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

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Some Drivel On...the Oscar Nominations

Oscar nominations, so many ripples in the rain.

So, how’s it going? The new membership of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, I mean, which after deserved blowback in recent years has embraced diversity and youth while still retaining enough outmodedness to make the spirit of the Cocoanut Grove proud: after all, Billie Eilish and Leonard Maltin are Academy members now! And you can see this in the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards, unveiled yesterday, which were as vexing as they were satisfying (and can all be found here), especially where Best Picture was concerned, utilizing all ten slots to encompass a wide spectrum. If there was anything that decidedly wasn’t a surprise, it’s that my Top 5 Favorite Movies of the year earned a total of zero nominations, including “Fallen Leaves,” which I might have thought had a chance, for something, maybe. Eh, whatever. You can stream it on Mubi; watch it anyway; who cares; watch the other Aki Kaurismäki movies on Criterion; watch a middling thriller! 

2024 was defined in so many ways by the Barbenheimer phenomenon and continued apace in the nominations, though if Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” still leads both the global and domestic box office sweepstakes, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” won in terms of Academy Award nods with 13 to 8. (Yorgos Lanthimos’s “Poor Things,” in fact, earned 3 more nods than “Barbie,” further evidence of the old William Goldman line about nobody knowing anything.) That baker’s dozen includes not only the big uns like Best Picture and Best Director and Best Actor for Cillian Murphy, but Best Score and Best Sound, where even an “Oppenheimer” agnostic such as me would confess to its excellence. It even dragged Emily Blunt to a Best Supporting Actress nod, an incredible performer for whom this blog has repeatedly stanned, so don’t come for us (me), but who, through no real fault of her own, is an acting non-entity in her nominated role. Penélope Cruz in “Ferrari” would have eaten her lunch.

“Barbie’s” haul was mostly down along the production line, which is all richly deserved, even as its unlikely omissions in a couple top line categories will provide unwanted ammunition to the freshmen economics students claiming “Barbie” is doing capitalism rather than being art. What’s more, Ryan Gosling earned a Supporting Actor nod (yay!) while Margot Robbie was, well, let’s avoid the word snubbed, shall we, and say, laughably overlooked, as if the Academy toed the Pop Culture Company line that Gosling stole the movie even while Robbie (her turn in “Barbie” in conjunction with her cameo in “Asteroid City” made her this useless blog’s Performer of the Year) was, in fact, making the whole movie right in front of their face with her face. And though America Ferrera got a Supporting Actress nod, undoubtedly because she recited the Big Monologue, Gerwig herself was left out of the Best Director race, all the more remarkable because she was also left out of the Best Director race for “Little Women” (2019) but wasn’t for “Ladybird” (2015) for which she deserved a Direction nomination least. Sigh. It’s complicated. She knows.

Though I would have put Sofia Coppola number one on my ballot for “Priscilla,” Gerwig was more deserving than Lanthimos for “Poor Things,” a movie which I will write about, eventually, and where I thought the direction ultimately interfered more than enhanced. As it is, a woman was nominated, Justine Triet for the French drama “Anatomy of a Fall,” and Jonathan Glazer was nominated too, for “The Zone Interest,” and because of that, it’s hard not to be a little happy. These are people, like their fellow nominee Martin Scorsese for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” who try to make films, not movies, to paraphrase Kit Ramsey, whether they work or not, for you, or for me, or for anyone else. Anyway, that category is Christopher Nolan’s to lose, just as “Oppenheimer” is certainly the favorite for Best Picture, leaving me to dream of Oprah returning to present it so she can modify her Golden Globes envelope-opening from “Oppenheimerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” to “the Father of the Atomic Boooooooooooomb!”)  

In terms of the acting categories, the biggest news was Lily Gladstone becoming the first woman of Native American descent to be nominated for an Oscar with “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Jeffrey Wright earning his first Oscar nomination as Best Actor in “American Fiction.” Paul Giamatti, meanwhile, earned his first Best Actor nomination in “The Holdovers.” And though I had problems with the latter, I didn’t have a problem with Giamatti, and even if I did, I don’t think I’d care. It should be His Time; his inexorable march to the podium in March would be well deserved and overdue, and he might be Hollywood’s most unwittingly equipped to go through the next six weeks without letting the stress affect him. In fact, in our era, where these races are monitored so closely and dished about so incessantly there are no longer any real surprises, let’s close this recap by ranking the coronation levels for our probable acting winners.

1. Robert Downey Jr., Best Supporting Actor for “Oppenheimer.” LEVEL: Reagan over Mondale. 
2. Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Best Supporting Actress for “The Holdovers.” LEVEL: LBJ over Goldwater.
3. Lily Gladstone, Best Actress for “Killers of the Flower Moon.” LEVEL: Clinton over Bush.
4. Paul Giamatti, Best Actor for “The Holdovers.” LEVEL: Obama over Romney. 

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