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And so the nominations are in, and so are the snubs.
Seriously, >NO<Kathryn Bigelow for ZERO DARK THIRTY? Seriously, >NO< Ben Affleck for ARGO? Umbrage and high dudgeon all around for ignoring two of the best directorial efforts in this or any other year. Future generation will, no doubt, look back with condescension and confusion.
Yet here is still much to celebrate, and a small measure of redemption, in the love shown to director and co-writer Benh Zeitlin’s debut feature, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, another example of small is beautiful. A case could be made that even a mid-range Hollywood budget, and the attendant bean-counters, would have destroyed the delicate magic of it. In budget, it’s a tiny film, but it’s also one that takes the microcosm of life in a backwater Louisiana village and makes it a mythic lesson in authentic living not just there, but in the universe at large.
Zeitlin, a true example of that much overused word “visionary”, talks here about making the film, and his discovery of Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest actress ever nominated for an Oscar©.
The curious omission of John Hawkes from the Best Actor nominations was a surprise. Certainly being forced to act only from the neck up, and doing so in an exquisitely, counter-intuitively dynamic performance, deserved recognition. Helen Hunt’s nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category, though, was really no surprise. Recognition for making the role of a sex-surrogate positively wholesome is a richly deserved acknowledgment of no small achievement. Hunt cops to how being naked in front of a camera is not something with which she ever became entirely comfortable, making her performance all the more remarkable, as well discussing her trepidation about taking the part here.
There are many reasons to thank A ROYAL AFFAIR. Aside from being an intelligent political and romantic thriller, the story of 18th-century Sweden’s mad King Christian VII, his put-upon Queen Caroline, and the dashing, politically progressive doctor who became adviser to the former and lover to the latter, is the stuff of irresistible historical soap opera. Nominated for Best Foreign Film, it now has the chance to bring this fascinating story to an even wider audience, which its director and co-writer Nikolaj Arcel admitted to me was one of his motives in making the film. The interview, including his musings on writing the script for the Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, politics old and new, and impressing his mother can be heard here.
Ang Lee’s nomination for Best Director is fitting for having made the film version of a book so many considered unfilmable. Showing the same insightful acumen with a CGI tiger that he has shown with analog actors over the year, Lee made LIFE OF PI a triumph on many levels, not the least of which for bringing to the screen some of the most beautiful images ever to have been placed there. Lee talks to me about all of this here.
To be continued. . .