Children in Films Blogathon: A Revisionist Look at the Juvenile Award

When I learned of the Child Actor Blogathon at Comet Over Hollywood, I had two ideas for it almost right away: the Jackie Searl spotlight and this one. Not too long ago I argued for why the Juvenile Award should be re-instated. In this post I will follow up on that notion to augment my case. It’s one thing to quickly cite who won while it was around and state it never should have left, it’s quite another to show you who would have had they never gotten rid of it. Now I have decided to illustrate that in three ways, including some omissions found when it was instated (it’ll make more sense when we get there, trust me). First, I will list the young actors who since the end of the award (after 1961) were nominated for an Academy Award.

These actors obviously, had there still been a Juvenile Award, would have won that. While on occasion they were awarded the prize, more often than not they didn’t have a realistic chance. Regardless, their nomination was deemed prize enough it would seem, but I disagree and as you will see there have been plenty of instances where the Juvenile award could have been handed out either in addition to or in place of the nomination.

Based on Academy Award nominations from 1961-Present:

Little Miss Sunshine (2006, Fox Searchlight)

2012 Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild
2010 Hailee Steinfeld True Grit
2007 Saoirse Ronan Atonement
2006 Abigail Breslin Little Miss Sunshine
2002 Keisha Castle-Hughes Whale Rider
1999 Haley Joel Osment The Sixth Sense
1993 Anna Paquin The Piano
1979 Justin Henry Kramer vs. Kramer
1977 Quinn Cummings The Goodbye Girl
1976 Jodie Foster Taxi Driver
1973 Tatum O’ Neal Paper Moon
1968 Jack Wild Oliver!
1962 Patty Duke The Miracle Worker
Mary Badham To Kill a Mockingbird

Personal Selections

Super 8 (2011, Paramount)

In 1996, when I was 15 and the young actors of the day where my contemporaries, I started making my own award lists. Being young myself at the time I wanted to recognize young actors where most awards excluded them more often than not. These selections reflect those that were my among my BAM award selections that were eligible and the Academy bypassed. Prior to 1996, I thought of significant performances that were worthy of noting and would’ve had a strong case for the Juvenile Award had it been around.

2012 Rick Lens Kauwboy

This one is highly unlikely as Kauwboy wasn’t shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film prize. However, the fact that it was the official selection for The Netherlands did make it eligible.

My young actress choice last year, Sophie Nélisse, was a year off from the Oscar calendar but also a strong possibility for Monsieur Lazhar.

2011 Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Ryan Lee, Riley Giffiths Zach Mills, Gabe Basso Super 8

It figures that both the best young ensemble, and perhaps individual performance, of the past 25 years got overlooked. So they are all honored here.

2009 Bill Milner Is Anybody There?

2008 Bill Milner and Will Poulter Son of Rambow

A slight wrinkle here from my original selection. Since the Academy set precedent of awarding tandems, why not do so here as well?

2005 Dakota Fanning War of the Worlds

2004 Freddie Highmore Finding Neverland

My 2004 winner was one where I was awarding a film from 2003, due to my stand on release dates, which is different than the Academy’s. Having said that I then had to factor in both my nominees and who the Academy would be more likely to pick and decided if they chose anyone it would have been Highmore.

2003 Jeremy Sumpter Peter Pan

2001 Haley Joel Osment Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

2000 Haley Joel Osment Pay It Forward

1998 Vinicius de Oliveira Central Station

1997 Joseph Ashton The Education of Little Tree

Here’s another interesting case: my winner was in a TV film which the Academy would never honor. Then two more nominees were either shifted due to my interpretation of release date rules and one erroneously in my revisionist phase. That leaves two eligible: Dominic Zamprogna in The Boy’s Club and Joseph Ashton in The Education of Little Tree. Some people besides me actually saw the latter so I’d put that one up as a winner.

1996 Michelle Trachtenberg Harriet the Spy
Lucas Black Sling Blade

Michelle was my actual winner in 1996. Sling Blade in my awards was shifted to 1997 due to its release date. It being an Oscar nominated film make it a more likely retrospective candidate.

My Girl (1991, Columbia Pictures)

This section marks personal selections prior to my picking extemporaneous year-end awards.

