Monday, January 30, 2012

Asperger King: “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is Serviceable Oscar Bait But Surprisingly Unmoving

Am I monster because I didn’t shed a single tear during “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close?” This seems to be the first film about 9/11 that the Academy has warmly embraced – nominating it for Best Picture – yet there remained two other much more terrific 9/11 dramas made over five years ago that didn’t get as much love or attention. I’m referring of course to the almost too realistic to be entertaining “United 93” (which did get directing and editing nods) and the more digestible “World Trade Center.” Audiences hardly showed up proclaiming that old cliché “it’s too soon?” When will it ever not be “too soon?” They made Vietnam War movies not very far after the war ended. Now here is America nearly ten years after the horrific tragedy that changed our country, and we have a sugary sweet, borderline melodramatic drama about 9/11 and we can all feel good about ourselves because it’s told through the point of view of an autistic boy. It’s “Forrest Gump does 9/11.” And that shouldn’t really be a bad thing, but it has an overall icky feeling of “this is an important film” yet it never feels as important as it thinks it is.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is actually a really well-made film by Academy favorite Steven Daldry (He’s been nominated for his first three films a feat I’m sure no one has matched). Having directed the wonderful 2000 drama Billy Elliot, he really knows how to tell a story through the eyes of a child. Here our main character is Oskar (Thomas Horn in his film debut) and he’s highly intelligent, but skewers toward being autistic. He even says he had been tested for Asperger’s syndrome. His father Thomas (Tom Hanks) would always play scavenger hunt games and pretend he was on various expeditions. Unfortunately Thomas finds himself trapped inside the World Trade Center on September 11th and is killed when the buildings collapse. It makes it all the more tragic in that his family –including his wife played by Sandra Bullock – didn’t even know he was supposed to be in the towers until he called them after the planes hit. After his father’s death, Oskar finds a key inside a blue vase in his father’s closet. He makes it his goal to find the lock that the key opens hoping that it’s an elaborate game set up by his father – I’m not the only one seeing traces of “Life is Beautiful?”

The story, even with a 9/11 background is surprisingly unmoving, which is surprising given Daldry’s wonderful track record. However, while he can’t bring out the emotional drama from Eric Roth’s stagnant script, he definitely brings an interesting visual flair that should be noted. Cinematographer Chris Menges (who worked on “The Reader”) gives us some pretty flashy and haunting images. Usually films set in modern day (or in this case the early 2000s) aren’t as flashy as their period piece counterparts, but there is so much style here it’s what definitely stood out the most. The camera really captures Oskar’s emotions and really places you in his shoes. There are some impressive aerial views, shots we’ve seen before, but are no less breathtaking.

It should be noted, as I’ve said, that this is young Horn’s film debut and he does a great job in the role. Daldry is a wonder with working with young people and while it’s unfair to compare his performance to Jamie Bell in “Billy Elliot” he certainly carries the film on his shoulders. I tend to get annoyed with some child performances, but he makes the most of an emotionally charged, but awkward role. The kid is forced to run around New York City with more gear than Where’s Waldo while constantly shaking a tambourine. If this kid isn’t autistic then I don’t know who is. Although things get better once he meets up with the silent Max von Sydow who gives a good performance without uttering a word.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is serviceable entertainment, but far from Daldry’s best work. It’s kind of uninvolving, but always at least watchable. It features some cool camerawork and visual choices that make up for the lack of emotion involved in a slightly corny story about 9/11. I guess this is the type of 9/11 film that general audiences want, but if you want something much more visceral and emotionally charged, head back to 2006 and watch “United 93” instead. GRADE: C+

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just One of the Guys: Despite Decent Performances “Albert Nobbs” Remains a Dull, Unmoving Experience

“Albert Nobbs” is actress Glen Close’s passion project. She’s been trying to bring this story of a woman who disguises herself as a male butler in 19th century Dublin to the big screen for years. She should have waited longer. Close is an Oscar nominee this year for her portrayal of the title character and she gives a good performance to be sure, but her character is so dull and uninteresting, it’s kind of a waste of a flashy role. Her female costar (and fellow nominee) Janet McTeer has a juicer role, but it doesn’t exactly liven up the overly dramatic and dreary film.

