The Oscar nominations were announced earlier in the week and like most movie critics, I wasn’t happy with a lot of what I saw; yet unlike any other movie critic, what bothers me most, doesn’t bother them. It’s how they’ve changed the “supporting actor” categories over the years. For example, one of my favorite performances of the year was Brian Tyree Henry in Causeway. Yet that is not “supporting actor” it’s “lead actor.” Now, my fellow colleagues in the Critics Choice Awards and San Diego Film Critics Society have argued this with me, saying “But he’s supporting Jennifer Lawrence. She’s the lead.”
Uh, no. She’s the protagonist. Yes, she’s in more scenes, but he’s the lead male actor. To say that he isn’t, is like saying Meryl Streep was the “supporting actress” in Kramer vs. Kramer. Dustin Hoffman was in a lot more scenes, but that wasn’t how it worked. The Academy also did this with Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once. He’s listed as “supporting” because they feel he’s supporting Michelle Yeoh. But he’s the male lead. This all started around the same time people started complaining about Harvey Weinstein (no, not for that). His studio Miramax was the first that did hardcore campaigns to promote the actors in their movies for nominations. When other studios started following suit, they played this game where they’d think – the actor from our little film doesn’t have a chance of getting a nomination for lead actor, against Nicholson, Pacino, De Niro, etc. So, we’re going to solicit for him to get listed as “supporting actor” because that would be an easier nomination for him to snag. And somehow, everybody just went with that.
But with that gripe out of the way, I’m going to do the gripes that every critic does when the Oscars come out – talking about the picks we liked, and the snubs. I won’t go through every category, because does anybody really care about who is nominated for best “sound design” (side note: I’m not even sure if the category is listed like that, which shows just how much interest I have in that category).
For lead actress, a lot of people complained that Viola Davis was snubbed for The Woman King. Yet it’s hard to feel bad for her. She’s won an Oscar and been nominated multiple times (and as good as she was in Fences, the movie was bad, which usually doesn’t garner an actor a nomination – which is why Val Kilmer wasn’t nominated playing Jim Morrison in the horrible Doors movie, but I digress).
And because people want to bring back the “#OscarsSoWhite” hashtag, they’re talking about Jordan Peele not getting nominated for Nope. To that I say – nope. My wife and I were rather disappointed with that film. Nothing about it deserved nominations.
Now, the actress playing Emmett Till’s mom, Danielle Deadwyler, I felt deserved a nomination for the movie; even though I’m one of the few critics that felt Till didn’t quite work as a film. I was also as surprised as everyone else that Andrea Riseborough got a nomination for To Leslie. That’s because…I not only didn’t see the movie, I had never even heard of it! It was in the theatres for such a short time, it only made $27,000 at the box office.
Someone needs to also explain to me why Empire of Light got bad reviews, when it was terrific, and why nobody is calling it a snub that Olivia Colman didn’t get a nomination for it.
I was bummed that Ana De Armas got nominated for Blonde. She was good in it, but the movie about Marilyn Monroe was a fictional mess. And I remember Michelle Williams getting nominated playing her. There’s something about playing a real life character, that just seems too easy. I felt the same way when Jamie Foxx played Ray Charles. You put sunglasses on him and swing your head around, that’s 75% of it.
Speaking of Michelle Williams, she’s one of the many reasons I didn’t like The Fabelman’s, and she got a nomination for that.
The two best performances of the year were Cate Blanchett for Tar, and Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere, both are running neck and neck as the front runners, and both are well deserving.
For actresses in a supporting role, it was weird seeing Jamie Lee Curtis snag one for Everything Everywhere. She was good in it, playing a frumpy character against type, but hardly nomination worthy (and why didn’t she get one for A Fish Called Wanda, one of the best comedies ever made?).
Speaking about playing against type, why didn’t Aubrey Plaza get a nomination for Emily the Criminal? Why didn’t Dakota Johnson get one for Cha Cha Real Smooth?
Mark Rylance has been nominated for Oscars (he upset Stallone one year), so it’s hard to feel bad for him but – I felt he deserved a nomination for the creepy character he played in Bones and All, and for playing a quiet tailor in The Outfit. Speaking of outfits, there was early buzz that Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris would get nominations. It was cute and a surprising little gem of a film, but it only got one (deserved) nomination – Best Costume Design.
Kerry Condon didn’t deserve a nomination for The Banshees of Inisherin, but since everyone else in that film got a nomination, they threw her a bone.
