In a year teeming with high-profile Oscar snubs, it would be easy to overlook the many deserving unnominateds who are not Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow. But you’ll only be cheating yourself if you don’t seek out these other works and performers that we think the Academy erred in bypassing.
“The Central Park Five”
It’s pointless to say who America’s best documentary filmmaker is. Excellence can be excellent in so many ways, especially when dealing with reality. But the most famous? That’s easy. It’s Ken Burns. Is it reverse snobbery, then, that a film as moving, dramatic, and skillfully made as “The Central Park Five” didn’t get nominated for best documentary? Burns co-
directed it, with his daughter Sarah Burns and son-in-law, David McMahon. Or maybe the Academy just has him stuck in a PBS pigeonhole. Either way, it’s their loss — and the genre’s, too.
Jonny Greenwood, “The Master”
Greenwood, best known as Radiohead’s lead guitarist, wrote a masterful score for “The Master”: percussive and sweeping, tentative and turbulent, as woodwinds and strings follow the deeply damaged Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) and his encounters with a philosopher-guru (Philip Seymour Hoffman). In one scene, Freddie flees for his life across a cabbage field, while the score offers a weirdly distant commentary, like an analyst staring coolly into the hurricane of a mind. When Freddie explores his new surroundings aboard a yacht, the music echoes Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” — a nice touch for a character described as a “silly animal.” Again and again an orchestra seems to tune up, then resolve into serene chords that angle and trope toward some sunlit point. We’re hearing the sounds of a man groping for light, the sounds of hope, even for a lost cause.
Ezra Miller, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
My heart broke a little when I didn’t see Miller’s name on the list of supporting actor nominees. Isn’t this category meant to highlight the actors who steal the show, the men who so embody a character that they make you forget the pedigree of the leads? Miller was such a heartbreaking, believable personification of writer-director Stephen Chbosky’s nurturing, hilarious, and eccentric character Patrick that I forgot that Miller’s costar, Emma Watson, was once a wizard, and that the movie’s lead, Logan Lerman, was once in “Percy Jackson.” Miller also made me forget where I was. With him as Patrick, I traveled back to the 1990s, when I was the age of Chbosky’s characters, and I longed to escape it all, thought I had discovered David Bowie, and thought I might be infinite. His performance was what Oscars should be all about.
Rosemarie DeWitt, “Your Sister’s Sister”
How maddening is it that DeWitt still can’t put “Oscar nominee” next to her name? The actress was snubbed in 2008 for “Rachel Getting Married.” (Isn’t this exactly the kind of performance for which the supporting category was created?) In 2012, she gave one of the year’s most hilarious performances as a lesbian who, after a tequila-soaked night, finds herself caught in an odd love triangle in “Your Sister’s Sister.” DeWitt’s improvised role elevated her costars, Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass. She was also the best thing in this year’s “Promised Land.” DeWitt may still be looking for Oscar love but she’s one of the reasons we go to the movies.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE
A dazzling helping of eccentricity from French director Leos Carax, “Holy Motors” offered a trip through a typical day in the life of Monsieur Oscar (Carax regular Denis Lavant), a day consisting of numerous “assignments.” This meant being chauffeured around in a limo, donning a variety of disguises, and setting out to interact, one at a time, with an odd collection of people. One of the film’s glories is that everything about it kept growing weirder, leading up to a series of climaxes that left some people scratching their heads, and others laughing out loud.
Visionary work of “2001”-esque genius or titanic flop, can we all agree that “Cloud Atlas” looked incredible? Veering from 19th-century ship to 1970s corporate headquarters to futuristic workers’ pod to denuded post-apocalyptic landscape, “Cloud Atlas” inhabits a lush, lived-in series of interconnected spheres, where objects and décor recur from one era to the next. Production designers Hugh Bateup (who also worked on “The Matrix”) and Uli Hanisch render each interlocking segment admirably, but it is the film’s dystopian Korean future, with its undulating wallpaper, its “Blade Runner” skyline, and its creepy “Eyes Wide Shut”-style costumes, that lingers the longest in the mind.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected
Anyone can whip up a 19th-century coat or stove pipe hat (“Anna Karenina,” “Les Misérables,” “Lincoln”) or sew some fanciful fairy tale garb (“Mirror Mirror,” “Snow White”). But no film this year required more persnickety costumes than “The Hobbit.” Each dwarf, troll, hobbit, elf, goblin, and wizard required its own distinctive frock, robe, or loincloth, often done in multiple versions to fit characters of vastly different sizes. The production even had a “key breakdown artist” to make it all look trail-worn and troll-snotted-upon. Kudos to Ann Maskrey and “The Hobbit” team for making every fantasy thread seem real.