There have been plenty of films about gender identity in the past few years that have dealt with societal issues regarding the subject. “Transamerica” featured the story of a transsexual man on his way to becoming a woman. It had way much more to say about gender (and parent/child relationships for that matter) than “Albert Nobbs” and it features a way more enjoyable and likable character – most likely due to Felicity Huffman’s uncannily accurate and terrific performance. Close, on the other hand, doesn’t really make Albert all that sympathetic… more pathetic. And there’s a point to that of course, since she/he’s stuck in the oppressed society of the 1800s. However, one small character (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is implied to be womanizing bisexual – so Albert’s situation doesn’t quite seem as sensitive as you’d think. And in the coincidence of all coincidences, Albert comes across another woman posing as a man Hubert Page (McTeer). McTeer looks even less convicinging as a dude than Close’s androgynous portrayal.

“Albert Nobbs” is set in Dublin, Ireland in the late 19th century. Albert is a butler at a posh hotel. He harbors a secret no one must find out about. He’s a woman. Now for some reason, cross dressing in 19th century Ireland seems way less threatening than cross dressing 1990s Middle America ala Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry.” I never really once feared for Albert’s life if he was found to be a woman. And I didn’t quite feel much of a bond between Albert and Hubert. Perhaps the script co-written by Close and John Banville and Gabriella Prekop is just too concerned with a side story about Mia Wasikowska’s Helen and Aaron Johnson’s Joe falling in love to have much else to say about why Albert and Hubert feel the need to hide their true identities. There are plenty of female maid characters who seem to be well-off, I don’t quite know if Albert makes that much more as a male butler.

The film is directed by Rodrigo García, who directed several episodes of the HBO drama “Six Feet Under,” but here there’s no real visual flair. It’s all elegantly shot as you’d expect a European costume drama to be shot, but there’s nothing special visually to distract you from the boring storyline. And I’m not quite sure I get the Best Makeup Oscar nomination. It just seems like Close and McTeer are NOT wearing any makeup. They just look like manish women who haven’t heard of foundation or rouge.

I can’t quite recommend Albert Nobbs unless you feel compelled to see every Oscar nominated film this year (which is why I saw it in the first place). Close and McTeer are decent, but I found myself strangely emotionally uninvolved. The film doesn’t quite know what to say about the issue of gender identity and instead remains a film in disguise of a better storyline.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cancer, Muppets, and Ghostface, Oh My! The Best Films of 2011

2011 certainly isn’t my favorite year for movies, but I manged to find a handful of really enjoyable films. There were lots of movies I liked but not many movies that I really truly LOVED. But there are definitely some keepers. Without further ado here’s my list of my favorite films of 2011:

1) Bridesmaids

Unjustly referred to as the female “Hangover,” “Bridesmaids” is an altogether different beast. “Bridesmaids” actually has a sweet story of friendship at the center of the raunchiness (and really the Bridal Shop scene is the only real/literal potty humor in the whole thing) – it’s about dealing with those around you moving on with their lives and what it can sometimes do to your psyche. The story of Annie (Kristin Wiig, funny as ever), as she tries to deal with her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolf) engagement and the rivalry that begins between her and Lillian’s new friend Helen (a standout Rose Byrnes), is altogether hilarious and sweet. There are too many standout scenes to mention here, but this is a wonderful and heartfelt comedy with a standout cast, endlessly quotable dialogue (“I cracked a blanket in half”) and one of the most humorous supporting performances of the year by Oscar-nominee and scene stealer Melissa McCarthy. This is a hilarious movie worth watching over and over again. It’s the best of the year.

