Translating the Oscar nominations

Of course, every year when the nominations come out for the Academy Awards an onslaught of negative press generally follows it. It has been nearly 10 years since, in 2009, the Academy decided that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (#1 film of the year) did not deserve a nod for Best Picture but instead the insipid The Reader took a spot. That led to the Academy making 10 spots available for best picture, allowing for more popular films to earn a chance, unfortunately, as Sean Fennesy from The Ringer brilliantly explains: it hasn’t fixed the issue. In January 2015, activist April Reign tweeted #OscarsSoWhite as a result of no Black actors receiving a nomination for their work, the following year the same thing happened and then in 2017 this (finally) happened:



Twitter may have some terrible elements to it, but it can also be used as a positive tool much like it was here with the snowball effect of that hashtag bringing genuine change. Following this, The Academy promised changes, doubling the female and minority voters which, looking at the 2018 nominations, looks to have had a positive effect. However, there would be no fun without sifting through the nominations to make sense of them, wondering what the fuck happened. Which is exactly what I have tried to do here.


“Right, who smoked before voting?”

Boss Baby for Best Animated Feature Film

Seriously WTF? It is as if somebody just discovered Family Guy and the word ‘LOL’, or that they read far too much into Trump being called a man baby. The problem is that Stewie hasn’t been funny since 2001, Alec Baldwin constantly builds his reputation up (via Trump impersonations) to knock it back down again and Trump is unfortunately still in power. To make matters worse here are just a few Animated features that missed out on a nomination. Paddington 2. Mary and The Witches FlowerCaptain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. And The Lego Batman Movie. So it begs the question; was it weed or crack that they smoked?


“Did anyone explain what ‘Original’ meant on the ballot?”

John Williams for Best Original Score


Don’t get me wrong, I get goosebumps as much as the next nerd for the Star Wars fanfare, but here are a few of the synonyms for the word ‘Original’. Innovative. Creative. Imaginative. And here are a couple of antonyms for the word ‘Original‘. Unimaginative. Conventional. Worn. That just about sums it up really.



“Will somebody, please, just give Deakins an Oscar already?”

Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography


I would put Roger Deakins lack of a statuette up there with Kubrick having never won one, such is his influence and impact in the world of cinematography. In his glorious career, he has garnered 14 nominations without a win, amongst those he has worked with The Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, Denis Villeneuve and Sam Mendes. In fact, in 2008 he was even nominated for two films, The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men and still he was beaten by Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood. Surely this will be the year where Deakins walks away with an Oscar? Unfortunately, this is also the year where the Academy finally acknowledged a female cinematographer, with Rachel Morrison’s excellent work on Mudbound receiving a nomination. Either of them would be worthy winners, but it would be cruel to ignore Deakins once again.


“Great, Sufjan Stevens got nominated. Perfect. Couldn’t be happier. But…”

Sufjan Stevens for Best Original Song


Look, Sufjan Stevens having the chance to win an Oscar is great regardless of the nominated song. He may be a somewhat cult musician, but his devoted following (myself included) have been waiting for him to receive any sort of recognition since his 2005 album Illinois. But I stand in front of you today to fight the case that Visions of Gideon is the better song choice. When you finish watching Call Me by Your Name you will remember Visions of Gideon. You’ll remember it as both the moment Chalamet got his Oscar nomination and also as a musical manifestation of heartbreak. With that final long shot of the film, both Chalamet and Stevens combine in a painful crescendo which sears Call Me by Your Name into ‘masterpiece’ territory. Maybe I am too much of a romantic, but Mystery of Love just doesn’t have the same effect in retrospect. But then again, perhaps I should be like Al Horner of FACT magazine and just be ecstatic that he might will win an Oscar.


“Did you even watch it? No. But it’s Denzel”

Denzel Washington for Best Actor


Have you seen Roman J. Israel, Esq.? If the answer is no, or who’s he? Or maybe even,  should I know him? Then you can join the millions of other people who, for the first time in nearly 23 years, did not watch a Denzel movie. At present it has barely made half of its budget back, raking in a mere $11m domestically with little fanfare from abroad. It isn’t since 1995 with Devil in a Blue Dress that Denzel was in a film that grossed under $20m, yet here he is with yet another Oscar nomination, his 6th for leading actor. I can’t comment too much here as I am one of the ‘millions’ that haven’t seen it, but it doesn’t appear that Columbia or Sony want me to such is the lack of press around the film. Critics confirm that Denzel is the best thing about the film but it does beg the question; if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? If it is Denzel of course it does.


“We really need to fix this.”

Best Documentary



I like to think that Agnes Varda sent a cardboard cutout of herself to The Oscars luncheon in protest. At 89 years old she could, and probably will leave The Oscars as the oldest director, and person for that matter, to win the award. The problem is she probably would want to have done so against the best competition, which is where The Academy has a problem. You see, the documentary branch of voting is not done by the Academy at large, instead, it is done by individual branches. Meaning that a smaller amount of people get to select the Documentary nominees. It’s a bizarre choice that for years has led to snubs which have dumbfounded me. Last year it was Weiner and Cameraperson, this year it is the brilliant City of Ghosts, apparently, there can be only one Highlander (or documentary about Syria) and Jane the documentary about primatology expert Jane Goodall.