1994 Elijah Wood The War

I recall watching E! and hearing there was some buzz being stirred by the cast/studio for Elijah. I knew it would never happen, but it was deserved buzz.

1992 Maxime Collin Leolo

I have since expunged them but for a time I did backtrack BAM Award to back before they started. Some of these picks reflect those findings.

1991 Anna Chlumsky My Girl

1990 Macaulay Culkin Home Alone

Say what you will, but you know if the award was around that this would have happened.

1988 Pelle Hvengaard Pelle the Conqueror

1987 Christian Bale Empire of the Sun

1986 River Phoenix Stand by Me

1983 Bertil Guve Fanny and Alexander

1982 Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

1979 Ricky Schroeder The Champ
David Bennent The Tin Drum

1972 Nell Potts The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Who Should Have Gotten One But Didn’t

No Greater Glory (1934, Columbia Pictures)

I honestly almost scrapped this section. However, looking back through young nominees I noticed the discrepancy that some young nominees did not get a Juvenile Award while there was one. So I figured while I was at it I’d list a few notable performances that didn’t get recognized. Those that “didn’t need one” since they were nominated as in their respective categories against adult competition have denoted those with an asterisk.

1956 Patty McCormack The Bad Seed*
1953 Brandon deWilde Shane*
1952 Georges Poujouly Forbidden Games
1941 Roddy McDowall How Green Was My Valley
1936 Freddie Bartholomew Little Lord Fauntleroy
1934 George Breakston No Greater Glory
1931 Jackie Cooper Skippy*

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Rewind Review- Is Anybody There?

I’m not one who enjoys the phrase “sleeper hit” because almost any movie is looking for some bit of success. However, it comes to mind for this movie because I hadn’t heard of it until midway through the week in which I saw it. Even on the independent film scene it seemed to have slipped under the radar.

This film is in a word: beautiful. It is funny in one moment, shocking in another and absolutely heartbreaking the next. It is a movie that searches for the meaning of life without ever being pretentious, and is always being sincere. The meaning is searched for backwards and uniquely. It tells the tale of Edward (Bill Milner), a young boy who lives with his parents in their old folks’ home, and who thus, becomes obsessed with death.

After a chance encounter with Clarence (Michael Caine) Edward finds him in the home. After some head-butting the two grow closer. The one sheet for this film is the kind that will get you nervous with anticipation for Michael Caine’s performance, one critic citing it as “the performance of his career.” Thankfully, this is no lie. We all know Caine can be funny, acerbic and occasionally charming. This performance, however, is magnificent in its arc and power and even the man himself was unable to control his emotion watching this film, and neither was I. He is fantastic.

Caine’s performance alone is not enough to propel this film to the heights it reaches. The film’s young lead Bill Milner proved that the success of last year’s Son of Rambow was most definitely no fluke and this film reveals Milner to be unquestionably the strongest actor of his generation. Here Milner carries much of the film alone, whereas in Rambow he and Poulter played off each other. We see Milner here as a much more complex character: dissatisfied with life, angry, rebellious, confused, hopeful for something better, and yet somehow innocent throughout all this. Holding the screen and making a story that could be morbid funny and sharing the screen with a living legend make his performance nothing short of astonishing.

This film was written as a period piece set in 1987. I wholeheartedly applaud this decision and I think it was made in large part to make the piece more intimate to allow Edward’s quest for answers about the afterlife to be conducted through his own ingenuity most of the time, as opposed to the cold and distant research that the Internet Age would provide.

Many of the frames in this film are absolutely beautiful in terms of depth (looking down hallways, corridors, on a rooftop), the use of obstruction in the foreground (occasionally out of focus) and just the overall mise-en-scène is typically interesting. For example, in a scene where Edward and Clarence are walking and talking – the shot starts on the back of Clarence’s truck with the words “It’s Magic!” dominating the scene and then pans over to find them. Everything is well thought out from lights through the back window of Edward’s mother’s car to the reflections on the windshield.

It is a tender, funny, wonderful film which will likely be branded as coming-of-age which I think would not do it justice. This film can be seen and appreciated by all as it examines the human condition more so than anything else and says some wonderful things about it.

10/10