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Top Oscar Surprises: Gary Oldman and Demian Who?

by Caryn James
January 24, 2012 10:41 AM
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The awards season zooms ahead now that the Oscar nominations have been announced. What didn’t we see coming? And what were those voters thinking? Never mind; a pointless question. Here’s a look at the biggest surprises and how they change the race.


This is still George Clooney’s award, with Brad Pitt the runner up. But there were two terrific surprises. Gary Oldman, virtually ignored by other awards except the BAFTAs, turned  up for his amazing, restrained performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. And Demian Bichir - I know, Demian who? – squeaked in for his affecting role as a Mexican gardener in A Better Life. (Photo below; he also played Castro in Steven Soderbergh's Che.)

Bichir displaced the presumed nominee, Michael Fassbender in Shame. Maybe the still-staid Academy didn’t want to sit through all those Michael Fassbender penis jokes that have also seemed inevitable. Oh, yes, Jean Dujardin from The Artist was nominated too; snooze. Much more on this race to come.  


There could have been as few as five or as many as ten under this year’s wackadoodle rules, and a smaller number would have focused attention on the inevitable battle between The Artist and Hugo – or is it The Artist vs. The Descendants? With nine nominees, the possibilities for spreading votes changes the dynamics. There should have been seven. The Help, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris were all expected. Tree of Life wasn’t, which sends a message somebody wants to be seen as artistic. Then there were the lily-livered nominations: War Horse is there because it’s big and it’s by Spielberg. The mediocre Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is there because ... well, who knows? Earnest 9/11 subject?   

The Descendants seems less and less likely -- I'm on Team Hugo.


 Anything that cuts down on those bloated, cringe-inducing production numbers is fine with me. This year’s Best Song nominees are from The Muppets (“Man or Muppet”) and Rio (“Real in Rio”). Kid-friendly music may not make for the most sophisticated Oscar show, but it’s pretty hard to go wrong with Muppets!  


Albert Brooks, widely considered a sure thing for a Supporting Actor nomination for Drive, wasn’t. But as he Tweeted yesterday , the nominations were only going to tell him if he had to show up for another awards ceremony where Christopher Plummer won.

The race is just heating up and will be fascinating to watch - maybe more fascinating than the Billy Crystal old-timers show. 

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Jay | January 25, 2012 6:14 PMReply

    What Johnnie said, basically. Like it or not, the man is probably unknown to most people. I suspect quite a few non-racist folks read or heard of his nomination and said "Demian who?" It's possible to overestimate the "global reach of film culture." Maybe someone should take a poll.

    And I don't know how to add the accent to his name, so cut me some slack on that, please.

  • Johnnie | January 25, 2012 5:29 PMReply

    I'm really confused about why James's post is seen as racist.
    Can someone please explain this to me.

    Bichir is a complete unknown to 99% of worldwide audiences. He starred in a film that, while certainly a fine motion picture, was unseen by 99.5% of the world's population. Therefore, his Oscar nomination was justifiably considered a surprise by everyone on planet Earth except whichever members of the acting branch voted for him

    A headline that consists of the words (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH AN UNKNOWN ACTOR GETTING AN OSCAR NOMINATION) WHO?God dammit, can we stop accusing everyone of racism?

  • Johnnie | January 25, 2012 5:52 PM

    I wish this comment board had an editing function!

    To continue my point, there is nothing to suggest James's line was written simply because Bichir is Mexican. If you'd like to make the argument that James thought, "I can't believe some stupid unknown Mexican was nominated for an Oscar, so I'm going to insult his stupid Mexican ass and show my concept for him and his entire race", I'd really, really be curious to see how you justify that.

    The motivation for the line was that Bichir was a surprise pick, whether you want to admit it or not. And I really hope the next time you see a headline with the words (PERSON'S NAME) WHO? that you write a similar email on their comment board as well. Cause you'll be pretty busy, I guarantee you.

  • Frako Loden | January 25, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    "I know, Demian who?" What's with the "I know"? I guess you're calling out to others as ignorant as you are.

  • Michael Guillen | January 25, 2012 3:07 PMReply

    Caryn Who? Oh yeah, her. The one who can't spell her name like a normal Karen. The one who thinks she's amusing to make dismissively racist jokes about Demián Bichir, one of Latin America's finest actors, on the presumption that no one will know a Mexican actor. The one who can't even remember to put the accent over his first name. Time for a colonic, Caryn. You're so stuffed full of yourself and your predisposition to American cinema that you can't recognize the global reach of film culture. Why indieWIRE allows you to spew this peurile crap is unbelievable.

  • Jay rapinsky | June 19, 2012 5:01 PM

    I thought her last name--the real one that is--was Fioricci or something Italian. That's what it was in college, undergrad I mean. She was always Caryn, but Wasp-i-ized herself when she moved to NYC, the Times, etc. Did it help?

    Does it have anything to do with reviews? Maybe a little about persona.


  • Rania | January 25, 2012 9:58 AMReply

    Just watched A BETTER LIFE last night. Bichir is fine in it, but I don't see it as an award-worthy performance, largely because he has to act in a mediocre, cliched, predictable film.

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