The system is broken > Fix the system.


“This should have happened a long time ago.”

Agnes Varda (Faces Places) for Best Documentary 


Agnes Varda should have already won an Oscar. 56 years ago in fact. Don’t even come at me with the honorary award bullshit. What even are The Governor’s awards anyway?    It seems like the Academy’s equivalent of a make-up call.


“Wait, I thought we all watched Phantom Thread. So where’s Vicky?”

Vicky Krieps for Best Actress


The nicest surprise when the nominations were announced was the love shown for Phantom Thread. Released late in the year many were predicting it had come too late for The Academy to notice, instead it received 6 nominations which in my opinion it should sweep up come March 2nd. However, one nomination was missing, Vicky Krieps for Best Actress. The category may be loaded with deserving candidates but do we really need to keep nominating Meryl Streep? It isn’t that she doesn’t deserve the nomination, her performance is the best thing about The Post, but since the millennium there have been only 8 years where she has not received a nomination. Krieps, on the other hand, went toe-to-left foot with Daniel Day-Lewis, framing the entire film as her own story and comes out on top. Not even Leo did that.


Streep is God.

Meryl Streep for Best Actress


I say all of that and yet Streep went toe-to-toe with a kaftan weaved out of gold and silk and came out on top. STREEP IS GOD.


“See Gary, all you needed was prosthetics with a dash of patriotism. No need to tone it down”

Gary Oldman for Best Actor


It’s strange to think that Gary Oldman has only ever been nominated once before by The Academy, perhaps I put too much cultural weight behind his performance as Sid Vicious or Stansfield. He is in my eyes one of the greatest British actors alive. His performances can be nuanced and complex whilst managing to come across as braggadocio. He’s a theatrical actor who can chomp up the scenery in a positive way and through the years he’s earnt the right to be arrogant. Which is why I can’t help but be happy for him with his nomination for playing Winston Churchill. It’s just a shame that the movie is somewhat dull, leaning on patronizing patriotism to guide the story. Oldman however, is terrific and his transformation to Churchill via prosthetics flawless. With a little bit of rubber here and makeup there, perhaps Oldman is the favorite to walk away with a statue.


“Did you hear that Sam Rockwell plays a racist cop? (Yes, it’s announced within the first 5 minutes).”

Sam Rockwell and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri



‘Sam Rockwell’s Golden Globes Win Fuels a Debate’ 

‘Tone-Deaf ‘Three Billboards’ Tries Absolving White People of Racism. And Oscars Season Loves It.’

‘Frances McDormand Rules, But Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards” Proves Too Forgiving’


These are just a few articles on the problems surrounding Sam Rockwell’s performance as racist Police Officer Dixon. Every year there is a smear campaign and unfortunately for Rockwell this year the target is firmly set on him. What is ignored here, or at the very least sidestepped is how McDonagh writes these characters not as redemptive or as anti-heroes but as grotesque sides of our society that we observe within his universe. Take a look at Colin Farrel’s character of Ray from McDonagh’s debut In Bruges. Ray shoots a young religious boy in the head, makes constant racist and xenophobic comments and assaults a woman. By the end of the film you do feel empathy for him, but at the same time he is still grotesque, it’s two conflicting emotions which give the audience a discomfort. A discomfort that McDonagh has perfected not only in his film work but also his plays. By the end of In BrugesRay still offends Bruges whilst contemplating his damnation, he’s a conflicting character within the margins of McDonagh’s world


And by the end of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Dixon hasn’t achieved redemption and whilst he might have achieved your empathy, the end of the film is still leading him on his road to damnation, he never atoned for his sins or discomforting qualities. So whilst the smear campaign will most likely lead to this being a win for Dafoe, we should see beyond the smear and appreciate the performance which has none of the flaws seen in the character.


“I thought we made it clear. We don’t reward comedy. Unless…”

Tiffany Haddish for Best Supporting Actress


There is something extremely cruel in asking Tiffany Haddish to present the Oscar nominations when The Academy decided to ignore her brilliant breakthrough performance in Girls Trip. She did her best to make reading out names entertaining, but when Best Supporting Actress came up, she did not. You can see a sympathetic Serkis turn to Haddish as if to apologize. It doesn’t help that as good as some of the performances are in the category, I would argue that Alison Janney (the role was actually written for her) and Octavia Spencer both phoned their roles in, performing well within their comfort zone. Which begs the question, does the Academy still have a snobbish view towards comedic performances? This, along with The Oscars pretty much ignoring The Disaster Artist, suggests they do. That and the numerous sexual assault allegations leveled at Franco.


“Peach Sex or Fish Sex. It’s a two-horse (one cup) race supposedly.”

Call Me by Your Name & Shape of Water for Best Picture.


Sex with a peach or sex with a fish? Sure there’s more to the Best Picture race than this, but then it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun right?



Dear Basketball for Best Animated Short


Kobe Bryant might win an Oscar. Kobe. Bryant. Enough said.


