The Oscar Nominations That Weren’t (And One That Was)

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Artists released its nominees for its 87th Academy Awards today. As per usual, the “entire world” responded with varying degrees of outrage. “'The Lego Movie’ Oscars snub is Garbage,” writes Brian Barrett on the aptly named Gizmodo. AV Club describes the “audible gasp” that could be heard at the nominations after the movie got passed over for Best Animated Film. (By all accounts it was the frontrunner to win the award. If you have children you already know this.)

Slate writer Dan Kois said the lack of nominations for “Wild” spoke to the Academy’s general sense of “the overall worth of men’s stories versus women’s stories” (aka, women’s stories, meh.) The Washington Post, on its “Style Blog” (yes, apparently the Washington Post finds need for a ‘style blog’) wondered “What went wrong with the Oscar hopes for ‘Selma’?” while New York Magazine’s Vulture went instead with “Selma was robbed, and Other Unforgivable Oscar Crimes.” (Get it? It’s a movie about black people. So, crime.)

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Stepping back to enjoy a wine cooler and ponder the bigger questions, Maria Mercedes Lara over at People.com mused, “What would the Oscars be without a few curveballs,” then referenced Jennifer Aniston, undoubtedly not because she or anyone at People has or will ever see Aniston’s recent film “Cake,” but because it’s Jennifer Aniston and this is People and US Weekly’s website has a super sexy picture of Mark Ruffalo.

(Dear Baby Jesus, Hi. A belated happy birthday. I know there are a lot of difficult things going in the world, and please don’t let me take you away from any of that. But if along the way you could make People and US and TMZ go away, well, that would be something that might make the world a little better, too. Thanks, The World.)

Finally, Richard Corliss in Time writes, “The pure-nutrition platter the Academy provided this morning will make Oscar Night (Feb. 22) just another Independent Spirit Awards.” (Ooh, SNAP, girl.) (He also wrote, of the Academy’s snub of Ava DuVernay for her tremendous directing work on "Selma,” “Like a gentleman’s club with a restricted membership, [the Academy] still doesn’t admit black women.” #Wow #Amen #Preach)

Of course, Corliss is right. Of the eight films nominated for best picture, few are films that most people in this country will ever choose to see, even if they are some day trapped in a hospital with a television that plays only 2014 Oscar-nominated films. And the animated nominees are strangely close to the same, with “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “Big Hero 6” the only two that ever got a wide release or much attention. (That’s okay, Academy. Everything is awesome, whether you think so or not.)

Even in the documentary category—not exactly a market for a mainstream audience anytime ever—the one documentary that broke out, “Life Itself” (about the life and death of Roger Ebert), got snubbed. (Insert "Two thumbs down" joke here.)

But rather than concentrate on the problems and mistakes of the Oscar nominating process, rather than wax eloquent on the great films and performances that were ignored, like Jake Gyllenhaal’s hauntingly creepy turn as a car crash photographer in “Nightcrawler” or the lush, unexpected beauty that is “Mr. Turner,” let me note one nominated performance that you’ve probably not heard anything about but you really should go see.

“Two Days, One Night” is a Belgian film starring Marie Cotillard (who you might know as an Oscar-winner for her turn as Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose,” or as Leonardo DiCaprio’s dead wife in "Inception") as Sandra, a factory worker who comes back from sick leave to discover that her boss has told her coworkers that due to financial cutbacks, they can either get their thousand Euro bonus, or Sandra gets her job back, but not both. Over the course of a weekend, we watch Sandra go to each of the 16 people’s homes and try to convince them to not take their bonus.

It’s a great performance, rightly nominated for an Oscar, but even more than that, it’s just a really interesting film. If Hollywood were to have done “Two Days,” it would have been set in L.A. (but of course shot in Vancouver), have featured an “incredibly brave” performance by the likes of Cameron Diaz (or, for “realism,” Jennifer Lopez) and completely missed the real desperation that low-income workers go through. But in the hands of creators Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne we see that it’s not just Sandra who’s struggling here, it’s all of the employees, and dismissing a thousand Euro bonus is not something easily done.

There are so few movies that actually take on the kinds of tough moral questions that we all find ourselves facing at one time or another in our lives. And fewer still made here, where we prefer explosions. It’s the kind of film you’ll have to hunt to find in theaters, but it’s definitely worth the effort. We need more like it. 

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