Our Daily Trailer: CLOUD ATLAS

The ultimate Oscar snub for this wholly snubbed film is for its score.

You won't see me contributing much to the Oscar Snubs theme this month, because the Oscars simply aren't something I put a lot of stock into in the first place. Sure, I watch 'em, and like most sane people I was annoyed to see Crash - one of the worst movies I've ever seen - take home a Best Picture award at the time, but now, nine years later, I had to think for a minute about what films it beat (Brokeback Mountain and Syriana came to mind; as it turns out the latter wasn't even a nominee). To me, a "snub" should be something that still pisses me off years later, and I can't really say Crash qualifies when I couldn't even properly remember what it beat out. Instead, I look at the Oscars the same way I do box office numbers - they can make for interesting trivia years later, when time has forgotten some of those winners while we still love and cherish the so-called losers. Movie X winning one of the big awards means as much to me as the fact that Burton's much-hated Planet of the Apes sold more tickets than either of the new, quite good entries - it's a fun thing to point out in a tweet, but no one will ever claim the 2001 film is the most popular or successful one, in the long run.

However, there was one time I was legit pissed about the nominations, and that was on January 10th, 2013, when 2012's nominees were unveiled and I discovered that Cloud Atlas didn't score a single one. It wasn't really a shock - the film had tanked, and the Academy rarely considers notorious flops for anything. Not that they only nominate the big smash hits, but a film like Atlas, which was a resounding money loser ($27m domestic against a budget north of $100m), doesn't really have a chance to save face with a Best Picture nomination. To ensure I was accurate, I looked at the last 20 years' worth of nominations (before that box office reporting wasn't as popular a sport, so who would know/care unless it was a total Heaven's Gate style catastrophe?), and while there were some definite money losers - The Insider, Master & Commander, Hugo are a few of the examples - there wasn't a single one that I recall being written about as a "flop" on the level Atlas was (the polarizing reaction to the film probably didn't help, either).

But that's Best Picture. And it wouldn't really have a shot at Best Director since there were three of them to render it too confusing for the older Academy members. And the two main acting awards would be difficult to discern given that the film was an ensemble (I'm sure a stopwatch would prove otherwise, but it doesn't seem like Tom Hanks has much more screentime than Doona Bae). But a total shutout is absurd, as it more than deserved at least nominations - even some wins - for the other, less flashy but still important awards, most notably its incredible score by Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil and co-director Tom Tykwer. Instead, the Academy opted to nominate Thomas Newman for his forgettable Skyfall work, and as always wasted a seemingly obligatory nod for whatever John Williams score accompanied a Steven Spielberg movie (Lincoln, in this case, but if you don't believe that they just automatically nominate him - the year before they gave him nominations for BOTH of his Spielberg films, War Horse and Tintin). I would go so far as to say it's the best score in the past decade, in fact - but it unquestionably delivered enough goods to qualify for one of the best of 2012. The Golden Globes thought so, as did several Critics' Society outlets (Washington DC, Houston, Austin, etc), but the Academy just couldn't get enough of... whatever it was Williams did for Lincoln. The last three tracks alone ("Cloud Atlas Finale," "The Cloud Atlas Sextet" and "Cloud Atlas End Title") are more memorable and wonderful than anything Williams has done in years, and that's just the cherry on top of the equally good 20 tracks that precede it. You can listen to it on Spotify, but if you're like me and still enjoy a physical piece of media, I've helpfully linked the CD below.

Editor Alexander Berner was also robbed, as he had a nearly impossible task of working with material from two different filmmaking crews (The Wachowskis and Tykwer, who each had their own DPs, production designers, etc) and not only making it a cohesive whole in a traditional sense, but in the rather unique way the film demanded. The film tells six different stories throughout its three-hour runtime, but it's not a typical anthology that presents one complete story after the other. Instead, beats and actions in each inform the others, overlapping in a manner not unlike The Godfather Part II, but times three. In order to keep the audience from losing track of one storyline, Berner might cut back to someone from one period simply walking down a hallway or something, but he does so while maintaining the rhythm of what is happening in the other stories. It works on a nearly subconscious level; I didn't even realize the rather brilliant trick he was employing until about half an hour into my first viewing, and in the hands of a lesser editor the film would be impenetrable and terrible (it is neither of those things, despite what some might tell you - and I say this as someone who is not a particularly big fan of the Wachowskis or Tykwer). Again, this is the sort of thing that should be recognized and rewarded, but instead the Academy, as almost always, merely just picked the editors from five of the Best Picture nominees. Nothing against them, but what major accomplishment did the Silver Linings Playbook editors pull off with their work? They didn't randomly cut to the moon when Jennifer Lawrence was saying something, so they nailed it, I guess?

Costume design, VFX, etc... these are also awards Atlas could have been nominated for, and probably would have been if the film had made enough money to be considered as a Best Picture nominee (they didn't even use up all ten of their slots that year). But if nothing else (since, again, those other awards tend to just be based on the Best Picture nominations more than anything else), Jim Broadbent certainly deserved recognition for his work. Of all the actors in the film, he had I think the most diverse set of characters to play, and also overcame the not-always-great makeup work to wholly disappear inside those characters (it helps that he never had to get made up as someone from another race entirely - avoiding the distracting sight of Halle Berry as a white woman or Jim Sturgess as an Asian). And unlike those other awards, the acting categories are often a solid mix of Best Picture types and oddball selections, which is why we can have nice things like Johnny Depp being nominated for Pirates of the Caribbean or Marisa Tomei winning for My Cousin Vinny. However, I can't exactly find fault with their selections that year; Robert De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones were wisely rewarded for actually putting some effort into their performances (in Playbook and Lincoln, respectively) instead of coasting on their grumpy old guy personas, PSH was brilliant in The Master, and Christoph Waltz should have won TWICE for his Django work. I could go either way with Alan Arkin (for Argo); he was good but he's always good, and wasn't exactly branching out the way Broadbent was.

So the Academy was way wrong that year, and I say that as an unabashed, at times angrily defensive fan of Ben Affleck (who took home the Best Picture prize as one of Argo's several wins). If you haven't done so, please give Cloud Atlas a look - as the only snub I continue to care about more than a day after the Oscars, it's gotta be doing something right.

Comments