Completing Oscar: The Missing Nominees of the Last Nine Years
I wrote the original version of this article in early 2016 without giving much thought to updating it, but in retrospect – duh – of course it’s a natural subject to review, at least as long as the Academy continues to leave their Best Picture category short of ten participants. So, if you read the article when it was first posted you can feel free to skip down to where I cover the last couple of years. Obviously, I’ll be super happy for readers new or old to take in the article in its entirety.
Back in 2009 the people who run the Academy Awards decided that in the interest of widening their net and drawing in a greater variety of nominees and television audience members they would increase the number of motion pictures nominated for the Best Picture category. For sixty-five years the Academy had been nominating exactly five movies for this greatest of all film awards, but there had been complaints about the accessibility of the nominees from laypeople. And let’s face it, studio executives had no problem with the idea of promoting a few more films or having a better chance of getting their names attached to something as prestigious as an Oscar nominated film. So it was all systems go. But have they succeeded in transforming the award in the way they’d hoped?
The rules change that took effect for the 2009 awards expanded the number of nominees to ten films for Best Picture. Let’s see how that looked the first couple of years that rule was in effect.
In 2009 the Best Picture nominees were:
– The Hurt Locker
– The Blind Side
– District 9
– An Education
– Inglorious Basterds
– Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
– A Serious Man
– Up in the Air
Based on a cursory look at this list of nominees, the new rule appears to have done the intended job. There’s a great variety of films represented, including serious dramas, science fiction, small character studies, and big visual feasts. These were at least a little inclusive, with a nominee featuring an African-American cast, another set in South Africa, and a third that was focused on Jewish characters and ideas. The number one box office hit of all time was nominated and so was a popular animated film. Okay, so a pretty typical Oscar nominee focused on the tribulations of people in the armed services won, but at least these other films got a little publicity, right?
Let’s see what happened the next year.
In 2010 the Best Picture nominees were:
– The King’s Speech
– 127 Hours
– Black Swan
– The Fighter
– The Kids are All right
– The Social Network
– Toy Story 3
– True Grit
– Winter’s Bone
This list is not quite as immediately audience-pleasing, but the expansion to 10 nominees still seems to be doing what it was designed to do. We’ve got the number one box office movie of the year in the animated film Toy Story 3 and we’ve got a big effects picture that was also a winner with audiences in Inception. We also got introduced to a big new star in Jennifer Lawrence in a gritty small budget film from an independent production company. This is a pretty darn legit list of nominees.
Then things started changing. Somebody at the Academy thought that 10 nominees might be too much some years, so they changed the rules again. This change said that the number of Best Picture nominees would be somewhere between five and ten. Academy shill Bruce Davis snorted, “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.” Try reading that back in Dame Maggie Smith’s voice and see if it acquires the desired quality. Anyway, the Academy no longer had to nominate ten movies. So in 2011 they didn’t. And apparently it felt so good that they haven’t since then.
And that’s where I come in. since the Academy has seen fit to honor fewer films than they could have for the last five years, I’m going to step in and declare enough additional Best Picture nominees to fill out those ballots. So if you were involved in one of the movies I add in this article, I hereby give you the right to declare yourself part of a film that was nominated for Best Picture. See if anybody calls you on it.
Here we go.
In 2011, nine films were nominated, including:
– The Artist
– The Descendents
– Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
– The Help
– Midnight in Paris
– The Tree of Life
In order to bring the list to ten, I am adding:
This is a wonderfully moody and unique movie with one of the most artfully planned and executed getaway scenes ever put on film. It not only stars up and coming star Ryan Gosling, but also features Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, and Ron Perlman. That’s some cast! This is a movie that not enough people saw, but a whole lot of people would love if they did see it. I can’t think of a better reason to add a nominee than that…and we’re not even breaking any rules to do it!
The following year, the Academy came up one movie short again.
Their nominees in 2012 were:
– Beasts of the Southern Wild
– Django Unchained
– Les miserables
– Life of Pi
– Silver Linings Playbook
– Zero Dark Thirty
I like round numbers, so why not add:
– Marvel’s The Avengers
I went back and forth between this and the sex therapist movie The Sessions, but in the end I decided to go with the number one box office hit of the year that was so much fun and had such a good cast. These folks will not only bring eyes to the party, but several of them had already been guests as nominees, so they’d have no trouble fitting in. Heck, Pepper Potts is actually a winner.
In 2013 the Academy continued with its very comfortable habit of leaving us wanting more by nominating just nine films.
The movies they nominated were:
– 12 Years a Slave
– American Hustle
– Captain Phillips
– Dallas Buyers Club
– The Wolf of Wall Street
As it turns out, I didn’t have much trouble at all finding a tenth member of this team. I could have gone with Woody Allen’s excellent Blue Jasmine, or August: Osage County, or even the biggest animated film in box office history, Frozen and I wouldn’t blame anybody who thought one of those was the right choice. But I’m a pretty big fan of the very underrated Cohen brothers film…
– Inside Llewyn Davis
It’s a circular story about a talented folk singer who is still reeling from the loss of his former partner in music, but who just can’t seem to get out of his own way. Oscar Isaac is on a hot streak right now and in my mind it really started in earnest here with his amazingly nuanced and natural performance that included playing and singing the music himself. While we’re at it, he really should have been nominated for Best Actor in 2013.
