The Oscars :: Ugly Edition

The Oscars are Sunday and everyone over here at Ugly Mag is excited. And why shouldn't we be? The Oscars have it all: movies, stars, fashion, drama, awards. It’s Hollywood's biggest night and we can’t resist looking on with them.

But every year I can’t help but get the feeling that maybe the Oscar’s are missing something- No, not more variety shows, musical numbers or lifetime achievement awards (trust me, they have plenty already) rather, I feel like the Academy always misses out on one or two (or 10) awards that they should be handing out but don’t.

Now before you roll your eyes and click away, hear me out. This isn’t some diatribe railing against The Academy for being stuck up about which types of movies they choose to award every year (hint: it’s always the same kinds) or for having a generally insufferable voting system that is, even to the trained eye, nothing short of a giant cluster-fuck. I get it. I really do! It’s one of Hollywood’s longest standing traditions, and despite it’s rigidity and pompousness, it still means something to the cultural world. And that is totally fine. To win an Oscar is a crowning cinematic achievement.

But, in their self importance The Academy oftentimes overlooks things hidden even in their own nominees. So thankfully, I am here to right some wrongs this award season with the brand spankin’ new Ugly Oscars! These awards go to movies, actors or directors that deserve some recognition, but have largely been passed over by the “experts” at The Academy.

Now, to keep things simple (and the list mercifully short) I will only bestow Ugly Oscars to movies or actors/directors attached to movies that have already been nominated. But, that still leaves us with a damned fine list. The Ugly Oscars pool can be found here, but for the sake of time and space (read: laziness) I’ll refrain from rewriting it. As you can see, it is the full list of Oscar nominated films that I am drawing from. This, I think, is a pretty fair limitation of movies to choose from for the Ugly Oscars.

Let’s begin!

Best Newcomer


With all due respect to the other acting races, this one feels like it is the most exciting. And it’s a pretty simple formula; this award goes out to the best previously unknown actor or actress who showed up in a movie, and against all odds, knocked it out of the park. The role can be large or small, we aren’t as stuffy as those other Academy types.

NOMINEES

Chris Pratt 
The Guardians of the Galaxy
Eddie Redmayne
The Theory of Everything
Ellar Coltrane
Boyhood
Tony Revolori
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Rosamund Pike
Gone Girl

This is an admittedly arbitrary and subjective award, but then again, they all are, so what the hell? All of these performances were outstanding, seemingly coming from nowhere to carry parts of or whole films to places they otherwise would not have reached. However, if a winner has to be chosen, it comes down to Chris Pratt’s turn as Star Lord in the flat out awesome Guardians or Rosamund Pike in as the chilly, calculating Amy in Gone Girl. The other roles were amazing, but seemed like byproducts of great storytelling, great directing, or ensemble casts that elevated their work.  Pratt and Pike defied the odds, the others seemed to benefit from odds stacked in their favor.

THE WINNER IS
Chris Pratt

No disrespect to Pike (spoiler alert, she isn’t going home empty handed), but Pratt’s ascension into the pop culture lexicon has been swift and dramatic, and he seems poised for a lot more.


 

 

Best Soundtrack


NOMINEES

Guardians of the Galaxy
Begin Again
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Lego Movie
Boyhood

All of these movies establish some part of their distinct personalities with their soundtracks. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most traditional of the bunch, but the moods and aesthetics of the movie simply would not work without the music all the way through (and it’s up for Best original score, too). Boyhood and Guardians of the Galaxy are compilation albums that are so perfect for their subjects it would be impossible to separate them. But with no disrespect to The Lego Movie, the best soundtrack top to bottom was also the most original.

THE WINNER IS
Begin Again

A small film based in New York City, it has Keira Knightley singing (and singing well) while coached by a down on his luck music producer played by Mark Ruffalo. All the songs in the movie are original and the soundtrack, available on Spotify, is superb.

 

 

Best Performance in an Otherwise OK-ish Movie


NOMINEES

Robert Duvall
The Judge
Matthew McConaughey
Interstellar
Julianne Moore
Still Alice
Richard Armitage
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

These movies may have had their moments, but suffered from overall clarity and cohesion. But they did not lack was a fine performance from each of these nominees that, were the movie more complete, could have yielded actual Academy Awards (note: Julianne Moore and Robert Duvall are both nominated for acting awards already).

THE WINNER IS
Julianne Moore

It had to be, right? The other movies had star power and good directors, but Moore simply carried this long, drawn out film much much farther than it ever had a right to go. Yes, I know, Moore could well win best actress Sunday night, but when she does, just know that you read it here first.


