We stand on the brink of the 85th Academy Awards, staring into the abyss and finding Seth MacFarlane's smug mug staring back like Lovecraft's daemon swineherd. Like that darksome vision, it is not a terribly promising event we have ahead of us.
Many films are set to receive the academy's golden-bodied acclaim, true, but between Argo and Silver Linings Playbook, two movies that have been respectively sweeping the festival circuit, what hope is left us movie buffs whose favours lie elsewhere? 2012 was a year touting much more in quality and quantity than the Academy saw fit to recognize with their nominations and augurs to award with their Oscars.
One such movie is Cloud Atlas. I refuse to believe that I was the only one rocked six ways to Sunday back in the tail-end of October when the film came out in theaters. The time-spanning love story is an undeniable powerhouse of credentials, and its significance is not so easily dismissed, despite the critical squabbling over just such a thing. Did the directorial combo of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis shoot beyond its reach with the film? The answer is immaterial. The outcome is an intelligent movie that transcends genre and medium, deeply moving any viewer that gives it the chance to do so. A more faithful and potent adaptation could not be accomplished. Is this not the exact kind of movie the Academy Awards was made for?
The fact that the movie is wholly absent from the Academy Awards' nominations is actually quite jaw-dropping. Several categories demand the film's presence simply on principle. How Cloud Atlas' breathtaking rhapsody of a soundtrack is not nominated for Music (Original Score), let alone a shoe-in for the win, is beyond the grasp of logic. There simply is no contest as far as its quality goes. Nevertheless, nominations have been made and Cloud Atlas is not among them.
So, what is left to do when you're staring down an Academy Awards ceremony that snubs your favorites?
This isn't the first year to do so. The academy denying the validity of films and performers is no new development. Just look to Andy Serkis, the thousand-expression'd actor who brought Gollum and Caeser to life in their respective The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He has received not so much as a nod from the academy, despite the fact that the lengths he goes to in his performances often surpass those of "traditional" actors. To pretend he is not an actor is absurd.
So what do you do? Stew in frustration while recognizably lesser films receive adulation? That's not what I plan to do. I have hope, and it comes in the form of a fro-headed five-year-old (alright, nine-year-old).
Beasts of the Southern Wild. If there is any movie poised to win Best Picture based on actual merit, it is this one. The fantasy drama, led by the record-setting Best Actress-nominated Quvenzhané Wallis, is incredibly affecting with its cast and atmosphere. Beasts' surreal bayou, called 'The Bathtub', is so delectably rich and sensory, and its performances so genuine and uncontrived, it should be a clear shot to claim the categories it's nominated for. Its soundtrack, also, is definitely award-worthy.
Of course, if it doesn't win anything, it's nothing to get riled about. The Academy Awards is not the only award ceremony and, as with Cloud Atlas, just because a movie doesn't get an Oscar doesn't mean it won't or hasn't already received other equally esteemed accolades.
At the end of the day, it's just another award ceremony.
But there are always Academy Awards drinking games, if you need something to help you take that Durdenesque gut-punch of defeat.