Oscars Snubs and Flubs

This year’s Best Picture nominees were a mixed bunch, with some questionable inclusions to say the least. But, just as puzzling, were the many phenomenal films that did not receive recognition. Some of our staff weigh in on this year’s Best Picture snubs, and offer thoughts on the nominations that seem less deserved.

SNUBS

Image Courtesy of A24

Image Courtesy of A24

Hereditary

Hereditary is immaculate and careful. But little by little, it becomes translucent to a red, hellish glow beneath the undisturbed surface—a mental scream behind a labored smile. Some of this disturbance is realist trauma, like the guilt of killing a loved one, and some of it is occult paranoia, the terror of the unexplainable. But no clear distinctions are drawn between these two forms of grief - because the pain is real, and pointing to something real, no matter its source, says the movie. Hereditary becomes a story of how to live when fear spreads and takes control, when life’s tiny tics of uncertainty (a girl’s incessant tongue clicks, a mother’s sleepwalking problem) begin to eat you alive. And for good reason. Hereditary confirms that the sinister thing you feared all along but longed to write off was true. The movie ends in a brilliantly paced and scored sequence which looks like a death march and sounds like the victory horns of the wrong side winning the war. It is a focused, quiet, knife-twisting slow burn that does more within its oft sidelined genre than about half of the Best Picture nominees do with their Oscar-bate scopes and theatrical energy. ~Noah Franklin

Image Courtesy of Universal

Image Courtesy of Universal

First Man

After the immensely successful and critically acclaimed Whiplash and La La Land, director Damien Chazelle teamed up with Ryan Gosling a second time to portray the eponymous first moonwalker Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crew on their giant leap. But despite First Man not lagging far behind its two predecessor films, it didn’t fare particularly well with the Academy: while it did receive four nominations (Best Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, and Visual Effects), none was for a major category. Chazelle received no Best Director nod, and neither did La La Land cinematographer Linus Sandgren in his category, despite both of them having won the respective award last year and returning with strong showings. And as for the acting: I don’t have a lot of good things to say about the Golden Globes, but at least this year they had the decency to nominate Claire Foy’s stunning performance as Janet Armstrong for Best Supporting Actress. But alas, after bombing the awards with giving Best Picture to Shape of Water last year, what can really be expected of the Academy anymore? First Man is an introspective film that feeds off the fine subtleties that its protagonists portray, and comes paired with a wonderfully mellow soundtrack - so what’s the big issue with it? Perhaps the Academy’s just sick of Chazelle raking in all the biggest awards and fame at such a young age already, or perhaps they’re just as ivory-towered as they’ve always been. In any case, it can’t be much worse than last year’s winning picks, so here’s hoping. ~Alex Kloss

FLUBS

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Bohemian Rhapsody

Perhaps the most surprising moment of the Golden Globes was Bohemian Rhapsody’s win of Best Drama Motion Picture. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t bad per se-- it’s a functional movie and there’s a joy in seeing the music of Queen come to life-- but outside of the budget and Rami Malek’s performance, there’s really nothing to differentiate it from every other dramatized bio pic. It follows the typical beats, has moments of weak writing, and most importantly, doesn’t really seem to bring anything special or new to the conversation. If anything, the movie seems to not want to really address the reality of Freddy Mercury’s life. His relationships with men are framed as a bad influence on him - Paul Pretner becomes the villain of the movie, and the movie labels Mercury as gay, while in reality he did not fit into that single box and was likely bisexual. Bohemian Rhapsody is ultimately a film with nothing new to say, capitalizing on an icon without caring to portray the real version of him. ~Grace Gay

Image Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures

Image Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures

Vice

Vice (2018) by Adam McKay finds itself somehow stumbling into the 2019 Academy Awards, surprisingly nominated for eight categories:

  • Best Picture             

  • Best Actor

  • Best Supporting Actor

  • Best Support Actress

  • Best Director

  • Best Original Screenplay

  • Best Film Editing

  • Best Makeup

It was a complete surprise when I found out that this film had been nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay when the film itself didn’t amount to much of anything. Vice is a biopic on the enigmatic Dick Cheney, who became a dominating figure of American politics in the 2000s. The film had the necessary material to construct an engaging perspective into politics and Cheney, but instead it does a poor job of explaining Cheney’s motivation for his drive for power and leaves the audience with more questions than answers - and not in a good way. On the other hand, Christian Bale does clearly shows his passion for acting as he successfully nails down Dick Cheney’s character and subtle mannerisms. After watching the film, I had to rewatch interviews with the real Dick Cheney and found Bale’s portrayal uncanny, and his acting is perhaps the only category for which Vice deserves a nomination. Vice tries to explain complicated historical events and shady political dealings in a bombastic and comedic style, but it fails to execute it well. It does, however, leave me wondering if the film managed to get nominated simply because its focus - the Bush administration, 9/11, and the Iraq War - struck a chord with the audience, or, more so, with the Academy members. We can never can tell for certain, but it does make me question if the controversial content of the film was the reason it got nominated. If so, then it leaves me doubting the integrity of the Academy Awards - making a film about controversial political and social topics shouldn’t automatically grant it nominations. Or maybe I’m just missing something. ~Matthew Kim

FilmSteven Norwalk