The Oscar nominations came out on Monday the 13th, and since everyone and his uncle have been weighing in, I figured I would offer a few very disposable observations:
I am not a huge fan of the Jennifer Lopez oeuvre but she did an exceptional job carrying Hustlers on her shoulders and provided some much-needed humor and emotional heft to the proceedings. And though I do like Kathy Bates and her work in the underrated and underseen Richard Jewell, I think fifth nomination should have gone the way of J-Lo.
1917 is good but not great. It is technically a well-made film with some very good moments (including some away from the battlefield), but the narrative doesn’t generate the power that it so desperately wants (and it could certainly use a more memorable central character) and as an anti-war statement, it comes up short. However, if 1917 really moved you, it can play with the other Best Picture nominees.
Joker is another matter…overrated, derivative, it not only rips off Taxi Driver but provides a backstory that really doesn’t jell with the archvillain we all know and “love.” There are certainly other films I would put in its place as a nominee for Best Picture such as…
…Knives Out, which works on various levels, including mystery, comedy of (bad) manners), character study and social commentary. It received a Best Screenplay nod, but it is worthy of more nominations. (Best Director for Rian Johnson for starters, Christopher Plummer, Best Supporting Actor for another).
Or consider Us. It seems Academy voters have short memories, for here was a very effective thriller laced with satire and laden with political and social undertones. It also benefited from a superb central performance from Lupita Nyong’o that is all the more powerful once certain plot elements are revealed. She should have been among the Best Actress nominees. (Much as I liked Charlize Theron, the Best Actress nominations could have survived without her.)
Little Women certainly garnered many deserved nominations, but I would also add Greta Gerwig’s name to the Best Director nominees. Her screenplay and her mastery of the actors, the period, and the shifts in time and tone make her Little Women a very rewarding adaptation indeed. I could certainly see her nomination more than I could see…Sam Mendes or Todd Philips.
Where is Taran Egerton among the Best Actor nominees? His dazzling, multi-faceted performance (acting, singing, dancing) as Elton John in Rocketman surely deserved some Oscar love. And why didn’t the Academy see fit to add Adam Sandler to the list? Did his dynamic turn in Uncut Gems as a driven, self-destructive gambler/jeweler cause some viewers to have motion sickness. Whatever the reason, Sandler also deserved the love he would not receive. (For the record, it would not make me unhappy to see them in place of the erstwhile Mr. DeCaprio and the esteemed Mr. Pryce—good as they were.) Oh…and one more thing, Robert De Niro carries The Irishman…just saying.
Finally, while I am happy that both Joe Pesci and Al Pacino were nominated as Best Supporting Actor for The Irishman, my vote would be for Brad Pitt in the glorious Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. (which is still my choice for Best Picture).