Ah, the Oscars. It’s the one time a year when even the guy who only saw Rouge One this year starts to form an opinion on who, exactly, deserves that little gold statue. What is it about this particular award show that turns even the most level-headed of film lovers into the kind of impassioned fan we typically see trolling college football games by painting their exposed belly with some sort of sports propaganda? Whatever the answer, there’s no denying that half of the fun of the awards show is the debate that unfolds at the same time that the seal of the envelope containing the name of each winner is broken.
As easy as it is to mock the absurdity of the show’s grandeur, there is something about the inherent prestige of the Academy Awards that makes it impossible to not get wrapped up into it. That’s especially true as it concerns Oscar snubs. There’s nothing more frustrating than to watch another deserving candidate get completely ignored at the biggest awards show of the year. Inevitably, the 2017 Oscars will be no different. In fact, there’s a good chance we can already predict a few names that will not get the nomination they have coming to them.
Here are the 15 Oscar Nominations That Should Happen (But Won’t).
15. Best Documentary Feature – Do Not Resist
Truth be told, the Academy usually does a fine job of locating the best documentaries in a given year and ensuring they receive the proper attention. There aren’t many Best Documentary Feature winners that didn’t deserve the acclaim. That being said, this year’s list of potential candidates is as stacked as the field has ever been. Some great documentary is going to get the shaft when a sole winner is declared and, even worse, some documentaries are not going to have their name called out at all.
Based on the results of recent industry award shows, it’s beginning to feel like Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist is going to be among the snubbed. This documentary about the militarization of police in America is as well-made as it is timely. If the mark of a good documentary is its ability to turn the camera on a particular part of the world and let the events do the talking, then Do Not Resist is truly the most notable entrant into the genre released this year.
14. Best Original Screenplay – Swiss Army Man
Technically, the word original as it relates to the context of this award refers to a screenplay that was not derived from some kind of pre-existing material. However, in previous years, the award does seem to be the one portion of the Academy Awards show which recognizes genuine originality. The award is a chance for film writers hoping to dispel the myth that there are no more original ideas left to take a bow. In that spirit, a nomination should go to Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s screenplay for Swiss Army Man.
Swiss Army Man isn’t quite a “love it or hate it” movie; it’s more of an “I really hate that or I think I liked that even though I have no idea what just happened” movie. This story of a marooned man who uses a found corpse with a bad case of flatulence as both a tool and a companion is the very definition of original as it relates to uniqueness. You never know quite what to think of this strange little experiment, but you can’t deny that it is brilliant in its own right. We doubt the Academy will agree enough with us to give it a nod.
13. Best Animated Feature Film – Sausage Party
You might think that Sausage Party is a pretty stupid film. Don’t be ashamed if that’s the case. It is a very stupid film. It’s a very stupid film about a seemingly shallow concept involving sentient food items that begin to realize the nature of their existence. In essence, it’s a parody of what some people typically think of when they think of Pixar and Dreamworks films. (Well, really, it’s a send-up of belief and religion, but you catch our drift.) It’s all pulled off in an insanely profane and offensive way, and while that may not sound like the type of flick that’s deserving of such a prestigious acknowledgment, you have to realize exactly how difficult a proper modern film parody truly is.
At a time when film parodies typically consist of rapid fire vague retoolings of popular movie scenes, Sausage Party reminds us that an effective comedic skewering must have respect for the source material it’s attacking. Yes, this movie contains more sexual innuendo jokes about hot dogs and buns than you can shake a carrot at, but mixed among them are some fairly impressive musings on life and theology. It’s an R-rated Pixar movie in the best way.
12. Best Supporting Actress – Kirsten Dunst (Midnight Special)
While Stranger Things garnered most of the attention this year from fans who love throwbacks to the era of ‘80s sci-fi films, director Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special is arguably 2016’s greatest entrant into that particular sub-genre. Whereas Stranger Things functioned best as a nostalgia-fueled trip to yesteryear, Midnight Special is a more substantial attempt to contribute to the genre with something that feels both pleasantly familiar and refreshingly modern. It’s a brilliant work that invokes names like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., but never feels derivative.
Among its many shocking qualities is the performance of Kirsten Dunst. While anyone that has seen Dunst’s indie work will know she’s more than that gal who used to play Mary Jane Watson, the way that she so fully develops the character of Sarah Tomlin (a mother reunited with her son under bizarre circumstances) in such short time is truly a marvel. It’s a difficult role that she makes memorable through sheer force of will.
11. Best Supporting Actress – Molly Shannon (Ordinary People)
It’s hard to think of Molly Shannon as anything other than one of the over-the-top characters she portrayed on SNL once upon a time. While dramatic turns from comedic actors are certainly not out of the norm, Shannon rarely exhibited any qualities which typically suggest that she had a truly powerhouse dramatic performance in her. While Other People, the story of a writer who returns home to spend time with his dying mother, is a kick in the gut based on the subject matter alone, it’s Molly Shannon’s performance as the dying matriarch that makes it so special.
