Not-Oscars 2019

NOT-OSCARS-2019Hello, and welcome to the awards announcement you have not been waiting for, The Not-Oscars!

My annual list of accolades is not the talk of the town during awards season. The nominees are not thrilled to be nominated… because they will never even hear about it! The winners would not like to thank the Academy for voting for them… because it was just me! There are dozens of awards shows handing out kudos this time of year, but only one is as unpopular and unheralded as the Not-Oscars — brought to you by nobody!

The 92nd Academy Award nominations were announced earlier this week, with the usual fanfare — and immediate uproar about who was snubbed. Problematically, 19 of the 20 acting nominees are white. The vast majority of films nominated in major categories are about straight white men. Films like Uncut Gems, The Farewell, Us, and Hustlers — all with passionate fan bases — were completely shut out.

And yet, Parasite became the first South Korean film to ever be nominated for Best International Film (crazy, considering how much great cinema comes out of South Korea). It racked up five other nods, including Best Director and Best Picture — a rare feat for a foreign language film. Bong Joon-ho could become the first Asian person to win the Best Picture Oscar alongside Parasite producer Kwak Sin-ae. The female-helmed, female-driven Little Women also cracked Best Picture and five other categories.

As usual, it’s a mixed bag — but a mixed bag full of very good things, and only a small handful of nominations given to films that decidedly aren’t amongst the best of the year. (Unless you’re a Joker hater, in which case this year’s nominations are a travesty.) Although I have my own favorites, which only partway align with the Academy’s preferences, I think the 2020 Academy Awards are a terrific showcase for the past year in film. There’s more work to be done in the industry, and in our society at large, to make sure more diverse stories are being told by more diverse people. But for 2019’s crop of films, on the whole I do believe the Oscar nominations reflect the best of what we got.



Sam Mendes1917

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman

Pedro Almodóvar – Pain & Glory

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

In a year of strong, ambitious movies, it’s difficult to select only five filmmakers to call out as the best. Greta Gerwig made the oft-filmed Little Women (ubiquitous enough to be spoiled on Friends) entirely fresh again, and totally modern, too. Her precision in directing actors to cut in on each other’s lines at exactly the right moment created a delightful and timeless sisterly bond to endear us to the March sisters all over again. Meanwhile, three well-known and much-celebrated auteurs brought a new level of reflection and analysis to films that otherwise looked and felt a lot like ones they made before. Pedro Almodóvar delivered his most personal and heartfelt film in Pain & Glory, without sacrificing any of the fun or style fans so love from his body of work. Martin Scorsese made another definitive gangster drama to cap off his career, and maybe even kill off the genre itself; it’s impossible to imagine a discussion of mob movies that does not refer to The Irishman going forward. And Quentin Tarantino finally made his love affair with old Hollywood literal, with violence and humor that felt familiar but an open-hearted nostalgia for the old days that cut deeper emotionally than his previous work.

But ultimately, of course, I have to give it to the filmmaker whose technique utterly blew me away. To avoid blubbering about it again, I’ll sum it up in four words: Sam Mendes. 1917. Wow.

Honorable Mentions
Benny and Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems
James Gray – Ad Astra 

PAIN-GLORY-antonio-banderas.jpgBEST ACTOR

Antonio Banderas – Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

Tom Mercier – Synonyms

Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

The past year was particularly stacked in the Best Actor race. There wasn’t nearly enough space in Oscars categories for all the strong performances, and there isn’t enough room here, either. (Sorry, Adam Driver!) Joaquin Phoenix joined Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson in delivering a truly iconic Joker performance — in a good way. (Sorry not sorry, Jared Leto.) In Synonyms, the mesmerizing Tom Mercier brought Joker-like unpredictability to his portrayal of an Israeli man trying to erase his origins and start anew in Paris — with toxic results. It’s no great shock to wake up on Oscar morning and hear Adam Sandler’s name not be called, but the funnyman’s snub still stings in light of his manic career-best turn in Uncut Gems. Joining this trio of problematic men, Leonardo DiCaprio showed off sharpened comedy chops in his wildly amusing and unexpectedly moving embodiment of fading star Rick Dalton in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. He’s a crybaby and a narcissist, but DiCaprio makes sure we’re secretly rooting for him anyway.

And then there’s Antonio Banderas as the ideal avatar for longtime collaborator Pedro Almodóvar. He plays an aging director staring death and obsolescence in the face. It’s such a sad, downbeat performance — though still dryly funny — that it makes an eventual upswing in Pain & Glory‘s final moments all the more rewarding.

