Let’s get one thing straight: Denzel Washington got hosed. He was flat out robbed. In fact, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, by not even nominating Washington for Best Male Actor, dealt him a fate worse then his character, Frank Lucas dealt a rival drug dealer in front of a New York fruit stand in the opening portion of “American Gangster.”Now that we have that out of the way, we can take the remainder of this space to address some of the Academy’s other shocking omissions, mistakes and errors in judgment leading up to last Sunday’s Oscar awards. “No Country for Old Men” is the bonafide favorite at this year’s ceremony, and it is a high-quality film. However, its competition is lacking amongst those features that were nominated alongside of it. The Academy this year, more so than ever, failed to recognize several films and performances which garnered rave reviews, but did not receive nearly any Academy recognition.
While the voters cannot be forgiven for tossing Washington onto the heap atop Paul Giamatti in “Sideways,” Jack Nicholson in “The Departed” and “Citizen Kane” for Best Picture, perhaps the most blatant oversight is forgetting the thematic excellence that is “American Gangster,” “3:10 to Yuma” and overlooking the sheer brilliance of “Gone Baby Gone.”
While “Juno” will undoubtedly receive a great deal of votes from the Academy bigwigs and voters, it really is unfortunate. We all have seen this film before, in “Nine Months” and most recently “Knocked Up.” Juno is simply a repackaged, over-sentimentalized, emotional version of the 2007 summer comedy.
This award will speak more to the Wal-Martification of America and the re-emergence to family values than the thematic qualities of the film or those of its counterparts.
What should have won Best Picture? That is the problem with The Oscars, The Grammy’s, the Emmy’s, The Espy’s and every other award show under the sun. They’re simply too damn subjective, so I’ll make my case for each of the films listed in paragraph three of this rant against Hollywood pop culture.
Lets begin with “American Gangster.” Ridley Scott’s accurate and sobering portrayal of Frank Lucas’s organized crime ring simultaneously leads the viewer through the footsteps, of Detective Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, and the tribulations that went with it against Lucas.
If for no other reason, the performances of Washington and Crowe respectively should have easily vaulted this film into -at least- contention for the Best Picture award.
Next up is hands down the best ‘western’ I’ve seen since “Deadwood’s” downfall on HBO, “3:10 to Yuma.” Take my word for it, the action in this film is unparalleled, not to be lacking in the gratuitous violence department complete with shoot-outs and men being burned alive. Once again, Crowe shines here, this time as the villain. Yet unlike your stereotypical western foil, his character Ben Wade actually manages to draw sympathy from the viewer.
Besides, what does Christian Bale need to do to earn recognition from the Academy? He’s starved himself, now lost a limb. It seems anything short of staging his own death won’t suffice.
Casey Affleck proves he is more then just Ben Affleck’s kid brother by his performance in “Gone Baby Gone.” The plot twists will leave your head spinning, and the conclusion hits you harder then Sonny Corleone in the tollbooth during “The Godfather.” More then anything else, “Gone Baby Gone” is real. It focuses on the tragedies facing hundreds of families across the nation dealing with abducted children.
If there were ever a year for the Academy to break its practice of fawning over period pieces, a token comedy and heavy dramas, this was it.
By sticking with its mundane formula year after year, thus alienating the movie-going public from Oscar night, the powers that be missed out on an opportunity to recognizing some of the best pictures of year stocked full of thematic masterpieces.
Matt Lombardo is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at ML606516@wcupa.edu.