Welcome to a returning weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Surprise Inclusion was 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. With the 2013 Oscar season wrapped, it’s time to take a look back at the past two years.
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.
Why it wasn’t going to happen: It’s obvious that an argument would have been made in any year to include then thirty-year-old director Benh Zeitlin in an Oscar lineup, but that doesn’t mean it was actually going to happen. Zeitlin netted a few precursor mentions for his directing efforts, but the shutout his film received from the Golden Globes and SAG, it wasn’t even looking secure that it would be one of the ten possible Best Picture nominees. Without the “lone director” slot in existence anymore, Zeitlin’s chances seemed even slimmer.
How it happened: I’ve written much on how the lineup turned out the way it did – most recently in my Big Snub of 2012 post about Ben Affleck being omitted. But what got Zeitlin in particular here is that he was a fresh young director helming his debut feature, which is a movie you could really love. Starting out strong at Sundance helped, and being released by Fox Searchlight was also a plus. Mostly, Oscar voters just threw this whole category for a loop, one which Zeitlin rode along with his film to a four-nomination haul. Voting for Michel Haneke wasn’t enough; this was a way to honor an American filmmaker.
Was it deserved: Absolutely. This was my favorite film of 2012, hands-down, and Zeitlin was an enormous part of it. When people talk about directorial vision and auteurship, this is what they mean. This was an astounding start for a filmmaker, and it’s one of the times Oscar voters actually got it right. If only he had won…
Come back next week for a look at The Deadlocked Duel of 2012. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. There a few contenders for this one, so chime in if you have a pick!