Bizarro Oscars: who did the Academy overlook?
Every year during Oscars season, a familiar hierarchy unfolds: the favorites, the sleepers, the long-shots. There’s an inevitable backlash cycle, and there’s inevitably griping that the Academy picked the wrong winners.
The entirety of this conversation, though, is based on the assumption that the field is generally correct. Sure, when the nominations are announced there are outcries over a few performances or films that got overlooked. But those performances and films are still usually within the conventional boundaries of Oscar nominees. What frustrates me is the Academy’s lack of imagination. There are certain types of performances that will never earn a nomination even if they were roundly praised, just because they are not ‘Oscars’-worthy.
I would like to rectify that. So here are my picks for the nominations the Academy should have handed out, but never, never would.
Actor in a Leading Role: Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
The Academy has never nominated a motion-capture performance, perhaps out of some strict adherence to ‘real’ performances. But Serkis’s performances as Caesar in the Apes franchise has been breathtaking, and he brings an intense physicality that we so often praise in live performances. This is more a nomination for all of his brilliant motion-capture work than this film in particular. But with the Apes franchise wrapping up, he may not have another chance to earn a nomination for all of it. Let’s hope the Academy can open their eyes to different types of performances in the future.
Actress in a Leading Role: Garance Marillier, Raw
Raw is a movie about a college student who starts eating people, and it never shies away from this fact. The cannibalism scenes are gruesome, the kind of grotesque body horror the Academy would rather avoid. Amid all this blood, though, lies a nervous, seductive, and enthralling performance from Marillier. I wish the Academy had more of a stomach for this kind of violence, because it led to them overlooking some great acting.
Actor in a Supporting Role: LilRel Howery, Get Out
Get Out has nominations for original screenplay, lead actor, and Best Picture. It was, thankfully, not overlooked by the Academy. But the conversation around Get Out has been about its social commentary and ‘serious’ implications. Rightfully so, but there has been very little talk of just how funny the film is, thanks in large part to Howery, who plays Rod, the best friend to Chris (Daniel Kaluuya). Howery is hilarious in every moment, and brings a change in tone at just the right moments. The Academy doesn’t often nominate comedic performances, but in Howery’s case, it should have.
Actress in a Supporting Role: Ana de Armas, Blade Runner 2049
Almost all of the screen time in Blade Runner 2049 follows Ryan Gosling in some ethereal landscape, or a snarling Harrison Ford. But de Armas gave my favorite performance of the film as Joi, an A.I. who serves as the programmed romantic partner to Gosling’s K. She gives a delicate performance, and imbues each moment of chipper servility with a sense of longing to be something more real. She’s the emotional grounding of the film for K, and the film wouldn’t have worked as well as it did without her elegance. Next, de Armas is set to star in the prison drama Three Seconds this summer.
Directing: Joon-ho Bong, Okja
Okja is a wild movie, and Bong packs a lot into it. The film follows a super-pig named Okja, as a young girl embarks on a quest to stop the pig from being captured by a mysterious global corporation. It’s a film about environmentalism, and the power of corporations, and a lot of things. But through it all, Bong guides the madness with a deft camera. The chase scene above culminates in a John Denver serenade, and it’s a glorious amalgam of tones.
Best Picture: Coco
Coco is nominated for Animated Feature Film. Coco will win Animated Feature Film. It’s not even a question. What’s the fun in that? Coco is a visually vibrant film, and the Oscars can nominate up to ten films for Best Picture. The Academy should have recognized the Pixar film as one of the year’s best, leaving room for a lesser-seen work like The Breadwinner to take home the animated prize.