The Academy generally likes to throw people a surprise to trick them into thinking the awards selection process is mildly discerning and unpredictable. However, this year’s decision to exclude Inside Llewyn Davis from the list of nominees seems almost antagonistic toward those trying to actually make an artistic statement with their work. The Coen brothers took an incredible risk with this movie, but even the Golden Globe Awards couldn’t bother to give them an award for any of their nominations (though at least they were nominated at all for this ceremony). In the past, the Coen brothers have won Academy Awards for Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but, while daring, these films were not nearly as emotionally macabre as Inside Llewyn Davis (wood chipper excluded).
Granted, there is this misapprehension about the Academy that they prefer to nominate depressing and intense films, and this is true to an extent–but only as long as there is an inherently uplifting message in the end (à la Terms of Endearment). Inside Llewyn Davis differentiates itself from past Academy Award winning movies of a bleak nature because no light at the end of the tunnel is shown. Its utter and unapologetically hopeless portrayal of the life of an artist offers no solace to those in a similar position as the protagonist. Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac, ironically named in this instance, it would seem) embodies the dreams of so many people not just in New York City, but throughout the United States. Audiences who saw this film were undoubtedly desperate to cling to some sort of sign that things might turn out okay for Llewyn–that he might catch a break–because that’s what they want for themselves more than anything.
But no, instead of the Coen brothers finally being recognized for taking a real risk for their courageousness in writing a script that’s so genuine and so accurate in its depiction of talented artists being cast aside for lesser quality, the Academy decided to throw them the pity award nominations of cinematography and sound mixing. And so it goes. Hollywood proves the inherent theme of Inside Llewyn Davis: Don’t be too morose for the mainstream.