Another year, another set of Oscar nominations, another bunch of snubs. But if you’re still pissed about Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg and Christopher Nolan getting robbed then consider this: in 2011, we got off light. Over the last ten years the Academy Awards have somehow overlooked mindbogglingly grand achievements in film, from Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive to Guy Pearce in Memento to Paul Giamatti in American Splendor to bizarre Best Picture omissions like Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93 and In The Mood For Love.
The weirdest part? None of those shocking snubs even made our cut for the 10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of the Last Ten Years. Here are the Oscar omissions that ticked us off even more:
10. BEST ACTRESS: Nicole Kidman in The Others (2001)
Our first pick is a weird one since Nicole Kidman was actually nominated for Best Actress in the 2002 Academy Awards… for Moulin Rouge. And yet she still got robbed. The Oscar rules state that one actor can’t be nominated twice in the same category, so the Academy was forced to choose whether to nominate Kidman for her brilliant portrayal of a war widow going mad from grief in The Others or her broadly comedic embodiment of raw sexuality in Moulin Rouge. They picked the wrong one. Although great in Baz Luhrmann’s pop musical, she spent so much time performing that her actual performance was easy to overlook, and the Oscar ended up going to Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball. Berry’s acceptance speech was a memorable Oscar moment, but Kidman’s subdued performance in The Others would have made the race a real squeaker. Kidman would end up getting one of those “Sorry About Last Year” Academy Awards in 2003 for The Hours instead.
9. BEST ACTOR: Sam Rockwell in Moon (2009)
Sam Rockwell had already gone from being “That Dancing Guy In Charlie’s Angels” to one of the most respected young(ish) actors working today, but Moon was still a revelation. Playing the best and most complex character of the year is one thing, but getting two of them on screen at the same time? Rockwell played a blue-collar worker manning a space station on the moon all by himself, or so he thought until one day he comes across his own clone. Inner struggle met outer struggle as the new Rockwell came face to face with his dying predecessor, and their duel to maintain their own identities – when clearly they have none – made it the most compelling performance of 2009. Rockwell was snubbed in favor of George Clooney in Up in the Air, Colin Firth in A Single Man, Morgan Freeman in Invictus, Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker, and of course Jeff Bridges, who took home the award for Crazy Heart. Rockwell probably would have been no match for the (repeatedly snubbed) Bridges come Oscar night, but his performance in Moon certainly belonged in such excellent company.
8. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Steve Buscemi in Ghost World (2001)
Steve Buscemi has never been nominated for an Academy Award. That’s tragic, particularly when you consider his unforgettable performance in Terry Zwigoff’s bittersweet adaptation of Dan Clowes’ Ghost World. The film stars Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson as recent high school graduates who decide it would be funny to respond to a “Missed Connections” ad and watch as the poor boob who wrote it twists in the wind. But the poor boob is Steve Buscemi, whose gaunt features and sad, world-weary expression inspire our heroines to learn more about this smart, funny, blues-loving misanthrope’s normal, yet still somehow inspiring daily life. Buscemi was at his best playing a man whose life is improved and later almost destroyed by these detached interlopers. He had stiff competition that year from the likes of Ethan Hawke in Training Day, Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, Ian McKellan in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Jon Voigt in Ali and the eventual surprise winner Jim Broadbent in Iris, but there’s no denying that Buscemi belonged amongst them in 2002… and got thoroughly snubbed.
7. BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Back before the Best Animated Feature category was considered an instant-win for Pixar, the award was a breath of fresh air with the clever (perhaps too clever) Shrek picking up the first Animated Feature Oscar and Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, um… spiriting away the second. But the 2004 nominations gave us the first great snub in the category’s history when it nominated the utterly forgettable Disney flick Brother Bear over the (now late) anime legend Satoshi Kon’s utterly unforgettable Tokyo Godfathers. The film, a modern remake of the 1948 film Three Godfathers, told the story of three homeless people – a failed father, teenaged runaway and drag queen – who find a baby on Christmas Eve and struggle to take care of the child and find its parents. Maybe it sounds like Three Men & A Baby, or maybe it sounds a little boring, but in Satoshi Kon’s adept hands the film is nothing short of a thrilling masterpiece, filled with more heart, laughs and jaw-dropping twists than you could fit in a grown bear… fraternal or otherwise. Finding Nemo probably would have won the award anyway, but a nomination would have elevated Satoshi Kon’s status in America to the extent that his next feature, the snubbed sci-fi mindbender Paprika, might have stood a chance in the category as well. Satoshi Kon was never nominated, and sadly died in 2010.
6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (tie): Sean Bean, Andy Serkis and Sean Astin in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
Somehow the Lord of the Rings movies got through three Oscar ceremonies with only one acting nomination between them, for Ian McKellan in Fellowship of the Ring. But these epics of epically epic epicness were host to a string of brilliant performances that kept Tolkien’s fantasies about hobbits and orcs and talking trees grounded in reality. Consider Sean Bean’s tragic portrayal of Boromir in Fellowship, whose downfall set in motion all the darkness and doubt that would define the films before his redemptive – and utterly badass – death. And then there’s Andy Serkis, whose unexpectedly unique motion-captured performance legitimized the technology’s artistic potential and became one of the most iconic roles of the decade. And of course there’s Sean Astin, a supporting player in the first two films whose innocence would be tested beyond reason in The Return of the King, ultimately anchoring the film with his thoroughly earned transformation into a true hero. The awards would finally be won by Jim Broadbent in Iris, Chris Cooper in Adaptation and Tim Robbins in Mystic River, most of which are fine performances, but none are likely to live as long in audience’s hearts as these underlauded thespians.
5. BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Scott Neudstater & Michael H. Weber for (500) Days of Summer (2009)
The screenplay categories are usually pretty cool cats, recognizing independent or just plain quirky gems like In Bruges or Lars & The Real Girl when most of the other awards would prefer to pretend they didn’t exist. But everyone really dropped the ball in 2010 when the borderline revolutionary screenplay for (500) Days of Summer was completely snubbed for a nomination in favor of A Serious Man, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger, Up and the eventual winner The Hurt Locker. Fine screenplays all, but none galvanized an entire genre like Scott Neudstater’s and Michael H. Weber’s hilarious and deeply heartfelt examination of young love, made all the more remarkable for hitting all the right notes in an industry which reduces most love stories to “Meet Cutes” and wacky montages. The wry tale of a young man who falls in love with a woman who just isn’t that into him perfectly captures the conflict between romanticism and modern practicality, and the lessons learned are more infinitely complex – and true – than “Love Conquers All.” One of the best screenplays of the decade, completely snubbed.
4. BEST ACTOR: Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000)
Christian Bale earned his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of a drug-addicted former boxer in The Fighter. Wait, strike that. Christian Bale got his first Academy Award nomination for The Fighter… he earned it for American Psycho. In Mary Harron’s funny, sexy and wickedly disturbing adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel, Christian Bale played a 1980’s executive so detached from everyone around him that he becomes a fully functioning serial killer. Of course, everyone else is so detached that they don’t even notice. Bale’s self-absorbed performance is so absorbing that it elevated him to A-List status and permanently retired his former title of “That Guy From Newsies” forever. The Academy took no notice, instead nominating Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls, Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Ed Harris in Pollock, Geoffrey Rush in Quills and Russell Crowe, who took home another of those “Sorry About Last Year” awards for Gladiator after losing the Oscar for The Insider in 1999. All great performances, but there’s no denying that Bale got robbed.
3. BEST SONG: “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The biggest snubs aren’t always for the biggest categories. The 2006 Academy Awards considered so few original songs worthy of merit that only three were nominated: “In The Deep” from Crash, “Travelin’ Thru” from Transamerica and the obvious winner “It’s Hard Out There For A Pimp” from Hustle & Flow. In almost every other Oscar snub on this list we’ve been forced to acknowledge that the competition was stiff, but seriously… those first two songs kind of suck. “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was one of the movie highlights of the year, even if the rest of the film was something of a mixed bag. Taking a throwaway joke from the original novel/radio series and turning it into a show-stopping Broadway number was a brilliant way to open the film and refresh a decades-old gag with catchy aplomb. Just watch the clip and try not to hum it for the rest of the day. We dare you. If only someone had dared the Academy to nominate one of the best original songs of the decade…
2. BEST MAKEUP: Rick Baker for Planet of the Apes (2001)
Man, 2001 was a hell of a bad year for snubs wasn’t it? And yet as much as we wish Nicole Kidman, Steve Buscemi and Sean Bean had been nominated for the right awards none of them are as shocking as Rick Baker’s snub in the Best Makeup category. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes may have been a bad movie (or rather, a very bad movie), but the makeup effects are amongst the most impressive in film history, let alone 2001. Baker transformed familiar faces into thoroughly original creations and filled the screen with detailed prosthetics that are as believable as apemen can possibly get. From the way the prosthetic skin breathed to the subtle expressions in each actor’s face, there isn’t a single performer who didn’t evolve into a rich new creature. The Fellowship of the Ring won instead – not exactly a crime – but the strong yet comparatively uninspired nominees Moulin Rouge and A Beautiful Mind shouldn’t have stood a chance against Baker’s career-best work.
1. BEST PICTURE (tie): The Dark Knight and Wall-E (2008)
There have been more Oscar snubs in the last 83 years than we’d care to count, but how many of them actually inspired the Academy Awards to change? When the 2009 Academy Awards nominations were announced the biggest shock of all was when the two best and most popular films of the year were completely shut out of the Best Picture race in favor of stodgy historical Oscar-bait like Frost/Nixon and The Reader and an impressively filmed remake of Forrest Gump called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. But while the energetic Slumdog Millionaire took home the prize and Milk was worthy competition, the fact that the Academy didn’t think it had room to celebrate two of the best films of the decade in favor of “artsy” contenders proved that the time had come to reinvent the category. The following year the Academy announced that the Best Picture category would feature 10 nominees, giving excellent populist entertainment a chance to be nominated for a change. Pixar made it into the Best Picture race in both of the following years and Christopher Nolan’s Inception garnered a well-deserved nomination only today… but they remain ignored in the Best Director category. Maybe it’s time for another change…?