Statuesque: Oscar Nominations Analysis – Part 2

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!


The Nominees:

  • ‘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.


The Nominees:

  • ‘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.


The Nominees:

  • ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’
  • ‘Gasland’
  • ‘Inside Job’
  • ‘Restrepo’
  • ‘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?


The Nominees:

  • ‘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!


The Nominees:

  • ‘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.


  1. Never heard of Irong Man 2, is it any good? :-p

    I think I historically follow these categories more than the main ones, because there seems to be less politics here.

    How did Tron not get a nomination for best Visual Effects or Best Score?

    Harry Potter, while amazing, I think truthfully doesn’t have a chance against the other nominations.

    I am pretty sure that, at the MTV movie awards and People’s Choice, Inception is going to sweep on Best Director, Best visuals and best editing. I am totally with you – the editing on that movie was AMAZING.

    On the best visual effects listed here, I think Inception should win, but I am willing to bet the award is going to go to Alice In Wonderland.

    • I take full responsibility for that typo. I added it when formatting Drew’s list into bulletpoints during editing. It wasn’t in Drew’s original draft. D’oh! Fixed now.

      Anyway, I think Inception is a lock for Best Visual Effects, because the voters will want to recognize it for *something* and know that it’s going to lose all the major categories.

      I think Drew and I must have seen different documentaries called “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.” The one I saw was an infuriating puff piece. It shrugs off the man’s notorious (and frequent) psychotic rages as: “Well, I guess I can be tough sometimes. That’s politics. Ha ha.” It also brushes off his CRIMINAL ACTIVITY while in office as: “What? The guy had sex. What’s the big deal?” I don’t care that the guy cheated on his wife. But I do care that he knowingly and repeatedly committed a felony while acting as both the state’s Attorney General (the chief law enforcement officer, mind you) and later its Governor. The movie gives him a total pass on this, and tries to blame the controversy all on his political rivals making a mountain out of a molehill. Spitzer should be in prison right now, not hosting a talk show on CNN.

  2. So much love for ‘Inception.’ I don’t get it personally. It’s my least favorite of Nolan’s films. Still, people seem to like it. The visual effects were nice at least.

    I would have loved to see the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ score nominated. Same with visual effects, since I think it used them in a more interesting way than any other movie this year.

    As far as animated films go, it may be unrealistic, but I’d like ‘Toy Story 3’ to lose here only to win for ‘Best Picture.’ Probably won’t happen, but a guy can hope!

    • I think I can understand why people wouldn’t like Inception. In fact, don’t even get me started on the science and technology that is in it!

      What I like about Inception is that 1) it’s original (well, I guess you COULD say its a remake of Total Recall – but more like it was influenced by it), and 2) it has a REALLY good story. This is accented by awesome special effects and amazing film editing.

      Also, while I think you will probably be right, How To Train Your Dragon has a serious chance of upsetting Toy Story in the animated film category. I took my goddaughter to see it – she was 15 at the time, and we chose it because it was the only movie we could kinda agree on, and we were both surprised with how GOOD it was. Any other year, I would say it was a sure-winner, this year, I THINK it will be Toy Story, but won’t be surprised if Dragon takes it.

      • Honestly, I just wasn’t impressed with the whole dream layers thing. I feel like there was a lot of potential there and instead of using them creatively, they were just an excuse to jump from action scene to action scene. I loved the final stage (limbo?) but I feel like the others were lacking. Maybe too dumbed down?

        To be fair , I went into the movie after hearing all the hype, which may have colored my expectations.

    • “Scott Pilgrim” was absolutely amazing, largely because of the hilarious and hilariously awesome special effects. Except for “Inception,” I would knock out any of the other two for “Scott Pilgrim” and “Tron: Legacy,” whether that means the overdone “Alice in Wonderland,” the good but standard “Iron Man 2” or “Harry Potter 7.1,” or “Hereafter.”

      And yes, I would love to see the tuxedoed robots at the Oscars, but according to the liner notes, they were pretty indebted to a lot of composers’ guiding hands. Still, it should be about the music and not necessarily the story behind the music. Maybe if there’s a sequel.

  3. I finally watched The Social Network last night. The digital breath coming out of the actor’s mouths during the winter scene was incredibly fake and distracting. It took me right out of the scene. It honestly looked like something out of a videogame. For that alone, the movie had to be knocked out of contention for any visual effects award.

    I also don’t know what the big deal is about the score. Other than the fact that Trent Reznor put his name on it, there’s nothing memorable about it at all.

  4. Drew Taylor

    Josh! You really don’t think there’s anything exceptional about “The Social Network’s” score? Gah! The way that it effortlessly blends really dark, industrial beats with that twinkly piano stuff (which gives everything a rich emotional undercurrent)? The cracked out version of “In the Hall of the Mountain King?” Um… everything else about it? I think the score really captures the kind of frantic techno-lust of the movie as well as its underpinning of emotional detachment and loneliness (that opening title track, “Hand Covers Bruise,” is one of the most beautiful pieces of movie music all year).

    And, yes, the digital breath sucked. But fifteen seconds of iffy visual effects shouldn’t have robbed it of its deserved Best Visual Effects nomination.

    • I don’t know. The music was really just background noise to me. I barely noticed it at all, even when I tried to remind myself that I should be listening for some amazing score.

  5. Drew Taylor

    Also – re: “Client 9,” does it really burn you up that Eliot Spitzer used prostitutes? To the point that you would rather see him in jail than enacting any real change in office? (Or even hosting a low-rated basic cable news program?)

    I understand your knee-jerk priggishness to a degree, but this dude hounded the Wall Street assholes that would go on to bankrupt the entire country.

    Yes, he’s a flawed individual, and he compartmentalized the different aspects of his life to a dangerous degree (and, yes, his ego got the better of him on more than one occasion), but don’t act like he wasn’t a great politician and could still be a great politician again.

    I’m really not sure the documentary was a puff piece either, but rather presented most sides of the story pretty vividly and fairly. You seem to take more issue with the man morally than you do politically (the same goes for the documentary). Oh well.

    • Here’s the thing: As an abstract idea, I really don’t care about prostitution one way or the other. I really don’t care who Spitzer had sex with or that he cheated on his wife. The issue is that, regardless of how any of us may feel about it, prostitution is nonetheless defined as a crime. Spitzer repeatedly engaged in that crime while he was the chief law enforcement officer for the state, and continued while he was the governor of the state. And he did this despite knowing that he’d get eventually get caught, and knowing that doing this would be political and career suicide.

      Basically, Eliot Spitzer handed a loaded gun to his worst enemies and then cried foul that they would shoot him with it.

      And Spitzer was manifestly NOT a good politician. In fact, he was one of the most incompetent and ineffective politicians of the modern era. He had no idea how to play the power games that are the basis of American politics. He was a lame duck governor, completely shut out from being able to achieve anything while in office. And that was entirely his own doing. Then to top this off by actively committing a crime, while at the same time pretending to be a figurehead for political reform? His hypocisy and the scandal he opened himself to almost single-handedly destroyed the Liberal cause in America.

      And when he stepped down, he handed the reigns of control to a hand-picked successor even MORE incompetent than himself. It will be decades before the state of New York will be able to dig itself out from the quagmire Eliot Spitzer created.

      But you’d really have no way of knowing this based only on this movie, because the movie totally glosses over any of this.

  6. Drew Taylor

    But, on the upside, he did give us many years to enjoy Fred Armisen-as-Governor Paterson on “Weekend Update.” And, really, what more could we ask for?