Film Feature: The 10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of 2011

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CHICAGO – There just wasn’t enough room at this year’s Oscar party for several of the most-deserving candidates. There never is. Like every year, most of the key categories had at least one (and often more) deserving nominee not getting the happy call on Tuesday morning. Who should have? Who should have been left out instead? Here are the big ten.

10. Clint Mansell (“Black Swan”) for Best Score

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight

Yes, serious Oscar watchers will know that this is a snub that was made some time ago when the score was deemed ineligible for nomination in the category but I can still be angry. We’ve known for years that Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary are bound to produce some head scratchers but this category used to be one of my favorite of the night and now it seems permanently broken. As more and more composers weave already-produced themes into their scores, something is going to have to give. What Clint Mansell did by turning “Swan Lake” into “Black Swan” was stunning and far more memorable than the work for “127 Hours” or “The King’s Speech.” In fact, Alexandre Desplat’s best score wasn’t even nominated — that wasn’t “TKS,” it was “The Ghost Writer.” This category bugs me. I’m rooting for Nine Inch Nails.

9. Lesley Manville (“Another Year”) for Anything

Lesley Manville
Lesley Manville
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

We knew she was in trouble a long time ago but somehow still hoped for a last-minute Hail Mary (pun totally intended) of the kind that got Javier Bardem a surprising (and well-deserved) seat at the table. Manville’s work in “Another Year” always felt like Best Supporting Actress material to this critic and many others but Sony Pictures Classics kept trying to swing her over to Best Actress and she fell in the gap between. As the controversy over categories switched to Hailee Steinfeld (nominated in Supporting when she’s CLEARLY a Lead), people seemed to forget about Manville. It got to the point where I didn’t care where she was nominated just that she was nominated SOMEWHERE. Sadly, there’s no line for “general nominee” on the Oscar ballot. Where would I put her? Cut Helena Bonham Carter’s overrated work in “The King’s Speech” and put Manville in Best Supporting Actress where she belongs.

8. Mila Kunis/Barbara Hershey (“Black Swan”) for Best Supporting Actress

Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight

I fought this for some time but now believe that someone in the supporting cast of “Black Swan” deserved nomination — Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel — somebody. Hell, I would have taken a Winona Ryder nod. As great as Natalie Portman is in “Black Swan,” repeated viewing makes clear that it’s not a one-woman show. She brilliantly plays off her dance partners in the film and much of the supporting cast has to play multi-faceted, thematically complex roles. Hershey’s mother has to be both overbearing and protective. Cassel plays mentor, teacher, lover, and tormentor. Kunis, who gets better on repeat viewing, plays rival, friend, and even lover. Portman will likely win but someone else in the cast should have been able to join her on a joyful Oscar nomination morning. If we’re being consistent and cutting HBC for Manville above, cut Steinfeld here for a “Black Swan” lady. She’s in the wrong category anyway.

7. Sam Rockwell (“Conviction”) for Best Supporting Actor

Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight

The most unusual category of the day had to be Best Supporting Actor, which saw the most easily-recognized snub in any of the acting quintets (which we’ll get to further up the list) but also produced serious joy for cinephiles who can now call Mark Ruffalo, John Hawkes, and Christian Bale Oscar nominees. There’s one man I wish could have FINALLY joined the exclusive club — Sam Rockwell. For three years in a row, Rockwell has delivered a riveting performance that feels like it never came close to Oscar nomination consideration after 2008’s “Snow Angels” and 2009’s “Moon.” What’s it gonna take? It reminds me of when Jeff Bridges was snubbed in two out of three years for “The Fisher King” and “Fearless” — two of the biggest acting snubs of the ’90s. Now the Dude is considered a living legend. Don’t be surprised if Rockwell gets there too eventually. Who do we cut? It’s a really tough one because I love everybody here but I’m going to push Jeremy Renner out the door. He arguably should have won last year for “The Hurt Locker” but he’s sixth or even seventh this year.

