As a self confessed film geek it’s easy to assume the Oscars are the most exciting time for film during the year. I’ve always been aware of the Oscars but it wasn’t until 2011 when I started watching the televised show (from 11:30pm until 5am the next morning in the UK). From that moment onwards I’ve been obsessed with all things Oscars and really enjoy discussing the list of nominees and debate who was deserving or more deserving of the award.
Instead of doing an in depth analysis of the 2017 Academy Award nominees I thought I would go through the past 6 years and pick out some highlights.
NATALIE PORTMAN – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role 2011 – Black Swan (2010)
During the first year of watching the Academy Awards live I was cheering on Natalie Portman to win the Oscar for her leading role in Black Swan. I think this is her strongest performance (Jackie – 2016 showcases yet another powerful performance however) as she effortlessly portrays the complexities and emotional range of her character Nina. She gives it everything and more for a bold performance with conviction. The third act where we actually see the performance of Swan Lake is like a mini film in itself and Portman gives a impacting performance that will be talked about (at least by me) for years to come. I can’t believe it was 6 years ago since she won.
This year Portman is nominated for her third Oscar for her leading performance in Jackie (2016). I would say that with Black Swan it was the journey of her character from a mindset of a little girl into becoming a woman and with Jackie it’s showcasing Portman at more of a mature and levelled performance of a headstrong woman. I would love for her to win her second Oscar but if Emma Stone wins for La La Land (2016) instead I’ll think, “…at least Portman has won an Oscar for my favourite performance from her.”
The King’s Speech v Inception: Dawn of the 2011 Best Picture Winner
It’s exhausting to make a list of who was snubbed or deserved to win because at the end of the day it won’t make a difference and the world moves on. However, only on certain occasions will I voice my upset at injustices that occur on Oscar night.
First of all I love The King’s Speech (2010), it deserved the critical acclaim and Oscar nominations. Yet 6 years on and I still wish that Inception (2010) had won Best Picture and any award that Christopher Nolan was up for (I can’t believe he wasn’t nominated Best Director). This film was a spectacle that had a sense of realism and depth, Nolan had made an epic blockbuster that could be taken seriously and that was pure quality on every level.
That being said, I guess at the end of the day it’s not all about the awards and Inception is still an incredible film regardless…but still.
J-Law Reigns Supreme
You’ll be shocked to know but in 2013 I only knew Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games (2012) but knew she had been previously nominated in 2011 for Winter’s Bone (2010). Despite the fact I hadn’t seen Silver Linings Playbook (2012) I was still happy that she won because Jennifer Lawrence deserves all the Oscars in the world.
Since then I have watched Silver Linings Playbook and I’m glad to say she is deserving of the Oscar. She plays Tiffany who is bold and unapologetic yet still has insecurities and wants to be loved like everyone else, Jennifer Lawrence perfectly portrays the character which cemented her as the second youngest Oscar winner at the age of 22. She also broke records as being the youngest actress to have received 4 Oscar nominations in 2016 after being nominated for Joy (2015).
The Year I Learned To Pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Name
2014 saw 12 Years A Slave (2013) take the Academy Awards by storm. The film won Best Motion Picture making history with director Steve McQueen being the first black director/producer to win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year. A well deserved win for its brutal and honest portrayal of one of the most horrific times in history carried by stellar performances.
Amongst the nominees was Chiwetel Ejiofor, and it was in 2014 I finally learned to pronounce his name so I could tell people who I wanted to win for Best Actor. He won the BAFTA (Matthew McConaughey wasn’t nominated a BAFTA so that’s why, but Ejoiofor still deserved to win) but lost out on the Golden Globe and Oscar to McConaughey. In all honesty I haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club (2013) so I can comment on McConaughey’s performance, all I can say is that Ejiofor gave one of the most convicting performances I have ever seen. So for him to lose out on the Oscar was quite disheartening, that being said at least he was nominated which is still an achievement. Oscars aside Ejiofor’s performance is still one that I remember as being one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen.
