The Performances That Deserve Oscar Nominations but Probably Won’t Get Them
Listen up, Academy.
With its historical bias against genre films, foreign exports, and any and all people of color—not to mention its strange hard-on for stories about Hollywood—it’s no secret that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences lacks imagination. So, despite concerted efforts to diversify its overwhelmingly old, white and male voting body, don’t expect too many surprises with the 2020 Oscar nominations Monday morning. There will be multiple noms for Marriage Story, Joker and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, while Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems) and Lupita Nyong’o (Us), who delivered two of the year’s best performances, may get snubbed—ditto Greta Gerwig for Little Women, which will surely inflame Film Twitter.
But there are a number of outstanding acting performances from 2019 that haven’t received much in the way of awards buzz yet deserve recognition from Oscar. These are those turns.
BEST ACTRESS: Florence Pugh, Midsommar
The rising Brit is likely to earn a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role as the youngest March sister in Little Women, but it’s her turn as Dani, an anguished twentysomething who finds community and family in a barbaric Swedish cult in Ari Aster’s Midsommar, that sees the 24-year-old capture the tortuous journey from grief to glory. All hail the May Queen.
BEST ACTOR: Tom Mercier, Synonyms
I’m embarrassed to have omitted Nadav Lapid’s urgent, audacious drama about an erudite man who flees Israel to Paris to escape his homeland’s discriminatory occupation and toxic masculinity from my Most Overlooked Movies of the Year list. Few films were this thrillingly alive, and much of that infectious energy emanates from Mercier’s live-wire performance. A star is born.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cho Yeo-jeong, Parasite
Given the Academy’s racist aversion to people of color—in particular Asians, given how only two Asian women have ever been nominated for acting Oscars—it’s unlikely that the breakout of Bong Joon-ho’s class-warfare satire will receive recognition, which is a shame, because she so charmingly and cheekily conveys the credulous, cloistered matriarch of the Park family.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Eric Bogosian, Uncut Gems
While Adam Sandler deserves all the praise in the cinema world for his chaotic portrait of a degenerate gambler who can’t get out of his own way, the unsung hero of the Safdie brothers’ kinetic Diamond District-thriller is the veteran character actor Eric Bogosian. As Arno, brother-in-law to Sandler’s Howard Ratner (who owes him a shit-ton of money), his third-act transformation from menacing loan shark to shook-up poltroon is nothing short of astonishing.
BEST ACTRESS: Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell
I named Alex Ross Perry’s punk-rock nightmare the best film of 2019, and much of the credit for its success is due to Moss’ feral turn as Becky Something, a riot grrrl icon whose rapacious appetite for drink, drugs and mayhem is utterly hypnotic. It’s the best performance—of anyone, in any category—this past year.
BEST ACTOR: Timothée Chalamet, The King
Timothée Chalamet earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his devastating portrait of first heartbreak in Call Me by Your Name and steals every scene he’s in in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, but his performance as Hal, the son of King Henry IV who evolves from entitled loafer into fearless leader and warrior, is extraordinary, and a testament to the youngster’s movie-star charisma and uncanny ability to hold a close-up (with a convincing British accent to boot).
BEST ACTRESS: Alfre Woodard, Clemency
With the ‘BAFTAs So White’ mess—zero nominees of color out of 20, with Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie double-nommed—fresh in the cultural consciousness, it looks as though we are careening toward another #OscarsSoWhite fiasco. And it’d be a damn shame because, Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell) and the Parasite cast notwithstanding, Alfre Woodard delivers one of the most compelling performances of the past year as a death row prison warden tormented by her station. Put some respect on her name.
BEST ACTOR: Andre Holland, High Flying Bird
A quiet February release date and precious little promo doomed Steven Soderbergh’s sports drama and it’s a damn shame, because Moonlight’s André Holland chews up the scenery and spits it out as a smooth operator of a sports agent navigating a lockout. It’s the anti-Uncut Gems, if you will. Fire up that Netflix and give this one a go, you won’t be disappointed.