Monday, January 7, 2013

Should Have Been a Contender: Overlooked by the Oscars

Kimberly Elise as Denver in Beloved

On January 10th, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the Oscar nominees, and unless this year is any different from years past, there will be amazing performances, songs and movies that are overlooked. Below are some of the past omissions that made me think: What's wrong with you people?!

In 1998, much of the Oscar buzz around the movie Beloved centered on Oprah Winfrey's performance. Oprah was excellent, but it was the performance of Kimberly Elise as her daughter, Denver, that left me thinking: ok, they should just give her the award now. Although not as showy a role as those played by Oprah Winfrey and Thandie Newton, Denver's fear, pride, pain and intelligence are all on display in Elise's expressive face. The moment when I thought, ok, just give her the Oscar: when she forces herself to leave her home and seek out work--and help--a tear sliding down her cheek as she tells a stranger: "My mama. She don't feel too good."

Another supporting actor I thought gave a wonderful performance was Bill Pullman in The Accidental Tourist. Full of charm, his eyes sparkling with mischief, Pullman plays Julian, the boss and editor of Macon Leary (William Hurt). Julian is fascinated by Macon and his eccentric siblings, particularly Macon's sister Rose, whom he falls in love with in spite of their very different lifestyles. I left the theater thinking, "Who is Bill Pullman and why isn't he in more movies."

Finally, until I looked it up, I was certain that Do the Right Thing had at least been nominated for Best Picture. But no. Although the controversial movie received nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Danny Aiello) and Best Original Screenplay (Spike Lee), it won neither. The Academy snubbed Lee's masterpiece about racial tensions that explode on a hot day in Brooklyn in favor of safer fare, such as Dead Poets Society and Driving Miss Daisy. (The latter won Best Picture.)

Other masterpieces that weren't nominated for Best Picture include The Wrestler and Vincent and Theo. The Academy also overlooked the former's title song by Bruce Springsteen, the best song he's yet written for a film, and Tim Roth's amazing, understated performance as Vincent Van Gogh in the latter.

The good news: it's never too late to check out a classic movie or performance on DVD. All of the above can be obtained through the library. (And so can the books Beloved and The Accidental Tourist.)

What other great performances or movies have been overlooked by the Academy? Who should be nominated this year?


Linda K. said...

Alas, the movies I enjoy the most are rarely big Oscar candidates. Bill Pullman is a perfect example. I loved him in While You Were Sleeping and Ruthless People, but neither picture was up there on awards night raking in the honors. I've just decided not to worry about it and and enjoy my own personal honor system.

Fiona Dinwiddie said...

I think L.A. Confidential is one of the outstanding films of the last 25 years. It has everything - a great script, great acting, great directing. It lost its Oscar to Titanic, however, which is essentially about production design and a great song. L.A. Confidential was robbed!

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