I was happily surprised to see the year’s best film 12 Years a Slave receive the Golden Globe for best dramatic picture, and then again winning last night for best picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards. There seems to be some momentum for it; the question is will it be enough to overcome the formidable mojo of the otherwise mediocre American Hustle, as well as the rest of the field including another strong contender, Gravity? It will be interesting to find out. Though 12 Years a Slave is obviously the best picture of the year, the Academy is generally too dense to bestow cinema’s greatest honor upon those efforts which most deserve it. It will be interesting to see.
The 9 nominees for Best Picture:
- 12 Years a Slave
- American Hustle
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- The Wolf of Wall Street
I’ve seen all the above except Philomena. Off the list are Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects, from earlier in the year, and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, both of which are better than a number of films which did make it. Also not expected for a nomination was the bold Don Jon. Excessive boldness puts the Academy off, which is too bad because Don Jon was a strong and original movie, one of the year’s best.
‘Snub’ is a term the media likes to use during the awards season, but I prefer to look at it as mere incompetence. Notable omissions:
- Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix for Her, and Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips, who both put in much better performances than those of everyone who was nominated except Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years. There’s also the perceived snub of Robert Redford for All is Lost. He did a great job, but it’s tough to nominate someone for best actor in a role with no dialogue.
- Best Actress: though it was only her voice, Scarlett Johansson did a great job in Her.
- Directing: Compared to Spike Jonze, who was not nominated, David O. Russell (American Hustle) is a hack. In fact, based on his last two films, he’s a hack even not compared to Jonze, who did a brilliant job with Her.
- Don Jon: Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt (starring) and Scarlett Johansson (supporting) turned in terrific performances in Don Jon. Neither character is necessarily sympathetic or likable, but that speaks even more to the caliber of acting on display.
THESE ARE COMEDIES?
One more comment in regards to the Golden Globes: None of the movies nominated for best ‘Musical or Comedy’ were musicals or comedies. Now granted, there weren’t any musicals this year. The Wolf of Wall Street had something of an overall manic, comedic tone, but it was not a comedy per se. And the other nominees? Her, American Hustle, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska? Not comedies, folks, though there are some humorous moments here or there. I suppose by that standard we should call Sophie’s Choice a comedy.
The Golden Globes decided to put those nominees in the Comedy category for the express purpose of insuring recognition of at least two ‘deserving’ movies, not just one. In other words, they didn’t have the cojones to put American Hustle up against 12 Years a Slave. What’s too bad about all this is that there were at least two very good comedies this year: The Way Way Back and This Is the End. The Golden Globes certainly lost their way by not recognizing good comedic movies deserving a place in the category which was created for that purpose. I suppose they made up for it somewhat by giving the top honor to 12 Years.
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Going back to the Best Picture Oscar — the awards season is much like the Presidential Election. Films have to be campaigned for and win lesser victories before winning the biggest prize. It’s remarkable how little press, and indeed how little respect, 12 Years has received, even after winning the Golden Globe. So I would say it still has the odds against it, but then there was a time nobody gave Barack Obama a chance to win it all — so you never know.