'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:
- Beasts of the Southern Wild – $1.8 Million
- Amour – $9.65 Million (Converted from Euros)
- Silver Linings Playbook – $21 Million
- Zero Dark Thirty – $40 Million
- Argo – $44.5 Million
- Les Misérables – $61 Million
- Lincoln – $65 Million
- Django Unchained – $100 Million
- Life of Pi – $120 Million
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?