As this very moment, the over 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences are in the midst of filling out their nomination ballots, which are due to be sent in by January 14th. For this Oscar prognosticator, it brings forth the annual daydream of having his own ballot. After a year-end blitz of screenings and screeners that bring forth a personal consensus of what deserves to get nominated, it's always disappointing to see that rarely ends up being the actual case (see these current predictions compared to the rest of this article). This speaks to both how subjective any opinion can be, whether my own or the collective voice of the Academy, as well as how political the awards game really is in the end.
Sadly the films with the most merit might not end up getting checked off because they simply didn't have enough money to campaign. Neither of which are new realizations for myself or anyone else who follows Oscarology. But I for one usually still manage to enter an awards season under the ignorant pretense that this year the best (wo)man might really win. And then by January cyclical dismay pops up when it becomes clear that while sometimes they do, more often they don't. So it seemed like a fun idea to counter this by offering up 2011's first "For Your Consideration" column as one that's very true to its name: What my own ballot would look like if I magically were to have one (this is the third annual of these I've done in fact).
This is not to suggest that this one opinion is any more worthy than any other. Quite the contrary, as what's listed here is drastically more subjective than whatever the Academy comes up with considering its approximately just 1/6000th as many voices. Take it is as my own personal "for your consideration" ad, advocating what are perhaps some films that have fallen by the wayside in the midst of this onslaught of precursors that has brought forth a bit too much repetition for my tastes. Certainly one of the most irritating things about this year's award season - and the majority of them in year's past - is how monotonous the best picture category has been across essentially all the Oscar precursors. "The Social Network" has won all but a couple best picture prizes thus far, and the same 11 films - "127 Hours," "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "The King's Speech," "The Social Network," "The Town," "Toy Story 3," "True Grit" and "Winter's Bone" - have been mentioned over and over and over and it is very likely Oscar's top 10 will end up simply dropping one of them.
When 10 of those 11 films do end up being announced, it's definitely not going to be some sort of Oscar travesty. While I'm personally not a fan of roughly half of them, I know enough folks with very respectable opinions to understand the popularity of these films, and I myself will be more than happy with the likely occurrence of "Black Swan," "The Kids Are All Right," "True Grit," and "Winter's Bone" making Oscar's top ten. And though they aren't personally considered best picture worthy, there are many elements of the other 7 that I feel are definitely worthy of nominations elsewhere, particularly apparent frontrunners "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network," both of which I admired for many things but was certainly not bowled over by entirely.
It'd just be nice to see a bit more variety. There's no way in a year where so many great films graced screens that these 11 films are the sole representatives of the best of 2010. It reeks of bandwagonery, and one can only hope that Oscar voters look past the hand they've been dealt time and time again by critics groups, guild members and those dubious HFPA members to make up their own minds.
What about documentaries, for example? It was a remarkable year for the medium, and it's a shame that all examples have all been confined to "best documentary" categories. Which, speaking off, is unfortunately reduced to a questionable shortlist in the Academy's case. While fingers crossed the worthy likes of "Exit Through the Gift Shop," "Gasland," "The Tillman Story," "Enemies of the People," "Inside Job" and "Restrepo" are among the films that end up getting nominated, it's too bad the equally worthy likes of "Last Train Home," "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," "Marwencol," and "The Oath" (among others) can't join them due to not qualifying or because they didn't make the shortlist.
And what about non-American films? Looking over lists of Oscar precursors, you'd think "The King's Speech" was the only foreign-made film of 2010. Personally, I would have loved to have seen a few more nods to the likes of Roman Polanski's exceptionally executed thriller "The Ghost Writer," Mike Leigh's pitch-perfect ode to mid-life "Another Year," Sylvain Chomet's magical tribute to Jacques Tati "The Ilusionist," or Luca Guadagnino's gloriously melodramatic "I Am Love" - all of which surely many voters saw. There's also less widely seen films like Maren Ade's devastating relationship drama "Everyone Else," Joon-ho Bong's mesmerizing "Mother," Olivier Assayas' remarkably epic "Carlos," Andrea Arnold's raw and original coming-of-age story "Fish Tank," Claire Denis' ravaging and powerful "White Material," and Yorgos Lanthimos's disturbingly innovative "Dogtooth," which each stand among my favorite cinematic experiences of 2010 even if Academy recognition of any of them would require hell freezing over. In fact, none of them are even on the Academy's list of eligible films (though "Dogtooth" has been submitted in the foreign language film category).
