Despite the box office success of the sci-fier/thriller Inception, Christopher Nolan was snubbed once again in the Academy Awards’ Best Director category. Nolan had been bypassed before: in early 2009, The Dark Knight was nowhere to be found among the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay nominees. (This year, Nolan was nominated as the screenwriter and one of the producers of Inception.)
Now, one clarification: readers should be aware that whenever I mention an “Oscar snub,” I’m merely referring to the fact that either a movie or an individual was left out of the Oscar roster. I don’t mean the movie or individual in question was actually “snubbed” by the Academy. That’s because the Academy Awards’ shortlists are the result of something called the “preferential voting system.”
What this “preferential voting system” means is that the movies and performances frequently listed on the no. 1 and no. 2 spots – even if they’re not to be found on a majority of the ballots – will have a much better chance of landing a nomination than those listed on the no. 3 or no. 4 or no. 5 spots – even if they’re found on every single ballot.
In other words, Christopher Nolan surely received dozens of votes for his direction of Inception. In fact, Nolan’s name may have been found on every single ballot submitted by the 367 members of the Academy’s Directors Branch. (That is, if all 367 members – and not just, say, 150 or 200 of them – bothered to vote this year.)
But let’s say that Nolan’s name was mostly found at no. 3 and no. 4 on the Best Direction ballots, while The Fighter‘s David O. Russell was no. 1 among a mere 16.6 percent (plus one)* of those ballots. Guess what? Russell, not Nolan, would be the one nominated even if the other 83.4 percent of the Directors Branch members didn’t list Russell on their ballots. (Addendum: Bear in mind that in the preferential voting system only one selection is counted per ballot.)
In the above scenario, Nolan would remain nominationless, but not because he was snubbed. His omission would merely be the result of the Academy’s preferential voting system.
That’s why I believe the preferential voting system (in effect since 1936) precludes the Academy Award nominations from truly reflecting the favorites of the Academy’s various branches. For if a relatively small minority within the Academy is totally crazy about one film or performance (no. 1 and no. 2 on the ballot), said film or performer has a much better chance of getting nominated than another that every Academy member likes “just” very much (no. 3 or no. 4 or no. 5 on the ballot – out of 250-300 or so eligible films per year).
The selection of the winner, I should add, is a whole different matter. In fact, I’d say that the winner in every Oscar category should be chosen via the preferential voting system. Why the about face?
Well, it’s not really an about face. Within a small pool of only five or ten nominees, something akin to the preferential voting system would ensure that the one top pick was the result of a consensus among Academy members – instead of possibly being the favorite of a mere 20 percent + 1 of voters. (When the Best Picture shortlist was expanded to ten titles last year, the Academy adopted the preferential voting system for the selection of the winner in that category. Else, a movie could theoretically win the Best Picture Oscar with a mere 10 percent + 1 of the vote.)
* 16.6 percent + 1 of the vote. What the hell does this mean? 16.6 percent is approximately 1/6 of the vote. If you have five open slots in a category, the minimum number of votes a movie or performer or song must get to be automatically shortlisted in the preferential voting system is 1/6 + 1 of the total number of votes.
Why 1/6 and not 1/5? Well, because 1/6 + 1 is the minimum necessary to prevent six films from being nominated. In other words, no more than five films can receive 1/6 + 1 of the vote. And that’s why the “+ 1” is needed, to prevent six nominees. Just simple math.
Photo: Inception (Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.)
This year’s victims of Oscar “snubs” included both the well-known and the not-so-well-known. Among the well-known, Christopher Nolan’s absence from the Best Director’s shortlist for his work on the sci-fier/thriller Inception was the most glaring omission.
But there were others as well. Both Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) and SAG Award nominee Robert Duvall (Get Low) failed to be shortlisted as Best Actor. In either man’s place was Javier Bardem for Biutiful. (Jeff Bridges, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth, and James Franco were locks.)
Film editor Lee Smith may not be a household name, but his work on Inception has been admired by millions of people worldwide. Smith, a shoo-in in the Best Film Editing category, was ultimately left out.
Davis Guggenheim’s generally acclaimed Waiting for ‘Superman’ was missing from the Best Documentary Feature category. Much like Lee Smith for Best Film Editing, Waiting for ‘Superman’ – which was briefly among the top twelve movies on the North American box office chart last year – was as much an Oscar shoo-in as could be.
Kevin Breslin’s Living for 32 was one of the semi-finalists in the Best Documentary Short Subject category, but didn’t make the final cut. What’s curious about the omission of Living for 32 is that Breslin’s film tackles the subject of guns and murderous mayhem in the United States, a hot topic following the early January shootings in Arizona. Living for 32 focuses on Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre.
