Snubbed by the Oscars

Academy awards 2016: A year of few surprises

Snubbed by the Oscars

This year’s Oscar nominations? Mediocre! Here’s who should have been up for Hollywood’s most glittering prizes. Robbie Collin & Tim Robey give us the low-down.

‘The Hateful Eight’ for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay

While the Academy washes its Commie-bashing dirty linen of yesteryear via that WTF-worthy Bryan Cranston nomination for Trumbo, there are more pressing matters to be dealt with: specifically, its ingrained racial biases, which have rightly been the subject of a sustained public outcry. In other words, it would have been an ideal year to honour The Hateful Eight — Quentin Tarantino’s poisonous commentary on America’s long-suppurating race problem, with a single, spite-riven room standing in for the country at large.

Channing Tatum (‘Magic Mike XXL’) for Best Actor

“Charismatic”, “intelligent”, “relatable”. These terms have all been used by Oscar pundits to describe Matt Damon’s performance in The Martian — and are all a thousand times more applicable to Channing Tatum’s absurdly undervalued work in general, and in last summer’s Magic Mike XXL in particular. Damon’s nomination is unique in this year’s Best Actor race in that it’s mostly a recognition of his considerable star quality. But the Academy’s ongoing failure to spot the biggest new star in its midst is blinkered to the point of myopia. Yes, Tatum’s playing a stripper rather than an astronaut, but that shouldn’t be an impediment.

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ for Best Adapted Screenplay

“Do not, my friends, become addicted to water!” That’s dictatorship described in eight words: and almost nine months after I first heard that line, roared by Hugh Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe, there’s still something about the compactness of its smiling malice that stops me in my tracks. The notion that dialogue in action films doesn’t matter has never been more conspicuously ridiculous than it is in relation to Mad Max: Fury Road — the screenplay for which gave us characters called Furiosa, Rictus Erectus and The Splendid Angharad, an apocalyptic petrolhead dialect full of warboys, blood-bags and schlangers, plus a multi-storey-car-park’s-worth of feminist and mythical subtext in its deceptively straightforward there-and-back-again plot.

‘Inside Out’ for Best Picture and Pete Docter for Best Director

How good does an animated film have to be to become credible to the Academy? Since the Best Animated category was inaugurated in 2001, Pixar hasn’t done a bad job of breaking loose: Up and Toy Story 3 were both nominated for Best Picture, while Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and WALL-E all took a swing at Best Original Screenplay. But the barbed-wire perimeter around Best Director has yet to be snipped. Inside Out should have been the film to do it. By its nature, animation is a collaborative art form, but Pete Docter’s individual obsessions and warm, inclusive sense of humour shine from every perfect frame.

Idris Elba (‘Beasts of No Nation’) for Best Supporting Actor

Elba’s absence from the list was probably the biggest shock of the year: he’d been nominated for the Golden Globe, the Bafta, the SAG award, and a heap of critics’ prizes, for what’s almost considered his strongest film work to date.
Some have argued that the Netflix platform, on which Beasts of No Nation has been most widely seen since its Venice premiere, may have counted against it with Academy voters of a pre-digital vintage. However things panned out, only two of the nominees who made the final five — Mark Rylance and Sylvester Stallone — are a match for Elba’s scary, commanding, Pied Piper-like turn as a horribly credible authority figure to African child soldiers.

‘Carol’ for Best Picture & Todd Haynes for Best Director

It was looking so good for Carol, when it picked up not just the expected acting nods, but also a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Phyllis Nagy’s immaculate, bevelled script, which was by no means a given. The shut-out in Best Picture and Director felt like an attack on nuance in favour of all things scrappy, splashy and high-octane. Haynes’s guiding hand over his film is easily this year’s most skilful feat of directing.

‘Creed’ for Best Picture & Ryan Coogler for Best Director

Plenty of genre work is nominated in the big two categories, so it won’t do to assume that Creed, the sixth sequel to a Best Picture winner, never stood a chance. A more vigorous campaign might have secured it something besides the Stallone nomination. First-time directing nominees have taken four out of five available slots, but it’s a great pity one of them isn’t Coogler, whose sure sense of craft and brilliantly robust approach to the set pieces lift Creed considerably out of the ordinary.

Kristen Stewart (‘Clouds of Sils Maria’) for Best Supporting Actress

Followers of European cinema may have offered up a hearty “Hail, César!” when Kristen Stewart became the first ever American actress to win an acting award from the French Academy for her career-best performance as a film star’s capable PA in Olivier Assayas’s psychodrama Clouds of Sils Maria. Because Assayas’s film was only released in the US last April, it qualified for this year’s Oscar ballot — but perhaps the lingering aroma of Stewart’s beginnings in the Twilight franchise was enough to set Academy nostrils a-flaring, and the film was overlooked.

Tom Courtenay (‘45 Years’) for Best Actor

By nominating Charlotte Rampling where the Baftas failed to, the Oscars recognised one great performance from a prolific film veteran in 45 Years, the year’s most acclaimed British film. But there’s a second that should have been acknowledged, too.
Courtenay doesn’t have the “point of view” role, so it’s easy to see why his work has been comparatively unsung. He’s wonderfully alive to the evasions of Geoff, everything he’s buried away in his life, and the damage he does to his marriage with every memory dredged up.

Liev Schreiber (‘Spotlight’) for Best Supporting Actor

There’s a lot of good acting to choose from in Spotlight. Mark Ruffalo is well cast and very engaging as Mike Rezendes, the most bullish member of the Boston Globe investigative team — and if you see the real guy talking, you’ll see where he gets it. But his performance is pushing hammy at times. The Academy should have scanned the film a little harder. Michael Cyril Creighton is unforgettably touching in his brief scenes as Joe Crowley, the victim whom Rachel McAdams’s character goes to interview. Billy Crudup and Jamey Sheridan make strong impressions as obstacles in getting to the truth. But Schreiber quietly, magisterially rules the roost as Marty Baron, the Globe editor shaping the pace and scope of the story with an acute sense of moral responsibility.

Bel Powley (‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’) for Best Actress

In a year as hotly contested as this one, bridling at Best Actress shut-outs feels a little ungracious, but by bringing back three previous winners and nominees, voters missed an easy opportunity to buy shares in a serious emerging talent. Her name is Bel Powley, and her film, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, wasn’t exactly low-profile. Powley’s intimate portrayal of Minnie Goetze, a San Franciscan high-schooler caught in a disastrous affair with her mother’s 36-year-old lover in the 1970s, captures the muscle-straining stretch for independence vividly.

The Telegraph

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