Snubbed? Oscar voters ignore lots of talent -- because they have to
If Monday's Oscar nominations tell us anything, it's something we already know.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues to be a confoundingly stodgy, stick-in-the-mud organization of artists, craftsmen and producers sincerely wanting to improve the range of their choices but remaining mired in male-dominated, violence-heavy traditions.
Six out of the nine Best Picture contenders feature variations of harsh violence.
With the exception of Cynthia Erivo's Best Actress nod for "Harriet," all acting nominations went to white people.
Some things never change, including the media barrage of accusations that conniving Oscar voters "snubbed" deserving candidates. Really?
One BIG problem with blasting Oscar voters for "snubbing" people boils down to this question: What nominees would the Oscar critics (and they be legion) bump to make room for the snubbed?
Take Greta Gerwig, expected to earn a nod for her fine direction of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women."
Who gets kicked to the curb so she can join the elite boys club? Martin Scorsese for "The Irishman"? Todd Phillips for "Joker"? Sam Mendes for "1917"? Quentin Tarantino for "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood"? Bong Joon-ho for "Parasite"?
Not an easy choice.
But I contend that Gerwig's nuanced transitions between humor and pathos deserve it more than Phillips' blunt, dark look at the seeds of violence.
Other reported "snubs" include:
• Adam Sandler as Best Actor for his obnoxious, manipulative, narcissistic New York jeweler in "Uncut Gems."
Sandler's uncompromising performance is bravely grating, but it's not worthy of an Oscar nod and it lacks an empathetic core needed for us to hang with him for two hours. Even Robert De Niro's reprehensible hitman in "The Irishman" didn't annoy us.
• "Frozen II" as Best Animated Feature. Had this conventional, standard-issue Disney musical won a nomination, it would qualify as a "surprise," not a "snub."
• Lupita Nyong'o as Best Actress for her bravura double-tap performances in Jordan Peele's political allegory/horror tale "Us." She deserves the Oscar that will go to Renée Zellweger for "Judy," but whose slot should Nyong'o usurp? Ironically, I'd have to go with Cynthia Erivo's portrait of courage and hope in "Harriet." (See? This snubbing thing isn't as easy as critics want it to be.)
• Taron Egerton as Best Actor for his Elton John portrayal in "Rocketman." OK, explain how Rami Malek won Best Actor last year by lip-syncing Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody," but Egerton -- who really sang John's songs -- didn't even nab a nomination here?
Who to bump? Gotta go with Jonathan Pryce as one of "The Two Popes."
• The chameleonic Christian Bale as Best Actor in "Ford v Ferrari." His driver Ken Miles proved to be a memorable performance, but a lesser achievement than his brilliant, yet Oscar-losing portrait of Dick Cheney in "Vice."
• Eddie Murphy on a comeback as Best Actor in "Dolemite Is My Name." Again, another excellent performance (as blaxploitation star Rudy Ray Moore) that might have landed a nod during a year with less competition.
The same principle can be applied to other "snubbed" actors like De Niro in "The Irishman," Awkwafina in "The Farewell," Jennifer Lopez in "Hustlers" and Jamie Foxx in "Just Mercy."
Warner Bros. didn't release "Just Mercy" on a wide scale until after Academy balloting closed last weekend. How much impact that had on voting for Foxx can't be measured. The studio's lack of faith in its film can.