For the fortunate few in Hollywood, Monday was a time to pop some early-a.m. Champagne and pretend like they had just woken up (and not been glued to the television the entire morning). For others, it was a time to stew. It happens every year after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its award nominations – there is only so much Oscar love to go around. Yet this year, the names left off the ballot seem especially egregious, given the overwhelming male and lily-white complexion of the nominees. To wit, The Globe and Mail presents an abridged list of this year’s most surprising Oscar snubs.
Greta Gerwig, Little Women: Critics and Little Women supporters walked into Monday morning’s announcement expecting the worst, given that the Academy doesn’t have the best track record (actually, probably the worst track record) in spotlighting female directors. But the pessimistic expectations didn’t quite soften the blow, as bypassing Gerwig in favour of Joker’s Todd Phillips seems like an especially malicious and/or ignorant move. Expect riots in certain corners of Twitter if Phillips actually manages to take the Oscars’ top trophy next month.
Eddie Murphy and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dolemite Is My Name: Netflix seems to have spent most of its energy pushing the awards prospects of Marriage Story and The Irishman (with a good deal of success; congratulations to the streaming service and its bags of money). While Noah Baumbach and Martin Scorsese’s films are more than worthy contenders, would it have killed Netflix to devote some of its many resources toward the stars of its Hollywood comedy Dolemite Is My Name? Eddie Murphy lets loose with supreme ease as the film’s lead, a past-his-prime entertainer who refuses to let the industry cast him aside (huh!), while Da’Vine Joy Randolph matches her co-star in every way, playing a showbiz newcomer who quickly finds her voice.
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems: It is not wholly surprising that the Academy decided to ignore the Sandman – it might be a mental step too far for members who are still recovering from accidentally streaming the first few minutes of The Ridiculous 6. But Sandler’s work in Uncut Gems is evidence that the actor is only trying about 5 per cent of the time. And when he does, the results are intensely impressive. His performance as degenerate gambler Howard Ratner in Josh and Benny Safdie’s new film is mesmerizing work.
Song Kang-ho, Parasite: Bong Joon-ho’s exhilarating and immensely rewatchable thriller is the best movie of the year, full stop – a reality that the Academy has fortunately recognized, awarding it six nominations including Best Picture. But key to the film’s success is leading man Song Kang-ho, a regular collaborator of Bong’s who does tremendous work here as a below-the-lower-class patriarch desperate to climb one rung up the societal ladder.
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story: At least Baumbach, the director of one of the year’s best and trickiest movies, a complicated and intense hybrid of dark drama and high comedy, can commiserate with partner Gerwig about both being shutout of the Best Director category.
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers: Lorene Scafaria’s crime drama seemed like such a sure thing coming off its Toronto International Film Festival premiere this past September. But then the fall stretched on and the fissures in the strippers-turn-the-exploitation-tables saga began to show. The film is a propulsive ride, but it also cuts as many dramatic and narrative corners as its anti-heroes. What hasn’t lost power, though, is Jennifer Lopez’s supporting turn as a dancer-turned-criminal mastermind – a role that succeeds just as much as it does from Lopez’s own career arc as it does her smoothly seductive performance.
Robert De Niro, The Irishman: It was inevitable that Joe Pesci would get most of The Irishman’s attention, given that the man has acted so little over the past few decades that any appearance would spark he’s-been-sorely-missed sympathy. But the film’s slipperiest work comes instead from De Niro playing the film’s titular role. He’s working at a lower, less attention-grabbing pitch than Pesci or Al Pacino – and has been appearing onscreen so regularly compared to the former that audiences and Academy voters feel justified in taking the actor for granted.
Zhao Shuzhen and Awkwafina, The Farewell: A veteran actress in China, Zhao Shuzhen should have been thrust onto the international stage with her supporting role in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. Yet aside from a smattering of critics guilds, Shuzhen has been ignored by the industry’s largest and flashiest awards bodies, which is a true shame. Her work as Nai Nai, a kind-but-prickly grandmother unknowingly facing a cancer diagnosis, anchors Wang’s family drama with sincerity, nerves and genuine vibrancy. And as for lead actress Awkwafina’s snub, despite her Golden Globe Award? Unconscionable.
Lupita Nyong’o, Us: After a rewatch, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out loses some of its power – the style remains strong, but the plot feels sillier and sloppier than on first exposure. Yet Lupita Nyong’o’s twin performance as a woman and her evil doppelganger only feels stronger, once you realize just how much Peele is asking of her. Compared to the fairly one-dimensional, sketchlike work of, say, Charlize Theron in Bombshell, Nyong’o’s exclusion from this morning’s nominee slate seems like an act of embarrassing Academy ignorance.
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse: I wasn’t as high on Robert Eggers’s follow-up to The Witch as others, but the gonzo-for-gonzo-sake freak show does feel furiously alive whenever Dafoe’s crusty seaman is onscreen. Which is often – whether he’s taunting co-star Robert Pattinson with his flatulence, singing shanties to no one in particular, or getting buried chin-deep in the cold soil of Nova Scotia. Give the man some acclaim for his suffering – and for making that suffering look so good.
Paul Walter Hauser, Richard Jewell: There are many problems with Clint Eastwood’s drama focusing on the eponymous 1996 Olympics security guard wrongly fingered as a bomber – I’m still trying to get Olivia Wilde’s strikingly bad performance to stop rattling the insides of my skull. But Paul Walter Hauser’s work as the man at the centre of the scandal is gently brilliant, and the stuff that careers are built upon. Given Richard Jewell’s muted reception, it is likely that the character actor may never get such an opportunity to shine again.
The cast of Cats: Just kidding.
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