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Oscars 2012: Academy overlooks the darker performances

January 24, 2012 |  4:27 pm

Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Michael Fassbender played a sex addict; Tilda Swinton channeled an ambivalent mother dealing with a murderous child; and Patton Oswalt starred as a crippled loner. They were some of the most well-regarded performances of the year, yet none of them received an Oscar nomination.

While the academy didn't totally ignore the year's most challenging performances — Rooney Mara did snag a nomination for her role as the violent social misfit Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" — overall the more difficult films didn't score with voters. Both Fassbender's role in "Shame" and Swinton's performance in "We Need to Talk About Kevin" scored Golden Globe nods and, though Fassbender wasn't recognized by the Screen Actors Guild, always a strong indicator of how the actors will vote in the academy, surely George Clooney's memorable shout-out to the actor at the Globes should have amounted to something.

Rather, it seemed that any film requiring voters to venture somewhere dark and uncomfortable didn't  generate much enthusiasm. Oswalt in "Young Adult" was just one of the many potential nominees from that film by Jason Reitman that didn't get a spot at the dance. Charlize Theron, who stars in the movie as an unapologetic woman trapped in arrested adolescence, didn't land a spot in the lead actress race, nor did the film's screenplay, written by Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar in 2008.

PHOTOS: Oscar nominees react

Ryan Gosling's "Drive" was another one that failed to connect with the academy. The Los Angeles-set crime thriller scored only in the sound editing category. Albert Brooks, who was thought to be a shoo-in for his part as the ruthless gangster Bernie Rose, was omitted from the race in favor of such actors as Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball."

The best picture category, overall, steered fairly clear of any dark material. Despite Mara's nod and the four other nominations for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," the R-rated film from director David Fincher didn't score in the best director or picture category.

Rather, the nine best picture nominees comprised mostly lighter fare, a comment perhaps on academy members' desire to escape the current state of the world. With such nostalgic pictures as "The Artist," "Hugo" and "Midnight in Paris" racking up multiple nominations, and "War Horse" and "The Help" set in the past, perhaps Oscar voters are more interested in looking back rather than forward.

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— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Tilda Swinton in "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Photo credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories.


 
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