Also, missing from the Best Supporting Actor roster was The Social Network‘s Andrew Garfield. (In fact, Jesse Eisenberg was that film’s sole acting nominee.) Black Swan‘s Mila Kunis was bypassed by the Academy even though she landed a Best Supporting Actress SAG Award nod. (In fact, Natalie Portman was that film’s sole acting nominee. Now, does that mean The King’s Speech, with three acting nominations, has suddenly become the film to beat at the Oscars?)
Other omissions of various degrees of glaringness:
Another Year‘s Lesley Manville, Conviction‘s Hilary Swank, and The Kids Are All Right‘s Julianne Moore from the Best Actress shortlist; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s Noomi Rapace from the Best Actress shortlist and her film from every other category as well; Black Swan‘s Barbara Hershey as Best Supporting Actress for Black Swan; Disney’s Tangled from the three-film Best Animated Feature shortlist.
And finally: Ben Affleck’s The Town from the Best Picture category; Michael Douglas from the Best Supporting Actor (or Best Actor) category for the box office disappointment Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; Diane Warren’s Golden Globe-winning song “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from Burlesque; Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story from the Best Documentary Feature category. Ah, and The Tourist.
Totally shut out: Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer, Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give, Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, Chris Morriss’ Four Lions, Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin’s Despicable Me, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham.
Photo: Inception (Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.); The Social Network (Merrick Morton / Sony Pictures); Blue Valentine (Davi Russo / The Weinstein Co.)
The Oscar nominations tend to be fairly predictable, but every year one can find surprising inclusions and just as surprising omissions. This year is no exception.
The top surprising inclusions are:
Javier Bardem as a Best Actor contender for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Mexican-Spanish drama Biutiful. In 2000, Bardem was nominated for playing a Spanish-speaking person, the Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls. However, Schnabel’s movie was made for the American market and had mostly English dialogue. Thus, Biutiful marks Bardem’s first Oscar nod for a performance chiefly in his native language.
David O. Russell is a Directors Guild nominee for The Fighter, which is also one of the year’s top ten films according to Oscar voters. But Russell’s chances in the Oscars’ Best Director category seemed quite insignificant, considering that DGA non-nominees (DGA snubbees?) Joel Coen and Ethan Coen were very likely candidates for True Grit. Turns out the Coens and Russell are in, whereas shoo-in Christopher Nolan is out.
Mike Leigh’s Another Year in the Best Original Screenplay category. Despite a warm reception at the Cannes Film Festival, Leigh’s film has been relegated to the sidelines throughout this awards season, as Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech has become the prestige British production of 2010. In fact, a week or so ago Another Year received only two BAFTA nods: Outstanding British Film and a Best Supporting Actress for Lesley Manville. Though not exactly a shocker – this is, after all, Mike Leigh’s fifth nomination for Best Original Screenplay – Another Year‘s Oscar nod came as a moderate surprise.
Dogtooth in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, this Greek comedy-drama is hardly your usual foreign-language film nominee. But since 2006, each year a committee composed of about 20 Academy members in Los Angeles and New York selects the five nominees in that category. That has led to some weird omissions (e.g., Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver) and now a weird – though not unwelcome – inclusion, Dogtooth.
Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, about art and garbage pickers in Rio de Janeiro, and Josh Fox’s GasLand, about corporate lust for the United States’ gas reservoirs, in the Best Documentary Feature category. Their inclusion meant the exclusion of Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for ‘Superman’ and Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story.
Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love has been a favorite among some critics and film aficionados thanks to Guadagnino’s direction; Tilda Swinton’s performance; and/or Guadagnino, Barbara Alberti, Ivan Cotroneo, and Walter Fasano’s screenplay. But I wonder how many were expecting this romantic drama to get an Oscar nomination for Antonella Cannarozzi in the Best Costume Design category. Even Burlesque – unlike I Am Love, a Costume Designers Guild nominee – would have been a more expected choice.
The Social Network and The King’s Speech nominated for Best Sound Mixing. What’s curious about these two nods is that Sound categories are usually reserved for either loud, fast-paced movies or loud, ponderous movies. Something like Iron Man 2, TRON: Legacy, Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, or even The Twilight Saga: Eclipse would have been more likely candidates. (Last year’s nominees, for instance, were The Hurt Locker, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Avatar, Star Trek, and Inglourious Basterds.)
