Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Surprise Inclusion of 2007

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 2007:

Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah) for Best Actor

Why it wasn’t going to happen: Despite being touted early on as a contender, along with supporting actress Susan Sarandon, Jones didn’t earn any major precursor nominations. Four actors were nominated for both the Golden Globe and SAG in the leading actor category – George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Ryan Gosling, and Viggo Mortensen – with plenty of others who earned just one of the two – Johnny Depp, Emile Hirsch, James McAvoy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Denzel Washington – in the running. There simply wasn’t any room for Jones.

How it happened: While Gosling didn’t make the final cut, his spot was taken by Depp, whose SAG snub came as a surprise and was likely due to the film not having been screened by voters. Jones was able to sneak in by taking Emile Hirsch’s spot, likely for two reasons. SAG nominee Hirsch was only twenty-two years old, and while Oscar voters sometimes make exceptions, usually they don’t honor younger actors. The 61-year-old Jones, by contrast, was an established actor and a two-time nominee and winner for 1993’s “The Fugitive.” Jorge Rodrigues reminds me that Jones also had the advantage of having a SAG nomination for his other big role that year - in eventual Best Picture winner "No Country for Old Men." For some inexplicable reason, “Into the Wild” also experienced an Oscar backlash, earning only two nominations, film editing and supporting actor. Hirsch got snubbed, and veteran actor Jones took his place.

Was it deserved? I would say so. While Hirsch’s performance was truly terrific and I’d gladly leave off one of the others – like Clooney – to make room for Jones, there’s no denying that Jones really is an excellent actor. Front and center in one of the first major films to deal with the war in Iraq, Jones performed commendably and helped make this underrated film one of the most powerful of the year.

Come back next week for a look at the Surprise Inclusion of 2006. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.


Jorge Rodrigues said...

Hah, I guessed it :D
But you gave a wrong title, it's the surprise inclusion of 2007 (Oscars 2008), isn't it?

And at the time it wasn't such a surprise to me to see Tommy Lee Jones nominated. He had a good year and between No Country and this one, I guess they were always going for the lead role one.

And Ryan Gosling and Émile Hirsch being left out didn't shock me that much since they're both very young and unless the performance is TOO great to ignore (and deals with the 'right' (appealing) subjects to the Academy (like 2007's nomination for Gosling for «Half Nelson») it was bound to happen. Even more if we take to account they were in a field full of heavyweights: Depp, Day-Lewis, Mortensen, Lee Jones, Washington, Seymour Hoffman, Clooney...

What I didn't understand was the lack of support behind James McAvoy. An interesting performance in a prestige pic, british, that dealt with war and had a stellar cast AND was a BP nominee? And he was the right age for the first nomination? What happened?

For me, anyway, the surprise inclusion of 2007 was Laura Linney. Well, not so much her inclusion but Jolie's snub. Almost NOBODY saw it coming.

Movies with Abe said...

I titled it wrong, yes. This is in fact 2007. I also somehow neglected Jones' SAG nomination for "No Country" that year, so I've added that in as well, with credit to you. I never quite understood why "Atonement" experienced such a backlash. James McAvoy should have been nominated and won for "The Last King of Scotland" in 2006, in my opinion.

Jorge Rodrigues said...

Thanks for the reference :)

Yeah McAvoy should've been nominated and won in 2006.