2) 50/50

Cancer has had an interesting ride at the movies. Sometimes they’re award-winning crowd pleasers like 1983’s “Terms of Endearment” or sometimes they’re raunchy Seth Rogen comedies like this year’s wonderfully funny yet moving “50/50.” Screenwriter Will Reiser tells the semi-autobiographical story of Adam (a sublime Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a 27 year old who is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. His odds are 50/50 according to the Internet and he must begin chemotherapy. The film follows Adam as he learns to deal with his prognosis and how it affects his relationship with his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and his best friend (Rogen). This is such a wonderful film that deserves to be seen. It tells such a touching story of friendship and while it may make you reach for a Kleenex it refuses to delve into schmaltzy overdramatic territory. A Nicolas Sparks adaptation this is not.

3) Shame

It’s too bad this wonderful (though NC-17 rated) film failed to earn one single Oscar nomination because it’s one of the most well-made films of the year. Director Steve McQueen tells the story of Brandon, a Manhattan single man in his 30s who harbors a dirty secret: he’s a sex addict. Whether you agree that sex addiction is a real psychological disorder is irrelevant – this is a compelling story of a person dealing with something he cannot control. His constant need to feel pleasure is counterbalanced with a desire that usually steers him in the completely wrong direction. He must take time from his workday to “pleasure himself” in the bathroom. He sits alone in his apartment watching porn. He hires prostitutes. Things start going wrong when his rambunctious sister decides to crash at his place for a few days. This is such a lovely story about siblings and their need and dependency on one another. A beautiful film with beautiful performances.

4) Scream 4

If you’re a die hard Scream fan like me, then you either supremely loathed or absolutely loved this fourth entry. The film’s setting returns to the familiar town of Woodsboro with a bunch of new teenagers to slaughter. Dewey, Gale, and Sidney, who are probably some of the greatest characters ever written for a slasher film return to the meta world of the franchise where seven Stab films have been released and a new set of horror movie “rules” have been established. I just simply loved the banter of the new and old characters, who mesh very nicely together. There are some great kills (that bedroom kill is gruesome and reminiscent of Wes Craven’s own A Nightmare on Elm Street) and great laughs, as the humor dial is turned up to 11, perhaps too high for some. A wonderful return to form for Craven and Kevin Williamson, and a real treat for slasher freaks like me. So what if it bombed horribly at the box office, it reinvigorated one of my all-time favorite movie franchises.

5) Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Who knew that the fourth film in the Mission Impossible franchise would be the best? And who even wanted a fourth Mission: Impossible movie?? Animation director Brad Bird breaks out into live action with this terrifically filmed action flick with one jaw-dropping sequence after another – including a scene set on the outside of the tallest building in the world no less. Much of the movie was filmed with IMAX cameras and to see it all up on that huge screen is a wonder to behold. Tom Cruise has never been more likable and he’s surround by such wonderful actors including Paula Patton (from “Precious”), Jeremy Renner (from “The Hurt Locker”), and Simon Pegg (from “Shaun of the Dead”). This is big budget Hollywood Blockbuster filmmaking at its best.

6) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Leave it to David Fincher to have a movie about a woman killing rapist be one of the best of the year. Yeah the subject matter is rather intense, but this is one of the most compelling and flat-out interesting and stylistic films of the year. Fincher, who has made a few departures from his trademark gritty style in the past couple years returns to form telling the story of a journalist (Daniel Craig) who partners up with a goth computer hacker (Oscar nominee Rooney Mara) to help solve a murder mystery. The film has an appropriately cold look and feel, yet the relationship that develops between these characters is so well developed, they practically cause sparks. The film features a brilliant score from the guys who made last year’s brilliant Oscar-winning score for “The Social Network” and it features one of the coolest opening title sequences of all time. A must see.

7) The Muppets

Are you a man or a Muppet? That is the question. Those fun-loving furry friends are back in “The Muppets” a wonderful throwback to the days when puppets ruled the TV set. The lovable characters created by the late, great Jim Henson are back in their first big screen adventure since the 1999’s “Muppets from Space.” This time the Muppets play themselves as they try to reunite to save their beloved Muppet studio from a greedy oil tycoon (played by Chris Cooper of course). Jason Segal, known for his raunchy comedies, co-wrote and stars in this fun adventure with the wonderfully wide-eyed Amy Adams (who was born to star in a Muppet film) are a couple who help the Muppet gang back together. A new Muppet is introduced – Gary, (Segal’s onscreen brother) is a welcome addition to the roster of colorful characters you know and love so well. There are many tremendously fun songs to be had here. Just good plain family fun.