 

 

Best Scene


A good or a great film will have many many excellent scenes strung together, often times making it hard to find one among them that stands out. But these scenes, from Best Picture contenders and mishits alike, were a cut above the rest.

NOMINEES

Bridge Scene
Selma
Musical Epiphany Scene
Begin Again
Sex/Murder Scene
Gone Girl
Interview Scene
Gone Girl
Time Delay Video Scene
Interstellar

Ok, video for these scenes seem impossible to come by, so bear with me here. The Bridge scene in Selma documents an actual march wherein racial violence broke out against the unarmed primarily black protest marchers. But the scene is so well crafted and so tightly controlled, it’s a wonder to watch it on the screen. The violence is both acute and chronic, and the weight of the situation seems to saturate each shot.

Begin Again was perhaps a let down in theaters, but the scene where Mark Ruffalo’s drunk, broke, and unemployed music producer character literally sees the instruments begin to play themselves behind Keira Knightley's shy, folk singer character was nothing short of perfect. What could have been sappy (hell, it even sounds sappy when describing it) turns out to be a magical scene in an otherwise ok-ish movie.

Gone Girl gets nominated twice because a.) it deserves it, and b.) it is woefully underrepresented at the actual Oscars. Both scenes are driven by the electric and captivating Rosamund Pike as she displays her body and then her violence in the murder scene and her acute, meticulous response to her husbands t.v. interview in another. Both are done with precision and purpose.

And finally, Interstellar should have hinged on this scene where McConaughey, after having bent the laws of time, finds that years and years have past in what he thought were just minutes (confused yet?) and he gets a video message from his now grown up daughter and son. It doesn't, and the movie trails off afterward, but the scene is heartbreaking and wonderful and McConaughey does a masterful job.     

THE WINNER IS
Tie: the two Gone Girl scenes.

If you don’t like that I am handing out ties, I understand. But it happened and there is nothing you can do about it. They were brilliant, perfectly shot scenes in an underappreciated (and largely female driven) movie, and they deserve some credit. For now, a shared Ugly Oscar will have to do.

 


Ugliest Movie


This award goes out to the film that best captures what it means to be Ugly. Be it filming style, storyline, acting, music, the winner of this award has to be a film that upholds our values, shares our vision and remains defiantly Ugly throughout. It is no small task.

NOMINEES

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Birdman

Inherent Vice

Gone Girl

Night Crawler

Boyhood

Let’s get the big ones out of the way here. Boyhood and Birdman are in a dead heat tie for Best Picture Sunday night, and it is easy to see why. Boyhood is the exceedingly beautiful story of a family growing, struggling and loving together, and filmed over the course of 12 years. Birdman is about a washed up super hero actor looking to make a comeback and be a part of actual art. In many ways Birdman feels like the story of an actor who would want to make art like Boyhood and is struggling to find out how.

There really is only one phrase to describe Gone Girl: holyshitballs of an intense movie. Good lord! If a more perfect adaptation of the best selling novel could have been made, I would like to see it. As it stands, director David Fincher made a tightly wound, inescapable thriller made all the more perfect by the performances of Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck.

Reviews of Wes Anderson films often fall into the “style over substance” category, which always seemed unfair. Yes, Anderson has a distinct aesthetic observable in every film he has directed, but to lump them all together does a disservice to his most complete film yet. The Grand Budapest Hotel was a delight simply because it added some much needed emotional weight to the Anderson film collection. The creeping, almost inevitable sense of gloom and menace is always present, and yet, in this most beautiful exploration of nostalgia, hope and love provide a respite. Sad, beautiful, whimsical and poignant, The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s best work.

Night Crawler was a wildly entertaining film that was basically a vehicle for Jake Gyllenhaal to do Jake Gyllenhaal things in. And that is no criticism. Gyllenhaal is a fine and underappreciated actor who seemed to truly relish the process of the film. By the same token, Inherent Vice does largely the same thing as director Paul Thomas Anderson again lets Joaquin Phoenix explore what it means to be a detective who’s best skill seems to be smoking pot. Expansive, quirky and entirely over the top (including the terrific ensemble cast), Vice may come to be more appreciated with time.

THE WINNER IS
Gone Girl

It’s uncompromising, unforgiving and at times nearly unbelievable. But the sheer force with which Pike and Affleck give their performances make this film impossible to turn away from, even at it’s most horrifying. This commitment to style, to the story and to the directors vision is by all accounts Ugly behavior, and it should be rewarded with an Ugly Oscar.