“ Proof is one of my favorite movies and Gwyneth gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” Harvey Weinstein e-mailed yesterday. “I’m really disappointed she was not nominated.”
“And come on, why is Scarlett Johansson unable to get a nomination?” fumed a former agent out in Los Angeles, not long after yesterday’s Academy Awards nominations were announced. “First Lost in Translation and now this. I just don’t get it!”
Let the post-announcement, pre–Jon Stewart games begin! Who got robbed?
Mira Sorvino strode across the Samuel Goldwyn Theater stage early Tuesday morning, rosily pregnant and looking unfairly fresh for 5:30 a.m. West Coast time. Within five minutes, she and Academy president Sid Ganis managed to put an end to the months of guessing games, industry handicapping and hard-core promotional campaigns that are as much a part of the Oscar race as the crappy gold statue itself.
That brief reading of names was America’s real State of the Union address.
Ms. Sorvino also made some agents and publicists cry. Refund! Refund!, as Ms. Sorvino’s Oscar-winning character would have put it.
And while the assembled audience kept to the rules of keeping respectfully quiet as the names were announced, a few joyous whoos and smatterings of applause could be heard, like when Keira Knightley was announced as a contender for Best Actress for her work in Pride and Prejudice, and when Crash— ugh!—was named in the Best Picture category. (Oh, come on: Can you name anyone who liked it?)
So, too, there was a strange huh-like head-scratching pause when Munich—a picture up till now mainly ignored by critics and dismissed by pissy audiences—was called. Munich? It’s the feel-bad movie of the winter! And as Ms. Sorvino and Mr. Ganis left the podium, as a nation we together entered that horrible lull between nominations and wins, in which we must ask: How the hell did he, she or it not get nominated?
Peter Jackson’s publicist, Carol Marshall, who had dutifully woken up to watch the announcements while simultaneously instant-messaging with Mr. Jackson’s personal assistant in New Zealand, later admitted her disappointment over the lack of King Kong nominations. “Genius often does get overlooked,” she sighed on behalf of her client, who of course regularly cleaned house with nominations for his Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Ms. Marshall hadn’t yet spoken with Mr. Jackson but was confident he would take it in stride. “He’s not bitter; he’s realistic. He kind of saw how it was going to go. He’s extremely proud of the film that he made. He pushed the envelope with The Lord of the Rings, and he pushed it even further with King Kong. He made everyone love that monkey.”
Well, O.K., we totally did love that monkey, at least—but the voting members of the Academy didn’t, apparently. And Mr. Jackson wasn’t the only former heavyweight to be overlooked this year. Former winners Renée Zellweger and Russell Crowe were both left off the list, perhaps tainted by what one Hollywood macher described as “the stench of failure” from Ron Howard and Cinderella Man’s abysmal box office. (Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti got a Best Supporting Actor nod for the same film? Really? And not Craig Bierko? Just because Mr. Giamatti’s schlumpy doesn’t mean he’s always great!)
Woody Allen, after surely enjoying the critics falling all over themselves to herald his great comeback with Match Point, was ignored in the major Best Director and Best Picture categories. Robbed, sure—but he’ll make do with breaking his own record with his 14th nomination for Best Screenplay. (And let’s not bring up Ms. Johansson again—we’ll just get cranky!)
Hey! What about Shirley MacLaine in the Best Supporting Actress category? If Shirley MacLaine can’t get a nomination with what seemed to be a shoo-in Academy-pleasing performance as a crusty but loveable grandmother in the admittedly light-in-its loafers In Her Shoes, what is left to believe in? If nothing else, think of the acceptance speech we’re being denied!
“The sad thing about Shirley MacLaine,” said her long-time publicist Dale Olson yesterday, “is that it was one of the best performances she’s given in recent years, in a film that did absolutely no business and, as a result, had very little support—and, I think, was not seen by enough people. And so I don’t think enough people saw it to nominate her.
