The 2013 Oscar nominations were released yesterday, and upon perusing the list, you might realize a narrative (mostly) missing that was present in the last couple of years: fathers.
By my count, the 2013 nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress include a total of three movies about fathers. Write that number down.
The 2012 Oscar nominations (regardless of winners) mentioned more than twice as many, with seven movies whose main themes included fathers and fatherhood.
The 2011 Oscars set up fathers for a bright future with nominations of father-centric films like The Kids Are All Right, Inception, True Grit, Biutiful and Winter’s Bone. So 2012’s nominations were a natural progression. What happened in the wake of all of this amazing dadly cinema?
In all of the 2013 Best Picture, and Best/Supporting Actors and Actresses, we were offered three tales of fatherhood: Beasts of the Southern Wild, about a father and daughter in a remote area of the Bayou, Les Misérables, which, in-short, is a wild adoption story, and The Impossible, which isn’t really about a father so much as a family caught in a flood, but we’ll take it.
So, really, the 2013 Oscar nominations have one concrete father-daughter story and two “good enoughs.”
It’s not that there weren’t any movies about fathers in the last year. The Academy just didn’t see any great ones.
In the last year, we saw Clint Eastwood’s father-daughter road trip Trouble With the Curve, and Robert DeNiro play a con-man father returning from absence in Being Flynn.
Mark Wahlberg played a father, protecting his family as violently as possible, in Contraband, and Liam Neeson did the same in Taken 2.
Internationally, an Israeli film about a father and son called Footnote won Best Screenplay at Cannes, and a Greek film that toured the film festivals by the name of Attenberg centered around a father-daughter relationship.
On the lower-end of things is Gerard Butler’s Playing for Keeps, where he plays a pro soccer star who ends up coaching his son’s soccer team (and swatting away soccer moms).
And finally, 2012 saw the abysmal Adam Sandler movie That’s My Boy and the mom-and-dad yawnfest What to Expect When You’re Expecting garnering “Worst of 2012” Razzie nominations, so that’s notable.
Have we lost our interest in fathers? Or is cinema a wild, unpredictable chaos from which we’re trying to wrongfully wrangle thematic order?
It’d be naïve for us to think that the cinema of a particular year doesn’t at least somewhat reflect the current topical discussions. But some movies take years to film, and others are written in a time far off from their actual filming. It’s not like everyone heard the 2012 Oscar winners and consciously swung the pendulum away from an oversaturated dad-movie market.
Coincidentally, fathers had an active year on television: 2012 saw a handful of major network sitcoms about fathers, including (among others) ABC’s Baby Daddy, Nickelodeon’s See Dad Run and NBC’s duo, The New Normal, and Guys With Kids. And while the image of dads varied in each show, the underlying trend seemed to signify that dads were an evolving and interesting character.
But on the silver screen, seeing fathers gather attention in Oscars past, then almost completely disappear in this last year could be a warning for dads: stay relevant! Stay involved! Stay sexy!
(That last one was for the inevitable next Gerard Butler-as-a-hot-dad movie)
Next year, roundabout this time, we’ll be hopefully be toasting to a refreshing year of Oscarworthy father flicks.