Currently circulating Hollywood is a rumour that, to celebrate 50 years since the release of Dr. No, this year’s Oscars ceremony will reunite the six actors to have played James Bond on screen, from Connery through to Craig. While this is an admittedly exciting prospect, I can’t help wishing that some of the Academy’s evident enthusiasm had been manifested in the awards themselves.
In fairness, it has earned a smattering of technical nominations, including Best Cinematography (deserved), Best Song (deserved) and Best Original Sound Editing (your guess is as good as mine). What stings is the film’s absence in the bigger categories. While Daniel Craig’s portrayal of 007 might be prone to the criticism that essentially “he just runs around and hits people”, the supporting turns could at least have gained a mention. BAFTA nominated Dame Judi Dench and Javier Bardem, the latter proving to be particularly appropriate given how much well-documented work Bardem did to make his villainous Silva interesting and unique. So why no Oscar love? I mean come on, Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for playing the all-singing, all-shouting (mainly shouting) medium in Ghost. Consider that for a moment. Whoopi Goldberg is better in Ghost than Javier Bardem and Dame Judi Dench are in Skyfall. Really?
Even more difficult to fathom is the snubbing of the Logan/Purvis/Wade script, and Sam Mendes’ direction. To take a franchise that can so easily fall into lazy, bland parody (stand up Die Another Day) and make it feel fresh, exciting and unpredictable whilst still being faithful to the character’s origins is undoubtedly an achievement to be praised. With regards to direction, Mendes’ work here is as impressive, if not more, than his other, more award-friendly pieces. That is not to say Skyfall is a better movie than American Beauty (which won for Best Director), rather, that Meendes’ handling of the material here is just as skilful. It’s right that Roger Deakins’ cinematography should be recognised, but when so much of the vision can be attributed to Mendes, I struggle to understand the logic in rewarding one but not the other.
The Academy’s treatment of Skyfall is indicative of a tendency that just won’t go away. Sadly, it seems that the voters – primarily white, male and in their sixties – just don’t want to see genre films all that much. Even with the introduction of the ten-nomination system for Best Picture, the Oscars, for no logical reason, continue leaning toward dramas, real-life triumphs over adversity and the complete works of Sandra Bullock. And no matter how many times they throw in a token gesture towards more popular films – as with Inception and Avatar – you can be sure that, come awards day, anything with a disability, historical figure or holocaust will still win the day. The Golden Globes take a lot of flak, but at least they have the sense to admit that drama and genre films can’t be judged in the same category, and so split them accordingly.
The Oscars, though, seem content to keep pretending that, on the whole, dramas are simply better than all other film genres. While such a fundamental imbalance exists, it is pointless to even hope that films like Skyfall, which excel within (and beyond) their generic realm, will receive appropriate recognition. The only way I can envisage Bond taking home gold any time soon is if Daniel Craig storms the ceremony, punches Hugh Jackman to the ground mid-speech and steals the trophy, Walther PPK in hand.