Quvenzhane Wallis is amongst the youngest actors and actresses ever to have been nominated for an Oscar and has just over a week to wait, to determine whether or not she will become the youngest ever actress to win an Oscar, in the Best Actress category, for her performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Currently, the youngest person ever to win an Oscar is Tatum O’Neal, who won a Best Supporting Actress award for 1974’s Paper Moon.
Is it right, though, that arguably the highest accolade an actress can win, could be awarded to a novice, with such little experience in the movie industry, when others have been honing their craft for so many years and navigating the pitfalls of the industry? Is it right that a 9 year-old could be considered the best actress in the movie industry right now? The movie’s director Benh Zeitlin spoke to Associated Press and explained why he felt that Quvenzhane is very much deserving of the award, explaining that she has a natural acting instinct, rare in one so young. One day, on set, when Wallis appeared to be struggling with the role, he took her to one side and asked what the problem was. “I can't snap it today. Normally I can snap it,” came her answer. “The fact that she had an internal sense of when she's in character, when she's getting the emotions right and feeling it, is really special even in experienced actors,” remarked Zeitlin, “but especially someone of her age to have that sort of self-awareness."
Thelma Adams, contributing editor at Yahoo! Movies, however, is of the opinion that the nomination is no good for a nine year old girl. “To have her nominated, it's not good for her… this red carpet thing is a grind.” It remains to be seen whether this year’s Best Actress announcement will be a record-breaking one (equally, it could go to 85 year old Emmanuelle Riva, tipping the scales the other way) but even to heap the pressure of an Oscars nomination on a 9 year old girl is a big ask.
Continue reading: Is 9 Too Young For An Oscar? Quvenzhane Wallis Divides Opinion
Headlines haven't been able to keep away from the massive injustices of the snubbing of both Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck, but to be fair to them both, they have an Oscar each (or more) already. They're doing fine. Yes, their films are good, but actually Zero Dark Thirty and Argo are not the only films in the world. And rather than defend those who are perfectly capable of defending themselves, how about we praise those who probably didn't think for a second that they would be nominated, despite truly deserving to.
Firstly: The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Do you remember this? Almost all movies in The Oscars lists have been released within the past three months, but this one came out way back in March. It's a stop motion animation about pirates, Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria. Not only was it wildly entertaining, it had its basis (albeit a very small amount of it) in historical and scientific fact. More than anything though, it was simply a great thing to watch. Plus, it brought together some of the UK's best actresses and actors to voice the characters, including Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Martin Freeman and Imelda Staunton. It has been nominated for Best Animated Picture. The animated list this year is good, but not great, so it has as good a chance as any to win.
Secondly, the nomination of 'Best Song' for "Before My Time", written by J. Ralph was a bit of a surprise. The documentary it has been lifted from was called Chasing Ice and is all about climate change and about the process of documenting the 'Extreme Ice Survey'. The song itself is sung by none other than Scarlett Johansson who has a surprisingly lovely voice, resulting in quite a beauty. Heart shattering in places, she sings with just a piano and a quiet string section behind her. Its simplicity let the documentary shine, and yet still works as a stand alone piece. It could be the next big funeral song. That doesn't sound like a compliment, but it is. It's a stunning example of simplicity done at its best, and that's why it has been nominated.
Whenever film nominations are released for the various awards ceremonies that erupt during the January of every year, there is undoubtedly a political element behind every choice. Of the Oscar nominations that were released today, Silver Linings Playbook is the closest of any of the films to a 'comedy', and that revolves itself around mental illness- not so comic. It seems, unequivocally, that serious films are the best films, according to the various institutions that hand out prizes. It came as a great surprise, therefore, when Kathryn Bigelow's directing for the enormously successful (fiscally and critically), very, very serious film Zero Dark Thirty, was snubbed for a nomination for Best Director. The other surprise in that group was a nomination for Benh Zeitlin.
There has already been much speculation surrounding her absence in the list, but the general consensus is that the controversy surrounding the film, regarding the use of torture. The Huffington Post blogger Jan Lisa Huttner cites gender as a problem, noting that with Bigelow's elision from the lineup, "for the 80th time in 84 years, all the Best Director nominees in 2013 are male." Another idea is that Bigelow has already won an Oscar for best director, and its time to give other, lesser known directors a chance at the gong. And that's probably the most likely, because Benh Zeitlin, the second biggest surprise of the list, is someone that almost no one has heard of.
So, who is Benh Zeitlin and why has he been nominated? To begin with, he's only thirty years old. Secondly, the movie for which he's nominated, Beasts of the Southern Wild, is the first feature-length film he's ever made. His movie stars a five year old actress, for whom Beasts is also her debut, in a kind of magical-realist approach to the story of a community hit by Hurricane Katrina. Her name is Quvenzhané Wallis, she is also nominated for Best Actress, and probably the youngest person ever to be nominated in this category.
He was the bookies favorite coming in to today, but Argo's Ben Affleck didn't even make the shortlist for the Best Director category as the Oscars nomination were revealed.
Just yesterday the Mirror had reported that it was to be a two horse race between Affleck and Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow this year to take the much-coveted award. In the event though neither of them managed to make the final cut, the Academy panel of judges looking over them both in order to give a chance to the lesser favored Benh Zeitlin and Michael Hanneke for Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Amour respectively. Those two join the much more fancied Steven Spielberg, David O Russell and Ang Lee, the trio nominated for Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and The Life Of Pi respectively.