8) Hugo

Leave it to Martin Scorsese to make a big-budget 3D family adventure about film preservation into a brilliant piece of entertaining filmmaking. Hugo, based on the popular young adult novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” tells the story of a young orphan boy (young Elijah Wood look-a-like Asa Butterfield) who lives in a Paris train station where he works on a and fixes clocks. He uncovers a mechanical man invention who may hold a secret message from his dead father and it eventually leads him on a magical journey of discovery. Ben Kingsley gives a great performance as Georges Méliès a founding father of cinema. The craft here is impeccable. The set design and the costumes and the wonderful 3D cinematography from master Robert Richardson is unmatched. It’s truly a fun and enjoyable family friendly adventure.

9) Insidious

“Insidious” is simply one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. I can’t even tell you how creepy this film is until you see it yourself. It dares to go places you haven’t seen before – and I’m not talking about blood and guts – which is ironic seeing as thought the guys who started the “Saw” franchise made this thing. Sort of like a modern day “Poltergeist” the story is about a young couple Rose Bryne and Patrick Wilson – whose son becomes “lost” in another dimension. It seems an evil force has take over him. This “evil force” is one of the more creepy and disturbing horror movie characters I’ve seen in recent memory. The “lipstick face demon” as he’s known in the film’s closing credits is an image you won’t soon forget. He’ll haunt your dreams. This is good old-fashioned suspenseful haunted house fun that’s not to be missed.

10) Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This is the movie that surprised everyone. No one epected this big-budget August release to be anything special. Sure it featured cool-looking motion capture effects, but no one was aching for a follow-up to Tim Burton’s miscalculated (but still enjoyable) “Planet of the Apes” remake. Starring James Franco as a brilliant scientist, of course, this “Apes” prequel tells the story of Cesar a generically altered intelligent chimpanzee (played by the mo-cap vet Andy Serkis) who leads a uprising against the human race. This is a surprisingly emotionally nuanced and fun film that takes its time getting to the money shots of apes taking over San Francisco. The effects are spot on and the performances are great and the action is exciting. What more can you ask for in a summer blockbuster?

Honorable Mentions: Young Adult, The Artist, Final Destination 5, Drive, Horrible Bosses, X-Men: First Class, The Help, Moneyball, Captain America: The First Avenger, Contagion

And here's a tribute to the year that was 2011:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Maggie Mia! Meryl Streep Fully Embodies Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady”

The musings you’ve heard are true: “The Iron Lady” is worth seeing for Meryl Streep’s brilliant and uncanny performances as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. To say she gives an Oscar-worthy performance is an understatement. The film isn’t as horrible as some would have you to believe, but you probably won’t leave the film knowing that much more about Margaret Thatcher than you knew going in. It really just skims the surface of her life, spending a majority of the screen time exploring Thatcher’s sad slip into dementia. And that’s where the film just feels like a big budgeted Lifetime movie searching for a reason to playing on the big screen.

Director Phyllida Lloyd, I’ll admit, seems a strange choice to bring the story of Margaret Thatcher to the screen. Known primarily for her theatre work, the woman has only directed the Meryl Streep film musical “Mamma Mia!” which is presently the highest grossing film ever in England. And when that happens, you can direct any freaking movie you want. She makes some odd directorial choices, which to be fair, were most likely found in Abi Morgan’s screenplay (who’s much better work can be found in the brilliant film “Shame”). I was surprised to find out a majority of the film is actually set in the present, as an Margaret Thatcher (Streep) deals with her wandering mind. She has visions of her late husband, who she doesn’t always realizes isn’t really there. Her husband Denis is portrayed by Jim Broadbent, who provides some awkward comic relief. He almost seems to belong in a different movie – although his overacting fits with the increasingly deteriorating mind of the film’s main subject.

