Ken Jones, Chief Film Critic
Yesterday morning I got really excited at about 7:45am when I was on Twitter and remembered, “Oh, it’s Oscar nomination day!” Almost immediately after this, I also got slightly bummed out because I knew that there were bound to be disappointments with the nominations. Cinephiles have a love/hate relationship with movie award ceremonies like the Oscars because so often truly great gems get overlooked, the Academy always gets something wrong, what resonates now might be lost in the shuffle in five or ten years, and yet we always hold out hope that the films we champion will somehow win out and be rewarded for their greatness and it will validate everything we believe about the movies we love. Or maybe that’s just me. Suffice to say, there were a few nominations I loved, but quite a few snubs I hated.
Let’s get into some of the biggest Oscar snubs this year and who I would kick out to put them in.
SNUB #1: Best Documentary Feature - Won’t You Be My Neighbor/Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor hit all the right notes with everyone who saw it. There was not a dry eye in the theater when I saw it. All I could hear were people (myself included) sniffling. And while I haven’t seen Three Identical Strangers, that was one of the most talked about docs of the year. I get that it was a loaded year for documentary features, but I’m swapping out Hale County This Morning, This Evening and Of Fathers and Sons for these two films.
SNUB #2: Best Original Screenplay - Sorry To Bother You/Eighth Grade
Boots Riley’s subversive and funny satire announced the arrival of one of the most promising new voices in film in 2018 and he should’ve gotten an Adapted Screenplay nod. And right beside Riley as an interesting new voice is Bo Burnham and his film Eighth Grade, which was also shut out, but deserved to be nominated somewhere. This is an easy choice for me, as I’m calling all my equisapien friends to come kick Vice and Green Book to the curb, while Elsie Fisher records it for YouTube and signs off saying, “Gucci!”
SNUB #3: Best Actor – Ethan Hawke
It was probably always a long shot, but it’s a real shame the Academy overlooked Hawke. There has been something of a Hawkeaissance (Hawkening???) in the last few years, and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed was the culmination of that. Hawke gave the best performance of his career. Sorry Viggo, but you’ve got to go in this scenario.
SNUB #4: Best Original Score – Annihilation/First Man
Part of what made The Shimmer so otherworldly and beautiful was the haunting score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow. It’s strong category, but I’m probably swapping out Terence Blanchard’s score for BlacKkKlansman.
SNUB #5: Best Director – Bradley Cooper
It’s hard to get too upset about this one as Cuaron seems to be running away with it, but Cooper did a tremendous job in his directorial debut bringing A Star Is Born to modern audiences. A case can usually be made for several snubs in this category, and he did get a Best Actor nod, but Cooper feels like a glaring omission here. Adam McKay, I need to ask you to leave.
SNUB #6: Best Actress – Toni Collette
A case could be made for Emily Blunt too, but the bigger omissions here are Collette and Theron. Collette gave a tour de force performance as the mother in Hereditary, getting to do a little bit of everything in a showy but grounded performance. I wanted to include Charlize Theron’s overlooked performance in Tully too, but I can’t make the case for kicking out anyone other than Melissa McCarthy.
SNUB #7: Adapted Screenplay – Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace was the second most heavily reviewed movie of 2018, behind only Paddington 2, to have a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Debra Granik’s father-daughter film is her follow-up to Winter’s Bone. It’s poignant and heartbreaking but understated and not at all showy. I love the Coen brothers as much or more than the next guy, but The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is minor Coens, so I’m moving it out.
SNUB #8: Costume Design – Crazy Rich Asians
I swear this is not in here just to appease Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the OnStage Blog, Chris Peterson. It’s only partly on here for that reason. I kid. Seriously though, this well-received rom-com, adored by audiences and critics alike, was completely ignored. It’s hard to make a case in most of the major categories (although is Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody can secure Best Picture noms, then maybe not), but it is the kind of film that it would’ve been nice to see the Academy toss it a bone in one of these categories. Again, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is minor Coens, so I’m swapping it out for Crazy Rich Asians and I get to keep writing for the site. I kid.
SNUB #9: Best Supporting Actor – Michael B. Jordan
As far as I know, Heath Ledger is the only actor from a superhero movie to be nominated in any acting category for their performance (he also won). I think Jordan’s performance as Killmonger was good enough to warrant a nomination, though probably not a win. Like Ledger’s Joker, he wants to watch the world burn, but he has a reason and a plan to do it. Plus, I still can’t get over that, “Hey, Auntie” line.
SNUB #10: Best Picture – If Beale Street Could Talk/Sorry To Bother You/First Man
Having just seen If Beale Street Could Talk this weekend, I was left in awe of the work of director Barry Jenkins and his craftsmanship. I remain very high on the staying power of Sorry To Bother You. And I remain disappointed by the faux-outrage that more or less sabotaged any campaign for First Man, which felt like a Best Picture nominee to me after I saw it. Three Best Picture nominees had scores of 82% (Green Book), 64% (Vice), and 62% (Bohemian Rhapsody). I’m raising the bar by taking all three of those out and replacing them with an 88% (First Man), a 92% (Sorry To Bother You), and a 95% (If Beale Street Could Talk).