Honorable Mentions
Jesse Eisenberg – The Art Of Self-Defense
Mark Ruffalo – Dark Waters



Alfre Woodard – Clemency

Elisabeth Moss – Her Smell

Noémie Merlant – Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Adèle Haenel – Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Young women have claimed Jo March as their heroine for over a century and a half, so Saoirse Ronan had mighty big shoes to fill. With the help of Greta Gerwig’s spry screenplay, Ronan makes the 19th century tomboy feel like someone you could happily get a beer with in 2020 — without sacrificing the period specificity that makes Jo’s literary ambitions so unlikely (and ultimately, so rewarding). As Héloïse, the beguiling femme flambé of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, Adèle Haenel aches with similar frustration at the marital conventions foisted on young women through the ages. Sciamma builds Héloïse up as a mystery, and once we meet her, Haenel manages to keep playing her that way, even though we never feel she’s being disingenuous about her feelings toward Marianne. As the perfectionist painter Marianne, Noémie Merlant is equally searing, conveying a deep yearning for her subject without a word. There’s plenty of sharp dialogue between these leading ladies, but they’re hardly needed — Merlant and Haenel tell the entire story in furtive glances and longing looks. In Her Smell, Elisabeth Moss gives the frustrated female artists in those films a 21st century twist as Becky Something, a cataclysmal punk rocker who’d have Sid Vicious begging her to take a chill pill. Moss squeals, snarls, and delivers grandiose soliloquies in a performance you can’t look away from. She’s terrifyingly good.

The internet is abuzz about snubs galore since Tuesday’s nominations were announced, but the most egregious oversight of all has been woefully underreported. Alfre Woodard should have been a lock for a nod in the Best Actress category as prison warden Bernadine Williams, tasked with keeping it together on death row. As doubt creeps in about an inmate’s culpability in his crime, Bernadine wrestles with the moral implications of capital punishment. Her performance is simply astonishing, with a final scene that’s the stuff Oscar clip dreams are made of.

Honorable Mentions
Sophia Boutella – Climax
Renee Zellweger – Judy

Jennifer-Lopez-Hustlers.jpgBEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

Julia Fox – Uncut Gems

Julianne Nicholson – Monos

Laura Dern – Marriage Story

Julia Butters – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Julia Butters’ pitch perfect send-up of a pretentious child actress in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood shows gamesmanship and wisdom beyond her years. It could have been a caricature — instead, her character comes off as a professional, something DiCaprio’s bloated TV cowboy should probably aspire to. Marriage Story‘s Laura Dern is the favorite to win the Oscar for her slick portrayal of a motherly but merciless divorce lawyer. The role may be slight compared to some of her strongest work over the years, but every moment she’s on screen is a treat. In Monos, Julianne Nicholson tumbles through the harsh South American jungle with ferocity that can’t be faked. It’s her The Revenant, though she is also tasked with building empathy for a character we know nothing about; we don’t know who she is or why she’s in this situation, but we’re desperate for her to survive, anyway. And don’t forget newcomer Julia Fox, taking a page from Margot Robbie in The Wolf Of Wall Street as a sex bomb who gradually becomes the heart of a movie that otherwise doesn’t have one. Early on, we’re tempted to write off her provocatively dressed mistress as a gold-digging bimbo; instead, she becomes our stealth heroine, the one ray of light in a pitch black film.

Julia in Uncut Gems is the kind of role J-Lo would have nailed back in the 90s. As Ramona, the pole-dancing matriarch of a strip club in Hustlers, Jennifer Lopez returns to her sizzling Out Of Sight glory days, her first truly terrific film performance in two decades. She’s fierce, feisty, and of course she nails every move on that pole. But she’s also maternal and warm, acting as both the mother and sister many of her young cohorts never had. It’s completely clear why these women follow her ill-fated scheme. She’s so enchanting, we’d do it, too. This is the sort of once-or-twice-a-lifetime definitive star turn the Academy doesn’t recognize nearly often enough… and so, it didn’t. “Fuck ’em,” as Ramona would say.

Honorable Mentions
Florence Pugh – Little Women
Shuzhen Zhao – The Farewell



Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Aldis Hodge – Clemency

Rob Morgan – Just Mercy

Jamie Foxx – Just Mercy

Tim Blake Nelson – Just Mercy

My Best Supporting Actor roster is a murderer’s row of talent — literally. Four of five play death row inmates, and the fifth narrowly avoided conviction for killing his wife with a harpoon. In Just Mercy, Tim Blake Nelson vanishes into his role as a physically and emotionally scarred felon who holds the fate of a wronged man in his hands. That wronged man is played by Jamie Foxx, who brilliantly conveys the hopelessness of a black man on death row who has been repeatedly, repugnantly failed by the justice system. Rob Morgan plays Herbert Richardson, a Vietnam vet facing execution with even slimmer hopes for appeal. Just Mercy is a straightforward legal drama about a lone righteous man up against the odds with the clock ticking; this trio of performances elevates the material above its familiar story beats, bringing doomed characters to life in a way that forces us to think critically about the cruelties of capital punishment. In Clemency, Aldis Hodge is Anthony Woods, another inmate with an expiration date hanging over his head. His frustration and rage is palpable, bringing an equally heartbreaking portrayal of injustice to life.