If anything the best thing I can take out of 2014 Academy Award experience is now I can correctly pronounce his name.
It Got Real
2015/2016 wasn’t the best time for the Academy Awards. It was the years where no person of colour was nominated in the acting categories. I think it’s definitely a conversation that needed to take place and it’s great to see diversity in this years list of nominees, however people looked at the situation in a black and white perspective (sorry for the pun).
Yes the acting category was lacking in diversity however overall it was actually not as bad as people made it out to be. Here are some examples:
- Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu won 3 Oscars for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014).
- Oscar winning actress Marion Coitllard was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Two days, One Night (2014) who is French and her performance is entirely in the French language (her second nomination to do so).
- Whilst Selma (2014) was criminally overlooked it was with great pride that John Legend and Common (both black musicians and actors) took home the Oscar for Best Original Song (Glory).
- Alejandro González Iñárritu again took home an Oscar for Best Director in 2016 for The Revenant (2015).
- Alicia Vikander, a Swedish actress, won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The Danish Girl (2015).
- Asif Kapadia, a British Indian director, won the Oscar in 2016 for Best Documentary – Feature for his work on Amy (2015).
I’m not saying that there wasn’t an issue and something to talk about however let’s not take away that special moment for these filmmakers and actors who are from diverse backgrounds. Diversity doesn’t just mean black and white but it means different walks of life being reflected. Chris Rock hosted the show in 2016 did a brilliant job at addressing the controversy. Basically he was saying how it’s interesting how now people are going mad and boycotting yet there has been harsher discrimination in the past, he also mocked the impact of Jada Pinkett Smith’s decision to boycott the Oscars and he concluded by saying basically all that needs to be done is actors of colour need to be given equal opportunities in securing roles.
That being said it’s so good to see so many great and diverse films being recognised this year: Fences, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Loving, Lion etc. and may it long continue.
I loved all the memes where Leonardo DiCaprio was searching for his Oscar and of course all the jokes were based in the truth that he should have won an Oscar long ago. However, at the end of the day he is still an incredible actor; whether he is an Oscar winner or not. I would say let’s enjoy his work and appreciate it rather than focus purely on the awards, plus being nominated for 5 Oscars before The Revenant (2015) is impressive.
Then his most brutal, gruelling and committed performance was seen in 2015 with Oscar winning Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest effort The Revenant. I remember reading reports of how the film had gone over budget and how it was taking longer than it had planned to due to the visceral filming conditions so it was a relief to see that not only was it a critical success but a box office hit, grossing over $530 million worldwide against a $135 million budget.
The Revenant was an spectacular; visually and performance wise. It may have not been the best film ever but it was more of a film that showcased the skills of Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and performances from the cast including Leonardo DiCaprio. This is the film that finally saw the legendary actor win an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role in 2016. His Oscar glory came 22 years after first being nominated for his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). Many have said whilst he deserved it that really he should have won for other performances; to that I would say fair enough but if anything his performance in The Revenant showcased the level of sheer dedication and determination to fully immerse himself in a role. I don’t care what anybody else says, this was his moment and the moment the world had been waiting for. As his name was announced as the winner he received the loudest applause and a standing ovation, a touching moment showing how everyone was behind him and overjoyed for his win.
Funnily enough I never saw him as a serious actor until Inception (2010) and then discovered his work previously and have kept up to date with it since. Whatever your opinions of his relationship with the Oscars, the wait was worth it and he is a terrific actor Oscars or no Oscars.
To Be Continued
As I was writing this blog I realised I had a lot to say about my experience with the Oscars since I started watching them live in 2011. It won’t be in chronological order as I recount favourable or memorable moments but it will be a good overview of recognising incredible talent and interesting moments in Oscar history. Do you have any moments where you were happy or unhappy with a certain win? Feel free to post your comments and share this blog post.