This column contains spoilers for “First Reformed,” “Eighth Grade,” “Annihilation,” “Widows” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
When the nominees for the 91st Academy Awards were announced on Jan. 22, many of the nominations were as expected. “Roma” and “The Favourite” lead with 10 nominations a piece, “Black Panther” became the first superhero movie ever nominated for Best Picture and Spike Lee was finally nominated for Best Director for his movie “BlacKkKlansman.”
Although the Academy did recognize some fantastic movies, performances and technical work, like always, they ultimately failed to recognize and celebrate some of last year’s best work in the movie industry. Here are the top six biggest snubs of this year’s Oscars.
Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed”: Best Actor in a Leading Role
Having previously been nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” and Antoine Fuqua’s “Training Day,” Ethan Hawke is unmistakably not a stranger to the Oscars. His past recognitions show that he has already proven himself to be a brilliant actor, but one of his best — if not the best — performances of his career failed to be acknowledged.
In Paul Schrader’s unconventional drama “First Reformed,” Hawke plays Reverend Ernst Toller of the historical First Reformed Church. He’s in the beginning stages of questioning his faith and existence, and that is soon amplified in his attempts to assist Mary (Amanda Seyfried) with her husband Michael (Philip Ettinger). The Reverend counsels and listens to Michael’s urgencies over environmental issues and the drastic effects of climate change, both in which are overtaking Michael’s life and soon his own.
The film’s intelligent metaphorical concepts of the loss of faith through environmental themes gained “First Reformed” a much deserved Best Original Screenplay nomination, but Hawke’s impactful execution did not receive the same.
”Eighth Grade”: Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress in a Leading Role
Famed comedian Bo Burnham and his heart-wrenching coming-of-age film “Eighth Grade” did not receive any Oscar nominations. “Eighth Grade” follows young Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) during the week before her eighth grade graduation, capturing her daily events during and outside of her school life. The film’s relatability is so powerful that some of the scenes resonate a little too close to home for many, and even if you can’t personally relate to it, it makes you feel as if you could. Elsie Fisher does a phenomenal job depicting the hardships of fitting in and striving to be “cool” in today’s world, and although every actress in this year’s Best Actress in a Leading Role category deserves their spot, her effortless performance is too genuine to be neglected.
As well as writing the stunning screenplay, “Eighth Grade” is also Burnham’s directorial debut, and his craftsmanship and obvious devotion to the film deserves an Oscar nod. The film gained sufficient attention at other award shows, such as the Golden Globes, where it was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, but the Academy Awards made the mistake of snubbing “Eighth Grade.”
”Annihilation”: Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score
After the poor promotion of “Annihilation” from Paramount Pictures and its decision to release the film internationally via only Netflix, it isn’t surprising that Alex Garland’s science-fiction-horror wasn’t featured in this year’s Academy Awards. However, that doesn’t mean the film isn't worthy of nomination. “Annihilation” is truly a breathtaking film, full of bizarre yet beautiful mutations that surround and conquer what is known as “The Shimmer.” The psychedelic, dreamlike effects of “The Shimmer” create uniquely horrifying scenes that, although trippy, feel somehow incredibly real.
Ben Salisbury’s and Geoff Barrow’s score mimics those effects perfectly, formulating a haunting soundtrack that builds as the film’s self-destruction theme reaches its astonishing climax. Their 12-minute song “The Alien” that plays throughout the climax progresses with the same unforgetful intensity as the scene itself, and that alone deserves some kind of award.
”Widows”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Adapted Screenplay
Although “Widows” was simultaneously a riveting heist movie and an examination of racial inequalities, sexism and money in politics, it ultimately failed to get a single nomination for this year’s Oscars. From Steve McQueen, the director of “12 Years A Slave,” the movie centers around three women, played by Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez. The women are forced to protect their assets and ensure the safety of their families’ future following the death of their criminal husbands. Although the women are determined to succeed in their goal, they are met with obstacles around every corner that include scheming politicians, crime bosses and ghosts from their past. Despite it not being the typical movie that gets nominated for Oscars, the Academy royally messed up in failing to nominate Viola Davis’ performance, Daniel Kaluuya’s performance, McQueen’s work as director, Gillian Flynn and McQueen’s work as writers and the movie as a whole. In a year when only eight of the 10 possible slots for Best Picture are occupied, it is a shame that “Widows” didn’t get a spot on the list.
Timothée Chalamet: Best Actor in a Supporting Role
For the second year in a row, Timothée Chalamet has been treated unfairly by the Academy. Following a breakout year in which Chalamet was nominated for his role in “Call Me By Your Name”, but ultimately lost to a conventional yet solid performance by Gary Oldman, Chalamet was back with vengeance in the heartbreaking movie “Beautiful Boy.”
The movie, which is directed by Felix van Groeningen, is based on a pair of memoirs by David and Nic Sheff about the cycle of methamphetamine addiction and the toll that it takes on the addict’s family.
Not only does Chalamet completely commit to accurately representing the vicious and unyielding cycle of addiction — he lost 18 pounds for the role — he does it with an uncanny amount of grace and empathy toward all those whom addiction impacts. With the youngest nominee in the Best Supporting Actor category being 35 years old, 2019 proves to be the second year in which Chalamet’s brilliance may not be enough to overcome the Academy’s preference for older actors.
”If Beale Street Could Talk”: Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography
Barry Jenkins, the director who had a breakout year in 2016 with the Best-Picture-winning movie “Moonlight,” was back again in force this year with the equally beautiful and touching “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Following Tish and Fonny (KiKi Layne and Stephan James), a young African-American couple living in 1970s Harlem, Jenkins transports the audience into the center of the couple’s sweeping romance and future plans, which include a baby on the way. Their lives are quickly derailed when Fonny is falsely accused of rape. The couple, along with their families, are forced to battle uphill against an unjust system and time that appears to be running out quickly.
While the Academy rightfully recognized the ingenuity of Regina King’s work as Tish’s mother, Sharon, the elegance and eeriness of Nicholas Britell’s score and the brilliant screenplay adaptation from Jenkins of James Baldwin’s novel, it failed to grasp the beauty of the movie as a whole. In a year when some Academy voters made bold choices and nominated movies with diverse casts and perspectives of the world, the Academy unfortunately did not make that same choice with “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which easily deserved nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Cinematography.
Edited by Joe Cross | firstname.lastname@example.org