So do note that the following ballot does keep in line with those Academy rules, as well as the rest of them in all their archaic glory. That means no "Carlos," no "Dogtooth," no "Everyone Else," no "Fish Tank," no "Mother," no "White Material"... even if they would have all made my best picture ten, as well as found many other mentions throughout my ballot (including probably a quarter of my acting slots). My best documentary ballot only lists films that made Oscar's shortlist, while my foreign film choices consists entirely of films submitted by their respective countries, even though Italy's exclusion of "I Am Love" is indeed a travesty. As is the inability for voters to include the criminally Oscar nomination-less likes of Clint Mansell for his "Black Swan" score and Carter Burwell for his "True Grit" score after the Academy deemed them ineligible, as they did some fantastic original songs from "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."
With that in mind, here's my imaginary Academy Award ballot, for what it's worth. Please feel free to post your own in the comments section of this page.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The Ghost Writer
I Am Love
The Kids Are All Right
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
Luca Guadagnino, I Am Love
Mike Leigh, Another Year
Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Best Supporting Actor**
Matt Damon, True Grit
Armie Hammer, The Social Network
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Peter Wight, Another Year
Best Supporting Actress**
Ann Guilbert, Please Give
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Dianne Weist, Rabbit Hole
Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer
Best Original Screenplay
Mike Leigh, Another Year
Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Simon Blackwell and Christopher Morris, Four Lions
Sylvain Chomet and Jacques Tati, The Illusionist
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Holofcener, Please Give
Best Adapted Screenplay
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Debra Granik and Anne Rosselini, Winter's Bone
Robert Harris and Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole
Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Best Animated Feature
How To Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3
Best Documentary Feature
Exit Through The Gift Shop
The Tillman Story
Best Foreign Language Film
If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (Romania)
Of Gods and Men (France)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand)
Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Wally Pfister, Inception
Yorick Le Sux, I Am Love
Roger Deakins, True Grit
Michael McDonough, Winter's Bone
Jon Gregory, Another Year
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Hervé de Luze, The Ghost Writer
Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Roderick Jaynes, True Grit
Best Art Direction
Francesca Balestra Di Mottola, I Am Love
Guy Dyas, Inception
Eve Stewart, The King's Speech
Dante Ferretti, Shutter Island
Jess Gonchor, True Grit
Best Costume Design
Michael Kaplan, Burlesque
Maria Cananarozzi, I Am Love
Louise Stjernsward, Made in Dagenham
Jenny Beaven, The King's Speech
Mary Zophres, True Grit
Best Original Score
Daft Punk, Tron: Legacy
Alexandre Desplat, The Ghost Writer
Sylvain Chomet, The Illusionist
Hans Zimmer, Inception
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Best Original Song
"Better Days" from "Eat Pray Love"
“Chanson Illusionist” from “The Illusionist”
“Eclipse: All Yours” from “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"
“Life During Wartime” from “Life During Wartime”
“You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque”
Best Visual Effects***
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I
Iron Man 2
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Best Sound Mixing***
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Toy Story 3
Best Sound Editing***
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Toy Story 3
Alice in Wonderland
*-The best actress category was remarkably hard to narrow down, even when excluding ineligible performances that would have probably made the cut otherwise (see this).
**-Yes, I have seen "The Fighter." While Amy Adams came very close to making my ballot, I found Christian Bale and Melissa Leo a bit too over-the-top for my tastes.
***-Please note my "expertise" in these categories is much more limited than the others.
Previous editions of this column:
For Your Consideration: 60 Women That Defined "The Year of the Actress"
For Your Consideration: A Mid-December Stab at Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: The 10 Worst Original Song Oscar Snubs of the Past 10 Years
For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Stab at Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Gauging a Crowded and Female-Friendly Spirit Award Field
For Your Consideration: Could a Documentary Be Nominated For Best Picture?
For Your Consideration: Assessing Those Gotham Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actors
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actresses
For Your Consideration: Save For "Love" Snub, Foreign Language Submissions Uncontroversial
For Your Consideration: Post-Toronto Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Updating Oscar Contenders In The Eye of The Storm
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Should Say About Awards Season
For Your Consideration: Assessing Oscar In The Calm Before The Storm