Skyfall has missed out on an Oscar nomination for Best Picture as the likes of Lincoln, Argo and Les Miserables all as expected were included in the shortlist. The news will come as a bitter blow to Samuel Mendes, Daniel Craig and the rest of the James Bond team, who were hoping that a critical and commercial smash Stateside, a first ever nomination at the Producer's Guild Of America awards and a special tribute actually being held at the Oscars themselves to pay tribute to its 50th anniversary, would be enough for it to make the cut.
Evidently though the tribute appears to be all but a sop thrown to the James Bond franchise, with neither the film, director Samuel Mendes nor star Daniel Craig to be seen in any of the categories. The Dark Knight Rises was another to miss the cut - and indeed any other category - though there were plenty of names included who were strongly tipped up in the build-up this year.
Of those, the strongest choics look like being Steven Spielberg's Lincoln and the Tom Hooper-directed Les Miserables; it's a line-up glistening with quality though: Bradley Cooper was a surprise nomination in the Best Leading Actor category, which is perhaps a sign that Silver Linings PIaybook is favored strongly among the panel. Benh Zeitlin meanwhile continued his fairytale story as he saw Beasts Of The Southern Wild make the cut in addition to his own name being put up for Best Director, and the controversial Django Unchained also made the list, despite criticism over its handling of slavery issues. Elsewhere, Michael Hanneke's Amour found itself up for inclusion, despite its name being relatively unheralded when it came to predicting the final reckoning in the build-up; Argo was another to be included in the list, though you might argue that its chances look weak given that Ben Affleck didn't make it into the shortlist for Best Director, despite being the bookies favourite beforehand.
Continue reading: Skyfall Oscars Snub In Best Picture Nominations
The National Board Of Review Awards took place last night (January 8, 2013), with many evidently viewing the bash as a warm-up before the Oscar nominations get announced tomorrow (January 10, 2013). As such, some of the names who may well be featuring in less than 24 hours time were on the red carpet, including Skyfall's Daniel Craig, Argo director and actor Ben Affleck, stars from Les Miserables including Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried, and many more.
Lushly imaginative filmmaking and strong performances more than make up for newcomer Benh Zeitlin's indulgent fourishes as a new writer-director. This fable-style movie from the American South is moody and engulfing, taking us into a world would never have imagined. And that it's anchored by a powerhouse performance from a 6-year-old actress makes it even more remarkable.
This is Quvenzhane Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy, daughter of the tenacious survivor Wink (Henry). They live in neighbouring trailers in the Bathtub, a tightly knit community in the Louisiana bayou that is completely submerged whenever there's a storm. But this latest flood is worse than usual, and as Wink looks for a solution to their waterlogged problems, Hushpuppy starts to realise that her daddy isn't well. So she decides to go find her long-lost mother, who left shortly after she was born. In her imaginative mind, the flood and Wink's illness are both linked to global warming, which is thawing out the polar ice and releasing prehistoric boar-like aurochs that are heading for the Bathtub.
The key element of the story is Hushpuppy's remarkable awareness that the world is a huge place full of interconnected life, and that she is only one small part of it. But she also knows that even a little girl like her can have an impact on her environment, so her quest for her mother takes on an apocalypse-averting tone. And Wallis is simply unstoppable in the role, capturing Hushpuppy's complex internal journey with a transparency that's breathtaking. Opposite her, Henry manages to keep up with her by internalising his own performance.
Continue reading: Beasts Of The Southern Wild Review
You have probably never heard of Quvenzhane Wallis. Well, you have now, because it has been written and you have read it, and you must now never forget that name (difficult though it may be- and even more difficult to spell). Quvenzhane Wallis. She was just 5 years old when she played Hushpuppy in 'Beasts of the Southern Wild', directed and co-written by Benh Zeitlin, a film that won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Festival this year.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is focalised through Hushpuppy and focuses around her and her alcoholic father, living in a fictional and poverty ridden area of Louisiana called 'Bathtub'. It focuses in their preparations for, reactions to, and relationships related to Hurricance Katrina. Part drama, part surreal, magical-realist masterpiece, this film is an absolute gem.
Critics from around the globe have gushed with praise for the film. The Telegraph said "Few American debuts in recent years have announced a talent as singular as that of Behn Zeitlin, the blazingly gifted director and co-writer of Beasts of the Southern Wild". Time Out said that it's "A dreamy but strikingly immediate and frayed-at-the-edges, child's-eye view of life on the margins of America." And, Empire described it as "Beautiful, funny, timely and tender, this is the American arthouse movie of the year." The Daily Mail were unsurprisingly cynical, particularly in regard to its "Left-wing wishful thinking" and refers to Hushpuppy's utterly beautiful and poetic prose as "nonsensical philosophising". We can only put this down to a sad lack of imagination and scorn for anything that isn't Taken 2. We can't yet say whether we consider Beasts of the Southern Wild to be our film of the year, but we love 'nonsensical philosophising' and are beyond impressed with the skills of a 5 year old to deliver that beautiful nonsense in such a heartfelt, sincere and engaging way. We can only applaud it.