click to enlarge Hereditary

Photo via A24

Hereditary

If the Academy wants Oscars to be exciting again, they should start by nominating more exciting films 

No thanks

This year's Academy Awards broadcast has been beset with problems. First, the hosting debacle: Kevin Hart was considered, then rejected after some homophobic Twitter assholery posted years ago resurfaced. There is still no host announced for the Sunday, Feb. 24, event. Last week we learned that the usual custom of having the four top acting award-winners present trophies to the new winners was not going to be observed this year. There was talk early on of an award for "most popular" film, and though the idea was shelved, it catalyzed discussion about the Academy's political concerns, as opposed to its commercial or artistic ones.

Then it was announced last week that four major categories – editing, cinematography, live action short, and makeup and hairstyling – would receive their awards during commercial breaks, though the acceptance speeches will still be broadcast. This decision has many industry professionals up in arms, with luminaries like Guillermo del Toro pointing out that "cinematography and editing are at the very heart of our craft ... They are cinema itself." Some on social media are calling for a boycott, though it remains to be seen if this will catch on.

But perhaps even more than these logistical missteps, the worst thing plaguing the Oscars this year is the familiar but troubling trope of many worthy nominees having been overlooked, and less-than-worthy ones getting the nod.

One huge point of contention: the absence of nominations for films directed by women, despite popular and critically acclaimed films like Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here, Tamara Jenkins' Private Life, Karyn Kusama's Destroyer, Debra Granik's Leave No Trace and Chloé Zhao's The Rider. At least Marielle Heller's Can You Ever Forgive Me? got multiple nominations for screenplay and acting; Best Supporting Actor nominee Richard E. Grant's escapades on Twitter are as delightful as if he were doing a nightly reprise of the funniest moments in Withnail and I. But seriously, Oscar: WTF? Is this some kind of retribution from Harvey Weinstein's friends? How does he have any left?

Another overlooked category: horror. This is nothing new, and indeed, horror films seem to rarely receive Oscar nominations. One exception was The Silence of the Lambs (1991), directed by Jonathan Demme, which swept the Oscars with seven wins, including Best Picture. But Ari Aster's feature debut, Hereditary, was roundly praised by critics, and the lead performance by Toni Collette is widely considered one of the year's best. Collette's screaming face even became an emoji. A Quiet Place, a well-reviewed feature horror debut by John Krasinski, was also ignored.

Some think Bradley Cooper was robbed of a Best Director nomination for A Star Is Born, though it's up for Best Picture, and Cooper and Lady Gaga for acting awards. Two foreign film directors were nominated: Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, and Pawel Pawlikoski for Cold War. Both films also got nominations for Best Cinematography; I guess we'll have to keep an eye on Twitter to see who wins that trophy on the night.

Don't even talk to me about Adam McKay's Vice; his heavy-handed history lecture gimmickry is just annoying. I was thrilled to see Spike Lee get a nomination for BlacKkKlansman, a compelling, funny and gorgeous film. Then there's Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite, with multiple nominations; it's in English, but he's Greek.

So hey, points for diversity, but seriously, no women?

Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody both got nods for Best Picture, despite general consensus that the films themselves were not great. They also drew nods for actors (Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen for Green Book, Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody); Glenn Close also got the nod for her stellar role in The Wife, a so-so film. I'd have liked to see acting nominations for the luminous Timotheé Chalamet for Beautiful Boy, or John David Washington's inventive, intense performance in BlacKkKlansman. The Best Film slate is plain confusing to me. Where is Eighth Grade? Where is The Death of Stalin? Where is First Reformed? Where are the women? And why, oh why, was there no nomination for Won't You Be My Neighbor? If the Oscars want to remain relevant, they're going to have to do better than this.

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