Since I went through the major Oscar nominations earlier, I thought that I’d take a look at some of the lesser, more esoteric and technical categories. If you only care about all the attractive movie stars, this probably isn’t the post for you. But if you want to hear somebody get passionate about Visual Effects, welcome aboard!
- ‘127 Hours’ – Jon Harris
- ‘Black Swan’ – Andrew Weisblum
- ‘The Fighter’ – Pamela Martin
- ‘The King’s Speech’ – Tariq Anwar
- ‘The Social Network’ – Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Biggest Surprise: ‘The King’s Speech’, whose editorial work seems about as sophisticated as a below-average episode of ‘Masterpiece Theatre’, was nominated instead of arguably the most dexterous feat of film editing all year. By which of course I mean…
Biggest Snub: … ‘Inception’! Think about this movie, particularly its last 45 minutes! The way that Nolan and his editor, Lee Smith, cut back and forth between the multiple planes of the dreamscape is jaw-dropping and very, very complicated. It’s the kind of editorial work that first serves the story and then, after you think about it, really makes you go “Huh.” This is arguably the second biggest snub for the film, after Nolan’s denial to the Best Director club.
“Woo!” Factor: It seemed like ‘127 Hours’ was losing steam before the nominations were announced, so it’s a thrill to see the film nominated here. It’s the editing that lets us escape the claustrophobic canyon walls, to see the world that James Franco’s Aron Ralson was (literally) dying to reconnect with. This nomination should have been cinched by the soda commercial montage alone. God, I love that.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
- ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ – John Powell
- ‘Inception’ – Hans Zimmer
- ‘The King’s Speech’ – Alexandre Desplat
- ‘127 Hours’ – A.R. Rahman
- ‘The Social Network’ – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Biggest Surprise: It’s not much of a surprise that Alexandre Desplat grabbed a nomination. After all, he’s one of the hardest-working and most talented composers today. The surprise is that he got the nod for ‘The King’s Speech’, a gorgeous but fairly typical piece of work from the composer, instead of the more ingenious and off-center work he did for ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1’ or (more resonantly) the unfairly-ignored Roman Polanski masterpiece ‘The Ghost Writer’.
Biggest Snub: Hands down the biggest snub in this category and one of the biggest snubs in the whole shebang, is Daft Punk being overlooked for the tremendous score to ‘Tron: Legacy’. The group created a haunting, electro-orchestral hybrid that elevates the film to an entirely different level. What’s more, the soundtrack album sold like crazy. It was #4 on the Billboard Top 10. I know that doesn’t quite mean the same thing as it used to, but that’s pretty amazing for a film score! But nope, more traditional fare like John Powell’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ (arguably the most forgettable thing about that movie) secured a spot, while the French robots will be left to watch the show from home. (Can you imagine their Oscar outfits? This would have been reason alone to nominate them!)
“Woo!” Factor: Even though the Academy usually votes against both pop stars and duos, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor (of the synth-rock band Nine Inch Nails) justifiably got a nomination for their work on ‘The Social Network’. It will be interesting to see if they can pull off a win, or if they too (like Daft Punk) will be felled by a more traditional composer/score combo. If Hans Zimmer wins for ‘Inception’, though, I won’t be too heartbroken.
- ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’
- ‘Inside Job’
- ‘Waste Land’
Biggest Surprise: Banksy’s outrageous puzzle-box meta-documentary ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ was voted on by enough of the square Academy members to actually secure a nomination. This is beyond incredible. I’m so thrilled for everyone that worked on the film. It’s easily the crowning achievement of documentary films for the year 2010.
Biggest Snub: I was sad to see that ‘Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer’, from Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, didn’t get a nod. Not only is the documentary a totally brilliant psychological portrait of a man who was lying to himself as much as he was to the American public, but it’s also a nitty-gritty account of financial malfeasance, arguably a more “inside” look at the financial meltdown than the nominated ‘Inside Job’.
“Woo!” Factor: Again: Banksy is now the biggest street artist in the world, and an (wait for it) ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED FILMMAKER. The joke is very probably on us, but who cares?
BEST ANIMATED FILM
- ‘How to Train Your Dragon’
- ‘The Illusionist’
- ‘Toy Story 3’
Biggest Surprise: The tiny ‘Illusionist’, a wordless and gorgeous French film from Sylvain Chomet, director of ‘The Triplets of Belleville’, took the third Animated Feature slot away from the phenomenally popular Disney princess tale ‘Tangled’. The fact that critics and audiences both got behind ‘Tangled’, while ‘The Illusionist’ has remained an art house curio, further complicates matters. They’re both great films, and I’m very happy ‘The Illusionist’ is included here (it opens wide next month – don’t miss it!), but this must sting for ‘Tangled’.
Biggest Snub: Sorry, ‘Tangled’. Other box office draws like ‘Shrek Forever After’ and ‘Despicable Me’ didn’t get nominations either, nor did Zack Snyder’s underrated magic owl movie ‘Legend of the Guardians’.
“Woo!” Factor: I love that John Lasseter and his team at Pixar (led by director Lee Unkrich) are now facing off against Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois from ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. After all, one of the first things Lasseter did when he was given control of the creative side of the Mouse House (after Pixar was acquired for more than $7 billion) was fire Chris Sanders from the studio. Well, karma’s a bitch, John. This year, the boys you unceremoniously dumped because their esoteric vision didn’t jibe with your own story-first mandate are going to make you fight for your Oscar. Boo-ya!
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
- ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
- ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1’ – Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
- ‘Hereafter’ – Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
- ‘Inception’ – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
- ‘Iron Man 2’ – Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick
Biggest Surprise: ‘Hereafter’ for Best Visual Effects? Really? Admittedly, the opening tsunami sequence is jaw-dropping and very, very impressive. But that’s five minutes of a more than two hour movie. The rest of the visual effects, in which the afterlife is visualized as some kind of blurry white field not unlike the Cerebro sequences from ‘X-Men’, are cheesy, unconvincing, and emotionally dead. How this snuck into this category, I’ll never know. The movie is godawful and, besides that opening sequence, the effects are even worse.
Biggest Snub: ‘The Social Network’ racked up 8 nominations, but this wasn’t one of them. I ask: Why not? The visual effects work in ‘The Social Network’ is subtle, seamless, and nearly invisible. The breath coming out of the actors’ mouths on a chilly New England night, the duplication of one actor into two separate twins, the fact that every single computer screen in the movie (including the stenographer’s screen in the deposition sequences) was replaced after-the-fact – these are all visual effects. This is tough, labor-intensive, and utterly cutting-edge stuff… Which is why the movie was neglected in order to accommodate ‘Iron Man 2’, in which a bunch of people in robot suits beat each other up for a couple of hours. Good choice, guys. One day, people will look at David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ and see it as an even more important visual effects movie than the newer ‘Star Wars’. Maybe around the same time, they’ll look at this film’s snub and be just as mystified.
“Woo!” Factor: The nod for ‘Inception’, which favors practical effects and convincing model work over showy computer generated imagery, is a step in the right direction. The visual effects in ‘Inception’ are eye-popping for sure, but there’s also a handcrafted quality to them that’s absolutely delightful. Here’s hoping it’ll actually win.