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Alternate Oscars, Overlooked and underappreciated films by Mike Coast
Author: Mike Coast
January 18th 2013 -
The Oscar nominations came out this last week and, as usual, the immediate conversation was about who had been snubbed. In a year as strong as 2012 and only five slots available in each category, it’s inevitable that someone will be left out in the cold. But amid the tumult another group of films and performances get lost. That is, those films who never had a shot at Oscar glory in the first place.
So here is a list of the films who won’t get the recognition they deserve during this awards season.The list is limited to one award per film, otherwise it would be the same three paragraphs over and over again.
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell - Seven Psychopaths
For some reason, this year seemed to be filled with even more great supporting performances than usual. In addition to the very worthy Oscar nominees, there was also Matthew McConaughey in pretty much everything he did, Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises, and Michael Fassbender in Prometheus. And in any other year wouldn’t James Spader’s work in Lincoln be more recognized? This category, however, goes to Sam Rockwell’s unhinged performance in Seven Psychopaths. It would be impossible to go into why he’s so good without spoiling the movie, but Rockwell’s manic energy is enough to make Christopher Walken only the second weirdest person on the screen at any given moment. And Rockwell’s voiceover of the climactic but fictional gun battle is quite easily the highlight of the film and one of the funniest scenes of the year.
Best Supporting Actress: Sarah Gadon - Cosmopolis
This is a sort of “degree of difficulty” award. Cosmopolis is adapted from the novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, a notoriously difficult author. Despite his prestige and popularity, adaptations of his work are rare as they tend to be wordy and cerebral in a way that is hard to capture in a two hour film. DeLillo has rarely attempted to make his dialogue sound conversational or even realistic, providing yet another hurdle. It also doesn’t help that director David Cronenberg has never been known for coaxing natural, realistic performances either. Not all of the actors in the film are able to handle it and some scenes come off as being awkward and clunky to the casual viewer. That is why Sarah Gadon, a relative unknown, wins this award. She is able to make DeLillo’s dialogue sound crisp and meaningful while also maintaining the wide-eyed stare and porcelain beauty of the character. In a lesser actress’s hands it would have been a disaster, but Gadon strikes the right balance between intelligence and vapidity. If she’s not playing one of the scientists in the eventual adaptation of Ratner’s Star then the world is an unjust place.
Best Foreign Language Film: The Raid: Redemption
The Raid is one of the best action films of the past decade. But unlike the other hyper-violent “classics” of recent years like Rambo and Punisher: War Zone, The Raid is not looking back to the glory years of the 1980’s. Instead, it is more progressive in nature and could, in a way, be considered futuristic. This is what action movies will look like a decade from now: breakneck pace, unreal stunts, and sparing use of CGI. This may not be a movie that takes home Oscars, but it’s sure to be one of the most influential films to be released in 2012.
Best Documentary: Room 237
Room 237 remains officially unreleased in the US at the moment. But it made its way through the festival circuit and a handful of secret screenings were held. The film is essentially an in-depth look at Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining while five off-screen voices posit theories about the actual meaning behind the film. The theories range from the ridiculous (Kubrick was making a film about the myth of the Minotaur) to the even more ridiculous (Kubrick was revealing his involvement in faking the moon landing through the film). Still, it’s a fascinating look at what makes up a film and why certain aspects are given more importance than others. If this ever actually comes out in any sort of wide release, it’s well worth a look.
Best Screenplay: Rian Johnson - Looper
Looper is arguably the most ambitious film of the past year. This award should really go to whichever studio executive read this script, saw its potential, and decided to greenlight it. The film takes place in the future and its story revolves around hitmen killing people sent back from even further into the future, including their future selves. To further add complications, certain members of society have developed psychic abilities (culminating in one of the most mind-blowing scenes of the year). Looper is the type of heady thriller that can be enjoyed for its intellectual merits, its pure adrenaline rush aspects, and for Bruce Willis at his squinty best.
Best Director: Ben Wheatley - Kill List
No film to come out last year was as bone-rattling and disturbing as Kill List. This genre-bender seems to assault the viewer from all sides. It’s a strange mix of horror, thriller, family drama, conspiracy, and even a little bit of buddy comedy. The unifying force, and the reason the film really works, is the atmosphere of dread created by director Ben Wheatley. Even the most innocuous actions seem as if they can have dire consequences down the line. And yet for all the buildup and expectation that the film creates, it still manages to have a brutal, surprising, and yet inevitable ending.
Best Actress: Dreama Walker - Compliance
Compliance could not have been an easy film to make. Its star, Dreama Walker, spends much of the runtime being humiliated in increasing states of undress. This may sound like it could be a Hostel sequel, but Compliance is far more devious than that. The “torturer” in this case is simply a prank caller who claims to be a local law enforcement officer. Through little more than a confident tone the caller is able to convince the manager of a fast food restaurant that her employee (Walker) has stolen from a customer. What follows is the slow descent into absolute obedience to authority on the part of both manager and employee. It’s absolutely shocking how far the film goes and even more shocking to find out that not only is this based on an actual incident, but that it was a part of a string of similar incidents across the country.
Best Actor: Jack Black - Bernie
“Jack Black, Academy Award nominee” doesn’t exactly have a plausible ring to it. But if it were ever to be true, this would be the year. Bernie, the latest from Richard Linklater, is based on the true story of a funeral director who engages in a relationship with an elderly client, lives the good life, kills her in a crime of passion, hides her body, and then continues to live the good life until he is caught. Black plays the character as a kindly, strange man with a lot of secrets. As the action takes place, Linklater chooses to intercut with the real life townspeople who knew Bernie in documentary-style interviews. The whole thing feels like an Errol Morris movie taken to its ultimate stylistic conclusion. It’s an interesting way to tell the story and works for this sort of odd real-life tale. But at the heart of it all is Jack Black. It’s hard to believe that anyone else could have pulled it off as well.
Best Picture: Killer Joe
A bizarre, brilliant journey through the underbelly of America. William Friedkin, director of such classics as The Exorcist and The French Connection, channels the his weirder side here. And what a weird side it is. With films like Cruising, To Live and Die in L.A., and Bug (which shares a writer, Tracy Letts, with Killer Joe) under his belt, Friedkin is certainly capable of delivering an off-the-wall, sexually charged punch in the face. Matthew McConaughey is at his best playing a sleazy, dangerous, but infinitely calm police officer who agrees to help a family of yokels in a scheme to off their matriarch. The film turns itself inside out several times and each scene seems stranger than the last until it all culminates in what should be a celebration over a bucket of “K-Fried-C.” What follows is the most insane Texas dinner since Leatherface brought Marilyn Burns to meet the family. The cherry on top is the great soundtrack, most of which fits the languid Southern pace and setting of the film. But I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to hear Clarence Carter’s “Strokin’,” a cult classic wedding song, the same way again.
Follow me on Twitter @fakemikecoast and check out my infrequently updated blog emailsihavesent.blogspot.com
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