Triangle of What Now?: Oscar Nomination Reactions

E: The Academy is an odd bunch. I think that’s fair to say at this point.

Let’s talk about how this went down.

Best Supporting Actor: 4/5

I Said: Brendan Gleeson, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch, Barry Keoghan, Ke Huy Quan

Oscar Nominated: Gleeson, Hirsch, Keoghan, Quan and Bryan Tyree Henry

Well, I’m certainly not going to knock myself for not picking Bryan Tyree Henry of Causeway. I’m maybe annoyed that I didn’t list him as a possibility, since he did get a nod from the Critics Choice, but for him to get a nod over Eddie Redmayne (ha! told you they’d choke on that movie) and Brad Pitt and about 6 other guys? Nope. That one baffled me and everyone else. He’s certainly there in the less significant precursor awards as well, awards from critics who tend to swing even smaller than the Oscars – a variety of city and state critics groups had given him some attention. I’m really curious to check out his movie, which had mostly escaped my notice but it turns out is on a streaming service I follow, Apple +. I’ve enjoyed his work in a lot of things (Eternals, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, The Good Wife) and audiences may be familiar with him from Book of Mormon and Atlanta. Is it a thing to get a nomination EGOT? If so, he’s just missing being nominated and then passed over by the Grammies.

I am going to pat myself on the back for calling Hirsch, though, because most people didn’t. It’s a nice cap on a fifty plus years of excellent work. I do feel bad for Paul Dano, who’s been a bridesmaid more than once already. All of these fellows are first time nominees, though, which is always nice.

Best Supporting Actress: 5/5

I Said: Angela Bassett, Hong Chau, Kerry Condon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu

Oscar Nominated: Bassett, Chau, Condon, Curtis, Hsu

Yay! I got one all right! I feel really good about this was because it was genuinely hard – there were lots of excellent and deserving women, and none of the precursor slates agreed. The only one I’ve yet to see is Chau in The Whale, and that’s the movie I’m maybe most looking forward to of everything I have left to see.

This is Bassett’s second nomination (the first coming for What’s Love Got to Do With It) and the first for her four colleagues.

Best Actor: 4/5

I Said: Austin Butler, Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser, Bill Nighy

Oscar Nominated: Butler, Farrell, Fraser, Paul Mescal, Nighy

This one maybe I do blame myself for; Mescal was my runner up, and I went back and forth about who would be more likely. I wasn’t sold on Cruise being right and probably should have known that the riskier choice was actually the safer one. In hindsight, his BAFTA nomination was the clue. (Now, granted, BAFTA differed significantly from the Oscar shortlist in the supporting categories, so it’s really hard to know when something is predictive and when it’s not. Oh well.). As with the supporting list, all five of these men are first time nominees, which is really unusual for either leading category but particularly actor.

Here’s a fun piece of trivia: 3 actors from the Harry Potter/Wizarding World universe picked up honors today – Mr. Graves from the American Ministry of Magic (Farrell), Rufus Scrimgeour (Nighy) and Mad Eye Moody (Gleeson).

Best Actress: 3/5

I Said: Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis, Danielle Deadwyler, Michelle Williams, Michelle Yeoh

Oscar Nominated: Blanchett, Ana de Armas, Andrea Riseborough, Williams, Yeoh

Every year I have a bad category, and this year’s is Actress. But if I’d have changed what I wrote, it would only have been to swap out de Armas for Williams, and both of them got nods. I wouldn’t have predicted snubs for both Danielle Deadwyler and Viola Davis. I was worried about Deadwyler, even, but not Davis. (“De Armas is more likely on paper. And it’s very possible that newbie Deadwyler gets booted for them both. None of these women will be a surprise, though.”) And Riseborough? She was a genuine surprise – she didn’t make my list of ten possible contenders. She didn’t make any short list except the Independent Spirits. I didn’t have my ear that close to the ground, clearly. Her movie, To Leslie, made $27,000 at the box office, but her performance as a lottery-winning alcoholic has become a cause celeb among some of the top names in the business – Amy Adams, Kate Winslet, and oh yes, her competition, Cate Blanchett have been talking her up, and apparently it worked. I admit, I’m not super stoked to see her movie.

And I’m horrified that AMPAS left the two Black women off the list. It’s literally been decades since Halle Berry’s win in this category. Why can’t we see Black women in this space? You’re not being very subtle, people.

Out of these five actresses, four are first timers – which means out of 20 nominees, only 2 have previous nominations. The real exception to that trend is Cate Blanchett; this is her eight nomination, and should she win, it would be her third. I adore Cate and think her nomination total could be much higher, but I’d rather spread the wealth.

Best Director: 4/5

I Said: Edward Berger, The Daniels, Todd Field, Martin McDonagh, Steven Spielberg

Oscar Picked: The Daniels, Field, McDonagh, Ruben Ostlund, Spielberg

I was so close! I absolutely called the type of director they were looking for – a white European man. I picked one who wasn’t obscure enough. And frankly, it’s ridiculous. Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front got nine nominations, NINE, mostly for stuff that comes out of a director’s vision like make up and effects and sound and cinematography. And yes, a screenplay he’s credited with cowriting. Obviously this movie was Berger’s vision. Shouldn’t nine other nominations speak for themselves? Isn’t excellence in every category what a visionary director – an award worthy director – brings? He made all the incredible parts of all these important categories work perfectly together. Isn’t that what a director is supposed to do? Triangle of Sadness got three nods (original screenplay being the less obvious) and while that’s a wonderful feat, it literally means that they’re less impressed with his work than Berger’s.

The director’s branch of the Academy, ladies and gentlemen.

Best Picture: 9/10

I Said: All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, Babylon, Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fablemans, Tar, Top Gun: Maverick, Women Talking

Oscar Chose: All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fablemans, Tar, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking

Of the ten that I picked, Babylon was the one I wrote was most vulnerable, and I was right. I would never in a million years have picked Triangle of Sadness, it’s Golden Globe Best Musical or Comedy nomination notwithstanding. In part that’s because Musical or Comedy Globe nominees are a weedy bunch, full of the beautiful, the mediocre and the appalling; in part because triangle had no traction elsewhere, and looked exactly like the kind of movie that wins the Palme d’Or but flops (or doesn’t even try) in America. And if I had been inclined to look into it, I would have seen a lot of rich and beautiful people trying to skewer other rich and beautiful people – which is what I saw when I watched the trailer – and I would not have been impressed. Triangle of Sadness feels like exactly the kind of movie I would have forced myself to appreciate back in college because a guy I dated would have loved it – something pretentious and sophomoric.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I feel fine missing this one. I’m pleased that I put in Women Talking, which came as a surprise to some other people. I’ll take 9 out of 10.

My brother M and I have a constant debate about the relevancy of Oscar. Maybe I can talk him into debating this issue with me for this space, because I think there’s a lot to say about the Academy’s increasing lack of relevancy. What I want to end with is this thought: I feel like we have this false idea that a movie can either be enjoyable or it can say something worthwhile. I think they can and should do both. In general, it doesn’t bother me that Oscar likes movies that stretch the boundaries, that make us think and challenges our assumptions about what a good time is. On the other hand, I hate that Oscar puts on blinders as to what movies can be worthwhile, too. As just one example, I liked Glass Onion (and it’s predecessor, Knives Out) more than anything I’ve seen so far on Oscar’s list. And while Oscar doesn’t have to love what I love, if it consistently ignores what most people can clearly see is clever and funny and beautifully made, then what’s it for? There’s usually a difference between the Best Picture winner, and the movies that become classics – but have we reached a point where there’s too much of a difference?

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