Let’s Discuss This Year’s Academy Awards Nominations

The Oscars can’t come soon enough, though they’re coming earlier this year than usual (February 9, to be exact). While we do acknowledge the subjective nature of awards shows, we can’t help but pay attention to the Academy Awards. It’s the biggest event of the year for film, and it leads to a lot of interesting conversation. 2019 was a spectacular year for film, too, with the legend of Bong Joon-Ho growing, Scorsese and Tarantino reminding us they’re the G.O.A.T.S., and the dude who directed The Hangover crafting the most Oscar buzz (and nominations). So, the second-most noteworthy duo of film nerd brothers at the moment behind the Safdies, our very own Dodderidges — Tim and Andrew — are here to talk this year’s Academy Award nominations.

First of all, there seem to be two contrasting storylines here — ones that both of you seem to have strong feelings about. The first is that Joker led the way with 11 nominations. Is that too many? If so, how many do you think it deserved?

Tim: It’s too many for a film that basically rips off Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. In all seriousness (*cue Heath Ledger’s “Why so serious?” line*), those are great influences to have, and Joaquin Phoenix is excellent.

Andrew: In all seriousness, Phoenix should be the only person recognized for this. It’s a wicked performance (yet one we have seen before from the veteran) in a film too worried to showcase grief and loneliness in each successive scene, all leading to a predictable ending that was set-in-stone from the start (i.e. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith). Have to give director Todd Phillips props for churning out something so polarizing and dissimilar to his previous work, though.

Tim: I actually appreciate several things about Joker: It’s an ambitious pursuit by a director previously best known for The Hangover, and it’s a unique take on a supervillain origin story. But to me, that’s not enough to send it so far above The IrishmanLittle Women, and Marriage Story — three films I was also very impressed by. I’d give it three or four nominations (including Best Actor and maybe Best Director).

Andrew: Replace all 10 of its other nominations with Uncut Gems.

The second storyline, on the side of snubs, is that Uncut Gems got no respect. Because it’s such a marvel from a technical standpoint (acting, writing, directing, etc.), how disappointing is it that it came away with no nominations?

Andrew: Right on cue: Uncut Gems. I think we all saw this coming (given no support from the Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild), but it’s surely disappointing some of its technical prowess wasn’t rewarded.

Tim: There was so much hype around this film, notably Sandler’s intense performance and the Safdie brothers’ fascinating depiction of Midtown Manhattan’s Diamond District. That’s why I was so impressed by it — it not only lived up to the hype, but it surpassed it. Clearly audiences didn’t like it as much, but you’d think the positive critic response would’ve given it some lift.

Uncut Gems sits at a 91 percent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s not surprising it received four Critics’ Choice Awards nominations. Yet, it was shut out of the Oscars. (Julieta Cervantes/A24)

Andrew: Whether it was the mesmerizing editing from Ronald Bronstein and co-director Benny Safdie, mountainous cinematography from master Darius Khondji, or euphoric synths from composer Daniel Lopatin, the NYC duo’s latest certainly had the look of an all-around contender.

Tim: Dude, I need to get that soundtrack on vinyl. It’s seriously so good. How did Joker’s soundtrack get a nomination but not Lopatin for this?

Andrew: With Best Actor (Adam Sandler) and Original Screenplay wins from the National Board of Review, along with the Safdies winning Best Director at the NYFCC Awards, it’s all the more upsetting that this wasn’t Josh and Benny’s Boogie Nights.

Tim: The Safdies really flexed their muscle with this film. If Boogie Nights could get three nominations, why couldn’t Uncut Gems? Remember, Sandler said he’s going to make a bad movie on purpose if he doesn’t win an Oscar for this film, so get ready for 10 more Grown Ups sequels.

Nine films are up for Best Picture this year. Based on previous winners, which film do you think has the best chance to win?

Tim: This year, Best Picture looks to be harder to predict than ever, as all nine films are exceptionally strong. The good thing for those (like me) who felt 2019’s winner, Green Book, was “Oscar bait,” is that the only film that seems comparable is Ford v. Ferrari — and it’s actually really good. But it’s also overmatched: That’s how good this year was for film.

Andrew: Looking at The Irishman and Parasite, Scorsese’s masterstroke has massively underperformed as of late, and the only way I see Parasite pulling this off is if that Moonlight magic reappears three years later.

Tim: I did like The Irishman, but I can’t remember the last time a movie over 200 minutes won Best Picture (fun fact: It was the third Lord of the Rings film, which came out in 2003). Roma was projected by many to win the award last year, and it missed out on the big prize. So Parasite, this year’s foreign film nominee, has a steep hill to climb. That said, I think it has a better chance than Roma because it has mass appeal and crosses so many genre lines.

