Not even four years ago now, audiences were treated to a magical, emotional experience with the Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks (2013), the story of the long journey to bring Mary Poppins (1964) to fruition on the big screen. While it seems that most audiences and critics alike enjoyed the film very much, moviegoers and movie lovers were quite surprised when Emma Thompson was not nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars, especially since she did receive this nomination at the Golden Globes as Best Actress in a Drama. Audiences were also surprised that Tom Hanks did not receive any recognition for his brilliant take on the role of Walt Disney. Of course, with his surprise snub for Sully (2016) this last Oscars, it could be that since Saving Mr. Banks, we are starting to take Tom Hanks for granted.
It seems like while the film was well-received and loved by many, it has almost started to fade away, not entirely, but just as an outstanding film that deserved and continues to deserve more recognition and consideration.
Some people think of an Oscar snub as someone or something that should have WON but did not, and some people, maybe more commonly, think of an Oscar snub as someone or something that should have been NOMINATED. For this route, I am saying nominated. I think we all have people or films we wish won an Oscar, even out of the people who are nominated each year, but there are films that even when we think they probably will not win, at least deserve a nomination. A nomination alone garners attention and reputation, and to think that Saving Mr. Banks only had one Oscar nomination and one Golden Globe nomination is so mind-boggling it is almost a travesty.
Granted, the film is not a masterpiece, and it has its flaws, as do most if not all films. It was a film that I thought was sure to sweep maybe not the wins but the nominations for the 2014 Academy Awards. Disney films, at least lately, have not had much Oscar luck in general aside from the fantastic animated films. Many might say that nominations for Marvel and LucasFilm productions should count here since Disney owns them, but I am talking about definitive Disney here. It could be that this film came out so late in the year that it was too late to receive Oscar nominations, but I don’t buy that. Many Oscar movies are released in December. Even the last two Star Wars films came out in December and both received several nominations.
While most audiences and critics found joy in seeing the film, there were numerous complaints on how some of the story elements were “Disney-fied” – that is, the truth was bent a little bit to give the film a happy ending. While some of this might be true, composer of the original Poppins film and music consultant on this film has been reported as saying that a large majority of the film was true to life. This slight bending of the truth might have a part in Banks not receiving much recognition, but it shouldn’t. While the film was trying to tell a real story, it was not solely trying to be a biopic, or a hardcore film that is “based on a true story,” it was trying to highlight the bulk of the film’s message with learning to let go from author P.L. Travers, and Walt’s discovery of Mary Poppins coming to save Mr. Banks, not the children, as the title illustrates. It far from dishonors the truth; it pays tribute. To say Saving Mr. Banks is not worthy of these Oscar/Golden Globe categories was a costly mistake.
Thankfully, Thomas Newman’s emotional musical score that balances imagination with real life was recognized and received an Oscar nomination. However, there are many categories that Banks should have been nominated for besides the incredible music and performances, and since we know for a fact Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson should have been nominated, we will focus on some other categories:
Paul Giamatti for Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Nobody can doubt that Paul Giamatti is an incredibly talented actor. While he does not always take the most admirable of roles, he always manages to redeem himself with the next role he takes on. Giamatti brings something truly special to the role of Ralph, Mrs. Travers’ California limo driver. It’s a more low key and emotional role for him here, and brings a believable, humanistic approach to what could have been an otherwise forgettable character, especially in the scene outside of the studio where and he and Mrs. Travers are sitting down on the grass and talking. He really is one of the ones responsible for changing Mrs. Travers’ personality and outlook on life.
Best Costume Design/Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling/Best Production Design:
P.L. Travers’ wardrobe alone, sixties garb and hair (especially Dolly played by Melanie Paxson), and the production design that perfectly captured the colorful time period of Disneyland, the Disney studio, and Hollywood balancing with Travers’ heartbreaking youth in the bright but gray plains of early 1900s Australia make this film a perfect contender for all three of these categories.
This is the big one. The last Disney live-action film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar was Mary Poppins. How unique would it have been if the movie about bringing Poppins to the screen won Best Picture as well? It was certainly a stacked category that year with 12 Years a Slave (2013), Her (2013), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) among six other films. But out of a possible ten nomination slots, Saving Mr. Banks could not have fit in there at all? Should Saving Mr. Banks have won? Probably not. It was not intended as an “Oscar bait” film, but it definitely deserved this nomination. What a creative, inspiring, and deeply heartwarming film, and who can forget that “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” dancing scene, as well as Mrs. Travers taking Mickey’s arm at the premiere, walking in to experience Mary Poppins for the first time. It’s an underrated, touching treasure in not just Disney film history, but in moviemaking history itself, and among many others, we have Walt Disney, P.L. Travers, the Sherman Brothers, and now director John Lee Hancock (The Founder (2016), The Blind Side (2009) to thank for that.
We’ll see more of Mary Poppins soon with Mary Poppins Returns next year on Christmas, December 25, 2018, with Emily Blunt stepping into the shoes of the lovable nanny. She will have an incredible supporting cast with Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke, Emily Mortimer, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth, Ben Whishaw, and Julie Walters.