There are Oscar snubs and there are Oscar surprises. When Albert Brooks won four critics awards this year but failed to earn an Oscar nomination, it was clearly a snub. But, since he had failed to earn a SAG or BAFTA nomination, it wasn’t actually that much of a surprise to those of us who were paying attention. There are certain indicators that are more important than others when you’re trying to guess what the Academy will do. The Globes have long been the one the major media sources pay attention to. But SAG has always been a better barometer for acting and given that all nine Best Picture nominees were also Broadcast Film Critics Association nominees, it’s time people really paid more attention to the Critic’s Choice Awards.
So, I’m going to take a quick tour through the major categories and mention whether I think any of this year’s prominent non-nominees are worthy of either the term “snub” or “surprise.” So that’s Picture, Director, the four acting, the writing and Animated Film. I won’t be doing Best Foreign Film because it’s hampered by the idiotic Academy rules. True, of the Top 20 films all-time in awards points specifically for Foreign Film, five of them were nominated for the Oscar and failed to win (in descending points order: Farewell My Concubine, Raise the Red Lantern, Pan’s Labyrinth, Amores Perros, Ridicule) and for that the general membership can be blamed. But of those Top 20, 9 of them weren’t even nominated and 8 of those weren’t submitted, so blame the Academy rules (Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days is the only film in the Top 20 submitted but not nominated).
A brief word on what I mean when I talk about points and when I talk about percentages. Points come from 11 sources: the six major critics groups (New York Film Critics, LA Film Critics, Boston Society of Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics and the National Board of Review) and the five major awards groups (the Oscar, the Golden Globes, the major guilds, the BAFTAs and the Broadcast Film Critics Association). Wins are worth double the points of a nomination and all critics awards are wins. Since there are far more groups than there used to be, I total up all the points in a category and figure out what percentage of the points someone / some film got. That allows for a better historical analysis.
Mulholland Drive has the most points for Best Picture not to earn a nomination, having won four critics groups (NYFC, BSFC, NSFC, CFC) and earning Globe and BFCA nominations. But Almost Famous had broader support, winning critics awards in Boston and Chicago, earning BAFTA, PGA and BFCA nominations and winning the Globe for Comedy. It was passed over for Chocolat whose only previous nomination was its loss in the Comedy category to Almost Famous at the Globes. Almost Famous also won Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, so it clearly had Academy support, just not enough.
This year, there wasn’t any particular egregious snub. I know a lot of the media is complaining about the lack of a nomination for Bridesmaids. But it really didn’t have that much support behind it. In fact, no film had a lot. The only non-nominee to win Best Picture at one of the six critics awards was Melancholia and it had nothing from any of the awards groups. Plus it won the National Society of Film Critics, the awards group least like the Academy (of its 46 winners, only 19 have been nominated and only 4 – Annie Hall, Unforgiven, Schindler’s List and Million Dollar Baby have won the Oscar). In terms of the four awards groups, 7 films received nominations from at least three of them and all 7 were nominated. The last two (Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) were both nominated by the BFCA, which has become the best barometer for the Oscar nominations for Best Picture in the last decade. Since 1996, when the BFCA started its nominations, only 6 films have been nominated by the Academy without a BFCA nomination. Now that there aren’t 10 guaranteed nominees, look to the BFCA as the best guess for what will be nominated. The only BFCA nominee not to make it in was Drive, which clearly the Academy didn’t go for at all.
The film that probably came the closest was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It had broad guild support (9 nominations), and it did what The Dark Knight did and was thought to never happen again after the Academy expanded the list of nominations – earned guild nominations from the PGA, DGA and WGA but earned nominations from none of those at the Academy. In fact, of the 8 films to earn those three major guild nominations and not get a Best Picture nomination at the Academy, Dark Knight and Girl are the only ones not to at least get a Screenplay nomination, though, oddly, both had the most nominations in their respective years for a non-Best Picture nominee and both had more nominations than multiple Best Picture nominees. It might have been the darkness of the story (see the poster to the left, which I got from here (also where I got the poster of The Help, below) and is hilarious), but that might have been countered by the new system. Even a highly divisive film like Tree of Life or Extremely Loud can get in if you get that 5% of first place votes.
This one’s not even close, of course. Ang Lee in 1995 for Sense and Sensibility: three critics wins (New York, Boston, NBR), DGA, BAFTA and Globe nominations. And him not going nominated probably killed the film’s chances at winning Best Picture. And lead to Braveheart winning, which is even worse. Next is Woody Allen for Manhattan, who won the NSFC and NYFC and was DGA and BAFTA nominated. As I mentioned after the DGA nominations, Allen has three times been nominated by the Academy without a DGA nom and here was nominated for the DGA but not the Oscar.
