' ' Cinema Romantico: Some Drivel On...the Oscar Nominations

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Some Drivel On...the Oscar Nominations

“It’s easy, and dangerous, to overnarrativize the Oscar nominations,” Mark Harris wrote in Vanity Fair. Sure, but it’s also true that the Oscars are an annual referendum on the industry as much as they are a celebration of it. If there is to be true change from a diversity and inclusion standpoint within the guts of the industry, where it really counts, then these are the moments when the industry needs to be called on the carpet rather than just waved off in the name of letting them walk the red one in a month’s time. And so, yes, here we are, yet again, of course, discussing a Best Director field entirely devoid of women. How did this happen?

I mean, obviously, yes, we know why this happened, generally speaking, but really, how, dammit, did this happen? No one in 2019 deserved Best Director more than Marielle Heller for wresting something difficult and interesting - fascinating - from a lukewarm screenplay for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” but she somehow wasn’t even in the conversation around the nominations. And then there’s Greta Gerwig, whose masterful adaptation of  “Little Women” scored a Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay nod but not one for Director. She was eschewed for “1917”, “The Irishman”, “Joker”, “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood”, and “Parasite.” Think of those nominees as you will but whatever you think it's impossible not to hear the words of Gerwig herself, words she wrote for Vanity Fair literally two days ago. “I still think we very much have a hierarchy of stories. I think that the top of the hierarchy is male violence.” As prescient as the Academy is predictable. Undoubtedly she will win for Best Adapted Screenplay and, who knows, perhaps like the snub of Ben Affleck for “Argo” all those years ago carried it to a Best Picture win so too will Greta’s snub take her film to the same heights. But I doubt it. Don’t bet against male violence.

Best Actor: The nomination of Antonio Banderas for his understated work in the Spanish-language “Pain and Glory” is wonderful even if it feels destined to lose to Joaquin Phoenix going to DEFCON 3 for “Joker.” I’ll just imagine this as Joaquin’s makeup Oscar for “Two Lovers.”

Best Actress: This category contains the lone black acting nominee, Cynthia Erivo for “Harriet.” That’s Harriet Tubman, which, all things considered, doesn’t feel that different from putting the Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor on the ten dollar bill and calling it even. Renee Zellweger, meanwhile, seems lock-ish, I guess, for “Judy”, based on the inexorable sway of the biopic, which seems odd because I feel like no one is talking about this performance, though maybe it’s all anyone can talk about at parties in the Hollywood Hills, I don’t know. And though Renee is fine, even pretty good, and while I loved Saoirse Ronan in “Little Women” and really liked Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story”, this category nevertheless comes across like one where the Academy truly failed to expand its horizons. The Independent Spirit Awards did it! They’re based out of L.A. too! It’s easy! Just open your eyes!

Best Supporting Actor: Sort of a Good Ol’ Boys Club here with Hanks, Hopkins, Pacino, Pesci, and Pitt. Like, wouldn’t it have been cool to see Wesley Snipes all of a sudden slide in there for his first Oscar nod ever for “Dolemite Is My Name”? Still, while I haven’t seen the turn of Hopkins, the others are high quality, in particular Pitt who in his charismatic yet prickly languor seems to embody all of “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood” just in the way he walks. This is it. This has to be it. It’s Brad’s Time. Even Pesci, I’m honestly willing to bet, and for whom you could mount a compelling counter-argument on either acting or sentimental grounds, would tell you the same thing.

Best Supporting Actress:

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