Saturday, January 12, 2013

Skyfall and the Oscars

The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this year's nominations for its 2012 award on Thursday. On the whole the nominations are what the buzz predicted, with Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and Ang Lee's Life of Pi in the lead. (You can check out the full list here.)

The place of the Bond films in this year's Oscars has attracted a fair amount of coverage. One reason is that the series will be the subject of a fiftieth anniversary tribute at the ceremony. Another is that Skyfall is the first Bond film to be nominated for any awards since For Your Eyes Only three decades ago, which had a nomination for its theme song. In fact the film has received five nominations, more than any prior film in the series (the twenty-two preceding EON movies collecting a mere nine nominations, only two of which led to wins during their forty-six years, with Thunderball the last actual winner).1

Nonetheless, many a journalist has used the word "snub" in their articles about the nominations, because the nominations have been confined to the "technical" and musical categories (Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Song and Original Score), rather than the more high-profile awards for acting, writing, direction and overall production ("Best Picture").

I am less surprised by the film's absence from the nominee lists in those categories than the fact that so many entertainment journalists are surprised by that absence, since that was always a longshot, even considering the exceptional critical acclaim bestowed on the film, and the recognition of many of those involved in it by the Academy in the past (director Sam Mendes, cast members Judi Dench and Javier Bardem all being past Oscar winners, writer John Logan and actors Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney past nominees).

Granted, other awards committees have been kinder. At this time Javier Bardem has been nominated for British Academy and Screen Actors' Guild awards for his supporting role as the villain, and won the International Press Academy's prize in that category, while Judi Dench has her own long roster of nominations for her performance. The International Press Academy and the British Academy even have Skyfall among their nominees for Best Film. Still, action movies only very rarely get that sort of consideration from the critical elite, with the Oscars particularly conservative in this regard. And the Bond films are further disadvantaged because of their reputation for unabashed escapism and political incorrectness, which still factor into how the series is looked at, post-reboot, as the reviews and commentary at the time of Skyfall's release made clear. Nor is Hollywood generally kind to sequels (the Godfather and Lord of the Rings trilogies excepted). All that being the case a "glass half-full" outlook makes much more sense to me than a "glass half-empty" perspective on the part of those who hoped for the films' recognition at this year's ceremony.

1. The full list of nominations prior to Skyfall: Goldfinger and Thunderball, for sound and visual effects respectively (which they won), followed by a nomination for Diamonds Are Forever for best sound; Live and Let Die for Paul and Linda McCartney's theme song; The Spy Who Loved Me for art direction, original score and song; Moonraker for its visual effects; and For Your Eyes Only for its title song.

My Posts on James Bond
The Irrelevance of Oscar Night?

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