Oscar 2002: Snubs

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Article by Mark Dujsik


For once, I really cannot complain too much about the list of Academy Award nominees. Looking at the Best Picture category alone, I realize that four of the five films were in my top ten and three of those four in my top five. What’s not to love about that? Even so, I reserve my right to point out some of the more surprising omissions and personal hopefuls that were ignored.




A.I. Artificial Intelligence

There was no chance Spielberg’s neglected film would find a place here, but boy, did I hope it would. Even its detractors can note that while they considered the film a failure, it was an ambitious failure. Poor box office, mixed critical reaction, and a summer release date guaranteed that the film would receive little to no recognition in any of the major categories.



This was the most successful independent film of the year, but because it was released by an actual independent company, the indie slot went to the Miramax-backed In the Bedroom. Perhaps its Original Screenplay nomination is the concession prize, but I think the Academy may have missed the fact that this is not just a gimmick film; there’s actual substance here.




Steven Spielberg, A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Spielberg simply fell into the same boat as his film, although you might have expected some leeway considering the fact that it is Spielberg. He managed to pay homage to Stanley Kubrick and show why Kubrick wanted him to direct his project in the first place. He holds every element of the film—whether technical or philosophical—together.


Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge

This omission essentially confirms that Moulin Rouge will not win Best Picture. Luhrmann has been condemned time and again for stylistic overkill with his flashy musical, but there is just as much reason for the quick-cut editing of the opening act as there is for the more restrained tone that appears later. Honestly, though, he deserves a nomination for simply making this whole spectacle work.


Christopher Nolan, Memento

Nolan took a gimmick and turned it into something subtly profound. Not only does the structure of the film help us relate to the main character, it also provides the jumping ground for some deeper thinking outside of the plot. It’s very rarely that a director makes a breakthrough performance, but Memento provides Nolan with just that.




Haley Joel Osment, A.I. Artificial Intelligence

One of the most difficult performances of the year was pulled off with seeming ease by Osment, who proves here that the praise he has gained is well deserved. Yes, he’s only thirteen and it may seem that much of the accolades he has received are for that fact alone, but Osment completely holds his own in this haunting performance. It’s the best performance of any actor this year.


Guy Pearce, Memento

This is another incredibly tricky overlooked performance. Pearce’s major difficulty is giving us a character with no emotional arc, but he somehow makes his Leonard Shelby a sympathetic character. The film is a triumph of scripting and editing, but Pearce is really its level of humanity.


Gene Hackman, The Royal Tenenbaums

Hackman has had quite a busy year. He appeared briefly in The Mexican, alluded W.C. Fields in Heartbreakers, showed himself a master of Mamet-isms in Heist, and hopefully got a nice paycheck out of Behind Enemy Lines. But it’s his performance in The Royal Tenenbaums that’s the real gem. In this layered and joyous performance, Hackman found himself at the head of a great ensemble and stood out by simply trying not to stand out.




Tilda Swinton, The Deep End

British actress Swinton certainly had a bit of trouble with her American dialect, but it’s in the quiet moments that she transcends language and gets to the heart of a desperate mother. There’s no doubt that her performance could have been nominated, but the film falls into the same category as Memento—a real independent with a real independent budget.




Jude Law, A.I. Artificial Intelligence

As an innately suave lover-robot, Law’s Gigolo Joe served as a intriguing counterpart to Osment’s young child looking for emotional love. Law captured the essence of a program whose sole purpose is to seek out new customers, and played his mechanical body for whatever flexibility it has.


Steve Buscemi, Ghost World

Buscemi is known for playing seedy characters, and in Ghost World, he gets a chance to develop that persona a bit more. His record collecting Seymour is seedy but in a sad, lonely sort of way. Even when the movie itself flounders a bit, Buscemi remains a solid presence.


Joe Pantoliano, Memento

In a film that revolves around lies, one of the real accomplishments in Pantoliano’s performance is that we never trust him. Even when it seems that he’s helping, there’s always something slightly not right about him. He’s a spinster so devious that even when he gives a final monologue explaining everything that’s come before it (or after it), it’s impossible to tell how much of his story you can believe.




Waking Life

When the Academy announced this category, I wondered if the award would go to the best animation or the best film that just happened to be animated. Waking Life fit both of those requirements, but in its first year, the Academy has shown a different option and established what this category will entail for some time to come. The nominees will consist of "kid’s" animated movies. It’s a shame, really.




A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Janusz Kaminski perfectly complimented A.I.’s three-act arc with three completely different visual looks while keeping it grounded in the futuristic world of the film. The first act has a domestic feel, the second has a harsh, bitter look, and for the final act, there’s a haunting unrealness to the proceedings.




The Others

When it comes to haunted houses, it seems that most art directors go overboard in design. With The Others, the minimalist approach shows that less is most definitely more. Without drawing attention to itself, the art direction successfully gives the sense of the period and allows the actors in the foreground to be the focus.


A.I. Artificial Intelligence

This is one of A.I.’s most confusing and glaring omissions. The design of this future world is plausible and inventive—based in our current technology but moving beyond it to find something unique.




Planet of the Apes

Maybe designer Rick Baker has too many Oscars to his name, but his work in Planet of the Apes gave the apes personality, presence, and menace. Watch Tim Roth’s malevolent performance, and it’s clear that the makeup still managed to give the actors room to work.




"Come What May" from Moulin Rouge

All right, so it wasn’t eligible because it was originally written for Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, but this is one of the few exceptions to the countless cheesy romantic songs nominated for Oscars—this one actually works.


Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.