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'Beasts of the Southern Wild' Surprises with 4 Oscar Nods, and is This the Last Major Year for Celluloid?

It’s that time of year again, when Hollywood nominates the films that ran the best Oscar campaigns best films from the previous year in a number of categories. Even just being nominated for an Academy Award is usually an honor for most of these filmmakers and actors, and many of them have been on the ballot a number of times. Probably the most interesting selection is Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, a true independent film not just in budget but in spirit, which was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and the youngest Best Actress nomination ever in Quvenzhané Wallis. What’s even more interesting is how many of these films were still shot on actual film, but how long will that last?

First, here are the films nominated for Best Picture, and their respective budgets, just to make it clear what Beasts of the Southern Wild was up against:


It’s still a little surprising that this isn’t making more news, but I guess its first major hurdle, winning Sundance, set Zeitlin’s movie up for some major accolades down the road. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you should do your best to check it out as soon as possible, because even if you’re not a fan, I think it’s still a masterful accomplishment considering the scope and the resources involved — not to mention the incredible performance by child actor Quvenzhané Wallis.

The Academy Award nominations this year prove that difficult or inventive filmmaking can still exist in a world of sequels and giant-budget fare. Even Life of Pi, which is really the only tentpole-type film on the list, is modestly budgeted compared to many of the recent superhero films. The Academy tends to vote in a very specific way, rewarding specific films for specific reasons. Lincoln and Les Misérables were bound to be Oscar candidates even before a frame was shot. The nice surprises though, thanks to the increasing number of films that can be nominated (up to 10), were Beasts, as we mentioned above, and Michael Haneke’s Amour, a film with dialogue predominantly in French. Haneke is a master in his own right, and has made most of his films in languages other than English, so the best he could have hoped for is a foreign language Oscar in most years past. Some may see this as Hollywood rewarding a career rather than a film, but the movie has been well-reviewed.

Either way, regardless of what you think about the importance of the Academy Awards (I wouldn’t blame you for calling it a popularity contest), they still represent some of the best of the best in the industry, and along with that, they can also show the trends in filmmaking. Only one of these Best Picture films was in 3D, and for cinematography, 2 of 5 were shot digitally: Life of Pi and Skyfall. The Arri Alexa was the dominate digital camera in these awards, but what will be interesting going forward is how many will still be shot on celluloid. We know that Fuji is ceasing film stock production this year, so Kodak will be the last major producer of film. Since these trends tend to trail a bit based on the way films are released, 2014 could very well be the first Academy Awards where most of the films have moved over to digital.

If you haven’t seen the nominations yet, you can head on over to IMDb and read the rest, as well as descriptions of the films. If you want to read the scripts for a number of the films above, they have graciously been made available by the companies that produced them, and you can find the links to many of them here.

What do you think about the nominations? What were the surprises for you, and who do you think deserved to be nominated but wasn’t? What about digital vs. film, do you think 2014 will be the first year where the majority of films on the list are no longer shot on film?

Link: The 85th Annual Academy Awards — IMDb

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  • I’m blown away that Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated, but to be honest, I really have my doubts that it will win anything. I sure do hope the Academy proves me wrong on that one though. I’m also glad that Joaquin Phoenix got a nomination for Best Actor.

    I’m pretty upset that Mihai Malaimare Jr. didn’t get a cinematography nod for his work on The Master. I’m actually still upset that Chivo didn’t win last year for Tree of Life, or in 2007 for Children of Men. I guess I’m just bitter.

    Also, I’m amazed that Snow White and the Huntsman was nominated for anything, let alone two separate nominations. I mean, come on. That thing was bad enough to win a Razzie or two…

    • Pablo Saldana on 01.12.13 @ 12:32AM

      Not bitter at all Robert, i also think they owe Chivo an Oscar. And wish as well that the Academy proves me wrong.

