Final cut: The gems and stars left off the Oscars list

Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:28am EST
 

By Leonard Maltin

(Reuters) - If I could remove any word from Oscar conversations, it would be "snubbed." It's catchy and makes good headline fodder, but it implies that a cabal of Academy members sat in a room and consciously decided to ostracize this actor or that moviemaker. These ballots are filled out by 6,000 to 7,000 voters, ranging from visual effects experts to screenwriters to studio chiefs. I can't envision secret meetings to decide the fate of each candidate.

Jamie Foxx ("Django Unchained") and veteran French star Jean-Louis Trintignant were both considered serious contenders for a Best Actor nomination; neither made the final cut, even though Trintignant's co-star in "Amour," Emmanuelle Riva, was nominated for Best Actress. At one point, the gifted John Hawkes was touted as a shoo-in for his brilliant performance in "The Sessions." But I've learned never to use the word "shoo-in" where the Oscars are concerned.

There were fewer surprises in the Best Actress category, although some pundits had predicted Helen Mirren for "Hitchcock," Marion Cotillard for the French import "Rust and Bone" and Rachel Weisz, who won the New York Film Critics' award, for "The Deep Blue Sea." As it happens, they took a collective backseat to the youngest female ever nominated in this category, 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") and the oldest, 82-year-old Riva.

The always-crowded Supporting Actor and Actress rosters excluded such prominent figures as Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Maggie Smith, while admitting Philip Seymour Hoffman for what is clearly a leading role in "The Master."

But the biggest buzz concerns this year's Best Director lineup. Experienced Oscar watchers could see this brewing, as the current Oscar setup has a built-in dilemma. To understand it, one need only do the math: With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences now enabling nine films to compete for Best Picture -- in fact, they allow as many as 10 -- but retaining only five slots for Best Director, at least four world-class filmmakers are guaranteed to be left out in the cold. How those four happened to be Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino this year is anybody's guess.

Only members of the director's branch get to nominate directors; that's an elite group of fewer than 400 people. The same constituency didn't cite Affleck for his terrific movie "The Town" a few years ago but did support Bigelow and Hooper, who went on to win for "The Hurt Locker" and "The King's Speech," respectively. They were early boosters of Tarantino, who won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for "Pulp Fiction" in 1994 and was nominated for Best Director for his last film, "Inglorious Basterds." It may be true that they've undervalued Ben Affleck, but there is no logic to the omission of the three other Best Picture directors.

What's more, the Academy's director lineup doesn't coincide with that of the Directors Guild of America, which historically, and almost invariably, has forecast the Oscar winner. But that was before the Academy opened up the Best Picture category beyond its traditional five slots, so now all bets are off. (For the record, this year's DGA nominees are Affleck, Bigelow, Hooper, Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg.)

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