So, with the Oscars around the corner (these are my final predictions on the winners), I saw the idea of a blogathon on Oscar snubs over here, and I decided that I’d do my own list of the most despicable Oscar snubs of the last decade.
2012 – Denis Lavant (Best Actor – Holy Motors)
Perhaps the best performance I’ve seen all year, and one my favourite male performances of many, many years, the excellence of Lavant’s performance in the French mindfuck that is Holy Motors simply cannot be understated. The performance is nothing short of a transformation in every sense of the word. Lavant embodies around 12 different characters, each of them note perfect, and what is even more fascinating is that, whenever he returns to his ‘main’ persona, a man called Oscar, the strain on him is fascinating, as he himself seemingly becomes more unaware of where the performance ends and the man begins.
2011 – Nicolas Winding Refn (Best Director – Drive)
Ah, Drive. I’m gonna come clean here: I didn’t expect to like Drive. In spite of glowing reviews and word of mouth (particularly in regard to Gosling, who, Blue Valentine or not, I’m still not sold on as the talent so many say he is), I was utterly indifferent to the whole thing leading up to watching it. But boy was I wrong. Not only does Drive contain Gosling’s best performance to date, but the work that Refn does in making this film not only come alive, but stand out as an excellent achievement in terms of filmmaking and visual style. I dare say that Refn is the reason that I wound up loving this film as much as I do.
2010 – Barbara Hershey (Best Supporting Actress – Black Swan)
Black Swan was one of my favourite films of the last few years, from the fluid cinematography, the assured directions and Portman’s landmark, and, to use that often overused term, ‘career defining’ performance. But you know who got left out of the spotlight? Barbara Hershey. Lots of people seemed to single out Mila Kunis, although why they did so was a mystery (perhaps it was like with Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love and everyone was just shocked that he could actually act). Hershey’s performance as the driven to a fault stage mother, alternating sickly sweet and sickeningly smothering, is a fascinating and somewhat unnerving sight to behold. Perhaps she has her daughter’s best intentions at heart, or perhaps she’s compensating for her own failed career. An enigma of a character that fits perfectly into the twisted, duality focused world of Black Swan.
2009 – Tom Ford (Best Director – A Single Man)
When I first watched A Single Man, I had no idea what to expect. I’d heard that Firth’s performance was critically adored (and rightly so, he’s better here than he was in The King’s Speech) so that was my main motivator for the film. But I was utterly blown away by it, by the heart-rending silence and subtlety and the ingenious use of colour that Ford’s direction brings to film. Proving that silence can speak much louder than words, Tom Ford created a gentle, heartbreaking and beautiful film.
2008 – Evan Rachel Wood (Best Supporting Actress – The Wrestler)
The Wrestler is very much a film of lost character, and while Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, Rourke’s faded wrestler lost in a world outside the ring is the core of the film, and perhaps that theme, his estranged daughter Stephanie fits that bill very well. There is something about her interactions with her father, the bitterness is of course genuine, but at the same time, there just seems to be something about her that is missing, and something is not her father now, but rather, her father when she was a child. Her loss has manifested in this anger towards him, and there is something very raw and powerful about that.
2007 – Tom Swartwout (Best Film Editing – Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead)
The beauty of the editing that Swartwout does in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead lies in the way that it mirrors the mentality of its characters. These characters are frantic, every second taking them closer and closer to their breaking points, and it is here that the editing succeeds. A mirror of the way these characters are being pushed to the edge, it is an exceptional piece of work that truly helps to elevate the film.
2006 – Laura Dern (Best Actress – Inland Empire)
In the bizarre, surreal nightmare of Inland Empire, Laura Dern may have given us the best ever embodiment of one of David Lynch’s favourite character types – the woman in trouble. Cast as an actress in a cursed film, Dern’s descent into paranoia and madness is utterly engrossing, the range and depth of her performance is incredible. From her loss and desperation, to a strange, understated malice (perhaps best seen in this incredible monologue). Perhaps a little like Holy Motors, Inland Empire was a film that’s a little too… Odd, shall we say, for the Academy’s sensibility, but the sheer power of her performance warranted considering, even though Lynch’s campaign for it, was, well… David Lynch.
2005 – Robert Rodriguez (Best Cinematography – Sin City)
Now, I probably could have picked him for directing Sin City rather than shooting it, but for me, the way that the film is shot is the cornerstone of it’s style and tone. Using a colour scheme that I’ve known people to describe as “black and white with lots of red”, the colour scheme and the shots are incredible, creating the sleaze ridden and blood drenched underworld that is Sin City, and presenting it with tonal and atmospheric perfection.
2004 – Patrick Marber (Best Adapted Screenplay – Closer)
In adapting his own, incredibly written Broadway play, Marber has done perhaps the best thing that can be done when creating a cinematic adaptation of a play – and that’s to make it, well a little cinematic. Now this does mean sacrificing some of the staging conventions of the original (something that didn’t work in the film adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), it retains the stripped back nature that simply allows Marber to draw attention to his words, and boy oh boy are those words exceptional.
2003 – Gus Van Sant (Best Director – Elephant)
Watching Elephant was an interesting experience for me. I watched it in an A Level class (there were about 6 of us). No one else liked it. They bemoaned the lack of dialogue and ‘action’. But for me, these were obviously Van Sant’s intention. To create a strange and detached feeling, to distance the audience, perhaps making those final moments all the more disturbing. Slow burning and disturbing, Elephant crawls under your skin and won’t come back out.