The inclusion of the critically acclaimed low-key dramas says something about how well-liked they are among Academy members of all stripes.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Javier Bardem in Biutiful (Roadside Attractions)
Jeff Bridges in True Grit (Paramount)
Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Colin Firth in The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
James Franco in 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Christian Bale in The Fighter (Paramount)
John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone (Roadside Attractions)
Jeremy Renner in The Town (Warner Bros.)
Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)
Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole (Lionsgate)
Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone (Roadside Attractions)
Natalie Portman in Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine (The Weinstein Company)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in The Fighter (Paramount)
Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
Melissa Leo in The Fighter (Paramount)
Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit (Paramount)
Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom (Sony Pictures Classics)
Best motion picture of the year
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight), A Protozoa and Phoenix Pictures Production, Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
The Fighter (Paramount), A Relativity Media Production, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
Inception (Warner Bros.), A Warner Bros. UK Services Production, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features), An Antidote Films, Mandalay Vision and Gilbert Films Production, Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), A See-Saw Films and Bedlam Production, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
127 Hours (Fox Searchlight), An Hours Production, Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing), A Columbia Pictures Production, Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney), A Pixar Production, Darla K. Anderson, Producer
True Grit (Paramount), A Paramount Pictures Production, Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
Winter’s Bone (Roadside Attractions), A Winter’s Bone Production, Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers
Best foreign language film of the year
Biutiful (Roadside Attractions), A Menage Atroz, Mod Producciones and Ikiru Films Production, Mexico
Dogtooth (Kino International), A Boo Production, Greece
In a Better World (Sony Pictures Classics), A Zentropa Production, Denmark
Incendies (Sony Pictures Classics), A Micro-Scope Production, Canada
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Cohen Media Group), A Tassili Films Production, Algeria
Achievement in directing
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight), Darren Aronofsky
The Fighter (Paramount), David O. Russell
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Tom Hooper
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing), David Fincher
True Grit (Paramount), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
127 Hours (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing), Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Michael Arndt, Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
True Grit (Paramount), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone (Roadside Attractions), Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
Another Year (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Mike Leigh
The Fighter (Paramount), Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Inception (Warner Bros.), Written by Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features), Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Seidler
Best animated feature film of the year
How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount), Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
The Illusionist (Sony Pictures Classics), Sylvain Chomet
Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney), Lee Unkrich
Best documentary feature
Exit through the Gift Shop (Producers Distribution Agency), A Paranoid Pictures Production, Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
Gasland, A Gasland Production, Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
Inside Job (Sony Pictures Classics), A Representational Pictures Production, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
Restrepo (National Geographic Entertainment), An Outpost Films Production, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Waste Land (Arthouse Films), An Almega Projects Production, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
Achievement in cinematography
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight), Matthew Libatique
Inception (Warner Bros.), Wally Pfister
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Danny Cohen
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing), Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit (Paramount), Roger Deakins
Achievement in film editing
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight), Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter (Paramount), Pamela Martin
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Tariq Anwar
127 Hours (Fox Searchlight), Jon Harris
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing), Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount), John Powell
Inception (Warner Bros.), Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours (Fox Searchlight), A. R. Rahman
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing), Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“Coming Home” from Country Strong (Sony Pictures Releasing (Screen Gems), Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from Tangled (Walt Disney), Music by Alan Menken, Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours (Fox Searchlight), Music by A. R. Rahman, Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney), Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Achievement in art direction
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney), Production Design: Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Warner Bros.), Production Design: Stuart Craig, Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
Inception (Warner Bros.), Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Production Design: Eve Stewart, Set Decoration: Judy Farr
True Grit (Paramount), Production Design: Jess Gonchor, Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
Achievement in costume design
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney), Colleen Atwood
I Am Love (Magnolia Pictures), Antonella Cannarozzi
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Jenny Beavan
The Tempest (Miramax), Sandy Powell
True Grit (Paramount), Mary Zophres
Achievement in visual effects
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney), Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (Warner Bros.), Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
Hereafter (Warner Bros.), Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
Inception (Warner Bros.), Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
Iron Man 2 (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment, Distributed by Paramount), Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick
Achievement in sound editing
Inception (Warner Bros.), Richard King
Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney), Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
TRON: Legacy (Walt Disney), Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
True Grit (Paramount), Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
Unstoppable (20th Century Fox), Mark P. Stoeckinger
Achievement in sound mixing
Inception (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company), Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
Salt (Sony Pictures Releasing), Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing), Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
True Grit (Paramount), Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
Achievement in makeup
Barney’s Version (Sony Pictures Classics), Adrien Morot
The Way Back (Newmarket Films in association with Wrekin Hill Entertainment and Image Entertainment), Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
The Wolfman (Universal), Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Best animated short film
Day & Night (Walt Disney), A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Teddy Newton
The Gruffalo, A Magic Light Pictures Production, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
Let’s Pollute, A Geefwee Boedoe Production, Geefwee Boedoe
The Lost Thing, (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment), A Passion Pictures Australia Production, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary), A Sacrebleu Production, Bastien Dubois
Best live action short film
The Confession (National Film and Television School), A National Film and Television School Production, Tanel Toom
The Crush (Network Ireland Television), A Purdy Pictures Production, Michael Creagh
God of Love, A Luke Matheny Production, Luke Matheny
Na Wewe (Premium Films), A CUT! Production, Ivan Goldschmidt
Wish 143, A Swing and Shift Films/Union Pictures Production, Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite
Best documentary short subject
Killing in the Name, A Moxie Firecracker Films Production, Nominees to be determined
Poster Girl, A Portrayal Films Production, Nominees to be determined
Strangers No More, A Simon & Goodman Picture Company Production, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
Sun Come Up, A Sun Come Up Production, Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
The Warriors of Qiugang, A Thomas Lennon Films Production, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
I wonder if union ties cost “Waiting For Superman” a nomination. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is filled with union people, and there is the argument that the film was both teacher-bashing and union-bashing.
