Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Oscars: the good, the bad and the indifferent

Now that the Oscar nominations have been announced, the wheels of instant reaction have begun to turn.

Oh, the injustice. Bradley Cooper, nominated as best actor for A Star is Born, which also received a best-picture nod, was snubbed in the best director category. Should he have replaced Adam McKay, nominated for Vice, on the best-directors list? Maybe. Vice, a movie that didn't really work, may have made voters feel as if they had joined The Resistance. Or maybe they just liked watching Christian Bale, as vice president Dick Cheney, disappear.

So, on we go with some things about which to grumble:

For my money, the worst mistake Oscar made was omitting Ethan Hawke from best actor consideration. As a tormented pastor in First Reformed, Hawke created a portrait of a character mired in despair, guilt, and anger. Paul Schrader, the movie's director, received a nomination for best original screenplay, but the movie generally was overlooked. Too challenging?

Critical favorite Eighth Grade and fan favorite Crazy Rich Asians were shut out. Michelle Yeoh should have received a best-supporting-actress nomination for playing an imperious mother in Crazy Rich Asians. But do I care that an otherwise enjoyable bit of popular fluff was ignored? Not really.

Come on, Academy. Neither Chadwick Boseman (possible best actor) or Michael B. Jordan (possible supporting actor) received nominations for Black Panther. Same goes for the movie's director, Ryan Coogler. Yes, Black Panther received a best-picture nomination, but it might be the year's most miraculous nominee; i.e., if you go by the Academy's judgment, the movie made itself.

Good to see Spike Lee nominated for best director and his movie, BlacKkKlansman, which also was nominated for best picture. Lee's first nomination for best director falls into the better-late-than-never category.

A Quiet Place's omission from the best-picture list qualifies as a bona fide snub. It's better and more creative than either Vice or Bohemian Rhapsody, both of which earned best-picture nominations.

Note to Academy: If you're concerned that the show's ratings continue to falter, you might ask yourself why the widely seen documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? didn't receive a nomination for best documentary feature?

And some things about which I'm happy:
Yalitza Aparicio received a best-actress nod for playing a maid and nanny in Roma, which had been widely predicted, but still feels right. Tell the truth, did you ever expect to see two best-actress nominees, Lady Gaga and Glenn Close, on the same list? Neither did I.

I'm glad that Marina de Tavira was nominated for best-supporting actress. Her nomination qualifies as a surprise, but her portrayal of a harried mother trying to cope with her children and a crumbling marriage in Roma was first rate.

Roma, surely one of the favorites for best picture and for best foreign film (it received nominations in both categories), is a Netflix film. Is Hollywood quaking?

Willem Dafoe was nominated for best actor for playing Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate. Van Gogh has been portrayed on screen any number of times, but Dafoe's portrayal was one of the best.

I could go on and probably will before the awards ceremony unfurls on Feb. 24, but I'm going to stop and offer a list of nominees in the major categories because, in truth, the Academy Awards never have been one of my major preoccupations.

Why? Because they don't often speak to what I really care about in movies and because a lot of Oscar recognition depends on how a particular movie creates a profile for itself. For my money, Matthew McConaughey -- an Oscar winner for Dallas Buyers Club -- has never been better than he was a working-class father in White Boy Rick, but a supporting-actor nomination probably was out of the question because the movie went nowhere. I'm sure you can find examples of your own.

So, good luck if you have rooting interests and, as always, please add your comments.
Best Picture
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
A Star is Born
Best Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity's Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Best Actress
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Colman Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Melissa Youarthy, Can you Ever Forgive Me?
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best Animated Feature
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Director
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Best Original Screenplay
The Favourite
First Reformed
Green Book
Best Adapated Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born
Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Father and Sons
Best Foreign Language Film
Cold War
Never Look Away

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