When it comes to the Oscars, the Academy’s missteps usually come in one of the six major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, and the four Actor/Actress awards. You remember, for instance, when Alan Arkin’s supporting role in Little Miss Sunshine won over Eddie Murphy’s in Dreamgirls. (The right choice, but an unpopular one.) Or when Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture; even Jack Nicholson mouthed “wow” when he opened that envelope back in 2006.
This year, however, the Academy pretty much nailed the six big categories. Sure, putting Tommy Lee Jones up for Best Actor was unexpected, but that nomination is nothing if not deserved. And yes, there was a little too little Into the Wild and way too much Michael Clayton. But those things considered, the Academy did a good job of recognizing the year’s best films and performances.
So where did it drop the ball? In all those categories that no one second-guesses. Some of this year’s noms for the technical Oscars are just abysmal, almost to the point of embarrassment. After the jump are my picks for the most unforgivable Academy choices in those categories.
The Music. Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood did the score for There Will Be Blood. Critics have called it revolutionary, beautiful, terrifying, ominous and haunting — and if you saw the movie, you know what they’re talking about. Greenwood’s music scares you; combined with Daniel Day-Lewis’ deep-throated threats, it makes you pray for silence. The score redirects your pulse.
So it’s accurate to call the Academy heartless for leaving Greenwood out of the nominees for Best Original Score. Technically, they disqualified him because only 35 of his score’s 81 minutes were composed specifically for the film. The other 46 minutes incorporate the work of Arvo Pärt and classical composer Johannes Brahm. But come on, Academy. I’d take two minutes of a Greenwood score over the entirety of Dario Marianelli’s work for Atonement (the likely winner).
And in that same category, the Academy stiffed Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam lead singer) for his score of Into the Wild. He was disqualified as well — but for a different reason than Greenwood. The Academy said that Vedder’s score was too song-based for a nomination. I won’t get into how ridiculous that is; suffice it to say that every single score is “song-based” by definition.
So how should the Academy repay its rejection of Vedder for too many songs in his score? A Best Original Song nomination, of course! Especially since his “Guaranteed” won the Golden Globe, right? Wrong. Vedder was left out of that category as well, in lieu of three nominations for songs from Enchanted. This blunder is particularly disturbing; if you’ve ever watched an Academy telecast, you know that it involves live performances of each song nominated for “Best Original Song.” (Remember Björk’s swan suit?) That means we’ll see a bunch of schmucks singing Amy Adams songs this year. Maybe we want those picket lines to stay…
Visual Effects. Everyone knows that this is the category for crappy films that look cool. (Case in point: the nom for The Golden Compass.) But this year, the Academy had a chance to nominate greatness in both filmmaking and visual effects, with a little movie called 300. Instead, it went with Transformers and Pirates. I’d rather have the Spartan warriors.
It took me a while to get used to Eddie Murphy’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 2007. I didn’t question his performance in Dreamgirls; rather, I was averse to acknowledge the work of an actor best known for roles as an L.A. cop and a wacky scientist in a fat suit. But I got over all that. On the other hand, I will never, ever, ever get over Norbit’s nomination this year for Best Makeup. That’s one blemish the Academy can never cover up. (Hey Academy, have you ever made a really big mistake?)