What Did We Really Want from the Oscar Nominations?


By Christopher Walker

The Academy Award nominations have been announced and honestly, they feel a little out of touch. In every awards season, there are going to be possible nominees left out in the cold. Every now and again, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sounds like it sees what the critics are saying and decides to be contrarian. That said, the decisions have been made and until February 9th, we will be guessing who won what, so let’s itemize what we think the Academy is truly missing out on.

The Farewell Poster via wiki commons

The Farewell Lack of Nominations: The Farewell being shut out isn’t as surprising as it looks, with the general lack of women and people of color from the awards (more on both later). That said, it’s still egregious to not nominate Nora Lum, especially after she took home a Golden Globe for her role as aspiring Chinese-American writer Billi. The film, based on Lulu Wang’s actual life, is a critical darling, because of its poignant capture of complex family dynamics with fantastic acting, moving from strength to strength from start to finish. The fact that Wang is not nominated for screenplay or director at first reads like a joke, because one would argue that this movie is just as personal and poignant as Marriage Story. Maybe Oscar voters felt as though they could only handle one family in flux this year.

Too Many Joker Nominations: With 11 nominations, the most this year, this feels like overkill; the movie isn’t genius, outside of Joaquin Phoenix, who drives this movie. Truthfully, it’s a good movie; Phoenix is perfect as Arthur Fleck, very reminiscent of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. This is also a problem: the movie feels like a retread of Taxi Driver. The internet has made many a joke about it, many thought pieces on the similarities and the fact that the movie is good, but you aren’t going to be re-watching this because it is a classic. At times, it is cliche and other times, it feels like a contrived commentary on how empty society is. The movie owes a debt to Dark Knight and Logan, which paved the way for a serious dramatic comic book movie to succeed, as they did. However, I don’t think this is the movie that deserves to win, to represent the progress of this genre.

Generally more people of color: Before anyone tells me “Cynthia Erivo is nominated,” and congrats to her, truthfully one person out of 20 is still not a good turnout. In a year where Lupita Nyong’o kept us on our toes by playing two characters in Us, the aforementioned Lum, Jennifer Lopez gave us a scammer madam with layers in Hustlers, and basically the excellence of everyone from My Name is Dolemite, the awards are very white in the acting department. Erivo’s nomination keeps this from being a retread of #oscarsowhite, but honestly, one Black nominee does not tip the scales in proving the Academy doesn’t have an inherent issue. Which reminds me…..

Where are the female directors? So, the directors category is a sausage party. Actually, let’s have Issa Rae break this down for us.

I thought Greta Gerwig would be a shoo-in for Best Director, especially since Little Women is nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay. She guided the vision of the movie very thoroughly and imprints her personal style throughout the retelling of this movie, without having to modernize it, which is a tall task. Hell, Chinonye Chukwu and Lorene Scafaria of Clemency and Hustlers deserved more consideration, for giving us gripping, original movies instead of homages to old Hollywood and well, one long tracking shot as a war movie. To note: six of the Best Picture nominees have female producers so there is a level of progress behind the camera.

Adam Sandler & Uncut Gems got Robbed: Seriously, that is a master class in acting. I get it, the scene in Marriage Story is good, but Sandler throughout this movie is living this role. The Safdie Brothers have a way of crafting creative stories that push boundaries, bringing out the best actor possible. Gems is just that, showing an addict at the end of his rope, trying to get the big score and get out of debt, all at once. Also, Kevin Garnett isn’t too shabby.

That all said, clearly the lack of a nomination for a movie that trends more indie and features one of Hollywood’s biggest funny men as a degenerate gambler, is something the voters weren’t interested in. All I know is we have trash coming our way, courtesy of the Sandman, which honestly, we deserve.

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