One of the best pieces of Oscar-related video is the footage of Steven Spielberg watching the nominees be revealed in 1975. Spielberg's “Jaws” was up for tons of awards, of course, but one of them – shockingly – was not Best Director. As Spielberg watched every name but his be called, he held his head in his hands and looked on with disbelief. “I got beaten out by Fellini” and the documented hand-wringing over the miss lived on in infamy.
Making the rounds today is a video blog of “Force Majeure” producer Erik Hemmendorff and Ruben Östlund watching the Best Foreign Language Film nominees be unveiled. Östlund's reaction moves from gleeful acceptance to anger to silence to off-screen weeping. Given that the film is very much about male ego and features a similar scene where a man breaks down into hysterics, the question has arisen as to whether it's a staged joke. I think it most surely is for those reasons, and there are sources indicating as much at other outlets. But let me proceed with the assumption that it's not in order to try and make a point.
It's easy, as someone who knows how this sausage is made, who has covered the awards season landscape for 15 years, to sit here and say this kind of reaction is ridiculous. But I'm sure it's all too real year after year. The circuit is a significant grind and an Oscar nomination means different things to different people. Often, as one Oscar-nominated director has told me in the past, it simply means being able to continue making the stories you want to make. That is significant capital for an artist, and one can imagine the emotions that stream out of such a circumstance.
Last night's Critics' Choice Movie Awards featured a number of actors and artists who weren't nominated for an Oscar yesterday morning: Jennifer Aniston, Antonio Sanchez (whose fate was sealed a few weeks ago when his “Birdman” score was disqualified), Ava DuVernay, Jessica Chastain, “The LEGO Movie” directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, etc. Östlund's film actually won the foreign film prize. With the Broadcast Film Critics Association sticking by this date every year in order to be the first red carpet Oscar nominees find themselves on, there is also the potential for people who are neglected to simply bow out of attending. It's always nice to see those who put on a brave face, though.
Getting back to the circuit, it turns art into a bit of a meat market, yes. But within that, there are dreams, and dreams are shattered each and every year. We snipe and cheer in equal measure from the sidelines, but they're running the race. And I really do tip my hat to all of them for having the stomach to proceed through it all. Sometimes it works out, sometimes you're beaten out by Fellini.
Check out the Spielberg and Östlund videos below.