Oscars 2019: What Should Have Been Nominated?

Actress In A Leading Role

Oscars 2019 Best Actress

1. Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

To come from the position of newly qualified teacher with zero professional acting experience to the Actress In A Leading Role category at the Oscars is incredible, but to do so as the lead of a foreign language film is unheard of. Yalitza Aparicio’s rise from quiet country girl to the very highest of awards season highs is surprising for how unlikely it is, but not at all for those who have watched and analysed her quite incredible performance. Credit has to go to Alfonso Cuaron for guiding his new actress through the process, but to gift him more than even 5% of the credit for this sensational performance is to overlook the qualities Aparicio brought to the table whether it was in moments of severe grief, sturdy pride or innocent optimism. Aparicio had each of us lost in who she was portraying and she absolutely deserves the official Oscars call.

2. Glenn Close (The Wife)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

Admittedly, Oscar front-runner Glenn Close was actually the closest to being knocked off this list (the place would have gone to Sakura Ando for Shoplifters, in case you were wondering), but her inclusion here and at the Oscars themselves is proof as to the power of a performance, her work lifting The Wife from a timely tale on the lower end of good to a truly compelling piece of cinema. People talk about performances anchoring films all the time, but in no case this year was that more true of a female at the top of the game, Close’s “actors acting” performance bringing all of the power of the stage and mixing it with the intimacy of film to create a character that felt both real and spectacular. Close’s work on The Wife marks her 7th Oscar nomination in the acting field (4 for Lead, 3 for Supporting), confirming her status as one of the most celebrated actors of all time. With her performance in The Wife, it’s easy to see why.

3. Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

As I wrote in my “5 Most Idiotic Oscars Snubs 2019” piece, awarding Get Out as the academy did last year doesn’t suddenly make up for the decades of ignorance they’ve shown the genre, and it certainly doesn’t make up for their refusal to acknowledge just how utterly great Toni Collette’s performance was in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. Arguably one of the most well respected independent film actors of the past few decades, Collette has still never been nominated for an Oscar but she absolutely should have been for Hereditary. The leading actress offered one of the greatest horror movie performances of all time, her role as matriarch twisting and shifting in dimensions as the movie progressed, the phenomenal actress pulling you back and forth from safety to obscurity. This performance is best remembered for the dinner table fight she has with her on screen son, and rightfully so as it’s a truly phenomenal piece of acting, but to reduce the role to just that would be of disservice to the layered and complex performance that the whole film hinged upon. Really academy… how is she not nominated?

4. Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Oscar Nomination? – Yes.

A powerhouse of the British small screen for close to a decade, Olivia Colman finally broke out of her TV-sized shell with The Favourite to the delight of just about everyone. The current odds on favourite to win the award, Colman’s performance was first and foremost spectacular, the script working to open space for her to truly excel, the famed comedy and drama actor using elements of both to create a character that was somehow endearing even through her seemingly countless personality flaws. Without such a note perfect performance around which the other performances and the story rotate, it’s debatable as to whether The Favourite would have been nominated at all, which is all the evidence needed as to the qualities it possessed and the reasons for her nomination.

5. Joanna Kulig (Cold War)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

The Academy must have filled their rota of foreign language nominees for the year with Roma’s Yalitza Aparicio, because surely there is no other reason as to why Joanna Kulig wasn’t nominated for Actress In A Leading Role in 2019? Pawel Pawlikowski’s film was most striking for its visual splendour and creativity, but Kulig’s performance at the heart of the movie was the true point of emotional entry for the film, the actress leading us through decades of story with a firm grip of our hands, forcing us to endure her woes and celebrate her highs. Kulig was a revelation in Cold War, one of the best things to come from cinema in 2018 as a whole, and absolutely deserving of her place in this selection.

Honourable Mentions: Sakura Ando (Shoplifters), Jessie Buckley (Beast), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie (Leave No Trace), Rachel Weisz (Disobedience).

Missing Out: Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).

