We look forward to the announcement of Oscar nominees every January. But we really look forward to the carping that inevitably follows.
Everybody loves a good controversy. And this year, as always, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences provided plenty for movie fans to ponder, marvel at, and gripe about. Here are just a few of the latest Oscar snubs that left us shaking our collective heads.
BEST PICTURE: “Drive’’
You’d have to turn somewhere other than the nine best-picture nominees for proof that 2011 was more than merely an adequate year for movies. You’d just have to tolerate subtitles, forgive a lack of marketing, enjoy comedies, and love Ryan Gosling. Gosling appeared in four movies last year, the best of which was a thriller, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, that cast him as a getaway driver and stuntman. Its detractors found something to roll their eyes at - it’s so violent; it’s such nonsense; Michael Mann already did this - and they were right. But this movie got more out of me than anything in contention for an Oscar. The truth is that “Drive’’ - and probably “Bridesmaids,’’ too - were hurt by the new nomination process, in which only a percentage of first-place votes can keep a film eligible for best picture. That’s how you wind up with such an array of self-serious, self-congratulatory, conscientious movies and none in which a head is stomped on or a city street is used as a toilet. That’s a shame. WESLEY MORRIS
BEST DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller, “Moneyball’’
The best picture contender that, in Billy Crystal’s immortal words, somehow “directed itself’’ has long been an Academy staple, and now that the nomination rules have changed, there are more of them per year than ever. Miller’s snubbing in the director category is understandable - the movie’s mostly a bunch of men sitting around tables. It’s also unfortunate: Do you know how hard it is to make men sitting around tables interesting? What the director of “Capote’’ does here is so rare that few parameters exist for it: He dramatizes an idea (numbers can tell you how to win baseball games) and turns process into a subtle, satisfying, and above all human story. TY BURR
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Ben Kingsley, “Hugo’’
“Hugo’’ hinges on Kingsley’s magnificent performance as Georges Méliès. Kingsley refuses to be likable (that temptation no actor since Adam has been immune to) yet manages to make a sour, coldly overbearing man sympathetic. Kingsley won a best actor Oscar for playing Gandhi, someone quipped, because Academy members wanted to be like his character: tanned, thin, and moral. So maybe Kingsley didn’t get nominated because Méliès is who Academy members fear becoming: bald, bitter, and booted from the biz?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Patton Oswalt, “Young Adult’’
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