Film Feature: The 11 Biggest Oscar Snubs of 2012

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CHICAGO – Another year, another bunch of people who call themselves Oscar pundits bitching and moaning. It wouldn’t be late January without it. This morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose their favorites of 2011 and the Twitter-verse exploded in rage. Where was Albert Brooks?! Tilda Swinton?! Shailene Woodley?! With the world’s anger reserves increasing annually at an exponential rate, as soon as someone lists their favorite ANYTHING, there’s going to be someone frothing at the mouth, just waiting to point how they’re so very, very wrong. So, we shall play along and highlight our annual choices for the biggest Oscar snubs of the year. Sadly, there were PLENTY of choices for snub candidates this year. I could easily throw out another eleven.

But, before we turn the dial to negative, let’s start with a few positives.

For starters, here’s something that, believe it or not, we couldn’t say before this year — Gary Oldman is an Oscar nominee. That’s just nice to say. Say it out loud. You’ll feel better.

And my pick for the Best Picture of 2011 and my choice for Best Director — “The Tree of Life” — were both nominated. So, I can’t complain too loudly.

Much has been written about the trend towards nostalgia this year in films like “Midnight in Paris,” “Hugo,” and “The Artist,” but the acting nominees also seemed to trend toward memories of Hollywood gone by. Newcomers like Fassbender and Woodley were ignored, but living legends dominated, including Woody Allen, Terrence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Oldman, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Nick Nolte, Christopher Plummer, Max Von Sydow, and John Williams… twice. I don’t really hold much against any of those choices (except Von Sydow, which we’ll get to later) and, I’ll admit, I appreciate this year’s trend of the old guard mixing with new choices. Seeing a mega-talented newcomer like Rooney Mara placed next to an ’80s icon like Glenn Close is something I’ve always loved about the Oscars. Honestly, with the exception of a few extremely bad and incredibly dumb choices, the Academy didn’t make THAT many horrendous decisions this year. They mostly made some solid, good choices that are hard to argue with. However, there are a few cases where they settled for “good” and clearly missed the opportunity to make great, truly memorable selections.

Eleven snubs, one per category (and I tried to stick to one per movie so I wouldn’t just yell “DRIVE!” for 11 entries) in the “big eight” and three annoying oversights below the line:

11. Best Song: “Life’s a Happy Song” from “The Muppets”

The Muppets
The Muppets
Photo credit: Disney

One of three entirely broken categories (the other two being foreign language film and documentary), Best Song just gets more ludicrous every year. It’s not like there were that many stellar choices this year, but nominating “Life’s a Happy Song”, the film-defining anthem from “The Muppets,” the song that is reprised to thematically wrap up the film, seems like a no-brainer. But, OK, for some reason, the Academy often misses the obvious mark in this category, but they surely nominated some otherwise worthy choices, right? Um, sorta. They nominated a song from “Rio” that no one has heard of and “Man or Muppet” (an admittedly great choice, though definitely lesser than “Life’s a Happy Song”). And that’s it. Two choices. There were eligible songs from “Albert Nobbs,” “The Help,” “Captain America,” and “Gnomeo and Juliet” that were better than many past-year nominees and yet they were ignored… for no obvious reason. Why bother any more? Why give this award out at all? Next year, they won’t even tell us in advance and there will just be no Best Song nominees. And, thanks to the ridiculous way this category has been managed by the Academy, no one will notice.

10. Best Documentary: “The Interrupters,” Both Herzog Films

The Interrupters
The Interrupters
Photo credit: Frontline

I know they didn’t make the short list and so weren’t technically snubs on Oscar morning, but this category continues to drive me absolutely bonkers. And this year is particularly sensitive since I think two of the chosen nominees (“Hell and Back Again” and “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”) are truly spectacular. Imagine if they were allowed to compete in a category that felt like it mattered — one that recognized the universally-adored “The Interrupters” or at least one of the beloved Werner Herzog docs (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” “Into the Abyss”) that was released in 2011. (The great “We Were Here,” which WAS short-listed, would have been a solid choice too… a much better one than “If a Tree Falls” or “Undefeated”). It was such a good year for the form that it’s infuriating that the Academy has a category too broken to accurately represent it. I want to feel good when “Hell” or “Paradise” wins, not feel like they’re winning a broken category.

9. Best Sound Editing/Mixing: “Super 8,” “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Fast Five”

Super 8
Super 8
Photo credit: Paramount

Do they just randomly pick these categories out of a hat? It’s nice to see that “Drive” got nominated somewhere, but, seriously, “War Horse”? Over technical masterpieces like “Super 8” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” films that masterfully used sound as a part of the overall experience? “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Moneyball” were both in my top ten. They are better films, overall, than any of the four movies above, but they weren’t the immersive auditory experiences that should be recognized here. It feels like people are saying, “Oh, yeah, I liked Moneyball and Hugo, let’s make sure they get a few more nods” instead of choosing what actually merited consideration as the best in sound mixing and editing. I never thought I’d be advocating for “Fast Five” over a David Fincher film, but, come on, fair is fair.

8. Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steven Zaillian

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Photo credit: Sony Pictures

Steven Zaillian did what I thought was impossible. He took “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” a clunky book that had already been adapted into a bloated movie and streamlined it in an amazing, award-worthy way. Maybe they didn’t want to two-fer Zaillian (he got nominated for “Moneyball” with Aaron Sorkin) but that’s a silly reason to choose “The Ides of March” over this (or “Drive” for that matter). The irony is that the once-considered-juggernaut “Ides of March” walked away with nothing more than Best Adapted Screenplay and nearly every critic on Earth would agree that the inconsistent script is the worst thing about the movie. Choosing that Swiss cheese of a script over “Tattoo” or “Drive” is simply nonsense.

7. Best Original Screenplay: “50/50” by Will Reiser

Photo credit: Summit

There was no original script in 2011 that more deftly walked a tightrope of emotions and film styles than Reiser’s semi-autobiographical dramedy. It’s a cancer comedy! And he pulls it off! He blends humor, friendship, and honest emotion in such a pure, believable way that it’s a true shame that he wasn’t nominated. I really like the potential shown by J.C. Chandor by his work on “Margin Call,” but “50/50” is a better script (so is “Martha Marcy May Marlene” for that matter and “Win Win,” although given the fact that Thomas McCarthy has never been nominated here for his highly-acclaimed non-animated work like “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” I think there needs to be an investigation into how that’s possible). Summit sent out screeners of “A Better Life” early in the season and Demian Bichir pulled a stunning nomination. They sent out “50/50” later and look what happened.

Click through for the top six snubs of the year.

Rutledal's picture

Thomas McCarthy - Oscar nominated

McCarthy does have an Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay even for Pixar’s Up.

BrianTT's picture


Absolutely right. And I knew that but was considering his live-action solo work and wrote too quickly — The Station Agent & The Visitor — both nomination worthy, in my opinion. It’s been clarified.

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