Then there are scenes of middle aged Thatcher as she begins her political career by finding a seat in the House of Commons among all those stuffy British men to Leader of the Conservative Party and eventually as the first (and only) female Prime Minister. The film refuses to really take a side on Thatcher’s conservative politics, but it doesn’t skimp on showing the outpouring of dislike amongst the lower class. The film eventually depicts the Brits entering the Falklands War and Thatcher’s involvement in the conflict. Those expecting a history lesson here will be disappointed as the film is more interesting in showing the elderly Thatcher deal with these memories, instead of making a political statement about them.

Like I said, and many other have as well, the main attraction here is Streep’s magnificent performance. In her scenes as the younger Thatcher she commands the screen similarly to how she did in “Doubt” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” I found it interesting that Thatcher had to go through vocal coaching which helped her get noticed in a room full of shouting men. If you can forgive Thatcher for her politics, you’ll see the story of a woman trying to make it in a world run by men. But the real showcase here is the elderly Thatcher which, with the help of a tremendously convincing make-up job, is just fascinating to watch. Streep gets every nuance right. She really moves and acts like an old woman; it’s almost disturbing.

“The Iron Lady” isn’t the most in-depth bio pic I’ve ever seen as it’d rather spend time showcasing Streep’s wonderful talent of acting like an elderly old lady who’s losing her mind. The film feels almost too self-important to be completely involving, but Streep’s performance is pretty hard to dislike. She never needs to overact which is good. “The Iron Lady” at times sort of feels like it should be a musical (in the way the film relies on montages to skim over history that would otherwise be explored further in a different film), but the scenes with song were cut at the last minute. I think that’s due to the limitations of its director and I can’t say I know that much more about Margaret Thatcher after seeing this movie, but that shouldn’t prevent you from witnessing one of the best screen performances of the year. GRADE: B

Don’t You Forget About Me: The Worst Oscar Snubs According to Me

Tomorrow the Oscar nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards will be announced. I took it upon myself to make a list of some of the Oscars snubs that I’ve been personally offended by. This is by no means an exhaustive list of traditional Oscar “snubs.” I don’t really care that Jimmy Stewart wasn’t nominated for “Vertigo.” This is a list of people and films in categories that I personally thought should have at least been nominated. Some are more obvious than others. Even with all of the following snubs there are still plenty of things the Academy gets right, but sometimes they need a push in the right direction. All of the following people and films could have been nominated, believe it or not, if other factors played a part, but unfortunately they're relegated to a list like this instead. Onward and upward!

Michael Fassbender, Best Actor - Shame
The newest member of the Snub Club is Michael Fassbender who had a simply terrific year in 2011. He starred in several films and played various characters ranging from Magneto in “X-Men: First Class” to Brandon the sexaholic in “Shame.” His emotionally wrought, super-acclaimed performance in this wonderful film should not only have been nominated for an Oscar, but it should have WON an Oscar. And now he won’t even have a chance. I’m wondering if the Academy felt their own shame and refused to watch the film – NC-17 rated films are notorious for getting the snub. The Academy likes happy, not depressing (tell that to Ellen Burstyn). At the end of the day, Fassbender was an actor that was respected I’m sure, but not enough for the Actor’s branch to get behind. At least he joins an eclectic list of performers and filmmakers whose work, although not nominated, still ranks as award-worthy.

Amy Adams, Best Actress – “Enchanted”
It’s the general consensus that performances in “family films” rarely get nominated and that’s true. The Academy loves Amy Adams (they’ve already nominated her three times) but they didn’t love her enough to nominate her for her outstanding lead performance as a cartoon princess come to life in the wonderfully witty “Enchanted.” Hey, if Julie Andrews can WIN an Oscar for “Mary Poppins” then why couldn’t Adams at least be nominated for this?

Jamie Lee Curtis, Best Actress – Freaky Friday
I know what you’re thinking, I’m crazy. This is another one of those, “it can’t be a good performance because it’s a Disney kid’s film.” Not true. Curtis (who got a Golden Globe nod) has never been better playing basically two roles in one. She plays a busy mom trying to take care of her kids while dealing with getting remarried after her husband has recently passed away and also playing her own rebellious teenage daughter after they switch bodies by opening a cursed fortune cookie. She’s never been more charming, likeable, silly, and just downright perfect.

