. Unfortunately, the off-the-wall disaster film flew too far under the radar to be recognized by the Academy.
The equally quirky Young Adult, written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, the Oscar-nominated and winning team of Juno, surprisingly collected no nominations on Tuesday either. Cody's profoundly honest script about a delusional woman who has found herself nowhere was a refreshing triumph and was performed spectacularly by Charlize Theron. Both women were more than deserving of an Oscar nomination on Tuesday, but the less than box office successful, weird and ultimately depressing film did not meet the Academy's requirements of a "winning" film.
Another comedic drama that was one of my favorite films of the year, was the simultaneously hilarious and moving 50/50. Screenwriter Will Resier, who based the film off his own personal struggles with cancer, wrote one of the most dynamically emotive and sincere films of all time. Joseph Gordon Levitt brought Reiser's great character development beautifully to life, and could have easily been recognized for his performance at the Oscars, but Reiser's name missing from the Best Original Screenplay list was by far the most shameful snub of all.
The film that suffered the worst amount of wrongful disregard was Shame, a film that seemed to score at every other awarda show this season, including the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Satellite Awards. In my opinion, there was no better direction this year than Steve McQueen's in Shame. In every scene, his unique unpretentious filmmaking draws you in and Michael Fassbender, who led the film, gave an incomparable performance that deserves to be right up there with George Clooney and Jean Dujardin. Carey Mulligan, who gives a breathtaking performance arguably better than her's in An Education, three years ago was also more than worthy of Oscar recognition too. While being the most emotionally draining film of the year, Shame was also the most explicit and it's continuously unhidden sex scenes that served the film its realism was most likely, and regrettably, too risky for the Academy.
Aside from those outstanding films, there were a few individuals that were sadly left out this year as well. Shaileene Woodley gave a surprising and incredibly powerful performance that carried The Descendants beautifully with Clooney this year. Although young and new to the Hollywood film list, Woodley gave a performance more than equal to almost all the nominees in the best supporting actress category. Personally, I think that the most outstanding performance of the entire year came from the inexplicably gifted Michael Shannon in Take Shelter, as a tormented father and husband who starts building a shelter in his backyard in preparation for an imaginative storm. Other single cuts included the great Albert Brooks in and even Ryan Golsing in Drive, Tilda Swinton for her extraordinary performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin, and David Fincher for his once again legendary filmmaking in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
In the end, 2011 was an incredible year of movies and the Academy Award nominations touched on a good chunk of them. Though there are some serious misses this year, there are also some seriously deserving nominees as well including the brilliant Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn and Martin Scorsese for his incredible Hugo. For the ones the Academy did not recognize, we definitely do and for the ones that were recognized, all the best to you.