Christopher Nolan was a huge disappointment. So was Andrew Garfield who is always amazing (Social Network and Never Let Me Go). Mila Kunis was highly overrated. Julianne Moore was better than Annette Benning. I heard that Girl With the Dragoo Tattoo was not eligible. I do not know why. Wall Street? Really – It was awful – don’t just nominate him because he was ill. Greenberg was awful. Never Let Me Go was fantastic.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was eligible for Best Actress, Best Direction, Best Picture, etc. — but not for Best Foreign Language Film. Sweden submitted “Simple Simon” instead, which was one of the nine semi-finalists in that category.
Why did Sweden submit “Simple Simon” and not TGwtDT? Well, the Noomi Rapace mystery-thriller opened in Sweden on Feb. 27, 2009. It was thus ineligible for the 2010 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Nolan probably deserved better, but it’s the Oscars and there are always people who believe they should be nominated.
The film Frozen Moments is a film I’m trying to find when is released. It’s a psycological thriller featuring the new Australian hulk Liam McIntyre (Spartacus) as the lead. Does anyone know when this film is coming out?
MILA KUNIS deserved the nomination i saw BLACK SWAN and she was amazing!
I was disappointed “The Tillman Story” didn’t make the Oscar cut. I feel the film, even if perhaps not “the best”, told the most compelling story of the bunch and was deserving of the attention an Oscar nod would have brought to it.
I was surprised the Academy instead nominated “Restrepo” as their “war” documentary. I watched both films at the theater. As a veteran, who spent 8 years with an Airborne Ranger LRRP unit, I wanted to like “Restrepo.” But the film failed to resonate with me as much as “The Tillman Story.” Nor did it tell much of a story (or was that part of the point? Point-less-ness of war).
Note: Before seeing “Restrepo,” I’d suggest reading Sebatian Junger’s accompanying book, “War”,that provides much needed background to his film. And to fill in the details of “The Tillman Story”, I’d suggest Mary Tillman’s “Boots on the Ground by Dusk” (paperback at blurb.com with preview), Jon Krakauer’s updated paperback “Where Men Win Glory” and “The [Untold] Tillman Story” at feralfirefighter.blogspot.com
“The Tillman Story” does contribute to the restoration of Pat Tillman’s legacy by honoring the man, not the myth. The iconoclast, not the icon. As his mother said, “Pat would have wanted to be remembered as an individual, not as a stock figure or political prop. Pat was a real hero, not what they used him as.”
But “The Tillman Story” was largely ignored by the media since it didn’t reveal any “news” about the Tillman story (at least to those who closely followed the story over the years). For example, Gen. Stanley McChrystal (who supervised the writing of the fraudulent Silver Star recommendation and apparently the fabrication of the two witness statements) was barely a footnote in the film. And, the film failed to show how President Obama and the Democratic Congress continued the Bush administration and Army cover-up to protect Gen. McChrystal (among others)from public scrutiny of his role.
Partly because of the lack of controversial “news”, the film had a peak showing of only 28 theaters across the country (with a gross of only $800,000). I feel “The Tillman Story” deserves a wider viewing. An Oscar nod certainly would have helped bring it to the attention of the general public.
I’m not surprised as I’ve seen written that sometimes he is difficult to work with.
Kings Speech is such an intelligent well crafted film, it should win best picture Oscar.
Does anyone know when Liam McIntyres (new Spartacus) thriller film Frozen Moments hits the theather?