Here are the people and movies that should have gotten some recognition, but didn't.
When the Academy announced its nominees for the Oscars on Tuesday, there were precious few surprises as to who and what was nominated. The Shape of Water, Dunkirk and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri snagged the most nominations (13, eight and seven, respectively). Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress — again. (It marks her 21st acting nom, increasing her already impressive record.) Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated for Best Actor — again. (Even though Day-Lewis only sporadically acts, he’s earned six nominations and three wins.)
The fact that the Academy showered four nominations, including one for Best Picture, on the horror movie Get Out — a genre that rarely gets much love from Oscar — surprised a few entertainment pundits. But c’mon, given Get Out’s critical adulation (a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and litany of awards (from everyone from MTV to the Producers’ Guild of America), it’s not all that surprising. Why, not giving Get Out a little Oscar love would be, like, not handing out a nomination or two to Wonder Woman.
Oh, yeah, about that. Let’s talk about the real surprises we saw on Tuesday — the people and movies that should’ve gotten some recognition from the Academy, in my opinion, but didn’t.
I’m not alone in wondering how the biggest hit of the summer — and a movie with a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than Best Picture nominees Darkest Hour, The Phantom Thread and The Post — got shut out at the Oscars. Apparently the folks polled by Fandango and Atom Tickets were equally appalled. Warner Bros. made a strong push for director Patty Jenkins, and I would’ve thought that the film would’ve been up for at least a few technical awards as well, but no. The Academy had very little desire this year to praise movies, like Wonder Woman, that the whole family might conceivably enjoy: Six of the nine Best Picture nominees were rated R, and many were hard Rs at that.
War for the Planet of the Apes
Listen, I understand that when some people see special-effects-laden films, they simply throw ‘em in the same bin as, say, Transformers: dumb, people-pleasing popcorn flicks without a lot of depth. And there’s some truth to that. But War for the Planet of the Apes cuts counter to that presupposition: It’s smart and creative, using its visual effects not as a crutch, but as an augmentation to the story they wished to tell. The folks behind War pushed hard to get Andy Serkis, the real actor behind the CGI chimp Caesar, in consideration for a Best Actor Oscar. I get why such a choice would’ve been a departure from years gone by, but considering Serkis’ spectacular track record in the strange world of CGI acting (he was also Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of the movie, and Supreme Leader Snoke in the latest cycle of Star Wars films), it seems like he deserves some sort of honor for his work. As it is, War was given just one Oscar nom, for Visual Effects.
Can you believe that it’s been 17 years since Hanks was last nominated for an Oscar? Think about the incredible work he’s done in just the last five years: the stoic airline captain Chelsey Sullenberger in Sully; insurance agent turned government operative James Donavan in Bridge of Spies; Walt Disney himself in Saving Mr. Banks; Captain Phillips in, of course, Captain Phillips. For every single one of those roles, pundits predicted an Oscar nom. With every single one, Hanks came up empty. Now in 2017, he plays crusty newspaper editor Ben Bradlee, brings both authenticity and empathy to the role and goes toe-to-toe with the great Meryl Streep, and he still falls short.
Listen, I know that Hanks is not often compared to Daniel Day-Lewis as a pure actor. But at this point, I’m beginning to wonder whether Hanks’ dog did his business on the Academy’s collective lawn sometime in 2002, and the Academy’s been holding a grudge ever since.
The documentary Jane, about the life and work of famed chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, was considered by many to be a lock in the Documentary Feature category — interesting, inspiring, beautiful and, in this age of growing focus on women’s rights and gender parity, timely. I’ve seen the film and, while it wasn’t my favorite doc of the year, it certainly would’ve qualified for my top five. But the Academy left Jane off its short list entirely. Given its snub of War for the Planet of the Apes, I suspect that Oscar had a bad experience with a chimpanzee as a child.
Sally Hawkins was rightly honored with a Best Actress nomination for her work in The Shape of Water, where she plays a mute cleaning woman and infuses the film with heart and strength without saying a single word. But let’s face it: She’s also naked for quite a bit of the film, too, which makes it a difficult role for many to see, much less embrace.
If you’d like to see Hawkins bare her acting soul without baring her body, search for this year’s little-seen and criminally overlooked Maudie. Hawkins plays Maud Lewis, a woman who overcame a litany of difficulties, married a gruff fishmonger, and became Canada’s most famous folk artist. It’s a lovely story with only a smidge of problematic content, and I frankly think Hawkins is better here than in Shape of Water.
Speaking of great actresses, Prince’s performance in The Florida Project was arguably the best I’ve seen all year. The fact that she was only 6 at the time shouldn’t prevent her from being recognized by the Academy.
The Academy can’t be expected to hit home runs with every nomination, and again, this year’s crop of Oscar nominees has some worthy selections. But as movie lovers toast the success of Lady Bird or The Post, perhaps they can also pause to remember the Brooklynn Princes, the Tom Hankses, and the Wonder Womans that just missed Oscar’s nod. They’re worthy of a little appreciation, too.