“Finally, we’re diverse. We must remember to pat ourselves on the back.”

Get Out and Jordan Peele for Best Film and Best Director

Ladybird and Greta Gerwig for Best Film and Best Director



Hopefully, my sarcasm has been detected in the above completely fabricated quote, but it is probably easy to imagine this as a reality. The above image represents the 2016 whitewash of nominees at the Academy Awards, which thankfully we’ve come along way from since. This year saw 13 black people nominated for an Oscar amongst them Jordan Peele for Best Director and Best Film, along with his star Daniel Kaluuya for Best Actor. Mary J Blige and Octavia Spencer also have nods for Best Supporting Actress. Continuing on the tandem of women, Greta Gerwig flys a lonely flag for Best Director and Best Picture with Ladybird and there is a first with the aforementioned Rachel Morrison receiving a nod in the Best Cinematography category the first nomination for women in this field ever. It all sounds incredibly promising. Until you really start to think about it.


It’s 2018 and we are celebrating a first nomination in the field of cinematography. Out of 10 films for Best Picture, only one was directed by a woman. If Gerwig wins, she will be only the 2nd woman to have ever won the award. When the Washington Post, an extremely liberal and noble newspaper, tweeted out its interview with Kumail Nanjani (nominated for co-writing The Big Sick with his wife Emily V Gordon) they did so without any mention of her role in the writing of the screenplay. He respectfully shot back. Whilst black stars were recognized on the whole there were still notable absentees. Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish was ignored, as was the film itself, maybe one of the best comedies of the year. Mudbound, a film which may have been affected by Netflix politics, missed out on Best Picture, yet The Post, an important film but an extremely white one got a nod over it. Don’t get me wrong The Post is good Spielberg fare, but Best Picture? Really?


The steps are positive, but the Academy cannot forget that these steps are long and steeped in 90 years of discriminative history. The industry needs to change for strides to be made, we can’t look back in another 90 years and still be celebrating firsts.


“When will we appreciate Jonny Greenwood as a musical fucking genius?

Jonny Greenwood for Best Original Score



Jonny Greenwood has always come across as one of those silent geniuses. The indisposable band member that makes the clock tick. Thom Yorke may be the face and brain of Radiohead, but Jonny Greenwood has always represented the internal organs. If Radiohead changes their sound, which they have done numerous times, you can bet that it was Greenwood that made it all work. He’s one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and in my eyes is somewhat of a God amongst men. Which is why working with a fellow god (Paul Thomas Anderson) always produces some of Greenwood’s best work. Starting with his work on There Will be Blood, Greenwood has finally had his film composing work noticed by the Academy with a nomination for the superb score for Phantom Thread. In a film with very little set pieces and Daniel Day-Lewis doing his best Daniel ‘not’ Day-Lewis by swallowing himself up and spitting out a character, Greenwood’s score stands out. He earns the Oscar from the second the score starts. For the majority of the film, his score is contained within a Mayfair townhouse, bouncing off the high ceilings, never allowing itself to be confined to space.


If he doesn’t win it I’ll be shocked, and to be honest I’ll lose all faith in the people who vote. Even fellow nominee Hans Zimmer admitted that Greenwood is his favorite film composer.

Put your lighters up for them Porgs

Star Wars: The Last Jedi for Best Visual Effects


Honestly, I was ready to punch a Porg straight in the face from the trailer. Memories of Jar Jar fucking Binks and the pain I felt after watching Attack of the Clones came flooding back to me. But then the Porgs won me over. Warm feelings flooded over me. Did I think they were cute? Yes. Did I almost become vegetarian when Chewbacca had his crisis of conscience? Yes. Did Rian Johnson perfectly blend CGI with animatronics to create an original breed of creature, and show their animalistic characteristics? Yes. Yes, he fucking did.


Could Phantom Thread leave with six Oscars?

Phantom Thread for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume, Score


There should never have to be any talk of ‘surprises’ when a Paul Thomas Anderson film is nominated for an Oscar, but perhaps there should be when it is nominated for 6. When the film was released late in 2017, many believed it would be too late for it to be a serious contender for the awards. Why they had such pessimism is beyond me. Here is a film created by one of the greatest living directors (Paul Thomas Anderson), starring the greatest living actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) alongside one of the most underrated actresses (Lesley Manville) currently working. All of whom are now Oscar nominees. Chuck on top the brilliant costume design by Mark Bridges and the aforementioned brilliance of Jonny Greenwood and you have 6 extremely easy nominations to make. Which is why I actually think they might all win, such is the mastery by each of them. Consider this, Day-Lewis vs. Manville is one of the best fights on screen this year. Paul Thomas Anderson wrote this with Daniel Day-Lewis in what is likely going to be his final role before retiring. And Daniel Day-Lewis got so ‘method’ for the role, that he can actually make garments. Please tell me how another film can beat all of the components above?


I’ll get off my PTA bandwagon now, I’ve made my case and I stand by it. But seriously wouldn’t it be great if a comedy swept the big awards. I Light the fuse and run.

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