We know, we know: It's the Friday before the Academy Awards and everything is blasé. Every category and nominee has been analyzed to death. Well, The Wire has the answer for your Oscar malaise: an alternative Oscar ballot, featuring nominees only from films that received zero Oscar nominations. This is your anti-establishment, seedy bar basement, punk-rock Oscar ballot. We've gone rogue.
To explain: We're only doing three categories, because it's the Friday before the Academy Awards and you probably have a fitting at Oscar de la Renta to get to. We combined the four acting categories into two (Best Actor and Actress), so prominence of role doesn't matter. The third category is, duh, Best Picture, because we can cover all the other stuff we're missing all at once. The only rule, as mentioned before, is that nominees have to come from films that did not receive any Academy Award nominations.
Michael Cera, This Is The End
James Franco, Spring Breakers
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Miles Teller, The Spectacular Now
Let's take this one in reverse order. Miles Teller gives a performance that flips back and forth between most popular kid in high school and teenage alcoholic. He convinces us to fall for him right alongside Shailene Woodley, and then makes us hate him for it at the very end (no spoilers!). Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station gave the performance in the zeitgeist film that should have caught on and carried him to the Oscars. James Gandolfini, in his last role, plays a layered character in a complex rom-com for adults and makes us wish he was around to do more characters in the same vein. Who cares if it was a blatant Riff Raff rip-off? James Franco as Alien is a microcosm of Spring Breakers, grimy and revolting but at the same time indelibly intoxicating. And then we have Michael Cera. Did you not believe us when we said this was an alternative ballot? And are you telling us you don't want to nominate a coked-out Cera?
Winner: James Franco. Sorry Cera, Franco takes this. LOOK AT HIS SHIT.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Emma Watson, The Bling Ring
Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
In Enough Said, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the perfect compliment to Gandolfini, world-weary, grounded, and just a bit insecure, a performance that was almost as much about losing a child to college as it was about navigating the adult dating game. Greta Gerwig teeters so closely to hipster cliche in Frances Ha, but she keeps us from rolling our eyes. It's yet another performance in the seemingly endless line of young adults in New York City suffering from arrested development, but Gerwig's is the most memorable of her contemporaries. Brie Larson in Short Term 12 is a mess of contradictions. She an incredibly strong caretaker for a group of foster kids helping them deal with their problems while refusing to acknowledge her own. She isolates herself, but brims with warmth. Though Destin Cretton deserves a lot of credit for writing such a wonderful character, without someone as nuanced as Larson movie could have easily slipped into melodrama. As for Emma Watson, we've already been over this: " [she] plays spoiled, bored, and overly convinced of her own shallow righteousness as well as anybody ... She also knows how far she can push her character into ridiculous without breaking her, and it turns out, that's quite a lot." In The Spectacular Now, Shailene Woodley reminds us why she should have been an Oscar nominee two years ago for The Descendants, playing a naive teenager in the midst of her first serious crush without falling into a predictable mess of lost innocence.
Winner: Greta Gerwig. She plays a more enjoyable (not necessarily more likable) version of Girls' Hannah Horvath, and a more optimistic version of The Coen's Llewyn Davis. Even if you can't fully sympathize with her, by the end of the movie Gerwig has you rooting for her so that a name label on an apartment mailbox feels like a six-figure salary.
Short Term 12
The Spectacular Now
So we only nominated five movies, get over it. We're traditionalists and won't stand for this "up to 10" nonsense.
Enough Said proves that a romantic comedy can be more than a late twenty-something type A female lead falling for the schlubby guy that teachers her how to chill. We already talked about Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus, who turn in performances that make us wish they both could/would do more movies. Who knew middle-age wishy-washy romance could be so compelling? Frances Ha is another relationship comedy, but instead of a romance, it's a pair of best friends. Female friendship – friendship of any kind, really – has scarcely been more poignantly portrayed. We're a little bit Frances, spending a weekend in Paris sleeping when we should be getting our shit together. Short Term 12 is a movie that could have easily been melodramatic and pretentious, and its subject is definitely on the heavy side. The movie follows the teens and the young adults that care for them in a short term foster care facility. But while Destin Cretton's movie will make you cry, it's also funny. It's the type of movie you want to envelope in a hug. The Spectacular Now doesn't reinvent the high school movie genre by any means, but it does excel. No matter how much high school sucked (and it did), The Spectacular Now reminds us that there were moments that made us wish it would never end. There's the brilliant way the film never truly acknowledges Teller's alcoholism, too, that puts it on our list. Spring Breakers makes us feel dirty. It makes us feel uncomfortable, like we shouldn’t be watching what’s playing on the screen. Part of that is Harmony Korine’s directing, with abrasive neon bleeding into everything. Part of it is the film’s foursome of starlets parading around St. Pete in bikinis getting drunk, doing drugs, and shooting up mansions, and a lot of it is James Franco. The film is an indictment of contemporary culture. It's not perfect, but it does the job. There's that Britney cover, too.
Winner: Spring Breakers. Because this is an alt-Oscar ballot. Spriiiing Breeeaaaakk foreveeeer.