Oscars 2012: Why ’50/50′ Deserved A Best Picture Nod

Nine films are nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year, begging the question: who deserved a tenth spot on that list? Oscars 2012: 10 Spot answers that question, as the MTV Movies team highlights some of 2011’s greatest films and argues why they deserved a nod as the tenth Best Picture nominee.

Director Jonathan Levine’s affecting “50/50” would be worthy of recognition if, for no other reason, than transcending an unfortunate shorthand (It’s a cancer comedy!) to earn its place as a well-regarded piece of cinema. But what makes the dramedy truly Oscar-worthy (and a decided snub on the part of the Academy) is that it’s a film greater than the sum of its (very good) parts, touching on a buffet of themes (life, death, love) without the oft-requisite side of stinky cheese.

Inspired by his real-life battle with a rare form of spinal cancer, screenwriter Will Reiser introduces us to 27-year-old Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who’s facing his own diagnosis and 50/50 odds. And the young man’s support system is a motley crew to say the least—well-meaning best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), high-strung mom Diane (Anjelica Huston) and therapist-in-training (and potential love interest) Katherine (Anna Kendrick).

Though Kendrick delivers an earnest performance reminiscent of her Oscar-nominated turn in “Up in the Air,” it’s Gordon-Levitt who’s the tortured force behind “50/50.” The actor is so much everyman Adam that it’s sometimes hard to remember he isn’t actually Adam. Even when improvising—like he and Rogen did for the memorable head-shaving scene—he wears Adam’s strife like it’s a bespoke suit.

And it’s no wonder considering the well-measured material he has to work with. Reiser provides a script that expertly toes the line between comedy and tragedy (and what a thin line it can be). Whether it’s a light-hearted scene in which Adam tries to use his diagnosis to pick up a woman or a morose moment in which a fellow cancer patient’s seat in treatment is tragically empty, Reiser knows when to employ humor and when to let the emotion of the moment carry a scene.

For many, “50/50″’s Adam serves as a sort of surrogate for the cancer patient in their own life, providing a level of empathy and catharsis few films can. “The Descendants” is another such film that hurts so good and it deservedly earned a nod from the Academy. So where is “50/50″’s?

The MTV Movies team has the 2012 Oscars covered! Stick with us for everything you need to know leading up to the awards show, and on Sunday, February 25, we’ll put you on the red carpet and bring you all the winners.