Up until 2006, Martin Scorsese was the centre of a fierce debate in Hollywood. At that point in his career, he’d established himself as one of the most revered directors in Hollywood, responsible for works such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Aviator. In movie terms, Scorsese was already a Hollywood God, but despite receiving countless Academy Award nominations, it wasn’t until he picked up the Best Director Award for The Departed that he became truly acknowledged for his catalogue of work.
Post-2006, the conversation steered away from Scorsese and onto Leonardo DiCaprio, who similarly had failed to take home the top prize, despite many nominations. Many thought The Wolf of Wall Street would be DiCaprio’s moment, but for a stunning breakout performance from Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. However, he didn’t have to wait long. 2015’s The Revenant landed DiCaprio the big prize, and boy did he earn it. Any man prepared to spend an evening inside a dead horse in the freezing cold for a movie has my vote.
Really though, both of these cases are beside the point.
The actual point of this piece is not to praise the Academy for finally acknowledging the likes of Scorsese and DiCaprio. Rather, it is to use the obsession over these two individuals, or even the obsession over directors and actors and their apparent lack of acknowledgment in film, to talk about some of the truly forgotten people in Hollywood.
It’s interesting that when you type in “people that have never won an Oscar” into Google, the results predominantly focus on actors and actresses, which perfectly sums up one of the greatest injustices in Hollywood. Clearly, the focus of acknowledgment is too heavily weighed on the side of one or two categories, with the others falling in line as an afterthought.
Television networks are largely responsible for this injustice, which consistently fail to include categories such as cinematography, make-up, visual effects, sound and score as part of their coverage for award ceremonies. This is symbolic of the problem. By making these ceremonies all about acting and directing, audiences are being subliminally brainwashed into thinking that other categories aren’t as important. This couldn’t be further from the truth and if you think about it, it’s quite insulting.
The fact that Scorsese and Dicaprio hadn’t won things at one point in time caused uproar. When they finally won, people commended the Academy and the debate then turned to the next actor or director that hadn’t won. The pattern is sickeningly formulaic.
But what about people like Roger Deakins, acclaimed cinematographer best known for his work on the films of the Coen brothers, Frank Darabont, Sam Mendes, and Denis Villeneuve. He is a member of the American and British Society of Cinematographers, received a lifetime achievement award from the former in 2011 and has received thirteen separate nominations for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Yet, Deakins has never won an Oscar award for his outstanding contribution to individual film and cinema in general.
Another that has been unfairly snubbed by the Oscars is Thomas Newman. Best known for his magnificent compositions in The Shawshank Redemption, Wall-E, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Finding Nemo/Dory and James Bond – to name a few – like Deakins, Newman has been nominated 13 times at the Academy Awards. In two different years, he was even nominated twice in the same category. And yet, despite the odds being very much in his favour, Thomas Newman has like Deakins never received the award he so richly deserves.
As Red says in Shawshank, “some birds aren’t meant to be caged, their feathers are too bright”. In the case of Thomas Newman, his music is too beautiful and soul-shaking to go unacknowledged. I hold hope that one day this will prove true for him, Roger Deakins and the countless others not mentioned in this article. But make no mistake, unlike Scorsese and Dicaprio, no-one is campaigning the injustice that they haven’t won awards.
It’s for this reason above all that I feel such contempt for the big ceremonies, which continues to disappoint in so many areas. If I were on the board, my message would be simple. “Let’s stop focusing on acting and directing and start acknowledging the fact that so much more goes into making the films we all love and cherish so much.”
If they do this, I might consider tuning in for them again.