Historical Representations Weigh Heavily on Best Picture Nominees

Every year, it seems we try to ascribe some great meaning to the Academy Awards. Beyond superficial debates about what is the best (or how we might even go about defining “best,” a task that feels reductive to the nature of personal reaction and opinion), I appreciate more the arguments about how the Awards stand as a “cultural touchstone,” a reflexive means for the industry to communicate how they want to be perceived. The Oscars may themselves be an industry, replete with full-page Variety ad after full-page Variety pushing a studio’s most touted project. Regardless of whether you still consider them culturally relevant or rich people aimlessly rewarding each other, the Oscars can help us inscribe meaning on a year. The films they group together tell us the kinds of characters and screenplays and the styles of directing that a very large voting body coalesced around. While there are plenty of 2012 releases that didn’t get a single Oscar nomination—The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?—focusing on the ones that did can perhaps tell us something important about the cultural moment of 2012. Continue reading “Historical Representations Weigh Heavily on Best Picture Nominees” »

The Cabal of 2012: 19 Actors Who Have Been Secretly Running the Last Year in Movies

Editors’ note: This week we’re featuring two posts on the 84th Academy Awards. We had hoped to run them closer to the awards ceremony taking place earlier this year, but technical issues delayed the Blog’s launch until recently. Nevertheless, we think both posts have some interesting things to say about the last year or so in movies, so we’re running them now.

A bit of idle musing on last year’s Oscars a month before the triple crown of Venice, Toronto, and Telluride kicks off a new awards season. For those steeped in Oscars lore, the 84th Academy Awards were memorable for a few things:

• The Best Picture nomination for The Tree of Life, joining Grand Illusion and A Clockwork Orange as among the Academy’s most audacious picks
• The overdue nomination for Gary Oldman and the unlikely one for Melissa McCarthy
• The awards phenomenon that was The Artist: for being mostly silent, all black and white, the first French production to win Best Picture, and the first Best Picture winner about the film industry

However, what fascinated me the most about last year’s Academy Awards struck me last September while watching The Ides of March. At the time, I casually noted how funny it would be if Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, and Philip Seymour Hoffman were all to wind up nominated—for other movies! Namely (and respectively) for Win Win, The Descendants, Drive, and Moneyball. Only one of these four gentlemen landed a nomination, but two of the other films did wind up with a nomination in January, and across all of last year’s movies a LOT of familiar faces popped up. Here are the actors I spotted in multiple Oscar-nominated films this year: Continue reading “The Cabal of 2012: 19 Actors Who Have Been Secretly Running the Last Year in Movies” »