It’s truly amazing how Shannon is able to use her comedic background as the foundation for such a tragic character. She often relies on dark humor throughout the film as a coping mechanism, and, in the process, creates one of the most accurate characters of this design in modern film history. Sadly, Other People never seemed to get the awards push that it deserves.
10. Best Supporting Actor – Patrick Stewart (Green Room)
Green Room is one of those movies that you should go into without any expectations or prior knowledge. If you haven’t yet seen one of the year’s most exciting films, be sure to stop here and rectify that immediately. For those who have seen it, you’ll know that Green Room is a film all about escalation. Things develop at a frightening pace that leaves you no time for adjustment. No matter what shocking thing occurs next, though, the one surprise that people can’t stop talking about is how good of a villain Patrick Stewart is.
The infinitely loveable Stewart could have gone full-on snarling evil to get across his villainous ways in Green Room, but he instead chose to play a wonderfully restrained overseer who is terrifyingly in control of a very bad situation. In a movie that leaves you desperate for a measure of sanity, it’s all too easy to be drawn to the magnetic Stewart, despite the fact that his malicious intentions involve the sum of all audience fears. It’s not entirely clear why he hasn’t received more nominations this award season.
9. Best Supporting Actor – John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the biggest victims of mismanaged marketing in recent memory. Originally greenlighted as a project called The Cellar, the film’s fate changed during development when someone realized that the movie shared certain spiritual similarities with JJ Abrams’ Cloverfield. Those who rightfully felt that Cloverfield didn’t need a sequel avoided the movie. Those that took a chance on the project were rewarded with a wonderfully subtle sci-fi horror film that plays off of paranoia and claustrophobia. They also got the chance to revel in one of John Goodman’s best performances in years.
Goodman isn’t the lone highlight of the film, but it’s impossible to imagine this movie working as well as it does without Goodman serving as either the craziest man on the planet or its last true survivor, based on your interpretation of the proceedings. This is typically the kind of dynamic showcase that the Academy Awards would love, but it seems that 10 Cloverfield Lane’s genre and iffy ending could end up keeping Goodman from receiving some well-deserved Oscar buzz.
8. Best Actress – Sasha Lane (American Honey)
The story of how Sasha Lane came to star in American Honey is one of those “only in Hollywood” tales that most people assumed would never happen in the modern day. While partying on a beach in Florida, the 19-year old was approached by filmmaker Andrea Arnold and asked to serve as a last-minute replacement for her lead actress in an upcoming movie. Lane accepted the bizarre offer despite having no acting experience whatsoever. We often hear directors talk about the sincerity untrained actors bring to a movie, but we’ve almost never seen a newcomer so completely dominate every scene the way that Lane does in this film.
American Honey is the kind of complicated road movie about a down and out generation that used to define the ‘60s. If Lane comes across as the ultimate wanderer without purpose or a need for it, that’s because that was pretty much her life prior to taking the role. It’s doubtful that she will earn such a prestigious nomination under the circumstances, but she certainly deserves one.
7. Best Actress – Sally Field (Hello, My Name Is Doris)
Hello, My Name is Doris is not a movie that necessarily grabs you from the outset. It’s the kind of film you might casually scroll past while viewing in-flight entertainment options. The hook of the film should have been the compelling performance of Sally Field, but it’s hard to really showcase everything that she does in this movie without diving into spoiler territory. In order to avoid such a thing, let’s just say that Field’s portrayal of the kind of quirky character you might find as part of a workplace comedy ensemble eventually becomes something greater.
Even when you view Field’s character as simply an older woman desperately lusting for a younger man, it’s hard not to appreciate the sincerity she brings to the role. That isn’t the type of character that typically serves as the star of a semi-major film and, while the role eventually becomes much more than that, Field’s ability to make the role so compelling should not go unappreciated. Unfortunately, it likely will come awards season.
6. Best Actor – Adam Driver (Paterson)
If you feel like young Adam Driver is currently enjoying the kind of career hot streak that only come along once in a great while, that’s because he is. Those who saw Driver’s early work recognized that the actor was bursting with talent, but it seemed as if he was waiting to find that one great role or that one great project that put him over the top. He’s enjoyed several such opportunities recently, but the one that stood out most this year is actually the one that seems to be getting the least publicity.
In Paterson, Driver plays a poet who spends his days working as a bus driver. The everyday genius is a character we’ve seen time and time again in movies, but Driver manages to freshen up the role by incorporating an understated child-like quality. His character isn’t angry at the world or waiting for his break; he’s an uncertain artist who can’t make eye contact when he’s being praised. Driver is simply tremendous here.