Actor In A Leading Role

Oscars 2019 Best Actor

1. Zain Al Rafeea (Capernaum)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

He may have been between just 12 and 13 years old when he recorded his role as an unregistered Lebanese child seeking to sue his parents for being born, but the performance Zain Al Rafeea put forth in Capernaum will haunt all who see it for a long time to come. The child, who was directed incredibly well by Nadine Labaki, began as all very good child actors do – he was very good at two distinct things: looking sad and being boystrous. However, as the film progressed, Al Rafeea offered an inner anguish and an overwhelming sense of dread to the character that screamed through every scene “my life is a waste of breath”. He was perfect for the film he was in – an underrated international gem if ever there was one – and provided one of the most moving performances of everyone on this list. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

2. Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

It seems strange that Beautiful Boy has been so overlooked by the Oscars given the quality of the movie and its overall premise. In the first part of this series I nominated Timothee Chalamet in the Actor In A Supporting Role category and included Maura Tierney in the honourable mentions of the Actress In A Supporting Role category, owing to the film’s richness and quality of performances, but none were more front and centre than that of Steve Carell’s performance as family patriarch (and author of the material) David Sheff. Carell’s careful balancing between cool, hip dad and loving, paternal father seemed effortless, the weight of responsibility and expectation placed upon the character due to his role in the family seeming to weigh heavily upon his shoulders, the grief that he couldn’t fulfil his promises to his son either boiling over into anger and resentment or showing through outward sadness – each emotion written across Carell’s face and held within his body in what was a truly complete performance. In this list, Carell probably wouldn’t be a front-runner, but in the real-life list, he’d probably win.

3. Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

Joining Toni Collette on my “5 Most Idiotic Oscar Snubs 2019” list was Ethan Hawke, who despite being an early front-runner for a nomination, was dismissed entirely by the Academy this time around. The general consensus is that the ill-timed and ill-informed Facebook comments of screenwriter-director Paul Schrader last autumn put an end to any plans to give First Reformed an Oscars push, financially at least. Schrader actually ended up being nominated – tucked away in the Original Screenplay category – meanwhile the front-and-centre Best Actor award was left absent of Hawke’s name. If you’re currently wondering why the politics of the matter seem so fused to my argument, it’s because Hawke’s performance was a masterpiece – arguably the best of his 4-time Oscar nominated career (2 times for writing, 2 times for acting) – and such a claim isn’t taken lightly given his history as a performer across some of the best films of the past 3 decades. Hawke truly rooted the character at the centre of this piece, grounding its premise and the artistry at work in the visuals to offer us something truly extraordinary in perhaps the most obvious case of overlooking a performer in the past few years.

4. Tomasz Kot (Cold War)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

Making it two for two in the major acting categories is Cold War, this time with male lead Tomasz Kot whose performance as the man entwined in a continent and decades spanning love affair required him to develop his actions, look and performance throughout the film; a task much more difficult than nailing one particular thing. The quality of Kot’s performance comes from the fact that Joanna Kulig’s truly mesmeric performance opposite him never seemed to overtake the picture – Kot’s work as her long-term lover was so outstanding in its own right that it offered a counterweight to Kulig’s performance and thus helped significantly to deliver the special film that was ultimately delivered. Kot largely played a tragic figure – a man who would succumb to his own desires as forced by the life he had led up until the point of the film. He seemed at all times to carry the mental wounds of the war with him, his character seeing his lover as his saviour and Kot illustrating that with some truly phenomenal acting work that is deserving of a mention this awards season and was always going to be tough to knock off this list of nominees.

5. Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here)
Oscar Nomination? – No.

Simply put, Joaquin Phoenix shouldn’t only have been nominated for You Were Never Really Here, he should have won the Oscar for it. As the star turn in Lynne Ramsay’s art-house thriller, Phoenix delivered a character overwhelmed with responsibility, guilt and anxiety, who could only ever foresee his life purpose being to act as a sort of vigilante hired gun. The film doesn’t shy away from questioning the morality of the character and Phoenix delivers in turn, his performance at no stage seeming to offer even a glimpse of a redemptive arc, the trauma and guilt he lives with almost tattooed across his demeanour for scene after scene after scene. This performance was one that was so great we may even be discussing it as the best of his career (which is incredible considering his acting career) and it is undoubtedly one of the most unique performances from a male actor in any given year this decade. Phoenix is a phenomenon and his performance here truly something special; give him the damn Oscar!

Honourable Mentions: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Joaquin Phoenix (Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You), John David Washington (BlackKklansman).

Missing Out: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book).

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