Angela Bassett is always amazing, but this Black Panther film wasn’t very good, so I would’ve passed on her. My two favorite performances were Hong Chau in The Whale (her scene on a porch, lecturing a missionary, is a master class in acting), and Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere (we also had a nice conversation at the Critics Choice awards, so I’m rooting for this young actress). And wait – those two, and many other nominees, are Asian. So how is “OscarsSoWhite” a thing again this year? Okay, okay, enough about that rant. Back to the nominations.
Austin Butler got a well-deserved nod for Elvis, and Tom Hanks got a well-deserved Razzie nomination for playing his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of The Banshees – Colin Farrell was terrific in it (although my wife and I both loved Barry Keoghan’s performance in it more; he got a well-deserved nomination for “supporting”). My two favorite Farrell performances ever are from Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, and Tom Cruise’s Minority Report. Which reminds me, people are calling the lack of a Cruise nomination a snub. Oh, give me a break. He played Tom Cruise, and his facial expressions in Top Gun: Maverick were ridiculous. That entire movie…one of the most overrated of the year.
Brendan Fraser was good in The Whale, but the fat suit did most of the work. Yet his comeback story is such a great one, we’re all happy by the nomination, as we are for Quan in Everything Everywhere; he’s the actor who was “Short Round” in an Indiana Jones movie, and went 30 years without many acting roles coming his way. How can you not love that comeback story?
Paul Mescal surprised some by getting a nomination for Aftersun, but I was a bit more surprised by Bill Nighy for Living. He’s an amazing actor, but that film amazed me by just how boring it was.
I love the list of supporting actors nominated (even though some are “lead”) except for one – Judd Hirsch in The Fabelman’s. He becomes the second oldest ever nominated, at 87. I’m a Hirsch fan. I think his show Taxi was the best TV show ever made. He’s done movie roles I’ve enjoyed. Yet in Fabelman’s, it was basically a one-and-done scene, and I felt it was over-the-top and goofy. It actually took me out of the film (although that movie had about 10 things I disliked).
Some are talking about how no female directors were nominated. Enough already with the BS. For example, Women Talking was highly touted, and the movie is boring and poorly written. Sarah Polley has done better work. Also, director Chloe Zhao won a few years ago, so stop already (side note: see her movie The Rider from five years ago, it’s terrific).
People are talking about Paul Dano being snubbed for The Fabelman’s. He’s an actor I dig, and he was great in the role. I just wasn’t a fan of the movie, so I didn’t care about him being “snubbed.” It is a weird situation when everyone from the movie gets a nomination and you don’t. I felt that way when Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, and everyone else got nominations for Boogie Nights (one of the best movies ever made), yet they left out Mark Wahlberg. That year everyone just wanted to talk about how it was a shame Leonardo DiCaprio got left out of the nominations for Titanic, and Wahlberg’s performance was 10 times better. When film aficionados talk about the best movies ever made – Boogie Nights will often come up. Titanic doesn’t. The same thing with Raging Bull losing the Oscar to Ordinary People in 1981. Which of those movies are cinephiles talking about? (side note: I think Ordinary People was the last time Judd Hirsch got a nomination, too).
Some are saying Baz Luhrmann should have been nominated for directing Elvis. Uh, no. If he couldn’t get Tom Hanks to give a decent performance, and a few other mishaps with that film, he doesn’t deserve it. And something writers never think about. Each year, they talk about a director not getting nominated (like James Cameron this year). They say “How can the movie be nominated for the ‘best picture’ when you’re the person directing it, and don’t get a nomination?” Well, let me explain that to those writers. There are 10 movies nominated for best picture, and only 5 nominations for best director. Do the math. That means 5 directors are “snubbed” every year.
I wouldn’t have been upset by Margot Robbie getting a nomination for Babylon, but I hated the movie. She was one of the few things that was good about it.
I would have liked to have seen Eddie Redmayne get a nomination for The Good Nurse, or Viggo Mortensen for Thirteen Lives, but it’s not like those performances were even close to the best performances of their careers, so no biggie that they slipped through the cracks.
A few people are saying Will Smith didn’t get a nomination for Emancipation because of the Oscar slap last year. Nope (Jordan Peele reference not intended). The movie just wasn’t very good. Even Ben Foster disappointed me in it; speaking of which, where were the nominations for Foster and the rest of the people associated with The Survivor, one of the best films of the year? I suppose since it didn’t have a theatrical release, it didn’t qualify. Yet I thought with all the streaming services, things have changed in that regard. Heck, if we can change the definition of what a supporting and lead actor are, surely we can let movies made for Netflix get nominations.