Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Surprise Inclusion of 2006

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 2006:

“Letters from Iwo Jima” for Best Picture

Why it wasn’t going to happen: Director Clint Eastwood earned twin Golden Globe nods for directing for this and his English-language version of the story from the American perspective, “Flags of our Fathers.” Because “Letters” wasn’t in English, it was relegated to the Best Foreign Film category at the Golden Globes, where it took home the award. The Oscars require stricter standards for their foreign films, so the film wouldn’t be eligible in that category. Eastwood lost the Globe to Martin Scorsese, and failed to pick up a DGA nod. The PGA and DGA lists boasted the same five films – “Babel,” “The Departed,” “Dreamgirls,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “The Queen” – all of which seemed primed to earn Oscar nods for Best Picture.

How it happened: “Dreamgirls” experienced a shocking backlash, snubbed in the Best Picture and Best Director races but still earning eight nominations. It seems the power of song wasn’t as influential as Eastwood, who had previously helmed three Best Picture nominees, two of which had taken home both Best Picture and Best Director. While reviews hadn’t been universally strong for “Flags of our Fathers,” “Letters from Iwo Jima” did win the National Board of Review award for Best Film as well as a handful of mentions from critics groups for Best Foreign Film.

Was it deserved? I still don’t understand why “Dreamgirls” performed so poorly in the top categories at the Oscars, but I don’t think people were too disappointed at that time. In my opinion, they’re both very good films, and I can see how “Dreamgirls” might be considered inferior to something like “Chicago,” whereas “Letters from Iwo Jima” utilizes cinematic tools well in a far less showy way. I do think that both films are much stronger than a couple of the Best Picture nominees that year (“Babel” and “The Queen”) and not nearly as terrific as the other two (“The Departed” and “Little Miss Sunshine”). Overall, I think this is one inclusion about which I don’t really have much of an opinion.

Come back next week for a look at the Surprise Inclusion of 2005. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.

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