The Academy Awards are well known for a lack of diversity and have never been kind to ‘nerdcentric’ films. With the exception of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are not many geek-worthy movies that have ever even been nominated for any of the major awards, let alone win. We had hoped that 2003 was a turning point when The Return of the King won the Best Picture Oscar, but since then we’ve seen Avatar and District 9 lose to The Hurt Locker (2009), and last year Inception and The Social Network were drowned out by The King’s Speech. Really?
History has proved that the nerd community is far from getting any respect in Hollywood. Oh sure, they are happy to rake in the money from films like Thor and the Harry Potter franchise flicks, but when it comes time to honor these films for their popularity and entertainment efforts, they are forgotten faster than a Kevin Smith Superman script. But what if Hollywood actually gave the geek community the consideration it deserves? Well this is a look at tonight’s 84th annual Academy Award nominees, with winners predicted by being weighted with ‘nerd cred.’
Here’s the thought process. If an octopus can accurately predict the World Cup Soccer champions, and octopi have tentacles, and Cthulhu has tentacles, and I dig (dig as in like – not worship) Cthulhu, then I should be able to accurately predict the Oscars (kind of like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, if Kevin Bacon were a malevolent deity from the sunken city of R’lyeh.) Here goes!
Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Bérénice Bejo (The Artist), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Octavia Spencer (The Help).
This was a tough one as there is not much nerdiness happening with any of these nominees. Octavia Spencer had very minor roles in both the original Spider-Man and in Drag Me to Hell, but if you were to blink you would have missed her altogether. Bérénice Bejo played a minor role in A Knight’s Tale (2001) with Heath Ledger, so because of her connection with Ledger and his iconic portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight, Ms. Bejo gets a ton of extra cred by association.
Winner: Bérénice Bejo
Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close).
You would think that the Hulk’s dad would have a leg up on this one, but unfortunately Nick Nolte in 2003’s Hulk is the father role best forgotten. So this comes down to either Kenneth Branagh for his involvement in Thor, Frankenstein, Harry Potter and even Wild Wild West, or Jonah Hill for his geekcentric characters (and voices) in How to Train Your Dragon, Megamind and Superbad. Branagh stands out for his lengthy career and for adding legitimacy to the comic book film genre with Thor.
Winner: Kenneth Branagh
Best Actress Nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn).
Rooney Mara’s character of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is very geeky in and of itself (in an extremely bad-ass way), so she was a big contender in this category. But Glenn Close brings the cred by voicing Tarzan’s mom Kala in the animated films Tarzan and Tarzan II, and a little know fact – she also did the voice-over for Andie MacDowell’s Jane in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984). That voice work plus a starring role in the 1996 Mars Attacks film puts Glenn Close at the top of this list.
Winner: Glenn Close
Best Actor Nominees: Demián Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Brad Pitt (Moneyball).
This one is a no-brainer. George Clooney actually gets negative nerd cred for the intolerable cruelty that was 1997’s Batman & Robin, and he will have to cross many oceans before he’s forgiven for that fiasco. Gary Oldman wins this one hands down. Besides playing Commissioner Gordon (in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy), he has a huge resume of entertaining and off-kilter roles in films like Harry Potter, The Book of Eli, The Fifth Element, Lost in Space, Dracula, True Romance and even voice work in Call of Duty and Planet 51.
Winner: Gary Oldman
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life).
No real nerd influences here, although one might think that Woody Allen would be an obvious choice. For me, Woody falls more into the ‘dork’ category. I don’t think his films have ever appealed to the nerd community as a whole, although he could increase his nerd cred if he continues to cast Scarlett Johansson in more roles (see Vicky Cristina Barcelona). So the best call is Martin Scorsese for Hugo. Scorsese is a nerd, and although most his films are not really nerdcentric in nature (see Goodfellas, Casino, Taxi Driver) he does exude a geeky passion for his craft that makes his films fun and addictively entertaining. That and Hugo does have some sentimentally sci-fi and steampunk elements in it that make Scorsese the only real contender for Best Director this year.
Winner: Martin Scorsese
Best Picture Nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse.
This was a tough decision. Even though we can immediately discount The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Midnight in Paris, The Artist and The Tree of Life, the remaining three films do have elements of nerdiness going for them. Moneyball has baseball and baseball statistics, both of which have a lot of appeal to the greater nerd nation, and it stars Jonah Hill (Superbad) and Brad Pitt (12 Monkeys), both which have shown geeky appeal in the past.
War Horse was directed by Steven Spielberg and need we say more. Although this film is not especially nerdy, it was created by a man with a long pedigree of geekcentric films like Jaws, Jurassic Park, Tintin, Indiana Jones, War of the Worlds, Minority Report, A.I., E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind! If past nerd cred counts, then Mr. Spielberg and War Horse are the favorites to win.
But looking at each of these films on their own merits (yes, I’m only consistent in my inconsistency) I’ve got to go with Hugo. Of all the Best Picture nominees, this film fits the nerdcentric niche best. It’s got fantasy elements, it’s got steampunk styling, it has a robot and it was directed by my geeky director pick.
For those of you who prefer your geekdom remain based in reality, check out the Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievements which were presented on Saturday, February 11, and hosted by Milla Jovovich.
And if you want to do some film fact-finding before the big show tonight, check out The Official Academy Awards Database for hours of database fun.