This year, this isn’t really a director who’s snubbed. Of the DGA, Globes, BAFTAs and BFCA, only one director who wasn’t nominated by the Oscars earned more than one nomination. That was Nicholas Windin Refn for Drive (BAFTA and BFCA noms) and since his film was almost completely ignored (had it not earned that Sound Editing nomination it would have had 731 awards points without an Oscar nomination, shattering the old record of 534 points held by Scenes from a Marriage) it’s hard to say that he was particularly snubbed.
In terms of percentage, the biggest snub in Oscar history is Ralph Richardson for The Sound Barrier in 1952. He won the New York Film Critics, National Board of Review and the BAFTA. He is the only actor to win the Consensus Award without getting an Oscar nomination. Until 1977, he was the only winner of the NYFC to fail to earn an Oscar nomination. He is still the only person to win both the NYFC and NBR and not get an Oscar nom (out of 16 actors).
In terms of points, the biggest snub is Paul Giamatti for Sideways. He won the NYFC, the Chicago Film Critics and earned SAG, Globe and BFCA nominations. Giamatti was also the lead in a Best Picture nominee, making it an extra big snub.
Michael Fassbender would constitute a snub, but not that much of a surprise. He had failed to earn a SAG nomination. He’s also much younger than Gary Oldman and the full-frontal nudity probably didn’t help his cause in this case. For Oldman, a key part of two huge franchises in the midst of ending (Harry Potter and Batman), this is a nice pleasure. As for the Demian Bichir nomination? Pay attention to the SAG nominees people.
The biggest snub by far is Sally Hawkins in 2008 for Happy-Go-Lucky. She won the NYFC, LAFC, NSFC, BSFC and the Globe – Comedy. Yet, somehow she was excluded from SAG, BAFTA and the Oscar. Given those previous exclusions (especially since she’s British), it wasn’t that big a surprise that she wasn’t nominated, but it was one hell of a snub.
Tilda Swinton’s snub (and yes, it is a snub) isn’t quite up there, but it is near the top. Since 2001, there have been five awards groups giving out nominations – the Oscars, BAFTAs, SAG, Globes and BFCA. Swinton is the only person in any of the four acting categories to be nominated by the first four and fail to get an Oscar nomination. And yet, I was somehow not surprised. It seems strange, since she was bounced by Rooney Mara, but something about the dark nature of We Need to Talk About Kevin made me think the Academy wouldn’t go for it. Indeed, it has more awards points than any other film this past year not to receive any Oscar nominations.
Best Supporting Actor:
Albert Brooks takes the cake here. He won four of the six critics awards (NYFC, National Society of Film Critics, Boston, Chicago) and earned Globe and BFCA nominations. But, key of keys, he failed to earn a SAG nomination. He also failed to earn a BAFTA nomination, even though Drive was nominated for Best Picture. In fact, of the four biggest snubs, all of them failed to earn SAG noms – Brooks, Steve Buscemi for Ghost World in 2001, Bill Murray for Rushmore in 1998 and Christopher Plummer for The Insider in 1999. They all won three critics awards and all but Plummer were nominated for the Globe, but it stopped there. And Brooks was replaced by Max von Sydow, who had no precursors, whereas the others were all bounced for someone who either had at least a SAG or Globe nom. Prior to the BAFTA and Oscar nominations, Brooks actually was in the lead for the consensus. Now, Christopher Plummer is likely to sweep the remaining awards. Everyone sees this as a big sweep, but Plummer’s consensus win will actually be less impressive than any of the last four winners, all of whom swept (or almost swept) the awards groups and won more critics awards.
Prior to Brooks, the highest percentage snub was Robert Morley for Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe in 1978. He won the LAFC and NSFC and earned a Globe nomination.
Best Supporting Actress:
The biggest snub wasn’t a snub. That’s the crux of the problem. Mona Washburne earned four critics awards as well as Globe and BAFTA nominations for her performance in Stevie. But, here’s the problem. She won the LA Film Critics Award and earned the two nominations in 1978, when the film was initially released and was Oscar eligible. It bombed, did nothing and disappeared and Washburne’s awards, though good, were hardly something to scream about. But, then, three years later, when the film got pulled out of the mothballs and got a bigger release, she won awards from the New York Film Critics, Boston Society of Film Critics and National Board of Review. But by then, she was no longer eligible for the Oscar. This makes the biggest nub Cameron Diaz in Vanilla Sky in 2001. She won in Boston and Chicago and earned SAG, Globe and BFCA nominations.
