As the nomination ceremony commenced this morning (with Mo’Nique and AMPAS president Tom Sherak announcing the nominees), I noticed how everything was going relatively to plan. All the predicted nominees were, for the most part, becoming the actual nominees (There were small surprises such as Michelle Williams, John Hawkes and Javier Bardem making it into their respective categories). However, when the Best Director field was announced something went horribly wrong.
Rewind to a little over 10 months ago where I found myself looking upon this nomination day with much more enthusiasm than I normally would with that many months out. The Reason? It appeared many of the, in my opinion, most overdue people in the business were finally going to be represented. Sam Rockwell, one of the most criminally underrated actors in the business, finally decided to do an Oscar bait film with Conviction, there was a lot of buzz over Christian Bale’s weight loss requiring role in The Fighter and, of course, there was a director who was unfairly scorned 1 year prior…Christopher Nolan. Embarrassed by this snub for Nolan’s work on The Dark Knight, the Academy worked to make changes that would prevent it from happening again (the 10 Best Picture nominee field and the preferential ballot). So with Inception the Academy now had the perfect chance to redeem themselves.
Fast forward a little more than 4 months later and Inception is a critical and box office smash. Nolan is finally being hailed as one of the greatest directors of his generation and it looks like Inception is in good shape come Oscar nomination time. Fast forward 5 months and despite losing some buzz that it once had Inception is doing great at the guilds (including an ACE nomination for Lee Smith’s masterful editing). However, most importantly, Christopher Nolan received another Director’s Guild Award. This was his third one (his work for Memento and The Dark Knight were the others). The DGAs are great precursors of the eventual Oscar nominee field and usually end up predicting 4 of the eventual 5 nominees. Last year, for instance, the DGAs correctly predicted all 5 Best Director nominees at the Oscars. So surely Nolan was going to get that nomination, right?
Nope, wrong!. As the directors nominee field was announced Nolan’s name was skipped over. One of the greatest directors of our time was shunned again (although to the Academy’s credit they gave Nolan nominations in Original Screenplay and Picture). Instead of Nolan the field included such names as Tom Hooper, David O. Russell and the Coen Brothers. Nothing wrong with any of these directors and their films, but can you seriously tell me what they did was a greater directorial achievement than what Nolan did? Nolan created an entire world and guided his entire cast and crew through a tight rope walk. He included fight scenes, romantic scenes, scary scenes and dreams within dreams within dreams scenes. He pulled off an ending that will most definitely still be talked about 50 years from now. Could Hooper, O. Russell or the Coen brothers pull off Inception. Don’t kid yourselves, of course not (well the Coens…maybe). However, Nolan could definitely pull off the The King’s Speech and True Grit and probably pull off The Fighter.
As the announcements continued, Inception did pull of a Best Picture nomination but what’s the point without the captain of the ship not joining in on the journey? However, the Academy hid their greater sin within the technical categories not to be announced on television. Lee Smith was snubbed for his editing work on Inception. Can you really tell me with a straight face that Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours and The Social Network were edited better than Inception? None of the directors were given a challenge like the heist scenes in Inception. Sure, Andrew Weisblum (Black Swan) and Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter (The Social Network) cut some great sequences but nothing comes close to Lee Smith somehow making dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams that are all occurring at the same time watchable. Without Smith, Inception fails.
The Inception snubs weren’t the only problems with this year’s batch of nominees. Where were Black Swan’s cringe-Inducing (in the very good way) sound nominations? Bale was nominated (but that was inevitable) but Rockwell is nowhere to be seen for his work in Conviction. The Ghost Writer got a big fat goose egg. Rabbit Hole only got a nomination for Nicole Kidman. Daft Punk got skunked in the Original Score, and you can bitch all you want about the CGI Bridges but no visual effects nomination for TRON: Legacy is a huge snub.
The only small morsel of goodness that came out of today’s nominations was that National Geographic’s underrated War in Afghanistan documentary, Restrepo, pulled off a surprise nomination.