Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Surprise Inclusion of 2005

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 2005:

William Hurt (A History of Violence) for Best Supporting Actor

Why it wasn’t going to happen: While there were early accolades for “A History of Violence” and its director David Cronenberg, the film quickly fell victim to an extraordinarily busy year of Best Picture contenders. Three films not nominated for the top Golden Globe – “Capote,” “Crash,” and “Munich” – joined frontrunners “Brokeback Mountain,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and “Walk the Line,” leaving behind this film and countless others. Hurt earned three critics’ awards for his one-scene performance but didn’t place on any major list of nominees, where the main contenders were George Clooney, Matt Dillon, Paul Giamatti, Jake Gyllenhaal.

How it happened: Hurt snuck into a category that wasn’t crowded. Voters previously nominated Hurt three years in a row for his lead performances in “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Children of a Lesser God,” and “Broadcast News.” He won on his first try in 1985. There hadn’t been a chance to honor him since the 80s, so voters likely enjoyed the opportunity to pay tribute to an actor still doing good work. There wasn’t room for “A History of Violence” in the Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Actor categories, but this was a good place to recognize the film, which earned only one additional nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Was it deserved?: No. Putting aside the fact that I didn’t personally like Hurt in the film, his performance clocked in at less than ten minutes. I’m never in favor of that, and his case certainly doesn’t merit an exception (like, say, Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed). There were many more actors that year, like Matt Damon in “Syriana” or Ludacris (yes, seriously) in “Crash,” who should have gotten in over him.

Come back next week for a look at the Surprise Inclusion of 2004. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.

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