6. “Shutter Island” for Anything

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio
Photo credit: Paramount

I realize that Martin Scorsese’s film is a divisive thriller, one that simply doesn’t work for a lot of people but even its detractors recognize its technical merits, which are simply spectacular. How did 7-time nominee Thelma Schoonmaker not make the cut for Best Editing? How did Dante Ferretti’s amazing art direction go unrecognized? Where’s the incredible 6-time nominee Robert Richardson for Best Cinematography? “Shutter Island” is one of the most technically remarkable films of 2010 and one wonders if Paramount wasn’t so busy pushing “The Fighter” and “True Grit” if they couldn’t have gotten this better film into at LEAST one category. As far as who to push out, slice “The King’s Speech” out of Cinematography and Editing, and “Harry Potter” out of Art Direction to make room for Ferretti, Richardson, and Schoonmaker.

5. Lee Smith (“Inception”) for Best Editing

Inception
Inception
Photo credit: WB

What the hell is going on here? Seriously, as confused as some Academy members may have been, there’s simply no “Inception” without the masterful editing on the part of Lee Smith, especially in the final act, as he brilliantly keeps the audience aware of where there are in the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream. His contributions to the film were as important as anyone. It’s pure nonsense that the two-time nominee (for “Master & Commander” and “The Dark Knight”) couldn’t get in again this year for the best work of his career. The editing in “The King’s Speech” is strong but not as strong as this work. (Although if you’re keeping track and that’s already been cut for Schoonmaker, I’d also place Smith’s work above “127 Hours” and “The Fighter” — both very good, but not as well-edited as “Inception”).

4. “The Tillman Story” for Best Documentary

The Tillman Story
The Tillman Story
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

It was a great year for the documentary and I’m ecstatic that something as unique as “Exit Through the Gift Shop” made the cut (along with the excellent “Inside Job” and “Waste Land”) but the Academy failed to nominate what should have been the winner in Amir Bar-Lev’s stunning piece about the very concept of heroism, the marketing machine of government, the power of the military complex, and the sad state of journalism. How “The Tillman Story” missed out is beyond me but it probably clears the way for “Inside Job” to win and Charles Ferguson should have won a few years ago for “No End in Sight,” so I suppose there’s a bit of justice there. I haven’t seen “Gasland,” so that would probably be my pick to cut in favor of “Tillman.”

3. Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) for Best Director

Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan
Photo credit: WB

The geek war begins now! Hide your action figures! In all seriousness, Nolan has become the bridesmaid of the Oscars, nominated THREE TIMES for the Directors Guild of America but unable to turn any of them into Oscar nods. What’s it going to take? “Inception” was his passion project, the kind of work that the Academy usually recognizes was driven by a director’s hand. It’s his vision from front to back and if it’s good enough for Best Picture consideration, he should be one of the top five directors. One has to assume that he came in 6th place behind a surging Coen brothers, who, as influential as they have been on my career personally, don’t deserve to be here as much as Nolan. Neither does David O. Russell.

2. Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) for Best Supporting Actor

Andrew Garfield
Andrew Garfield
Photo credit: Sony

Eduardo got f**ked again. Who can he sue this time? Seriously, here’s where I start to get angry. When I saw “The Social Network,” I thought the excellent Mr. Garfield actually had a chance to win much less be nominated. And after I saw “Never Let Me Go” on the same day, the depth of his contribution here and his remarkable range was truly evident. I had heard through the grapevine that he could be the one left out of the party, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. How could people ignore the heart of Fincher’s masterpiece? I love that Eisenberg got nominated but his performance doesn’t matter without Garfield’s across the table. This one’s truly shameful. If we’ve already booted Renner for Rockwell then, as much as I love him, kick out Ruffalo for Garfield. Mark was better in “You Can Count On Me” and “Zodiac” anyway.

1. Ryan Gosling (“Blue Valentine”) for Best Actor

Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

The only acting category of the night in which the performer who deserves to WIN wasn’t even nominated is Best Actor. I love Colin Firth’s sure-to-win work in “The King’s Speech” but I find Gosling’s work in “Blue Valentine” more ambitious, deep, and genuine. Gosling never hits a single false note. He is so completely in the moment at all times that, once again, he disappears into his role, bringing the character to light instead of the performance. Perhaps that’s why he missed out. He wasn’t showy enough. They should have given Dean a stutter. And, while I adore Jeff Bridges, he’s the one I’d cut for Gosling. Imagine that top five — Bardem, Eisenberg, Firth, Franco, Gosling. That would have been simply spectacular. Almost.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Guy Montag's picture

"The Tillman Story" Snub

…how the Academy failed to nominate what should have been the winner … How “The Tillman Story” missed out is beyond me”

I also share your disappointment “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 http://www.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.

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