It seems like every time a movie musical comes out, we have to endure these—the tacked-on song written just for the movie version of the musical. A few years ago, when Phantom of the Opera came out, we got a song called “Learn to be Lonely“. And now that Les Mis is here, we get another—Suddenly, sung by hugh Jackman. Tom Hooper claims that he thought the “one thing” that was missing from the stage musical was a song showing how important Cosette was to JeanValJean. Hence this rather bland, uninspiring, and altogether needless song. But I think everyone knows the real reason Hooper felt the need to squeeze in exactly one more song into an already overstuffed movie—he wanted to a Best Song nomination. This tactic is so blatantly shameless, it’s laughable—and the worst thing about it is that it works. That mediocre Phantom of the Opera song got its Best Original Song nomination, and this too. And as long as the Academy panders to this sleazy awards-grabbing, we the poor audience will have to sit through many more “Suddenlys” in the years to come. The worst thing about this whole business is that I doubt half the members of the Academy even listened to “Suddenly”. It’s almost as if they decided beforehand that Les Mis, beinbg a musical, would have to have a music nomination. Never mind that the song is completely forgettable, and that there are far better contenders out there, like Django Unchained’s “Who Did That to You?” or the Hunger Games’ “Abraham’s Daughter.” Never mind any of that. It seems the Academy still has a soft spot in its heart for shoehorned-in, awards-grubbing songs.
- No Nominations for “Wallflower?”
Ok, this movie had its flaws—strange pacing towards the end, a plot that didn’t quite mesh together—but seriously, no nominations? Not a single itty bitty single one? There is no excuse for this. I mean, in my opinion, Wallflower is better than at least two and probably more of the Best Picture nominees this year (Django Unchained and Les Miserables). When it comes to Wallflower being better than Les Mis, it seems the critics would agree with me (Wallflower has a 10 percentage point lead over Les Mis on Rotten Tomatoes, for what it’s worth). But it didn’t even have to come to choosing one over the other. Because the Academy has 10 Best Picture nomination slots, and this year there are only nine Best Picture nominees. So it’s almost as if the Academy went out of its way to snub this movie. Would it have hurt to give that tenth slot to a movie that was really quite good? Even if the answer is no, the film had good cinematography, an excellent supporting actor performance from Exra Miller, and a killer screenplay. Snubbing this movie so thoroughly is a pretty questionable move. I mean heck, even Prometheus got a nomination, even if it was just visual effects.
- Hugh Jackman as Best Actor
I liked Les Mis, but it has to be the most over-nominated movie of the year. Hugh Jackman as best actor? The guy who refused to sing any of his solos in the movie version of “the most beloved musical of all time?” Jackman was a good actor, too, but his performance was decidedly lacking in subtlety and, not to belabor the point, singing. Which, considering the material and his background in musical theater, is a pretty glaring omission. Jackman seemed content to sob his way through the movie, apparently viewing his stirring musical numbers as exercises in spoken-word poetry. Yes, he was a good JeanValean—but best actor? Giving him a nomination just encourages future musical actors to speak their parts, and really, who wants that?
- Best Original Screenplay—Django Unchained
I hate to rag on Django Unchained this much, because it definitely had a lot of things going for it. But really, was one of those things its screenplay? I could see arguments for best actor, best cinematography, best director even, but the script? What exactly was good about the screenplay? Was it the story? The scintillating dialogue? The complex characterization?
No; it was none of these things. The story was almost insultingly simplistic—good guy rescues wife from bad guy. The worst thing about it all is that as I watched the trailer,I thought of a dozen different directions the movie could go. What if Django found his wife only to discover she actually liked Calvin Candie, either because of Stockholm Syndrome or because they’d developed a relationship? What if Django found his wife dead, but discovered she’d left a child behind, and had to choose between saving the child and avenging her death? What if Django’s wife fell for the charismatic German doctor instead of Django? So many ideas, all full of more moral complexity and nuance than what made it to the screen. The real script of Django Unchained is chock full of plot holes and inconsistency. Why does Django need to pretend to be a black slaver at all? Why doesn’t he just walk up th the mansion and ask to buy his wife for twelve thousand dollars? Why does Calvin Candie, the racist plantation owner, let Django sit at his table?
So maybe the plot isn’t that great, but what about the dialogue? Well, I’m pretty sure that a racist southerner being tortured by a black man could have dictated all the dialogue for this film, since half of it is anguished screaming and the other half is the word ‘nig***.’ Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But in truth, this is the weakest Tarantino screenplay I’ve seen, and they probably just handed him a nomination because he’s well, Tarantino. There seems to be a sort of “Emperor’s New Clothes” phenomenon going on at the Oscars this year, where the Academy nominates what they expected to be great, instead of what actually is. No one wants to be the person to point out that some of the movies out there, despite the loads and loads of hype and media attention, just aren’t as deserving as everyone thought they would be.
5. Zero Dark Thirty for Everything
For all I know, Zero Dark Thirty is a great movie. It probably is. But I don’t know, because I haven’t seen it. And I haven’t seen it because it didn’t come out in 2012. Oh, sure, technically it was released somewhere, but it didn’t receive wide release until 2013. This ties in to my major criticism of the Oscars—all the movies they honor come out so late in December it undermines the credibility of the Academy Awards. Were there really no good movies earlier in the year? Nonsense. But it’s also a problem that filmmakers are allowed to jam-pack all the awards-bait movies into a single month. Zero Dark Thirty took this to an extreme, trying to get the best of both worlds by being released at a time when it could avoid the awards-season crush and not have to compete with big movies like Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi, but also be eligible for its coveted Best Picture oscar. But how fair is it to honor a film that people could only see in 2013 as being the best of 2012? It just feels wrong. The Academy should change its rules to make sure this doesn’t happen again—and they should start honoring movies that came out in months besides November and December.
Coming soon: Argo Review