Glenn here with another look at one of my favourite bi-products of the Oscar season. They’re the nominations that we sometimes forget about (unless it’s Norbit – we all remember that one!), but which forever brand a movie as “Oscar nominated”. Sometimes they’re the result of one aspect of a film sucking up all the energy in the room, and sometimes they’re the result of a prickly film finding an appreciative consensus in one category. Oh sure, all of the films below probably deserve the sort of Oscar haul that will greet Les Mis, Lincoln, or Argo, but receiving just one makes for fun statistics and even more fun list making! Let’s count down the best films of the last 20 years to receive just one nomination* on Oscar morning, and take a look at the films of 2012 that could very well reap a similar fate in 37 days.
*We’re going to exclude films that competed only in the animated/foreign/documentary categories since the Academy assigns them a ghetto for reason.
Honourable Mentions: I couldn’t go further without mentioning Tarsem Singh’s The Cell (Best Makeup, 2000) and David Fincher’s Se7en (Best Editing, 1995) since these two audaciously constructed classics of the serial killer subgenre are such bold choices for the Academy in their respective categories. They make a particularly disturbing double feature, too. You’ll be disgusted at the world for weeks!
The Best Single Nominee Films of the Past Twenty Years
10. Monster (Lead Actress, 2003)
I’m most definitely on Team Nick Davis when it comes to this captivating portrayal of an unravelling American life. Told as if through hazy, overly orchestrated memory pieces, Patty Jenkins’ film about Aileen Wuornos arguably deserved more credit than just for Charlize Theron’s pulverising central portrayal. A makeup nomination was the least the Academy could have done.
And in 2012: Now that tsunami disaster drama The Impossible has been nixed from the visual effects category, surely its only strong shot at a nomination is for star Naomi Watts. Will the Academy recognise the desperate plight of a white woman in danger? Probably.
Nine more achievements and their possible mirrors this year are after the jump...
9. The New World (Cinematography, 2005)
Pop quiz, hotshot: How many of Terrence Malick’s five (released) films have been nominated for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards? The correct answer is four (only his debut, Badlands, missed out). This nomination for Emmanuel Lubezki was a wonderfully deserved reward on nomination morning for a sadly misunderstood film.
And in 2012: Wally Pfister has received Oscar nominations for his last four collaborations with Christopher Nolan – including the lone nomination Batman Begins. Will he go another round or will apathy in franchise ender The Dark Knight Rises render his streak over? I say he deserves it for the 50 minutes of IMAX alone.
8. Addams Family Values (Art Direction, 1993)
You either recognise Addams Family Values as one of the greatest films ever made, or you’re dead. Well done to this branch for recognising it when sequels of television adaptations are hardly the most highbrow of choices. (We previously discussed this nomination during Oscar Horrors.)
And in 2012: Consider for a moment that 2 of the 4 Alien films have been nominated for art direction, and Prometheus has a very literal 50/50 chance. Will the branch yet again recognise the space age habitats of the Weyland Corporation or are they sick of that god damned giant face that was featured on all of the promo material?
7. Drive (Sound Effects Editing, 2011)
The best film of last year (says me) was on the outlier of several categories, but had to settle for this. Hardly unwarranted, mind you. The creak of The Driver’s leather driving gloves; the cacophony of gunshots; the purr of a modified car. A truly inspired nomination.
And in 2012: Similarly, Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly is my #1 film of 2012 (so far!) and it, too, is a prickly beast of a movie. Despite many elements worthy of statues, it’s greatest chance of a nom (however much of a longshot) is repeating Drive’s sound editing citations thanks to its Earth shaking gunfire and bruising punches.
6. Heavenly Creatures (Original Screenplay, 1994)
Long before they went to Middle Earth (and, er, then went back another five times), Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh were earning the lone nomination for this stunning drama from New Zealand starring Kate Winslet and (The Film Experience’s) Melanie Lynskey. One of many instances of the writer’s branch coming to rescue of much acclaimed fare (see also the lone screenplay citations for Ghost World and Election)
And in 2012: Not even on the radar until just recently, Ava DuVernay’s work on Middle of Nowhere may be rallying “must see” notices just at the right time. If the writer’s branch admires her story of breakout success thanks to good ol’ fashioned quality filmmaking then she could find herself alongside Haneke, Boal, and the Andersons (Wes and Paul Thomas).