      • Oscars…hilarious, I can`t it serious when people like lubezki or deakins never win a single award, while movies like Titanic or, even worse, crapfests like Lord of the Rings get them wholesale…

        • don’t say blasphemies, MAriano! As you know, master Kubrick got lots of oscar for best director and producer and screenplays during his life! I think he got 5 oscars during his career! OScar is fair! ;) master Samuel fuller got his share too! :D

          as I see, one thing out of this is good, since journalists give lots of atention to oscar, an amazing movie as Beasts of the Southern Wild will recieve some more than deserved atention from press (at least I hope so!!)

        • Talking about boring crapfests, Lincoln and Skyfall are exactly that. Cloud Atlas and The Master aren’t.

          • The only oscar Kubrick ever won was for VFX on 2001. The only oscar Orson Welles ever won was for the script on Citizen Kane (he was only nominated for Kane during his career). Hitchcock never won either. Leone was never even nominated. Kurosawa was only nominated for Ran in the twilight of his career. With that kind of history, I don’t even know why people give this show any respect cause they haven’t earned it.

          • Pablo Saldana on 01.12.13 @ 3:56PM

            Looks like No Film School is full of experts

  • Commenting on the headline of this article. Beasts, celluloid and awards. For me, that tells me that indie filmmakers or filmmaking hopefuls should spend as more time discussing storytelling, how screenwriting and adaptations works and the directors/actors craft as they would discussing the latest cameras.

  • I would have liked to have seen Moonrise Kingdom featured more (probably in the best picture category), but I guess I should just be happy with what it got considering the standard nominating pattern. Looper should have also sat somewhere, but once again, it not being featured was to be expected. Like Robert, I guess I’m also just bitter…

  • Who cares who wins really. If you make it to the silver screen you did some work for sure. Congrats to all noms big or small!

  • Lliam Worthington on 01.12.13 @ 10:22AM

    Thrilled to see BOTSW nominated. Thoroughly deserved. Amazing project and a triumph in every regard.

  • DIYFilmSchool.net on 01.12.13 @ 10:36AM

    I’m not interested in the Academy Awards. It’s cool to see a film with a tenth of the budget of many of the films on this list be held in high regard. Story wins out after all.

  • I doubt 2014 will be the year of digital domination at the Oscars because of Fuji, if anything, film geeks are gonna shoot the hell out of remaining Kodak stocks even more, with hellish fire of anger.

  • its very odd, beasts is not an oscar friendly film in anyway, neither is amour, and yet both are up in the top two categories. it was my favorite film of the year and even i am not sure it should be there for direction. whats even more wrong is the best actress nomination, where as the category it so obviously should be up in- best score, it isnt…

    • I have to agree with you about that last point – the score for that film is amazing. As well as being extremely pivotal. Also the sound design is incredible too.

    • Totally on the mark. The score makes the movie. Best actress? Well I know she’s a little kid but all she has to do is read the narration and scrunch yp her face into a pout. I don’t know anything about anything but if anyone gets an Oscar nod it should be her dad.

  • The Oscars are always horribly disappointing. Look at the winners of the past ten years; how many times did they actually deserve the award?

  • Film will never die until they can make a digital camera that creates a better image.

    • Pablo Saldana on 01.12.13 @ 3:56PM

      Thats deep. But true.

    • I think when digital will reach the point where it is able to capture a higher dynamic range than film, then film will truely be dead. There will always be some nostalgics who will still like the look of film better (like there are still vinyl enthusiasts) but I think the dynamic range is the only real reason film is still in use.
      Looks can be created, dynamic range has to be there in the camera.

  • Aren’t most of these best picture nominations shot on film. And most directors and DP inknow if they have the money will shoot on film. So I doubt film is dead or will ever be dead. Digital can’t mimic film and when it does than we talk.

    My thoughts on beast of the southern wild. I am tired of hearing that it was made on “shoe string” budget. That is complete bs when you have sundance directors lab and many other devices at your disposable and 1.8 million isn’t a shoe string budget. people are willing this film into Oscar contention. Now do I think it’s a good film? Not by any means. it’s a weak story. It relies on too much VO. But I do respect all filmmakers who create the vision that they see.

    • As I said before – let’s see how many productions will still shoot on film when Arri or Panavision has their first digital camera that clearly exceeds the dynamic range of film. And this camera will come, the question is only when will it come?