No Tron For Best Visual Effects: Biggest Oscar Snub Ever?

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A year and a half ago, I walked out of the theater after seeing “Up” and said to myself while whittling in a rocking chair directly outside the theater, “Ya know, if that movie doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Score, there’s really no justice in the world.” Sure enough, “Up” did end up winning the Best Score Oscar, serendipitously restoring my faith in the Academy Awards much like a sitcom family’s belief in Santa Claus is always restored by some trivial coincidence at the end of a Christmas episode. Justice was, in fact, served. A trillion kids in Africa died that night from lack of clean drinking water, but dammit, at least the universe was just with that Oscar pick.

Flash forward to late 2010. I saw the movie Tron: Legacy and enjoyed it, and coming out of the theater, said to myself “That was the most amazing looking film I’ve ever seen – if that doesn’t win the Oscar for Visual Effects, there’s no justice in this world.” The ticket taker guy who was the only one within earshot was all like, “Sup.”

And finally, flash forward to January 25th, 2011, aka Oscar Nominations Day, aka, “The Morning Every Website Does Its Boring List Of Oscar SNUBS And Pretends To Be Pissed Off About Minor Numerical Oversights So They Can Pick Up Hits Off People Googling ‘Oscar Snubs’”. Christopher Nolan should’ve gotten nominated for Best Director, but he would’ve lost anyway, and he’ll win sometime in the future, so it’s mostly academic, but still GRRRRRR! (is the title of every post).

But Tron: Legacy — which I again stress was the most impressive-looking film I’ve ever seen — not only failed to win Best Visual Effects, but didn’t even get nominated in a five-movie field? I cry “SNUB”. Snubmarine. Snubble Bath. Snubby Brister. I’ll continue after the jump, even though I think those expressions made a pretty unarguable case:

In my older age (I blog with a cane now, which is extremely inconvenient for like several reasons), I don’t get as angry as I used to about pop culture things I disagree with, particularly with the subjective momentumfest that is the Oscars. I was hoping Hurt Locker would beat out Avatar for Best Picture last year, which it did, but if Avatar had won, even though I didn’t really care for it, I wouldn’t have taken it personally or ranted against the failure of the Hollywood machine, I would’ve just been like “that happened” and maybe Tweeted something bitchy (although I wasn’t on Twitter last year – but I would’ve definitely left a bitchy Friendster ‘Frienderoo’).

If Avatar had won over Hurt Locker, it wouldn’t have suddenly meant Avatar was a better movie or that my preference towards Hurt Locker (or the never truly in the running Inglourious Basterds, Up, or District 9) was any less valid, it would’ve just meant that Avatar factually won the Oscar. It’s an honor for Avatar, sure, but it’s not gonna stop people from watching either movie and drawing their own conclusions now or any time in the future; it’s just another detail I’ll have to remember the next time I’m taking an Oscar-related Sporcle quiz.

The Tron Visual Effects snub, however, strikes be as more objectively baffling. In a perfect vacuum where film studio Oscar promotion wouldn’t have an effect, Tron obviously should’ve won the Best Visual Effects Oscar (a case can be made for Inception but still, Tron is definitely in the Top 2 and I’d argue a clear #1). In a world where film studio promotion does have an effect, though, I’d expect Tron to win even more handily, as it’s a huge-studio movie that really only did one thing well and thus couldn’t have possibly split its Oscar promotion into any other category (besides maybe “Original Soundtrack”, another snub that we can always discuss tomorrow).

When a big budget film has one outstanding, Oscar-worthy element, and it can promote that one element for an Oscar nomination without spreading itself thin into other areas (like a Best Supporting Actress nomination for boring organic computer organism lady), I just can’t believe how it can still fail to crack the Top 5 in a relatively apolitical category like Visual Effects.

The list of other nominees isn’t bad, but, ironically, is filled with films (sans Inception) that also fit the mold as movies that didn’t spread their promotion thin by concentrating on too many categories:

Alice In Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

Alice In Wonderland, Harry Potter, and Iron Man 2 all definitely had excellent effects, but they were standardly impressive, and nothing that I’d put on an Avatar or Tron level of “holy sh*t, this raised the bar for everything.” Inception was definitely a worthy inclusion, as I mentioned above, if only because it integrated the visual effects into the story in a uniquely essential way for an actiony-type thriller, and I expect it to win this category as a semi-compensatory Oscar for the other more important awards it also deserves but won’t win. I didn’t see Hereafter, so the effects in that may well be amazing too, but that didn’t stop me from making fun of it with that mundane photo of the kids up above (I think that’s a pretty comprehensive and fair argument).

Still, I only really harbored one strong opinion heading into Oscar Nomination Day — the uber-reasonable request that the visuals in Tron get their due — and I’m shocked that it came up empty. I know I mentioned above that I’ve gotten better at not letting these trivial pop culture matters bother me as much in my more mateure age (that’s the mature spelling), so to keep from being a hypocrite, I made sure to whip my cane at Monique’s face as mateurely as possible.

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