Andrew: Birdman is the only film this century to capture Best Picture without an editing nod, so on paper that seems to knock out 1917 and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

Tim: Golden Globes can be a decent predictor, so I think that actually helps 1917 and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. I’ll play it safe and guess either of those films, based on the awards they’ve already taken home (Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, etc.).

Andrew: To me, 1917 seems to be the only choice that makes sense from the Academy, and I can easily ignore the editing slip because it has the same “one-shot” gimmick the committee didn’t recognize with Birdman.

Tim: I can’t imagine voters placing Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood at the top of their rankings, as to me, it’s solid Tarantino and nothing more. But I can see them having the same experience I did with 1917, walking out of the theater floored by how incredible it was.

Andrew: Lock it in: Sam Mendes.

Can Parasite, a Korean language film with no American actors, actually win Best Picture? I mean, we all agree it’s a masterpiece, right?

In its battle for Best Picture, Parasite looks to build on last year’s foreign nomination (Roma) and its own momentum as one of the best films of 2019. (Neon/Everett Collection)

Andrew: The one thing Parasite has going for it: Everybody likes it. Bong Joon Ho has been a massive hit at press junkets during awards season. Clans with the likes of Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, Leonardo DiCaprio, Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright, and basically everybody really smart in Hollywood crashed NEON’s Parasite party a few weeks back.

Tim: I can’t think of a foreign film as easy to like as Parasite. I know subtitles are a big turn-off for some people, but you completely forget you’re watching a film spoken entirely in Korean. It completely immerses you. Bong is a genius.

Andrew: If you know how Oscar voting works, you know that Best Picture uses a preferential ballot. Each member will rank the nine films and the movie with the best overall score comes away with the award. With large amounts of blowback from certain people, this is likely how La La Land and Gravity both got defeated.

Tim: Can you see that many people actually putting Parasite low on their ballots, though? I mean, I don’t have a problem with 1917 or even Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood winning, but I just don’t know where the backlash for Parasite is — apart from the mere fact that it’s Korean.

Andrew: At the end of the day, Parasite has one main thing going against it: No foreign language film has ever won the biggest prize in Hollywood.

Tim: Roma opened the door last year to foreign language films, and even it couldn’t beat Green Book despite the hype and all of the acclaim and high marks it received. Maybe this year is different.

1917 has a lot of similarities to Birdman, including its single-shot style and nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. Will it have similar results at the awards show?

Andrew: The films are similar on a technical level and will seem to garner similar results come February. Birdman won Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Cinematography, and I can see Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins running away with three of those same four awards.

Tim: As much as I love Birdman, the one-shot style of 1917 feels a lot less forced and a lot more impactful. This may have been Deakins’ greatest achievement yet, and that’s truly saying something. There’s no contest for Best Cinematography.

Andrew: Alejandro Inarritu’s 2014 feat is a lot more of a character drama (given the fact its setting is New York versus World War I) and collected three acting nods. 1917 made up for its lack of acting nods — and well, a lack of focus on acting in general — with production design, visual effects, and Thomas Newman’s music.

Tim: Still, George MacKay was marvelous in 1917: very human, showing real pain at the horrors of war but always going back to the mission at hand. It’s too bad Best Actor is always so stacked. But I agree with you in that it does hold up to Birdman’s achievements in an audiovisual sense. The production design was so realistic, arguably the best I’ve ever seen in a war movie.

1917 won Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Director (Sam Mendes) at the Golden Globes on January 5, five days before it even came out to wide audiences. It looks to follow up that success at February’s Academy Awards. (Francois Dumahel/Universal Pictures)

Let’s hear your guys’ thoughts on the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. Any strong feelings for either of those?

Tim: I’m not super torn this year. As we both agreed, Phoenix was great. I have no problem with him winning. Plus, it would be nice to see him get a little joyful following his recent arrest (and no, it wasn’t for killing several men on a subway).

Andrew: It does finally appear to be Phoenix’s year, as this time Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t standing in his way like he was in 2013. But I was more impressed with the work from Adam Driver in Marriage Story and, specifically, Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. DiCaprio’s ticks are joyous to bear witness to.

Tim: When I finished Marriage Story, my immediate reaction was: “Man, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson could both win for this thing.” Seeing the two of them win would be neat, but it sounds like the odds are stacked against them. I’m a Driver fanboy for sure, but I do think Johansson has a better shot than Driver.

Andrew: If there is to be one upset in the four acting categories, it will likely come from Johansson in Best Actress. She has many scenes in Marriage Story where she completely pours her heart out onto the screen — the kind of performance that usually appeals to the Academy.

Tim: The Best Actress category is sort of weird for me. I’ve only seen two of the five movies for which the actresses were nominated, and I’m not super antsy to see HarrietBombshell, or Judy. It goes to show an individual performance and a total film package are vastly different things. Honestly, I don’t know if my opinion on that category is even credible since I haven’t even seen half of them on screen.

