The Oscar nominations were announced today - not that anyone would notice since it's not like everybody is talking about it all the damn time - and they confirmed once again that the Oscars are worthless. And I don't mean that in the sense that all human endeavour is worthless because one day we'll all die and no one will care about anything we did in life, and besides which the sun will one day implode and destroy the Earth, eradicating all trace of all humanity, making our irritation at Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close getting an Oscar nomination seem pretty trivial.
No, I mean that the Oscars are worthless because they fail to do the thing that they are meant to, which is recognise the exceptional films released in any given year. Sure, they sometimes get it right - the nomination for The Tree of Life, in particular, strikes me as unusually spot on for once - but for the most part they celebrate the merely okay, rather than the excellent.
Considering that last year saw some truly great films released, ones that were bold, daring and strange, it would be easy to write about the many, many great films that were snubbed in favour of mediocrity. However, since everyone is going to be doing that, I've decided to set cynicism aside and focus on the positive, looking at the little delights sprinkled amongst the dullness.
Delight no. 1: Bret McKenzie is now an Oscar nominee
In the years since they ended their cult HBO sitcom on account of how exhausting it was starring in, writing, producing and composing all the original music for it (I'm getting tired just writing all their credits), the fortunes of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, a.k.a. The Flight of the Conchords, seemed to be following the typical path of many a comedy duo who decide to set their partnership aside, however temporarily or amicably. One of them went off and appeared in a bunch of (almost uniformly terrible) Hollywood films whilst the other kind of didn't seem to do anything, and instead faded from view. The Lesser Spotted Conchord has made a hell of comeback, though, since he has managed to land a nomination for his work on The Muppets.
|Everything's coming up Figwit!
Here's the video for "Man Or Muppet," which gives away a cameo in the film that is best left unspoiled, so you have been warned.
And here's the one for "Real In Rio," so you know what to hate if it beats "Man Or Muppet":
Delight no. 2: The Dean from Community is now an Oscar nominee
|Yes, it's a lot to take in.
|We can laugh, but at least he had the sense to dress up as Catwoman before he won, unlike other Oscar winners I could mention.
Delight no. 3: The nomination for Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory in Best Documentary Feature
It feels wrong to use the word "delight" in regards to Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, the third and likely final film in Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's series of documentaries about The West Memphis Three, who were wrongly accused and convicted of ritually murdering three young boys in 1993. The story is a heartbreaking one of injustice and small-town arrogance that Berlinger and Sinofsky have followed doggedly since the mid-90s, but more than that, they have actively changed the nature of that story through their films. Their continued insistence on going over the case kept it in the public consciousness, no doubt fueling the campaign to have the case re-opened and the men's conviction overturned which, in a turn that would be ridiculed as unrealistic in a fictional film, happened last year, just as Purgatory was doing the rounds at film festivals. This nomination not only feels like worthy recognition of the great work that Berlinger and Sinofsky have done as documentarians for the past 15 years, but also of the fact that their work made a difference in the lives of three men who could easily have been lost completely.
Delight no. 4: A Separation getting a nod for Best Original Screenplay
It's rare for a foreign language film to break out of the ghetto created by the very existence of a Foreign Language category, and even rarer for such a film to be nominated for its screenplay because, well, it's all foreign, isn't it? You can't very well expect Academy members to recognise good writing if it isn't in English! (Odd tangent: This relates in some way to Pedro Almodovar, who won his only Oscar to date for writing Talk to Her in 2002. The lack of recognition for his similarly great The Skin I Live In is one of the few great bugbears I have about these nominations.) So for Asghar Farhadi's devastating story of what happens when an Iranian couple separates to be recognised for the great piece of work it is, and not merely for being great but foreign, is really wonderful. It probably won't win, but baby steps.
Delight no. 5: Chico & Rita getting an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature
It's no great secret that Pixar dropped the ball, creatively speaking, with Cars 2 (even if the film wound up doing fine commercially) and that failing has been confirmed with the Oscar nominations, since it has become the first Pixar feature not to be nominated for an Oscar in one form or another. That left one space open on the Animated Feature category, and I get the feeling that Chico & Rita, an animated film about the relationship between a pianist and a singer told over many years with jazz and the Cuban revolution forming a backdrop, was the film that snuck in to fill the gap. And a fine one it is, too. This is exactly the sort of film that the Academy should be recognising all the time; small, personal and beautiful.
Delight no. 6: Nick Nolte and Christopher Plummer getting Supporting Actor nominations
|Plummer, pictured, informs Arthur that he has scandalously been snubbed for Best Supporting Dog
|Nick Nolte: was he acting in Warrior or did he just happen to be around when the cameras started? We may never know.
Delight no. 7: Gary Oldman getting his first ever Oscar nomination, a mere 30 years into his career
|Cheer the fuck up already! You've got a nomination, what more do you want? A parade? Not very spy-like behaviour, wanting a parade, is it?
Delight no. 8: Rooney Mara's nomination for Best Actress
|She'll catch her death walking around like that in Sweden. Mental.
Delight no. 9: The love for Moneyball
|A mathematician if ever there was one.
I wish I knew enough about the sport to end this segment on a baseball metaphor, but I'm afraid I don't, so here we are.
Delight no. 10: The love for The Artist
|Yeah, I know I've used this image before but it's taken me two hours to put this whole thing together and I just want it done with now. Also, they so charming.