Apparently the Academy wasn’t satisfied with stiffing just one potential Best Picture nominee, so starting last year in 2014 they began to double their pleasure by leaving two slots blank. Let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls. Nobody gives you anything in this life. If you want that Best Picture nomination you have to pay somebody for it.
Let’s have a look at the list of movies whose producers signed the right checks. They were:
– Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
– American Sniper
– The Grand Budapest Hotel
– The Imitation Game
– The Theory of Everything
The Academy was telling us there just weren’t two more films that would have looked good on that list. Let’s take up that challenge, shall we?
I found seven pretty good candidates. The five that didn’t make my cut were Foxcatcher, Wild, Unbroken, Gone Girl, and Interstellar. Those are all pretty good and I doubt anybody would have objected too hard to their inclusion, but I decided on:
– Nightcrawler and Guardians of the Galaxy
Here we’ve got one bracing character study that not enough people saw and one absolute crowd pleaser that represents the best of what a “popcorn” movie can be. Nightcrawler is worth seeing just for Jake Gyllenhaal’s nervy and haunting performance. Yet another guy who could have easily been given a Best Actor nomination, too. If you haven’t seen it, go pick it up and then wonder why it didn’t get more attention.
Oh, and if you’d just nominated the director and lead actor from Selma, your life would be a lot easier right now. Yes, they were plenty good enough. You want me to do this job too? Okay, kick out Bennett Miller and Bradley Cooper and you’re golden. There, that was easy.
Guardians of the Galaxy rounds out the list pretty nicely with some really excellent work put in on all counts in what is a gloriously goofball sic-fi romp. Attention DC: your movies should be fun, like this.
It was then time for 2015‘s ceremony, and yet again we were facing just eight nominees instead of the full possible ten. I’m starting to think this is just a gambit to try to make the show a little shorter. In 2015 they nominated:
– The Big Short
– Bridge of Spies
– Mad Max: Fury Road
– The Martian
– The Revenant
What did they ignore? Well, there are very good arguments in favor of both Inside Out and Straight Outta Compton, but two of my personal five favorite movies of the year have been:
– Ex Machina and Carol
Why these two? Well, both films feature excellent casts telling interesting stories about fascinating people in extraordinary circumstances and they do it truthfully. Both of these films use sound and the absence of sound very effectively, heightening the pull on the audience, and both boast some fantastic design and technical work. Both movies have something to say about the freedom of individuals and the unjust positions some women find themselves in in our society. I like both of these films better than at least three of the standing nominees, so yeah, they belong.
The following year, the Academy nominated nine films again, and maybe 2016 did look a little more culturally inclusive, but I’m not sure the overall list of nominees did much to draw in a mainstream audience for the televised ceremony. They Nominated:
– Hacksaw Ridge
– Hell or High Water
– Hidden Figures
– La La Land
– Manchester by the Sea
There are certainly some other films that are deserving of a spot alongside the nominees of 2016, including Best Animated Feature winner Zootopia, the lovely period character drama Loving, and the expertly plotted and paced 10 Cloverfield Lane, but I decided to go with the audacious, violent, and fascinating Nocturnal Animals featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon. You may not be as fond of it as I am, but you’re not likely to walk away and forget it.
To be fair, this might not do much to draw more eyes to the ceremony, but the choice I listed that would have done that job best would have been Zootopia, and there was at least a little uncertainty about it winning in the Animation category over Moana and Kubo and the Two Strings at the time.
2017‘s nominees came up just one film short again, but gee whiz did they come up short overall as far as I’m concerned. The Academy nominated:
– Call Me By Your Name
– Darkest Hour
– Get Out
– Lady Bird
– Phantom Thread
– The Post
– The Shape of Water
– Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
There are at least two films here that could easily be removed in favor of more interesting and/or better executed fare. And there’s a pile of movies which match that description, including I, Tonya, Coco, The Big Sick, and Ingrid Goes West. But when push comes to shove I have only one spot to fill here based on my own established rules, so I can only offer The Florida Project to round out the Academy’s list.
Seriously, if you remove The Post and Darkest Hour and then add The Florida Project, I, Tonya, and Coco as Best Picture nominees, I think you’d get to feel really good about your choices this year. As it is, it feels like something is missing.
Well, these are just my opinions. Does anybody else have a film from the last nine years that you feel would round out the nominees smartly? Tell me in the comments section.
Posted on February 16, 2016, in Awards, Movies, Oscars, Top Ten and tagged Carol, Drive, ex machina, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nightcrawler, Nocturnal Animals, nominees, The Avengers, The Florida Project. Bookmark the permalink. 60 Comments.