Bernard Herrmann, Best Score – Psycho
I can almost forgive the Academy for not nominating “Psycho” for Best Picture because it wasn’t exactly the most well-received film upon its initial release. However, I can’t fathom in what alternate universe the members of the Music Branch were living in when they snubbed Herrmann’s classic strings only score for “Psycho.” Perhaps, Herrmann didn’t submit the score? There has to be a rational explanation, right? This is one of, if not, THE, most recognized pieces of film music in all of cinema.

Christopher Nolan, Best Director – Inception
A lot of people understandably made a big hubbub about The Dark Knight getting snubbed for both best picture and best director in 2008. I wasn’t so shocked since Batman movies never exactly fare well with the Academy. But I was truly shocked two years later when Christopher Nolan failed to make the list of five Best Directors for “Inception.” I figured not only was it one of the most visually interesting and intricate films of the year, but it seemed like Directing was an award it had the most chance of being recognized for. Until it was announced that it didn’t get an editing nomination either. What gives Academy?

Eddie Vedder, Best Original Song – Into the Wild
“Into the Wild” was my favorite film of 2007, so I wanted it to be nominated in every single category. I don’t know how but I figured it could find a way to make it into Best Foreign Language Film or Best Documentary Short. But all it did was come up short on nomination morning, earning two measly (but deserving) nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook) and Best Editing. However, I was completely shocked that none of Eddie Vedder’s haunting songs failed to make the cut. Did the Music Branch have their hearing aids turned down or something? Never have so many original songs been so well integrated into such a moving piece of filmmaking. WTF Academy!

Anthony Perkins, Best Actor – Psycho
Ok I’m a big fan of “Psycho” obviously. It’s one of the few films made over fifty years ago that I can watch over and over again. And that’s probably because it was way ahead of its time and is considered the grandfather of the Slasher Film. The fact that it’s a “horror film” is no excuse for not nominating Anthony Perkins for his career best performance as Norman Bates (don’t forget Janet Leigh was nominated). I’d like to assume the Academy was confused and wasn’t sure if he was lead or supporting which split all of his votes – it’s very possible. Category placement aside, it’s one of the best performances in all of cinema.

Catherine O’Hara , Best Supporting Actress – For Your Consideration
I think the Academy felt that Christopher Guest’s hilarious Hollywood satire “For Your Consideration” was a big F. U. to them. I disagree, I think it’s a wonderful tribute to moviemaking and it lovingly pays homage to the idea of “Oscar buzz” that mystical thing that leads many actors and filmmakers to be recognized for their artistic work – even if they don’t always totally deserve it. O’Hara plays the appropriately named Marilyn Hack, who becomes the subject of Oscar buzz on the set of her pretty awful looking film “Home for Purim” which causes a stir among the cast and crew. What a funny and silly movie-but what a great standout performance from one of the best character actresses out there. Winning a supporting Oscar for a comedic role is not unheard of however – Marisa Tomei pulled the upset of all upsets back in the 90s for “My Cousin Vinny.”

Bill Murray, Best Actor – Groundhog Day
The lack of Oscar love for Billy Murray in general is due most likely due to the fact that mostly appears in comedies. That was righted with a nod for “Lost in Translation,” but his best work remains in “Groundhog Day” a funny time warp comedy in which Murrary’s cynical weatherman Phil Connors is stuck repeating the worst day of his life in the worst place ever: covering the unveiling of the groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA. A story in which a character relives the same events over and over would seem redundant and boring, but Murray makes it fascinated to watch as his character constantly grows and changes while everyone around him stays the same.

Naomi Watts, Best Actress - Mulholland Dr.
The Academy loves nominating hot, fresh faces and discovering new talent - as does the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn – yet both groups failed to recognize Naomi Watts for her glowing performance as a wide-eyed naïve actress in “Mulholland Dr.” Her performance is just simply radiant. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, director David Lynch changes things up more than halfway through the film, and Watts plays an entirely different character. I’d like to think the reason for the lack of love for Watts was due to the confusing and ultimately mindboggling nature of the film. Just as bizarre as the film itself Lynch was the film’s sole nomination (for directing). Also, Ms. Watts should have been nominated for "King Kong" as well.

