Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Surprise Inclusion of 2008

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Surprise Inclusion is the third in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed.

Each year, the Oscar nominations announcement presents several shocking names and films. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most surprising inclusion of all (in any category). It has nothing to do with personal opinion but rather with what was considered a surprise at the time compared with what most people were predicting. Once again, this is a film/director/actor whose nomination was unexpected.

The Surprise Inclusion of 2008:

“The Reader” for Best Picture

Why it wasn’t going to happen: Both 2008 films starring Kate Winslet earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Best Director along with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” In the subsequent stages of the Oscar race, both were replaced by “The Dark Knight” and “Milk” in the lineup for the DGA and PGA, and “The Dark Knight” took the final slot for Best Adapted Screenplay over both films. Just as it looked certain that Winslet would earn Oscar nominations for both films, it was just as certain that neither would make much of a splash elsewhere on the list of Oscar nominees.

How it happened: Even though “The Dark Knight” was looking like a sure thing to earn a nomination for Best Picture, many still suspected that Oscar voters wouldn’t be hip enough to reward a fantasy film about a superhero. Instead, this very traditional Oscar fare which also had to do with the Holocaust took its spot. What probably helped was that voters clearly preferred it to “Revolutionary Road,” bumping her “Reader” role up to lead and leaving the other film with a mere three minor nominations, while “The Reader” reaped five: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress, and Cinematography. Director Stephen Daldry also pulled off the amazing feat of earning his third nomination for Best Director – for his third film! Christopher Nolan, on the other hand, saw his previous films earn no more than two nominations apiece, and he had to settle for his latest getting eight but still not the top prize.

Was it deserved? Most people will probably tell you no. Whenever anyone discussed “The Reader” in most Oscar-related presentations, the big joke was that no one had seen it. If most people have since then (which they likely haven’t), it’s almost certain that they weren’t impressed and definitely didn’t think that it should have been nominated over fan favorite “The Dark Knight.” Consider also the Metacritic scores for each film: Batman earned an impressive 82, while "The Reader" failed with a 58.

Come back next week for a look at the Surprise Inclusion of 2007. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. Congratulations to G1000 for correctly predicting this week’s choice.


Greg Boyd said...

Well, this one was rather obvious. 2007, though, I don't have a clue about. There's so many different choices. It's my favorite year of this past decade in terms of the sheer amount of good movies.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

For 2007 I reckon there could be three that could be considered a surprise inclusion:

Laura Linney for The Savages
Tommy Lee Jones for In The Valley of Elah
Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild

Jorge Rodrigues said...

About The Reader/The Dark Knight debocle, I will not mutter a word.

It still aches my heart. And it's not just because of The Dark Knight.

My problem with the 2008 film year is more vast than this problem. The BP line-up was one of the weakest of the decade and it makes me cry when I think that the only film that deservedly belonged on the list (Milk) was, at one time, set for a snub.

The rest of the nominees are complete bullsh*t, Button, Slumdog and Frost/Nixon couldn't wipe the feet of the Blood/No Country/Atonement combo. Frost/Nixon, in particular, is the weakest BP nominee since Seabiscuit.

And then, when I thought we could have a bit of good taste with the inclusion of one of the critically acclaimed movies of the year (The Dark Knight/Wall-E/Rachel Getting Married/The Wrestler), we get The Reader.

And I liked The Reader. But I can't forgive the Academy for this mistake. I really can't. But I can't say I was surprised. Minghella and Pollack had died after all, Kate Winslet was set for the win, the Weinstein were behind it and it was about the Holocaust, only below Royalty Porn in Hollywood's list of favorites. It was bound to happen.

Greg Boyd said...

Hey, I liked "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" a lot. "Frost/Nixon" was pretty good too.

I'll agree, though, they weren't as good as some of the films that were left out. "WALL-E", "The Dark Knight", and "The Wrestler" were all masterpieces (yes, all three). They were all better than "Milk" (although "Milk" was excellent), "Nixon", and "Benjamin Button".

That's why you can't take the "Oscars" too seriously. After all, let's not forget they awarded "Rocky", "Forrest Gump", and "The Greatest Show on Earth" with Best Picture in their respective years.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Yeah G1000, I also liked Button and Frost/Nixon. My only problem is its lack of quality when compared to SO many other titles in 2008.

It's not as if it was a terrible year for movies. But yeah, people who give BP Oscars to Rocky and Forrest Gump and nominate crap like Seabiscuit and Chocolat and Finding Neverland don't really know what they do :D