As for Shailene Woodley getting snubbed, well she barely makes the Top 20 list. It is more glaring because of the major nominations for The Descendents, but hardly historic. It is also not surprising that a television actress moving into films not get an Oscar nomination right away – look at what her co-star Clooney had to do (Out of Sight, Three Kings, O Brother Where Art Thou) before he finally got a nomination.
On the other hand, with her four critics awards (NYFC, LAFC, NSFC, CFC) and 5 nominations (SAG, Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA), Jessica Chastain has clinched the all-time highest point spot for someone not winning the Oscar. Of course, she might still, but she’s lost head-to-head against Octavia Spencer twice already. Chastain just eeks out over Virginia Madsen in 2004 for Sideways (four critics wins, BFCA win, SAG, Oscar, Globe noms) and Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone in 2007 (same resume as Madsen).
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Drugstore Cowboy is the clear winner here of the biggest snub. It won three critics awards in 1989 (NYFC, LAFC, NSFC), yet got nothing from any of the awards groups. But the biggest surprise would probably be About Schmidt. It earned WGA and BFCA noms in 2002 and won both the LA Film Critics and the Golden Globe, yet somehow didn’t make it into the final Oscar list. It finished second in the consensus for that year above the actual Oscar winner, The Pianist. But the consensus winner that year, Adaptation, which won four critics awards (NYFC, BSFC, NBR, CFC) as well as the BFCA and BAFTA is one of the biggest nubs at the actual Oscars. It ties in overall points with Up in the Air (from 2009), but the latter film is the bigger shock. Up in the Air is one of only five films to win the WGA, Globe, BAFTA and BFCA, but unlike Traffic, Sideways, Slumdog Millionaire and The Social Network, Up in the Air failed to go on to win the Oscar.
The Help‘s absence from the Adapted Screenplay category isn’t that much of a snub – plenty of films have had more points. But it is rather surprising, given that of all the films to earn as many points for Adapted Screenplay and not get an Oscar nomination, only one of them, Jaws, was nominated for Best Picture. And, in a year of more Best Picture nominees, The Help was passed over for two films, Ides of March and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, that didn’t earn Picture noms. How odd is it that The Help and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close weren’t nominated for their Screenplays but were nominated for Best Picture? Well, since 2004, only one film had an adapted screenplay and was in that same position – The Blind Side.
It’s not really that surprising to me, though. I didn’t have it listed when I jotted down my predictions before the announcement. It plays on too many stereotypes and too many cliches. They got it right rewarding the acting and it was too unstoppable for Picture. But the Academy did a pretty good job with Adapted Screenplay.
Best Original Screenplay:
Nashville is the biggest snub of all-time here. It won the LAFC in 1975 and earned Globe, WGA and BAFTA nominations and earned an Oscar nomination for Picture but nothing for its script. It is one of only three films to earn Screenplay nominations from the Globes, WGA and BAFTA and not earn an Oscar nomination and the only one to earn a Best Picture nomination (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Mona Lisa are the other two).
This year the big film left out was 50/50 which earned WGA and BAFTA noms and won the NBR. That ranks in the Top 10 in historical snubs, especially as it was passed over for Margin Call, which had no previous nominations. But it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. After all, Seth Rogen was a co-star in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and the lead in Knocked Up, both of which earned WGA nominations but were passed over come Oscar time. Maybe the Academy just doesn’t like him. God knows I don’t.
Best Animated Film:
Until this year, there had never been a serious snub in this category. Every consensus #1 has won the Oscar. Every consensus #2 has been nominated for the Oscar. There have been some surprises (the nomination of Shark Tale in 2004, the nomination of Surf’s Up over The Simpsons Movie in 2007, the lack of nomination for Waltz with Bashir, especially since it was nominated for Foreign Film in 2008, the nomination of The Illusionist over Despicable Me last year). But this year brought a serious snub and surprise. We already knew that the animators don’t think of motion capture as real animation. They didn’t nominate Polar Express or Beowulf (not that I’m complaining). But The Adventures of Tintin was the only film other than Rango to get nominated at the PGA, Globes, BAFTA and BFCA and had actually beaten Rango at the first two. And Arthur Christmas had been nominated by all of them except the PGA.
The bigger problem here is the Academy rules. The number of nominees is determined by the number of eligible films. So last year, when there were five films that absolutely deserved nominations – Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Tangled and Despicable Me (I actually would have gone with the latter two over the previous two), only three films could be nominated. This year, when only two films stand up them all, they didn’t nominate one of them. So, the Oscar will go to Rango.