I do not care about the Oscars. James F. English, with your staggeringly well-articulated theories of not caring, I defy you. End of story. Really, I have zero investment. I mean it. Oscars, please go away.
But why—oh why oh why—was there no nomination for Oscar Isaac, an actor who seemingly came out of nowhere (thought not really) to give one of the most piercingly direct performances of the year? And no nominations in general—other than for Bruno Delbonnel’s gloriously evocative, free-wheelin’ cinematography—for Inside Llewyn Davis? Andrew, I’m with you. Heartbroken. Even though I don’t care. And what about perpetual shoo-in Tom Hanks? Is he not worth even a shoo this year? Did any of those jamokes even see Oprah Winfrey in The Butler? And how about the screenplay for Enough Said, which, as Dana and Mark have already noted, is that rare-as-the-Bengal-tiger beast, a script that was actually written and not cobbled together by a bunch of grimly determined plug-and-go WGA guys? And what’s Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, chopped liver?
I guess it’s dawning on me—even though I hasten to remind you that I don’t care—that this year I find the Academy’s choices puzzling in an energizing way. Scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning I found lots of people who felt as I did about certain movies and performances, and others who had favorites that, while they may not have been mine, were mainstream enough that they might have been recognized in any other normal year. Lacking from the conversation, refreshingly, are the usual cries of outrage along the lines of “How can the Academy be blind to the stellar achievement that is Efrem Thimgold’s riveting documentary, The Suffering of the Corn?” This year, the nominated choices are just interesting enough to make the Academy not seem like a bunch of losers, yet their omissions hint that loserdom is still within their grasp. We can respect them, a little, but still have fun identifying all the ways in which they still have no clue—everybody wins. I think this Oscar season will be uncharacteristically fun. And, I should add, I’m eager to see what Mark makes of all this.
Soon, we’ll have to talk about 12 Years a Slave. And that will not be so much fun.
But first, at the risk of sounding like one of those Suffering of the Corn people, I want to say how happy I am to see Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture nominated in the Best Foreign Language category. I saw The Missing Picture at Cannes last year—I went in knowing nothing, only to learn it was a memoir about life under the Khmer Rouge, enacted by clay dolls with voice-over narration. I confess, I didn’t find that promising. But I stayed, and in the end, I was destroyed. This strange, beautifully conceived little movie is so gentle-spirited that you almost don’t see until afterward how resolute and fearless it is. An Academy that can grasp its whispering, ghostly power, even to the point of just giving it a nomination, is OK in my book. For this year, at least.
Yours in trying to pretend not to care,