This year’s Supporting Actor category had by far the highest number of performances to whittle down to five — even my honorable mentions didn’t leave room for the very fine work from Pesci and Pacino in The Irishman. But why deny it? It’s Brad Pitt’s year, and even though he’s far and away the favorite to win the Oscar, I can’t let that get in the way of an equally prestigious Not-Oscar triumph. As raffish stuntman Cliff Booth, Pitt radiates California cool with an effortlessness that only an ultra-famous, two-time “Sexiest Man Alive” coverboy could pull off. On one hand, it harkens back to the Brad we love from his 90s heyday, and on the other, it signals a newfound “old Hollywood” comfort with his cragginess, a Gen X Robert Redford. It’s impossible to imagine Once Upon A Time In Hollywood — or Hollywood itself — without him. An instant classic.

Honorable Mentions
Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse

parasite-castBEST ENSEMBLE


Little Women
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
The Irishman
Knives Out



1917 – Thomas Newman

Joker – Hildur Guðnadóttir
Ad Astra – Max Richter and Lorne Balfe
Uncut Gems – Daniel Lopatin
Monos – Mica Levi



Joker – Jeff Groth

Little Women – Nick Houy
The Irishman – Thelma Schoonmaker
Uncut Gems – Benny Safdie and Ronald Bronstein
Parasite – Jinmo Yang

george-mackay-dean-charles-chapman-1917BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

1917 – Roger Deakins

Ad Astra – Hoyte van Hoytema
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Robert Richardson
A Hidden Life – Jörg Widmer
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire – Claire Mathon

florence-pugh-timothee-chalamet-little-women.jpgBEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Little Women – Greta Gerwig

The Irishman – Steve Zaillian
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood – Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster
Dark Waters – Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan
Hustlers – Lorene Scafaria

once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-lax.jpgBEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino

Pain & Glory – Pedro Almodóvar
Queen & Slim – Lena Waithe
Uncut Gems – Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Honey Boy – Shia LeBeouf

Little-Women-laura-dernBEST MOTHER

Laura Dern – Little Women

Tilda Swinton – The Souvenir
Naomi Watts – Luce
Mary Kay Place – Diane
Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit

Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull-climax.jpgWORST MOTHER

Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull – Climax

Frances Conroy – Joker
Bryce Dallas Howard – Rocketman
Elisabeth Moss – Her Smell
Octavia Spencer – Ma

josh-wiggins-kyle-maclachlan-giant-little-ones.jpgBEST FATHER

Kyle MacLachlan – Giant Little Ones

Kyle Marvin – The Climb
August Diehl – A Hidden Life
Robert Pattinson – High Life
Sterling K. Brown – Waves



Tommy Lee Jones – Ad Astra

Robert De Niro – The Irishman
Shia LeBeouf – Honey Boy
Carloto Cotta – Diamantino
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems



Brad Pitt & Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Saoirse Ronan & Timothée Chalamet – Little Women
Jennifer Lopez & Constance Wu – Hustlers
Taron Egerton & Jamie Bell – Rocketman
Tom Hanks & Matthew Rhys – A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood



Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans – Knives Out
Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
John Lithgow – Bombshell
Lucas Hedges – Honey Boy



Cho Yeo-jeong, Park So-dam, Song Kang-ho, and Choi Woo-shik – Parasite

Jimmie Fails – The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Eddie Murphy – Dolemite Is My Name
Laura Dern – Little Women
Andrew Garfield – Under The Silver Lake

alessandro-niovola-art-of-self-defenseBEST VILLAIN

Alessandro Nivola – The Art Of Self Defense

Isabelle Huppert – Greta
John Lithgow – Bombshell
Jake Gyllenhaal – Spider-Man: Far From Home
???? – Knives Out



Julia Fox – Uncut Gems

Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
Riley Keough – Under The Silver Lake
Margot Robbie – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Margot Robbie – Bombshell



Opening number – Climax

Jo and Laurie dance outside – Little Women
Stairway dance – Joker
Usher visits the strip club – Hustlers
“Crocodile Rock” at The Troubadour – Rocketman



(3-way tie)

Uncut Gems



(3-way tie)

The Art Of Self-Defense
Under The Silver Lake



The Lion King



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