The Movie Club

No Love for Paul Thomas Anderson? Or Wes Anderson?
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 10 2013 11:11 AM

The Movie Club

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No love for Paul Thomas Anderson? Or Wes Anderson?

Quvenzhane Wallis as "Hushpuppy" and Dwight Henry as "Wink" in Beats of the Southern Wild.
Quvenzhane Wallis received a surprise Best Actress nod for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Photo by Je/Fox Searchlight.

Dear Dana, Wesley, and Stephanie,

Was I the only one who liked Ben Affleck’s performance in Argo? I thought he nicely conveyed a guy able to fool the world by projecting confidence even while panicking behind the eyes. That said, I didn’t expect him to get nominated for his performance. I did expect him to get a directing nod, however, and his exclusion was just one bizarre omission in a category filled with them. Part of me, the mean part, was thrilled that Tom Hooper wasn’t included, but beyond the shutting out of Bigelow and Tarantino there’s also the shunning of Andersons Wes and Paul Thomas. I don’t have strong objections to those who did get nominated, though. I thought Beasts was remarkable and Zeitlin’s nomination is the kind of unexpected acknowledgment that we don’t see that often. So, if I were swapping out directors, I’d probably pull Lee and Russell. I admire both and liked their 2012 films, but I wouldn’t rank them among their best work.

Speaking of unexpected nominations: Quvenzhané Wallis. Did anyone see that coming? Kind of neat to have a year with both the oldest and youngest Best Actress nominees. I suspect Wallis’ nomination will provoke a lot unnecessary handwringing about how much she’s responsible for her own performance, so can we just decree as the Movie Club Council of Elders that all that really matters is what makes it to the screen?

I hate to dwell on the negative, but let’s circle back to the snubs a bit, since that seems to be the story more so this year than in most. I’d love to have seen The Master and Moonrise Kingdom nominated for Best Picture. I didn’t love The Sessions, but why not sub in John Hawkes for Hugh Jackman? Nothing against the Wolverine, but he’ll almost certainly have more satisfying work ahead of him. And, as you noted, Dana, there were several performances in Django Unchained that deserve greater attention (and might have cut through some of the pastiness). I’m not that surprised that Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get nominated, though. I suspect that performance simply made too many people uncomfortable.

If I can pull back and get big picture, even in a year without so many odd snubs I always find this process more frustrating than joyful. (To say nothing of the dread stirred by Seth MacFarlane’s preview of his podium work. When in doubt, make a Hitler joke then sell it with a smirk.) We’ve been talking about 2012 films all week and it’s been a pleasure to hash out the year with you smart, articulate people. But now this comes along and reshapes the landscape. It was already impossible to talk about Zero Dark Thirty without addressing The Controversy and now it becomes impossible not to talk about The Snub. Where we might have been cheering the acknowledgment of Rachel Weisz’s work in Deep Blue Sea or Ann Dowd’s in Compliance they now drop out of the conversation, no longer part of the official story. At least until after the awards are handed out and everyone starts forgetting who won them a few weeks later.

Keith

Keith Phipps is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor specializing in film and other aspects of pop culture.

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