When young funnyman Jonah Hill’s name was announced in the Best Supporting Actor category at the official Oscar nomination ceremony in late January, there were “audible gasps” from the assembled reporters. It’s not that Hill is entirely undeserving of the honor. His work in Moneyball shows real range, and he’s already landed a Golden Globe nomination for the role as the number-crunching nerd Peter Brand. Perhaps the assembled intelligentsia were simply reacting to who got left out of the category. Clearly missing: a nod for longtime actor/comedian Albert Brooks, whose turn as a vicious crime lord in Nicolas Winding Refn’s existential action flick Drive was more than deserving of a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Bummed, but still in good humor, Brooks later Tweeted, “And to the Academy: ‘You don’t like me. You really don't like me.’ ”
The Hill/Brooks switcheroo wasn’t the only snub or surprise in this year’s list of Oscar-worthy performers. Melissa McCarthy’s name in the Best Supporting Actress category also drew vocal reaction from Oscar watchers. Her performance in Bridesmaids was certainly noteworthy, but her inclusion on the Oscar short-list meant young Shailene Woodley’s (deservedly praised) turn as George Clooney’s bitter daughter in The Descendants got ignored.
Perhaps the darkest horse in Sunday night’s race for the gold is Demián Bichir. He played a hardworking illegal immigrant father in Chris Weitz’ A Better Life. He’s a fine actor, but the film received little critical attention and all but vanished at the box office. It’s doubtful many Oscar viewers know who he is or what the film is about. It’s hard to guess what his ouster would have meant. Some Oscar bystanders took issue with Leonardo DiCaprio’s lack of a nomination for his role in J. Edgar. Clint Eastwood’s dutiful biopic wasn’t the most lauded film of the year, though, and much of DiCaprio’s performance can probably be chalked up to good makeup. Perhaps a better—though far less likely—choice might have been Andy Serkis’ amazing work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Watch some of the behind-the-scenes footage from that film, and you’ll understand what an amazing actor Serkis really is. (The man also provided “motion capture” acting for The Adventures of Tintin, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong). At the end of the day, though, it’s not all that surprising that Academy voters found it hard to nominate an actor who doesn’t actually appear on screen and doesn’t have any dialogue. (Well, there is one crucial word.)
“And to the Academy: ‘You don’t like me. You really don't like me.’ ”
Albert Brooks, Tweeting about not getting a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance in Drive
Steven Spielberg failed to get a Best Director nomination for his work on War Horse. In all honesty, it’s far from Spielberg’s best and he should feel lucky the film even made it into the Best Picture category. The failure of Spielberg’s motion capture-animated film The Adventures of Tintin to secure a spot in the Best Animated Feature category could be seen as a double snub. But that film was no Schindler’s List either. It’s removal made room for smaller, far more deserving fare like A Cat in Paris, Chico & Rita and ... Kung Fu Panda 2?
The category to draw the most viewer puzzlement, though, is this year’s positively anemic Best Original Song. Thanks to some bizarro rules, we’ll be watching “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets and “Real in Rio” from Rio be performed on stage ... and nothing else. Voters in this category are asked to watch actual film clips featuring the songs—meaning background songs or songs that run over credits get basically no attention. Voters then assign a point value from 1 to 10 for each song. Songs with less than an 8.25 average score aren’t even considered. Madonna’s Golden Globe-winning theme song from W.E.? Missing in action. Elton John’s work on Gnomeo & Juliet? Gone. Pink’s song from Happy Feet Two? Nowhere to be seen. Zooey Deschanel’s track from Winnie the Pooh? Nope. On the plus side, the lack of musical numbers leaves plenty more time for the suit from PricewaterhouseCoopers to explain the Oscar tabulation rules. Maybe he could sing them this year.