Steven Spielberg, Best Director – Jaws
There’s a video floating around – on YouTube – of Steven Spielberg watching the live Oscar nomination announcement waiting for his name to be called for Best Director. It didn’t happen. “Oh I didn’t get it! I didn’t get it! I wasn’t nominated!” proclaims. How embarrassing for him. But also, how embarrassing for the Academy to snub the director of the most popular film of that time. They showed their artistic side and went with Fellini instead. It’s not that much of a loss since Spielberg would go on to be nominated six times for Best Director –winning twice – and a bunch more for producing (He was snubbed again for The Color Purple after it was nominated for 11 Oscars including Best Picture). Before the film was released Jaws was thought to be a horrible failure with an over budget production and a mechanical shark that hardly worked right. But after the film’s release it was clear that Spielberg was a filmmaking talent to be reckoned with. Let’s face it, he was just too young (only 29 at the time) and there were far too many old codgers in that Director’s Branch.

Jim Carrey, Best Actor – The Truman Show
What does a comedic actor need to do to get an Oscar nomination around here? You need to star in a drama of course! And “The Truman Show” was the perfect vehicle for comedian Jim Carrey (known for raunchy humor in Dumb & Dumber and Ace Ventura) to breakout and show his serious side (and I’m not talking about his buttocks which he always seems to be talking out of). “The Truman Show” a disturbingly wonderful satire about the country’s obsession with reality TV (before it was even as obsession) was nominated for three high profile Oscars – but Carrey didn’t make the cut. And he won this award at the Golden Globes. Carrey has been snubbed many times since, including “Man on the Moon” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” For shame!

Scott Neudstater & Michael H. Weber, Best Original Screenplay – (500) Days of Summer
This one stings the most because not only was the wonderfully original script for “(500) Days of Summer” practically a lock for a nomination, but it had a very good shot of going all the way. Of course all of that ended when nominee announcer Anne Hathaway failed to cite the film as a nominee. It seems indie favorite “The Messenger” had taken its place and 500 Days of Summer’s chances at being an “Oscar nominated film” were over. I was crushed as it was my favorite film of the year and remains as one of my all time favorites. I guess I just have to be content with it being a Golden Globe nominated film instead.

Ryan Gosling, Best Actor, Lars and the Real Girl
Ryan Gosling always gives riveting performances, but he’s rarely rewarded as a result. He gives one of his most compelling, comical, and heartfelt performances in “Lars and the Real Girl” in which he plays a slightly delusional young man who orders a sex doll off the internet and begins introducing it to his family and the townsfolk as his girlfriend. The script was justly rewarded with a Screenplay nod, but Gosling was shut out and left scratching his head wondering if he’d ever be nominated after his awesome performance the year before in “Half Nelson” an achievement that has eluded him ever since. Whether you think him not being nominated for “Lars” was a snub or not check this out – he was nominated for a Critics Choice Award, a Golden Globe and a SAG – to be left out at that point was definitely a snub.

Thelma & Louise, Best Picture
"Thelma & Louise" is not one of my all time favorite movies, though I like it very much. The sheer fact that it failed to get a best Picture nomination has nothing to due with it being one of my favorite films. And I only bring this one up for one reason – take a look at all of the other nominations the film received, and tell me it shouldn’t have also been nominated for Best Picture. It was nominated for Directing, Writing, Editing, Cinematography and twice for Acting. Like the recent film “The Diving Bell & the Butterfly” it had all the other key nominations right, but failed to make it to the top. It’s too bad because both films deserved to be recognized as one of the five best of the year.

