I’m no Christopher Nolan fan, but …

brent johnson talks about why he’s angry about the Inception director’s Oscar snub …

I never thought this would happen.

I’ve gone on record before saying I’m not as enamored with Christopher Nolan as the rest of the world seems to be. I like Memento and The Dark Knight fine. But Inception cemented my biggest problem with cinema’s new wunderkind: His films try too hard. They’re too mind-bending. Sometimes, trying to understand them is like trying to find simplicity in a Rush album.

But this week, I felt sorry for Nolan. And I never thought that would happen. Especially this year.

Tuesday, the British filmmaker was denied a Best Director nomination for Inception at the Academy Awards — a scenario that never crossed my mind as being even slightly possible. I may not be a Nolan acolyte, but even I knew this was ridiculous.

Inception was the movie Oscar was waiting for: a challenging, original film that droves of people flocked to see. Whatever problems it had — lackluster acting, a loose-logic script, a headache-inducing plot — were not the result of Nolan’s direction. If it were only for the dazzling zero-gravity fight scene and folding-over city streetscapes, Nolan deserved a nomination.

A director is supposed to take a unique vision and plaster it on the screen with wonder and gall. And can you honestly say that the Coen Brothers and David O. Russell — fine, subtle filmmakers that they are — did that better than Nolan this year? I think not.

Maybe Nolan is the 21st Century version of Rob Reiner. Usually, whoever is nominated for the Directors Guild of America Awards goes on to snag an Oscar nod. Reiner has been recognized with DGA noms three times: for Stand By Me in 1986, When Harry Met Sally … in 1989 and A Few Good Men in 1992. But Oscar snubbed him each time.

Nolan has seen the same thing happen three times now. The DGA nominated him for Memento in 2001, The Dark Knight in 2008 and Inception this year. But from Oscar? Nada.

Maybe the Academy’s director’s branch is still too grey-haired and stodgy to accept a modern filmmaker tweaking and pushing the limits of cinema. After all, Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas never won a Best Director statute. Tim Burton has never even been nominated.

Or maybe the Academy was put off by Inception‘s boggling premise, as I was. (EW.com has a great piece that wonders the same things.)

Inception has grossed $292.5 million in the U.S. alone

But the funny thing? In 2008, The Dark Knight was left out of Oscar’s Best Picture race. The next year, the Academy increased the category’s field to 10 nominees, in an effort to make sure more commercial films (i.e., movies people actually see) get into the race. It wasn’t a coincidence.

So let me get this straight: The Academy changes its bylaws for Nolan but doesn’t honor his directorial achievements?

Odd. Just odd.


  1. It’s great to hear this from someone who wasn’t a fan of Inception or of Nolan. As someone who is on the opposite spectrum (I’m a huge Nolan fan, and Inception was my favorite film of 2010), I’m glad we could see eye-to-eye and that non-fans can still recognize how much he has achieved with his film this last year. It’s really such a shame and one of the biggest outrages this awards season. I wrote a little bit about it myself on my own blog: http://karen-on.com/2011/01/25/oscars-2011-thoughts-on-nominations/

    Nice post. Thanks for writing it!