2019 Oscar Snubs and Surprises!
Well kids it’s officially Oscar season as the Academy announced its nominations for the 91st annual Academy Awards. The Favourite and Roma led the way with ten nominations each while Black Panther became the first comic book movie in history to be nominated for Best Picture. As usual, the nominations have sparked furious debates already so let’s examine some of the key snubs and surprises for this year’s Oscar nominees.
BEST PICTURE-Bohemian Rhapsody, VICE
Yes I’m fully aware that Bohemian Rhapsody is a crowd-pleaser and it’s made gobs of money. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Drama. However, no crossover exists between the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Academy. The former is also made up of less than one hundred members, while the latter boasts a membership of over 9,000. I honestly did not believe that the Academy would reward a film where, aside from Rami Malek’s performance, many considered mediocre. VICE meanwhile falls into a familiar category in that, at least from a critic’s perspective it seems very polarizing. Much like BR, aside from the performances, many considered it a sub-par followup to Adam McKay’s The Big Short.
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY-Paul Schrader for First Reformed
This surprise delighted me to no end. First Reformed was my #2 movie of 2018 and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. A melancholy but ultimately hopeful look at faith, mortality, and the environment, the script was damn near flawless, replete with some fantastic dialogue. While I wish the film would have received more accolades, it was rewarding to see one of the mavericks of 1970s film score his first Academy Award nomination for writing.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR–Sam Elliott for A Star Is Born, Sam Rockwell for VICE
Like Schrader’s nomination I was delighted to see Elliott finally get well deserved recognition for his work in one of 2018’s better films. A staple of Hollywood going back to the 1970s, Elliott has excelled in numerous films many of them Westerns. That distinct baritone voice is instantly recognizable. His response upon hearing he was nominated was classic as well.
An additional surprise was last year’s reigning champ in this category, Sam Rockwell, receiving his second straight nomination as George W. Bush in VICE. Despite his nominations in various other award shows, many have stated his performance amounts to nothing more than a fifteen minute George W. Bush impression.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS-Marina de Tavira for Roma
Netflix is making a concerted push with the Oscars when it comes to Roma as this nomination clearly shows. This one came out of left field but I think was well deserved. While Roma didn’t work for me, one of the standout performances in the film was de Tavira’s long-suffering matriarch Sofia. While I don’t believe she has a chance of winning, it was nice to see her get some Oscar love.
BEST ACTRESS-Yalitza Aparicio for Roma
Many felt Aparicio, who plays the lead character Cleo in Roma, should have been in the Oscar conversation all along. Although Aparicio received some recognition from award shows such as the Critic’s Choice and the Gotham Independent Film Awards, she was notably left out of the SAG nominations and the Golden Globes. The fact that she’s not a professional actress and this was her debut role maybe had something to do with it as well. Nevertheless, this nomination, like my previous one, demonstrates how much skin Netflix has in the game here.
BEST ACTOR-Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate
Willem Dafoe seems to be one of those actors that when you see his face you’re like, “Oh yeah I know that guy!” But he’s more than just Norman Osborn/Green Goblin from Spider-Man. This is Dafoe’s fourth Oscar nomination but his first in the Best Actor category for his stunning portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh. The nomination is a surprise but barely, as many pundits had Dafoe sneaking into that fifth spot, displacing John David Washington. Turns out they were right.
BEST DIRECTOR-Adam McKay for VICE, Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War
Critics and audiences alike seemed to be puzzled by VICE‘s continuing ascension during the award season. However, McKay had a lot of expectations to live up to coming off of The Big Short which he won an Academy Award for, for Best Adapted Screenplay. Any follow-up was going to be viewed through that lens and for better or worse that’s where we are at. Still, considering the notable directors who missed the cut, McKay’s nomination was more than a little surprising.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s nomination I believe is indicative of the Academy’s diversification when it comes to membership. This one was truly shocking. Yes, Cold War was the most talked about foreign film of 2018 aside from Roma, but I never thought it would score a Best Director nomination. Even more surprising is that he’s the only nominee in this category not to have his film nominated for Best Picture.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE-Justin Hurwitz for First Man
I wasn’t as enamored with First Man as some critics were. When the film initially premiered at TIFF, pundits were touting the film as an Oscar front-runner. However, when the film failed to produce at the box office, things went downhill. However, the category I felt the film was a shoe-in to be nominated for AND win was Best Original Score from Justin Hurwitz. Unfortunately the Oscar winner (La La Land) didn’t even receive a nomination. Yet somehow BlacKkKlansman received a nomination despite what was, in my opinion, a mediocre score from Terence Blanchard. At only thirty-three years of age however, I’m sure that Hurwitz will have many more opportunities at the golden statue.
