Some Thoughts on the 93rd Academy Award Nominations
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right folks- It’s Oscar Season! The nominees for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced this morning, and as this is an Oscar blog I thought it would probably be a good idea to cover it. 2020 was an absolutely wild year, and it was no different for Hollywood. Whether or not that will translate to a wild Oscars remains to be seen, but let’s get down to the nominees!
Before we start, I have to admit that I did an absolutely terrible job at watching new movies last year. I really have no excuse (most of them were released to streaming), but that's just the way it is. For some reason I have a harder time watching a movie when it's on Netflix than I do when I have to take a bus to go see it in theaters. As such, I have yet to see frontrunners and contenders like Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Minari, The Father, Promising Young Woman or uh... Hillbilly Elegy. I also didn't see First Cow yet, but I have it from Netflix! Still, I saw a decent amount of films, and not having seen a movie has never stopped me from having a Hot Take before!
In the interest of keeping myself from rambling on too long (too late!) I've decided to divide my thoughts on this year's nominees into three categories: The Good, The Bad and The Snubbed. So let's start out on a positive note with...
The Academy kicked the night off with a bang by nominating Maria Bakalova for her performance in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. In spite of all the buzz surrounding her, I have to admit her nomination seemed like a longshot. It's the kind of bold and daring performance that's just good enough for the Academy to ignore, so I'm glad they didn't. Similarly delightful is the recognition her costar received; not only does Sacha Baron Cohen get another Screenplay nod under his belt, but he also managed to get an acting nomination! The Trial of the Chicago Seven isn't a great movie, but Sacha Baron Cohen gives a legitimately great performance, and I'm delighted to see it recognized.
Speaking of things I'm delighted to see recognized, the Academy remembered that Emma. exists! While it was shut out of any major categories, the fact that my favorite film of 2020 (and also the last one I saw in theaters) managed to score two nominations is definitely a win in my book. Leading up to the nominations being announced, I said I just wanted it receive one nomination. And now it's gotten two!
Finally the diversity of the nominees is worth celebrating. With nine people of color receiving acting nominations, this is the most ethnically diverse acting lineup in Oscar history. Steven Yeun is the first actor of East Asian descent nominated for Best Actor, while Riz Ahmed is the first person of Pakistani descent nominated for an acting award. Also making history are Chloe Zhao (the first woman of color nominated for Best Director) and Emerald Fennell; the 93rd Academy Awards marks the first time two women were nominated for Best Director. The Best Director lineup is pretty interesting overall- a Danish man, a Chinese woman, an English woman, and two Americans, one of Korean descent. The only white American dude nominated for Best Director is David Fincher (better luck next time Sorkin), which is pretty cool. Although speaking of Fincher, I suppose that's as good a segue as any to lead us into...
Right off the bat, it has to be said- there is far too much Mank for my liking. Easily my least favorite of the nominated films I've seen, I suppose the Academy had to pick it to satisfy their "Movie About Movies" quota. Still, I can't look at a single nomination they received that couldn't have gone to a far more deserving film. (Well, maybe Best Sound was deserved.) There was a time in my life when I considered Gary Oldman one of the best actors working today; then I graduated high school. He's been nominated for Best Actor three times, and none of those performances rose above the level of "pretty good" (apologies to any Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy diehards out there). His performance in Mank is at least better than his Churchill, but that's a pretty low bar. Hopefully Mank meets the same fate as last year's big Netflix contender The Irishman and gets shut out. And how weird is it that Mank is an hour and a half shorter than The Irishman, yet it feels twice as long?
Another Netflix film with a distressing amount of nominations is Ron Howard's Hillbilly Elegy. Granted, I haven't seen that film, but I did that in the hopes that the Academy would decide to pretend it didn't happen. But they didn't, and even worse, they gave it an acting nomination! That makes it a real priority for me, so I guess I'll have to watch it.
One movie I did watch already was Mulan, which was pretty darn bad. I suppose I don't begrudge it the nomination for its costumes, even if I think Birds of Prey would have probably been a better choice. Its visual effects nomination, on the other hand, is a little more iffy. I guess that's the issue when there were so few blockbusters last year. It could be worse; they could have nominated Wonder Woman!
First and foremost it must be said- Justice for Delroy Lindo! Netflix's decision to push Mank over Da 5 Bloods might have been the safer bet, but they backed the wrong horse in that race. I wasn't even a huge fan of Da 5 Bloods, but Delroy Lindo's performance was magnificent and definitely worthy of a nomination. In an otherwise solid year for nominations, this snub is particularly egregious.
Still, at least Da 5 Bloods got *a* nomination, which is more than The Invisible Man got snubbed. I knew it was in trouble when it somehow didn't make the Visual Effects shortlist (there's a pun in there somewhere), and Elisabeth Moss getting nominated was always going to be a pipe dream. Still, it would have been nice to see its sound design or score nominated, but I guess that's a lot to hope for with a horror film.
There were some minor snubs here and there which aren't worth getting too worked up over; I was hoping "Wuhan Flu" would manage to score a Best Original Song nomination, but that was more just for the sake of audacity. And while it never really stood much of a chance, it stinks that Birds of Prey got shut out completely. Between this and Shazam!, why does the Academy have to ignore all the good DC films?
And since we're in the midst of our Year in Shorts, I have to admit I was surprised that Pixar's Out didn't get nominated. I haven't seen the other animated shorts so it might totally be warranted, but I thought Out was a cute film with an Oscar-friendly message. Ah, well, there's no guarantees in life, are there? And certainly not when the Oscars are concerned.