When you look up the word "egregious" in future editions of Webster's Dictionary, there's an awfully good chance that there may be a picture of Mo'nique and Academy president Tom Sherak announcing the director category during this morning's Oscar nomination ceremony next to the definition.
For the second time in three years, perennial awards season bridesmaid Christopher Nolan was not included among the five directorial nominees despite overwhelming support for his work on INCEPTION from nearly every critic's circle in this country, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes and the DGA awards.
Now... this is frustrating enough on it's own. But it's especially confounding for 2 glaring reasons:
1. What Nolan achieved with INCEPTION is the whole reason the best director category exists in the first place. Say what you want to about the film, even those who may dislike it haven't been able to argue the fact that it's an enormous directorial coup, representing an all too rare occurrence of a filmmaker finding almost transcendental synergy (you heard me) between his vision and his finished project. Love it or hate it, this is a DIRECTOR'S picture. And even awards lists that have been dismissive of the film have still singled out Nolan for recognition.
2. THE WHOLE REASON WE HAVE A 10 FILM BEST PICTURE FIELD IN THE FIRST PLACE IS BECAUSE THE AMPAS MADE THIS EXACT SAME MISTAKE 2 YEARS AGO!!! Alright, granted, there were a handful of contributing factors for the shake-up of the best picture category. The Academy was trying to draw in a larger audience that wasn't interested in watching nichey, indie-fied "prestige films" compete for the gold. And they wanted to broaden the appeal to more "middle of the road" masses. Fine. But the major controversy that stirred the pot of discussion that led to the Academy entertaining the notion of revising the 5 film format was the embarrassing omission of THE DARK KNIGHT (a film that appeared on virtually every legitimate critic's top 10 list in 2008) and its lauded director from the categories they deserved to compete in. Danny Boyle would have probably still gone on to victory (and I take no issue with that). But give Nolan the nomination everyone seems to agree he deserved! I mean look back at the director category from 2008... go ahead, I'll wait... Have you watched THE DARK KNIGHT recently? I sure have. It's still great right? Fantastic even. When was the last time you felt the urge to revisit THE READER or FROST/NIXON? Exactly.
So here we are, exactly 2 years later. We now have a nice big 10 film cauldron that can accommodate everyone. From the billion dollar juggernaut TOY STORY 3 to tiny little WINTER'S BONE which, as of this week has done just over 6 million in worldwide box office receipts. And we have everything in between- FIGHTERs and BLACK SWANs and TRUE GRITs (oh my!). And the bright, hot center of this motley crew is stalwart INCEPTION- a movie that seems to play nice with almost everyone. It garnered resoundingly positive reviews, made boatloads and money and will, DUTIFULLY draw in more of those stubborn, disinterested demographics that the telecast producers want so badly they can taste them (how does a demo taste?). And despite the fact that the film is a long shot (at best) to win the big prize, what's the one thing the film had going for it that even haters couldn't take away from it- IT WAS REALLY WELL DIRECTED! "
"The guy's been snubbed before, he took it like a man, we felt so bad about snubbing him that we even massaged the rules a little bit so that there'd be less chance of us making the same mistake again, he went back to the drawing board and came up with another phenomenal film, debatably an even more impressively-directed film than the one we snubbed him for, plus it was a worldwide smash which will translates into more viewers and higher rating for our show, this sounds like a slam-dunk open and shut case, let's give the guy a fucking Oscar nomination!" RIGHT?!
I think I've figured it out. It's not that the Academy wants Nolan or doesn't want Nolan or wants mainstream films or doesn't want mainstream films or wants credibility or doesn't want credibility. Or just simply wants ratings for the big show...
It's that the Academy DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT.
And therein lies the problem that shows no sign of going away anytime soon.
Becoming emotionally invested in Oscar nominations is like dating a schizophrenic, co-dependent, cuckolding, narcoleptic bulimic who only likes to take her birth control pills on the odd-numbered days of the month.
In other words, it's a thankless, exhausting task. And I wish I knew how to quit her.
-Matt Knudsen 1/25/11