The Oscar shortlist is skewed again, thanks to an opaque nomination process.
But for a relatively obscure category called Sound Editing, Nicolas Winding Refn's stylish noir film “Drive” doesn't even feature in this year's Academy Awards line-up. To add insult to injury, not only does “Drive” share the aforementioned category with one of last year's most noisily pointless films “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, the latter has also scored more nominations than Refn's film.
Doesn't it really make you want to bash someone on the head with a golden statuette? Industry pundits suggest that “Drive's” dash of ultra-violence could have been its downfall, but that doesn't make too much sense to me, given that films such as “Goodfellas” and “Pulp Fiction” have got Best Pic nominations in the past.
If you want to call “Drive” a “car movie”, it certainly went beyond being fast and furious to being fresh and fabulous, a reinvention of the genre. Its omission has fuelled much Twitter chatter; Russell Crowe, we hear, has tweeted some fairly colourful disapproval over the lack of nominations for “Drive” actors Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks. A few hours after nominations were announced, Brooks himself tweeted: “You don't like me, you really don't like me.”
But we digress. The focus of our current carping is the absurdities that surround the Best Picture winner at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, aka the Oscars. Over the years, the lists of those that “weren't nominated/didn't win” are almost more interesting than the list of those that did. This year, for example, other than “Drive”, the Best Pic line up has given the cold shoulder to “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, “Shame”, “Melancholia” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin”.
Historically, many great pictures by great directors haven't got a Best Pic nomination such as “The Truman Show” (1998), Peter Weir's satirical yet poignant take on reality TV; or “The Fisher King” (1991), Terry Gilliam's film about hubris, fall and redemption.
The Best Picture category is held to be the most important win at the Oscars, a stamp of approval that all aspects of the nominated films are excellent. Every member of the Academy is permitted to nominate in this category and also to vote on the final ballot. Still, unbelievably, lots of films seem to slip through the cracks. Perhaps it's the lobbying that some producers do, which get their films a lot of buzz, and lead inevitably to — dare we say it? — herd mentality nominations.
The Oscar Snub could be a case either of inattention — no media hype and the film is forgotten by the voters — or one of displeasure — the film in question ticks the wrong box. Such as the one marked “science fiction”, a genre that is largely regarded as far too lowbrow for Oscar recognition. Consider that last year's most sensational film — “Inception” by Christopher Nolan — walked away with a clutch of technical awards but not the big kahuna.
Indeed, none of the great sci-fi films have a Best Pic statuette positioned proudly next to their name, not “Star Wars” or “Alien” or “Blade Runner” or “The Matrix”. Some, such as “Alien” and “The Matrix”, at least won awards such as Visual Effects — unlike “Blade Runner”, whose look, feel, sound, and setting set the tone for pretty much every dystopian futuristic film that was made after.
Animation rarely gets a shot at Best Pic, though to be fair, it has been parked in a category of its own. Comedy is another genre that has had little to laugh about at the Oscar Best Pic podium — despite the surprising win of “Shakespeare in Love”. Fantasy, however, has managed to elbow its way into recognition, thanks to the wholly magnificent “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) which swept up Best Pic — and Director — among a host of other wins.
Other franchises haven't been as lucky, notably the Harry Porter films. “Accio Oscar!” doesn't seem to have worked its magic. “There's a certain amount of snobbery. It's kind of disheartening,” Daniel Radcliffe is quoted as saying, on hearing about this year's Oscar lists. “I never thought I'd care. But it would've been nice to have some recognition, just for the hours put in.”
Despite the snubbing of Harry, largely, populist fervour seems to dominate the Oscar choices over more difficult films. How else do you explain such eccentric filmic phenomena as “Rocky” knocking out heavyweight contenders “Taxi Driver”, “All the President's Men” and “Network”? And while “Kramer Vs Kramer” is a lovely film, in terms of movies that redefined the art of movie making, it's sort of hard to believe it defeated “Apocalypse Now”.
One could go on and on with that list — “Dances With Wolves” trounced “Goodfellas”, “Driving Miss Daisy” overwhelmed “Dead Poets Society” (in a year where Spike Lee's “Do The Right Thing” wasn't even nominated), “Chicago” crushed “The Hours”, and “Pulp Fiction” lost out to “Forrest Gump”, which at least proved the most famous line in the latter movie was true. That life, and by extension the Oscars, is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.”