Andrew: I saw bits and pieces of Renee Zellweger in Judy, and she really is running circles around everyone else in the picture. The Academy is known to lean towards actors portraying public figures, but besides Olivia Colman in The Favourite last year, the six previous winners were all original characters.

The Irishman has been getting shut out at other awards shows — notably The Golden Globes. Will it win a single Oscar? If so, for which category/categories?

Tim: Unfortunately for The Irishman, in most categories it appears in (e.g. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography), there happens to be one nominee who’s slightly better.

Andrew: Brad Pitt may be a lock for Best Supporting Actor, unfortunately, for his work in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. He’s due, and Al Pacino and Joe Pesci have already gotten their due.

Tim: But I wholeheartedly believe Pacino deserves Best Supporting Actor. I said it after I first saw The Irishman, long before I had seen most other films with actors nominated for this award.

Andrew: I (along with many other critics) believe it should wholeheartedly go to Pesci. After watching The Irishman again recently, I find it hard to even believe the man was acting. 

Tim: Yeah, Pesci is a popular pick as well, and that doubles the film’s chances, too. While there’s a chance it will get shut out like it did at the Golden Globes, I have a feeling it will come away with this award specifically.

Andrew: To me, Scorsese’s two best chances will be Adapted Screenplay and Editing. Those categories seem to be leaning towards Little Women and Ford v. Ferrari, respectively, but I can’t see this grandiose masterstroke missing out completely on Oscar gold.

What other films were snubbed? Any that you knew wouldn’t be recognized by the Academy but you’d vouch for personally?

Andrew: I have yet to see Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, but it got shut out completely. Awkwafina, Zhao Shuzhen, and Wang’s screenplay were favorites to receives nods on Monday, yet the female-directed piece came away with nothing.

Tim: I’m a big Awkwafina fan, but I will admit Best Actor and Best Actress are always tough categories. But if not her, the Grandma in The Farewell should’ve at least given that gem of a film something.

In addition to Uncut GemsThe Farewell is another notable film this year’s Oscars snubbed. Like Gems, it was also distributed by the acclaimed studio A24. (Big Beach)

Andrew: Obviously, Uncut Gems is the big one. I would take Sandler’s performance over Phoenix in Joker any day of the week.

Tim: Sandler was great. Also, where was Booksmart? Critics and audiences loved that movie. And I know Little Women was loaded with nominations, but how come nobody has talked about Timothée Chalamet for Best Supporting Actor? He seemed born to play that role.

Andrew: Also, Lupita Nyong’o. It’s incredibly sad that even the women-only categories are getting wasted by filler, whether it’s Scarlett Johansson taking up two of the 10 acting spots or Kathy Bates getting recognition for a single speech in a mediocre movie. Nyong’o’s range in Us, as well as her ability to reach into my nightmares, should have been enough for her second career nomination (12 Years a Slave).

Tim: Yeah Us should’ve gotten some love for sure. And Midsommar — Florence Pugh killed it in that film. I really thought Get Out would be a gamechanger for horror cinema at awards shows, but I guess the world just isn’t ready.

What are a few nominations that made your heart happy?

Tim: The Lighthouse’s cinematography for the win (er, well…nomination, as it won’t beat 1917’s Roger Deakins). A24 was heavily disrespected this year, mainly Uncut Gems, but I’m glad I’m not the only one who adored the black and white, 1.19:1 aspect ratio style of The Lighthouse.

Andrew: Florence Pugh for Little Women was a nice surprise, given she missed out on the Globes and SAGs. In a film starring Saoirse Ronan being classic Saoirse Ronan, Pugh owns the picture with her scene-stealing charm. In addition, Parasite getting into Original Screenplay was key for it to contend for Best Picture, being one of four foreign films to compete in that category this decade (A SeparationAmourRoma).

Tim: We can’t forget to mention the Academy’s most consistent nomination: John Williams is still the G.O.A.T., and I love that he got a Best Score nod at age 87 (his 34th in this category!).

What will be the defining storyline of this year’s Academy Awards?

Andrew: Here’s my prediction: The no-host thing goes just as smoothly as last year, but the ratings plummet because of the steady decline of viewer interest taking a massive downturn. This leads to the show freaking out and bringing in The Rock to host in 2021.

Tim: It’s a shame if ratings plummet because, as I’ve said already, 2019 was such a freaking good year for film. I think this also goes back to the box office drops we saw this year (even though I do think a key storyline this year is that the films up for awards also made a lot of money for Oscars standards). The Rock would be epic, though.

Andrew: The Rock’s opening monologue would go down in history as the most energetic and personalized go in Oscars history.

Tim: Remember, it’ll be President Johnson by then.

Andrew: Get ready, everybody. We all know it will happen (The Rock becoming president and hosting the Oscars).

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