When great work is appreciated but not given awards

by - 14:12

When Academy Award winners are announced on Feb 27, about 4/5s of the contenders will go home empty-handed. Though they might feel bad for a while, they’ll always be identified as Oscar nominees. But what about all those people who turned in great work and didn’t even get that far?

As the long Oscar season winds down, let’s give a salute to a few un-nominated heroes of 2016. That list ranges from Clint Eastwood to Taraji P. Henson and from Pablo Larrain to Ralph Fiennes.

Take Stephen Frears. When Florence Foster Jenkins opened, there was appropriate buzz about the performances and the design work, but almost none for him. Frears takes tricky material and succeeds, but maybe he makes it look too easy.

In the four acting races, everyone nominated deserves to be there. But with only five slots, there are also other deserving people. Aside from Amy Adams in Arrival, the list includes Sally Field, Hello, My Name Is Doris; Jake Gyllenhaal, terrific in Nocturnal Animals; Issei Ogata, Silence; and a trio from Hidden Figures, Kevin Costner, Janelle Monae and Henson.

There are also actors who appear in nominated films, but alas, they didn’t stir up the awards buzz that they deserved, including Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek in Toni Erdmann; Chris Pine, Hell Or High Water; and Vince Vaughn and Hugo Weaving, Hacksaw Ridge.

Then there is Ralph Fiennes, memorable in both A Bigger Splash and Hail Caesar!; in the latter, he plays a director trying to give a line reading to cowboy star Alden Ehrenreich (“Would that it were so simple”) and it’s one of the funniest scenes of the year.

Speaking of comedy: Andrea Martin in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Andy Samberg in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping probably never entertained fantasies about winning an Oscar for their work, but both are pretty darn terrific.

And how about Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson, costume designers of The Dressmaker? The Australian film starring Kate Winslet may not have been seen by enough voters. But it’s a rare film in which the clothes help drive the narrative and Boyce and Wilson met the challenge.

And a big pat on the back to composers Michael Giacchino for Rogue One and Alexandre Desplat, The Light Between Oceans.

Aside from Frears, other directors did spectacular work, including Clint Eastwood with Sully; Pablo Larrain, with both Jackie and Neruda; and documentary helmers Ava DuVernay with 13th and Roger Ross Williams, Life, Animated.

And finally, a special word for Martin Scorsese and Silence. Sometimes a director makes a personal film that is an immediate hit, like Steven Spielberg with Schindler’s List. But sometimes not. When Alfred Hitchcock’s very personal Vertigo debuted, immediate audience reaction was bewilderment: “This isn’t what I expected.”

But time changes perspectives. Silence, like Vertigo, will undoubtedly be re-evaluated and appreciated more as the years go by.

It’s a story of spirituality, but it’s also a metaphor for anyone who goes to a foreign country with good intentions – whether it’s the clergy, the military, or commercial enterprises – only to be confronted with hosts who don’t want their “improvements.”

Scorsese’s film works on many levels.

This is not to take anything away from those who were nominated or those who will win. It’s a reminder that life is quirky and sometimes great work is appreciated but not given awards. So give yourself a pat on the back and have fun Feb 27. – Reuters/Tim Gray

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