5. Best Actor – Taron Egerton (Eddie The Eagle)
Feel-good sports movies tend to fall into one of two categories. They’re either “This is the sappiest thing I’ve seen outside that sugar maple tree in my childhood yard” bad, or “I’m not crying, I’m bawling” good. Eddie the Eagle gravitates towards the latter category, which is surprising when you consider how hammy the movie is. The one thing that makes it a genuine feel-good tearjerker is the performance of Taron Egerton.
Egerton completely disappears into the role of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, a real-life athlete whose dream of participating in the Olympics greatly exceeds his actual abilities. Egerton’s ability to make you smile proves to be his greatest asset, as it makes it that much more difficult to endure the pain of every setback his character must endure. Say what you will about the quality of the film’s writing or the sometimes hokey nature of the proceedings (artistic knocks which will likely keep this movie off the Academy’s radar), but it’s impossible to deny the way that Egerton’s performance so easily invades your heart and makes you feel invincible.
4. Best Director – Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Without reigniting the fire completely, let’s just reiterate that Mel Gibson got into some serious trouble several years ago that seemingly ensured that he would be forever blacklisted from major acting and filmmaking opportunities. That may have changed in 2016 when Gibson formally debuted his WWII film, Hacksaw Ridge. The story of the first American soldier to receive the Medal of Honor without having fired a shot, Hacksaw Ridge is Gibson’s first directorial effort in a decade. It’s the kind of gut-wrenching blockbuster that Gibson needed to remind everyone just why it is that he was once considered to be one of America’s premiere directors.
The argument against Gibson receiving a nomination for his efforts is two-fold. The first has to do with that previous controversy that ensures Gibson is a four-letter word in certain circles to this day. His antics upset a lot of people, and it’s difficult to imagine that they will all be ready to forgive him so easily come award season. There’s also the matter of the film itself, which is the kind of harrowing theatrical experience that isn’t always recognized by the Academy. Still, Hacksaw Ridge was a remarkable accomplishment, and star Andrew Garfield shouldn’t be the only one getting credit for it.
3. Best Director – Shane Black (The Nice Guys)
It’s tempting to assign The Nice Guys one of several labels when relaying its brilliance to someone that hasn’t yet seen it. You can call it a tribute to the buddy cop genre, which makes sense given its dual-lead billing. You can call it retro noir, which again does seem to fit its time period and story structure. There are a lot of ways to make The Nice Guys easily digestible, but none of them really summarizes the brilliance of this understated comedy that’s almost completely devoid of cheap laughs.
Shane Black’s greatest directorial effort since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang harkens back to his work on the Lethal Weapon franchise. While it was no doubt tempting for Black to rely upon several of the genre conventions he helped to establish through his contributions to that series, The Nice Guys proves to be a refreshingly original tribute to the virtues of a particular style of filmmaking that has fallen out of favor. This is an intimately arranged action comedy that relies on underlying intelligence to captivate its audience. It’s deserving of far more love than it ever got at the box office, but we’re doubtful that the Academy will rise to the occasion.
2. Best Picture – The Witch
Despite popular sentiments which suggest the contrary, the Academy does sometimes recognize great contributions to the horror genre. It’s just that they happen to have a dismal track record when it comes to properly acknowledging that the goals of that genre of filmmaking are often different from more traditional “Oscar-worthy” films. This historical horror prejudice is part of what makes The Witch such a controversial candidate for the most famous award in filmmaking.
From a purely technical perspective, it is impossible to deny the brilliance of The Witch. Shot in a style that invokes memories of The Revenant, director Robbert Eggers’ look at a 17th-century family haunted by forces they can’t comprehend will almost assuredly snag a nomination for cinematography. Yet, it feels like the movie deserves so much more. This is the rare breed of horror film designed to invoke a constant sense of dread rather than a series of scares. It’s a character piece that just so happens to have a supernatural core. The patient viewer will easily sink into its atmospheric web of terror and intrigue.
1. Best Picture – Deadpool
Stop. Before you snap to register an emotional judgment based on the headline suggestion that a superhero flick packing more immature humor than a middle school detention hall should be honored with such a prestigious acknowledgment, consider a few points. First off, the modern Academy Awards recognize eight movies a year that they feel stand out from the rest. In recent years, that expanded field has afforded a few fringe candidates the opportunity to win an award they would have never had a shot at in years past. As such, a “genre” film like Deadpool being nominated isn’t quite as out of the question as it once might have been.
Quite honestly, the movie deserves it on the same basis of merit that has inspired the Academy to make certain nominations in years past. Deadpool is a near-perfect film interpretation of a literary character. Put aside all the intangibles, and consider just that quality for a moment. This movie was made by an incredibly passionate group of talented individuals who set out with a very specific goal in mind and accomplished it, despite an endless series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Sure, it’s a bit of a rebel, but since when does Hollywood hate a rebel?
Which standout films and performers do you think will fly under the Academy’s radar? Sound off in the comments.