It’s a pity that some of the year’s best efforts go unrewarded at the Academy Awards. Street pays tribute to the lost work this year and calls out the nominees who don’t deserve to be there.
Nominated: Black Swan
Should be: Blue Valentine
Black Swan has little character development, a repetitive plot and misguided performances, yet it continues to receive nearly unanimous praise from critics who should be ashamed of themselves. Blue Valentine gave us two of the year’s most realistic, fully–rounded performances, with an innovative structure that only served to make the ending all the more heart–renching. Put side to side, Black Swan comes off as a disrespectful joke.
Nominated: David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Should be: Christopher Nolan (Inception)
What made The Fighter great was its strong script and the evocative performances of its actors — elements which may have benefitted from a director’s touch but which were hardly the work of David O. Russell alone. Not so with Inception, which has Christopher Nolan’s mark all over the film. In an age dominated by CGI, Nolan is in a class of his own. He manages to craft some of the most iconically epic scenes (Joseph Gordon–Levitt sparring in a hallway, anyone?) with little to no help from computers, while incidentally creating some of modern mainstream cinema’s most visually dazzling and philosophically engaging films in the process.
BEST LEADING ACTRESS
Nominated: Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Should be: Julianne Moore (The Kids are All Right)
After seeing Rabbit Hole and reading review after review, it’s become clear that Nicole Kidman’s nomination is based solely on the fact that her face moves several times in the film. While her delicate performance of a grieving mother was one of the best of her career, the actress offered the same cold delivery that has become her trademark. Julianne Moore, on the other hand, exhibited far more depth as one half of a lesbian couple. Moore built on her standard oeuvre, blending her strong comedic timing with a tender vulnerability that made her the film’s most complex character.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominated: Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Should be: Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
As good as Amy Adams was in The Fighter, we couldn’t help but feel her performance was a little by the books — tough chick from the wrong side of the tracks. Mila Kunis took a role that was basically a sexed–up All About Eve and gave it a mysterious depth, distinguishing it from all other incarnations of Jezebel. As an added bonus, she seemed to be the only person in the film who recognized its camp–tastic quality and turned out a fitting, deliciously wicked performance.
Should be: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Yes, Restrepo is topical, and yes, the filmmakers put themselves in great danger when they followed a 14–month tour of duty in Afghanistan. But talk of the documentary’s apolitical stance ignores how its “support the troops” message also functions to dehumanize the Afghani people. The subject of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is handled with far more complexity. By showcasing the fears that are often obscured by the comedienne’s vicious tongue, A Piece of Work creates the same ideological distance as Restrepo. But the former’s meditation on the difficulties of reclaiming fame — and the lengths to which one is willing to go to do so — results in a more powerful film.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominated: The Illusionist (L’Illusionniste), How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3
Should be: Despicable Me
Because the Academy ruled that only 15 films were eligible for the Best Animated Feature category, the maximum number of nominations in the category was restricted to three. While it’s hard to find fault with the films that received nods, following such arbitrary rules seems shortsighted on the Academy’s part, given that Despicable Me didn’t make the cut. In addition to being innovative in its character design and plot, the film had a killer score from Pharrell Williams and found a way to incorporate the 3D craze without being overly gimmicky. Besides, it’s always nice to see an animated movie this well–composed that isn’t by powerhouses Pixar or Dreamworks.