“Shirley MacLaine is an icon,” Mr. Olson continued. “Shirley MacLaine was fabulous in that, and also in Rumor Has It. She was not fabulous—well, she was when she was on the screen!—in Bewitched. But unfortunately, all three pictures tanked.” (Not to worry: Ms. MacLaine has a bazillion films out next year.) Mr. Olson also signed on to a few other robberies. “Viggo Mortensen probably gave the best performance I have seen in a motion picture in as long as I can remember in A History of Violence …. Bill Hurt got a nomination for a rather bizarre, overly done performance in that film, but Viggo Mortensen is probably the premier actor in the business. The other person I think should have been nominated is Scarlett Johansson from Match Point.” Hey, we agreed not to talk about that anymore!
(Look, over there! There go those poor adorable fox-trotting waifs from Mad Hot Ballroom! Clearly Hollywood has it in for New York City. Stupid penguins!)
And exactly how did Laura Linney get snubbed for her work in The Squid and the Whale? Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger? And, O.K., fine, shouldn’t there be some sort of award for Naomi Watts’ heroic attempts to interact with C.G.I.? A Blue-Screen Oscar?
“Naomi made us believe that relationship was there. I like Keira Knightley a lot,” said Ms. Marshall. “But I didn’t think that movie was all that magnanimous.”
King Kong isn’t alone among big-budget films with big-budget people that didn’t get the annual pat on the head. Say what you will about George Lucas’ final installment in the Star Wars series, but we’re sure that at Skywalker Ranch, someone’s getting fired over how they got shut out of every technical category except makeup.
Meanwhile, the Colin Farrell curse seems to have overtaken the revered Terrence Malick: Couldn’t the hot, sweet loving given to it by Times film critic Manohla Dargis have gotten The New World something besides a Best Cinematography nomination? And while mainstream actors like Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix were predictably rewarded for their work in Walk The Line, the picture—which had won in the Best Comedy/Musical category at the Golden Globes—was a gaping hole in the Best Picture lineup. “Audiences showed us early on that smart movies were really going to rule this year,” said veteran publicist Donna Daniels, who was having a very good nominations day yesterday. Her client, Sony Pictures Classics, cleaned up: Not only was Capote up for Best Picture, it also received nominations for Best Director, Best Actor—front-runner Philip Seymour Hoffman—and a nod for Catherine Keener as Best Supporting Actress. Joining Ms. Keener in the Best Supporting Actress category is the previously unknown Amy Adams in the little-seen pic Junebug, also from Sony Pictures Classics. “I think when the audiences react, the industry takes notice,” Ms. Daniels said.
Still, the deeper you look at the year in movies, the more you think, “Hey, they did get robbed!” Festival darling Breakfast On Pluto was missing from the list, and so was its star, the insanely talented Cillian Murphy. A History of Violence, with well-praised performances from Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello (who received the Best Supporting Actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle this year)—not to mention director David Cronenberg—was also ignored. Similarly, The Constant Gardener, which looked to be an early favorite for best picture, director and actor, had to make due with Rachel Weisz’s supporting nomination. (Yay, her! But poor Fernando Meirelles! And … well, we won’t worry about Ralph Fiennes too much.)
And then there’s the conundrum of who did get chosen. Crash, a movie that trod well-traveled ground from similar films like Grand Canyon or the epic frog-dropping Magnolia, seems to be a film only beloved by people who actually live in the greater Los Angeles area. But the film, which preached the all-important lesson that everyone’s just a little bit racist, has gained momentum and is now ensconced in the big five categories and may even in the future be responsible for the most terrifying introduction of all: Oscar winner Matt Dillon.
Oh, but we’ll take some of it. Actors’ actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and David Strathairn are deservedly being honored for Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck. George Clooney, suddenly everywhere, will face off against his former Facts of Life co-worker, Crash’ s Paul Haggis, in the best director and screenplay categories in addition to Best Picture. And, of course, no 2006 Oscar story would be complete without the triumphant ascension of Ang Lee’s Ô, which led the whole rabid pack with eight nominations—everyone involved except poor Anne Hathaway, who should feel pissed off after all that she did to her hair in that flick, seemed to get a shout this morning.
“You watch the ratings for this year’s Oscars,” said the former agent. “Do you really think America is going to tune in to watch a movie about gay cowboys that only made like $50,000?” (O.K., come now: $44 million. But we hear ya!)
No Scarlett Johansson? Really? It wasn’t a dream? Screw it, we’re canceling the Oscar party.