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January 11, 2013

Why no Oscar love for Cloud Atlas?

Among the predictable movies among yesterday’s Oscar nominations, Cloud Atlas was conspicuously absent. Cameron wonders what happened...
When Seth McFarlane joked "breath of fresh air" after the well known list of nominees for Best Supporting Actor were read out at yesterday's Oscar nominations announcement, his remark could have been aimed at the whole bland list - in every category.
Regardless of the predictability we see each year (not a new phenomenon, by any means) and the safety of the nominations (that's not my argument here), surely the fact that last year's Cloud Atlas - one of the most bold, challenging and imaginative films of the 21st century - is an embarrassment to the Academy and what they stand for.
Cloud Atlas is proof that truly original, thought-provoking and intelligent blockbusters can be produced, and produced well. This is exactly the sort of work they should be championing: work that excites, infuriates and fires the brain cells. It also displays huge creativity and workmanship on a scale rarely seen in the multiplexes these days.
That's what is so perplexing; the quality of the talent in the film have gone completely unnoticed.
I mentioned the Supporting Actor category earlier, and whilst I wouldn't suggest that Cloud Atlas had Oscar-winning performances, they were certainly noteworthy and fascinating in equal measure. But I wouldn't have been that surprised to find that Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw or Doona Bae had been nominated for their multiple roles. Heck, even Tom Hanks is mesmerisingly enthralling in a disturbing way.
But it's behind the camera where Cloud Atlas truly excels. In all honesty, I would have thought it would have easily won Film Editing without contestation. Alexander Berner expertly weaves the seemingly interlocking tales like a conductor, with swift, seamless and thoughtful moves between time zones. But not even a nomination.
Similarly, the sublime score, which forms such a central part of the story and lifts the very narrative it inhabits, is one of the most incredible soundtracks I've heard this side of Blade Runner (another film the Academy largely ignored). Yet, not even a wink from the Academy. I could go on. The cinematography, provided by Frank Griebe (Run Lola Run) and John Toll (Vanilla Sky) makes you glad you have eyes. But no. Nada.
But there must be some nods in the ‘lesser’ categories (such as Production Design, Make-Up, Sound Editing and Mixing) I thought to myself after Seth and Emma Stone trundled off stage. The Visual Effects are awe-inspiring and spectacularly used - and certainly kick the crap out of Snow White And The Huntsman or even The Avengers. But still nothing in all of these categories - big or small.
So what's the problem? Is the Academy cared of genre? (One also notes no noms for Looper, but don't get me started.) Personally, I wouldn't describe Cloud Atlas as a genre film - it's a tale of humanity, and one would think the Academy has got past that kind of thinking (though evidence isn't strong on that particular argument). Perhaps it's the ‘group’ nature of the film - the direction, the cinematography and the score are all handled by multiple names as opposed to the more traditional single man/woman.
Of course, maybe it was as simple as taste. Perhaps none of the voters liked it or rated it technically sufficient enough to care. Yes, it's a sprawling mess. But in a good way. In a way that embraces film and its ultimate possibilities; and just why its trio of directors, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (who also adapted the original novel for the screen in an ambitious and deserved-a-nomination style), should be lauded for such an audacious and memorable piece of work.
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