BEST DOCUMENTARY-Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
This one is just a head-scratcher. The documentary about the life of Fred Rogers and his work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was almost universally loved by critics and audiences. It had already won both the Critic’s Choice award, The Producers Guild of America award, and the National Board of Review award for best documentary. I thought this one was going to be a lay up for director Morgan Neville and company. It almost feels like the Academy forgot to nominate this film. Talk about a snub with a capital S. I’m baffled.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS-Claire Foy for First Man, Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place
If you would have asked me a month ago I would have thought there was no way Emmy winner Claire Foy would have not scored a nomination for First Man. She holds her own against Ryan Gosling and I thought gave the most dynamic, emotionally driven performance of the entire film. Sadly, just like the film faded from people’s minds so did her performance.
As to Emily Blunt, I still think the Academy has an inherent bias when it comes to horror films, last year’s Get Out not withstanding. In a film where dialogue is at a premium, Blunt delivers a powerhouse performance in A Quiet Place. The scene where she gives birth in the bathroom was unreal.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR-Timothee Chalamet for Beautiful Boy
This one pissed me off the most. I didn’t care at all for Call Me By Your Name but I recently saw Beautiful Boy and I was completely blown away by Chalamet’s performance as an addict. To have this much talent at so young an age is remarkable. Sorry Sam Rockwell but you’re standing in Mr. Chalamet’s spot. Oh well, at least I have his performance in the upcoming Dune film to look forward to.
BEST ACTRESS-Toni Colette in Hereditary
I knew this wasn’t going to happen but it still stings. Again the Academy shows its horror bias. Colette delivers the performance of her career in Hereditary as a grieving mother. I put the dinner scene in that film up against any scene in any film EVER. How she conveys the pain of grief was truly a sight to behold. It was one of those performances where I knew I was watching something truly special as it was unfolding. As much as I appreciate and understand Aparicio’s performance in Roma, it pales in comparison to what Colette accomplishes in Hereditary.
BEST ACTOR-Ethan Hawke in First Reformed, John David Washington in Black KkKlansman
As I mentioned earlier, there are 9000+ members of the Academy. I can only assume that fifty of them saw First Reformed. It’s the only plausible explanation as to why they left Ethan Hawke off the ballot. I’ve always appreciated Hawke as an actor going all the way back to Dead Poet’s Society, but his performance as Reverend Toller in Schrader’s film is on another level. I just don’t get it.
While I don’t believe that John David Washington’s performance was Oscar worthy, his absence from this category is still a surprise. He’d already snagged nominations at the Globes and the SAG awards and by all accounts, his nomination seemed assured. That fifth spot however was always up for grabs and unfortunately for Washington it went to Dafoe.
BEST DIRECTOR-No female directors, Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born, Peter Farrelly for Green Book
Seriously Academy you have gotta be fucking kidding me when it comes to this shit. There were a plethora of female directors who directed some fantastic films in 2018-Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), Karyn Kusama (Destroyer), Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), and Chloe Zhao (The Rider) just to name a few. The most deserving may have been Marielle Heller for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a film that snagged nominations in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories but didn’t for Best Director. Guess the movie just directed itself. What a joke.
Aside from Won’t You Be My Neighbor? failing to score a nomination for Best Documentary, Bradley Cooper being left off for Best Director might be the biggest snub. This is the equivalent of Ben Affleck being left off the ballot for Argo. First time director Cooper’s debut was nothing short of fantastic: rousing, eloquent, emotional, vibrant, and devastating. Not a single shot is wasted. Cooper can take solace in the fact that he’s got a long directorial career ahead of him though. That and that he’s rich…and a famous movie star…and has a hot girlfriend. You know what? He’s going to be just fine.
Much like with John David Washington, I didn’t think Peter Farrelly’s Green Book was a Master’s class in directing. It was perfectly competent and head and shoulders above anything he’s ever done, but it wasn’t particularly Oscar worthy. Yet Green Book is quickly becoming a front-runner to win Best Picture and Farrelly had already been nominated for a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice award, so this one is still a bit of a snub.
All things considered, Cooper or Heller should have gotten the nod over McKay. The Academy really got this one wrong.
BEST PICTURE-A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place was so much more than just a simple genre film. Ostensibly a horror movie, it’s really a commentary on parenthood and how, despite your best attempts, you can’t protect your kids from the dangers of the world. Brilliantly written, impeccable acted, flawlessly directed, A Quiet Place again fell prey to the horror bias. You could even make the case that it should have been nominated for Best Original Screenplay. A shame.
Check back in a few weeks as I’ll have my annual Oscar predictions!
You can follow me on Twitter at @DarthGandalf1