Oscar Nominations 2019: Snubs and Surprises

Charles Kirkland Jr.

1/22/2019

The Oscar nominations for 2019 have arrived!  After a two-part live presentation Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) hosts Tracie Ellis Ross (TV’s Black-ish) and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), the yearly controversy exploded on almost every platform available regarding who’s in and who’s out of this year’s Academy Award nominations.  To join the fray, here are a few of ours:

The Best Picture category is always the headliner of all the categories and in a surprise, only eight films were nominated for Outstanding Best Picture.  On June 24, 2009, the Academy announced that they would expand the category from five films to ten.  Since that time, only twice has there been a year where all the slots available were filled (2009 and 2010).  The biggest snubs for the category this year are the absences of If Beale Street Could Talk and First Man from the category.  Beale Street is Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins’ (2016’s Moonlight) adaptation of the novel by James Baldwin.  The movie has been showered with praise and recognition by critics worldwide.  Actress Regina King who is nominated by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress has won the award for her work in this movie at the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes and is considered by many to be the lock for the Oscar.  Beale Street was even nominated for Best Picture with both the Globes and Critics Choice yet failed to receive recognition in any of the ten spots allowed by the Academy.

First Man is a giant snub on a level all of its own.  The film failed to garner any recognition in any of the major categories including Claire Foy for Best Supporting Actress and was relegated to four nominations in Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects and Production Design.  While it is an honor to be nominated and despite its debatable absence from the Best Picture category, the biggest snub for movie appears to be its absence from the Best Original Score category where it won the award at the Critics Choice and Golden Globes among other places.  For First Man to not even be nominated in the category seems to be an extreme oversight.

Bradley Cooper seems to have drawn the ire of AMPAS.  His nomination for Best Director of the smash success hit and Best Picture nominated A Star Is Born was supplanted by Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski whose film Cold War received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.  A Star Is Born is the fourth version of the movie and features Lady Gaga and Cooper in nominated performances.  It appears that the Academy enjoyed a tragic love story from the 1950’s Poland to one from the United States.  In many circles. Cooper’s first directorial effort was considered by many on the awards circuit to be the only real competition to Alfonso Cuaron’s front-running, foreign language juggernaut, Roma.  Roma joins a list of nine foreign language films that have been nominated for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture.  (No film has ever won both awards.)

There are two other snubs that deem recognition.  Even though he is not slated to be the winner, Michael B. Jordan’s performance as the Erik Killmonger in Black Panther was not even recognized in the category.  His spot in the awards appears to be taken by Sam Rockwell’s performance as George W. Bush in Vice.  Despite the large disparity in screen time between the two characters, it appears that Disney’s push for recognition for their domestic record-setting movie could only garner enough support for Black Panther to become the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination, not for any of its actors or actresses.  Jordan appears to be racking up near misses in nominations.  He was previously overlooked for his work in 2013’s Fruitvale Station and last year’s Creed.  Hopefully, Ruth Carter or Kendrick Lamar can pull off at least one win in the Costume Design or and Best Original Song categories to secure a win for Black Panther.

Finally, Peter Farrelly separated from his brother to be the director of the movie Green Book.  The Farrelly Brothers were known for inane comic gold as Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary.  Not the highest in cinema but very entertaining fare.  In directing Green Book, Peter Farrelly has achieved a new cinematic height.  Green Book was complicated and smart, tragic and hilarious.  It touched the serious topics of racism and homosexuality (two topics valued by the Academy) and brought them to the fore of conversations in a way that few other movies have.  Many believe that Farrelly would never win the award but his turn of nature and style and the vision he presented in his work is akin to the change that Jordan Peele exhibited his breakout hit Get Out and deserved recognition.  In this case, the recognition is an honor in and of itself.

That being said, many people are deserving of a nomination for their work and it is a huge delight to welcome and celebrate Spike Lee’s first Academy Award nomination for directing BlackkKlansman.  In his 40 year career, Spike Lee has only been nominated twice before this year, once for Best Screenplay (Do The Right Thing) and once for Best Documentary (Four Little Girls).  With his three nominations this year (Directing, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay), Mr. Lee is finally receiving the recognition that he has been so deserving and many thought he would never receive from the Academy, short of the honorary award he received in 2016.  Take note Michael B., your time will come.

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