David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, & Jerry Zucker, Best Original Screenplay – Airplane!
This is just sheer travesty. A script that is not only side-splittingly funny but intelligent and even ended up creating an entirely new genre of comedy failed to make it to the big party. It won a Writers Guild Award and was even nominated for a Golden Globe for best comedy or musical (it’s actually both). Just because it’s my own personal favorite film of all time doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve some love. And I'm not even sure it would be considered Original since it's based on a crappy made-for-TV movie called "Zero Hour!" Surely, the Academy has realized was a big mistake they made… (I’ll let you finish the joke)

James Newton Howard & Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight – Best Original Score
Say all you want about “The Dark Knight” getting snubbed for Best Picture – the film was nominated eight times deservedly so but failed to make the cut in the most deserving category – Best Original Score. For some reason, the Academy’s music branch deemed the score ineligible. I have no idea why to this day – but the film’s music remains one of its great strengths. Seriously, the music branch needs to open their freaking ears sometimes.

Best Sound Editing – Twister
Granted the summer blockbuster “Twister” isn’t typically the type of film the Academy enjoys rewarding but even they recognize good filmmaking crafts when they see some. Twister was nominated for Best Sound that year (which includes the overall mixing of sound in a film including dialogue and score… usually the louder the better for them). But it failed to get nominated for the craft category it most deserved – Sound Editing. Sure, most people can’t tell the difference between this two “boring” categories, but as someone who knows the difference I can tell you that it deserved to be cited here. Sound Editing has to do with recognizing the people who make all of the sound effects found in a film – and Twister has some amazing effects. They used so many different types of sounds for those scary tornadoes – including a camel – and all those sounds of metal scraping and debris being dropped to the ground deserved to be recognized.

Henry Thomas, Best Actor – E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
The Academy is notorious for snubbing child actors. Most of the time they move them to the Supporting categories as not to upstage the grown up actors. Henry Thomas, who dominated nearly every frame of Steven Spielberg’s wonderful sci-fi drama as Elliot the boy who befriends an alien from outer space, completely deserved to be recognized for his amazing performance. And it was his first! He was just too young and we couldn’t have such a newbie upstaging Mr. Gandhi himself Ben Kingsley. There was no way the Academy could justify putting this kid in the Supporting category since he’s so obviously a lead role that instead he was placed no where, instead being having to live with the fact that even though he was nominated he to this day has given one of the best child performances of all time. This incident was repeated in 2000 when Jamie Bell wasn't nominated for "Billy Elliot."

John Williams, Best Original Score – Jurassic Park
John Williams almost gets nominated for every film he scores and with five wins and a countless amount of nominations failing to get recognized is hardly a snub. But his score for Jurassic Parks is one of the most memorable of his entire career. The film isn’t usually the type that gets nominated for awards beyond categories like Visual Effects or Sound, but even crappy movies get nominated for Best Score – like “The Village.” There was no reason Williams – who was nominated that year and won for “Schindler’s List” – shouldn’t have been a double nominee.

Reese Witherspoon, Best Actress – Election
It’s hard enough to be nominated for giving a lead performance in a comedy, it’s even harder to be recognize for a film as sharp and acidic as “Election.” Based on the book of the same named, “election” gives a backstage look at high school politics told from several characters’ points of view. The best is that of overachiever Tracy Flick who will stop at nothing to be elected Student Body President. It’s a wonderfully wicked satire and it’s script was deservedly nominated (and remains Alexander Payne’s best film to date) but the fact that Witherspoon was looked over is just sad. Fortunately, Witherspoon would go on to great success after this breakout role and win an Oscar for playing June Carter in “Walk the Line” – a much more Oscar-friendly film.

Danny Elfman, Best Original Score – every Tim Burton movie except “Big Fish”
If there’s a polar opposite of John Williams it would be Danny Elfman. Not a classically trained musician at all, Elfman’s scores are well known for their fun, quirky sounds, but they’re no less catchy and fun to listen to. Almost all of his work with frequent collaborate Tim Burton has gone unnoticed – safe for a nomination for his must un-Elfman like score for “Big Fish.” It’s just jaw dropping how many times this composer has been snubbed. He’s received three other nominations – for “Good Will Hunting,” “Milk” and his most Burton-esque, “Men in Black” – it’s a shame that he’s not as recognized as often as other composers.