5. Hoop Dreams (Editing, 1994)
Steve James’ much ballyhooed omission from the 1994 documentary list for Hoop Dreams was greeted with this silver lining. This mammoth near 3-hour undertaking was such a feat of editing skill that it took three nominees to do it. Still a masterful film all these years later.
And in 2012: Of all the branches, it remains the editors who are most enslaved to prestige and best picture nominees. Reluctant as they are to step out on their own, my own personal line-up includes such oddball fare as Argo, Miss Bala, Berberian Sound Studio, Café de Flore and The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. If only, yeah?
4. Dancer in the Dark (Original Song, 2000)
“Academy Award nominated songwriter Lars von Trier.” It’s a befuddling statistic that I’m sure brings the crazy Dane a perverse sense of glee. Still, if ever a case was to made for the Academy’s oft-maligned original song category then this is it. The sole Oscar nomination for what is undoubtedly one of the most potent and brilliant musicals ever made. Another amazing lone song nominee? “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut!
And in 2012: If I could have just one Oscar wish this year it would be for Leos Carax’s Holy Motors to make an appearance in at least one of the two categories it has a fighting chance in. Whilst the makeup and hair styling category has so many strong contenders this year, “Who Were We” – performed in sequence with nostalgic sadness by Kylie Minogue – holds a strong chance in a category more likely to spring French left field oddities (remember Paris 36 and The Chorus?) than any other.
Also: How cute and awkward is Winona Ryder, here introducing Björk to the Oscar stage. Infamous swan dress and all.
3. Jackie Brown (Supporting Actor, 1997)
My favourite of all Tarantino’s films, this 1997 Christmas release came on the heals of a much-loved Best Picture nominee. Sound familiar? While the Golden Globes went with stars Pam Grier and Samuel L Jackson, the Academy saw fit to reward acting stalwart Robert Forster instead. I’ll take what I can get.
And in 2012: Whether he manages it or not, it’s sure going to be an interesting season to be Matthew McConaughey. Maybe if he gets nominated for enough things as Magic Mike’s thrusting ringleader we will all finally be able to spell his name without using google.
2. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Costume Design, 1994)
One can’t be reminded enough that once upon time the Academy gave a statue to a film about drag queens travelling through the Australian desert. The costume design Oscar went to a film with a dress made from flip-flops that cost a grand total of $7! That winner Lizzy Gardiner wore a dress made of American Express credit cards is just too delicious (pictured here with her co-winner, Tim Chappell).
And in 2012: As evidenced in other sole costume nominees Bright Star, Marie Antoinette, I Am Love, and Troy, this category isn’t afraid to nominate films less popular with the voters. The late Eiko Ishioka is, I suspect, a good chance for a nomination with her work on 2012’s other (and better) Snow White picture: Mirror Mirror. The statue should already have her name engraved on it if you ask me.
1. Mulholland Drive (Direction, 2001)
“This show is going to be long. But not as long as it took to explain Mulholland Drive!” joked Whoopi Goldberg in her opening monologue. The mere fact that David Lynch was nominated for the damned thing makes me forgive any gags made about its supposed labyrinthine qualities. That this masterpiece wasn’t nominated across the board makes me sad, but at least we got this far!
And in 2012: Until another Mulholland Drive comes along that can flummox the general voters as much as it can charm the directors, the “lone director” has gone to way of the dodo. Even if Amour wasn’t a best picture threat, I’d still say there’s little chance Michael Haneke would rank as his film’s sole nomination.
Agree? Disagree? Is there are single nomination you’re hoping beyond hope for? We all know Nathaniel’s, but Academy members are out there reading, so now’s your chance to convince them…