In a somewhat ironic turn of events, the Hollywood elite seems to have embraced the on-screen portrayal of class inequity in the Oscar nods this year, with Parasite collecting six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Other favorites also focus on people on the fringes of society—with the controversial Joker racking up the most nominations out of any other film in the race, and a handful of other tales about “outsiders” in the animated, international, and documentary categories garnering nominations as well.
With Parasite, Bong Joon-ho attempts to make history with a Best Picture nomination, though it is arguably an uphill battle. He’s had key wins at the SAG and WGA awards though, and right now, it seems like Parasite has the best chance at upsetting current Best Picture frontrunner 1917. A film that is both metaphorical and literal in many respects, the film explores the levels of class in culture and how hard—if not impossible—class status can be to overcome. The Best Original Screenplay nomination is unsurprising, given the script’s purposeful and poetic thrust, but it’s always hard to count out Tarantino in this category. Considering it is a top contender for Best Picture, Parasite is the clear frontrunner to win Best International Feature. While I want it to win every single award that it is nominated for, I am especially hopeful that it pulls out the win for Best Production Design, as the film uses its physical elements to reiterate just how separated these classes are by who lives above ground and who resides in the subterranean.
Perhaps the most controversial film of this awards season, Todd Phillips’s Joker is also the most nominated film, collecting eleven nominations total. While many of these nominations were expected—such as Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in the titular role, and even Best Picture—I was pleasantly surprised about a few nods, such as Best Costume Design. Even though I thought the costumes in the film were brilliant, they were also rather subtle. The colors and hues of the suits get darker as the film progresses, reflecting the loss of hope for Arthur Fleck. It can be difficult to breathe fresh life into a character that has been on the screen a countless number of times, but designer Mark Bridges, who recently won for Phantom Thread, accomplished that and made fresh, new looks for the iconic villain. As for the Best Director nomination, I’m not sure how Phillips edged out Gerwig, but it was a huge oversight in my opinion.
Pain and Glory
In a perfect world, not only would Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory win Best International Feature—given that Parasite wins Best Picture in this fantasy—but it would also take home Oscar gold for Best Actor. Certainly, Antonio Banderas has been a household name for decades, but this is his first Oscar nomination. A story about a film director reflecting on his life, his career, and how intertwined the two became, Pain and Glory easily appeals to anyone who has spent too much time in their work to live in the moment. Also, Penelope Cruz is in it, so what more could you want?
As likely as it is that Joaquin Phoenix will come away with a win for Joker, it is equally plausible that Renée Zellweger will take home the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the legendary Judy Garland. Zellweger has won the award at nearly all of the other key shows this season—and yet she is rarely lauded in the same way as Phoenix. Perhaps this is because audiences are tired of biographical performances winning in the acting categories, or maybe they simply wish that Lupita had been nominated for her stellar performance in Us. Full disclosure: I am definitely in the latter category.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Truly, the only person who might be as well liked as Mr. Rogers is Tom Hanks. The casting of Hanks as Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was spot-on, and it comes as no surprise to see a nomination here. Though many have argued that the performance is more of a leading role, I disagree, as his role is clearly secondary to the journalist’s story. I wish the film had covered some of the lesser-discussed details of Mr. Rogers’s life, such as when he fought for public funding for the arts; coincidentally, a recent Drunk History episode covered this tale, with Tom Hank’s son Colin playing the role of Fred Rogers.
Look—the honest truth is that Honeyland was by far my least favorite film of all the nominated movies this year. I found it difficult to watch one of the last wild beekeepers in Europe struggle to maintain control over her hives or her personal life, and I think the movie would have benefitted from a shorter runtime and format. An outsider in every sense of the word, the protagonist and her film managed to surprise the world with not one but two nominations, though I do not see it winning either of those.
Another film that just wasn’t my cup of tea, this Best International Feature nominee did somewhat spark my interest, as the title is a clever subversion of audience expectations. The movie is not, in fact, about the famous novel or musical of the same name, but appropriates the title since it takes place in the city where Hugo supposedly wrote Les Misérables. An anti-crime unit of the police gains a new member from small-town France, and through this newbie’s experiences, the audience learns that racial profiling is rampant, and the rules do not apply equally. Originating as a short film, I wonder if the protracted format crippled this otherwise compelling tale.
If I could pick the winner for Best Documentary Feature, I would have a hard time deciding between The Edge of Democracy and For Sama. Filmmaker Waad al-Kateab managed to capture the beginnings of the Syrian Civil War and ensuing crisis as the background for her life as a young Syrian woman. The name of the film reflects Waad’s hopes that this documentary will explain to her daughter Sama why she chose to raise her the way that she did, and why she made certain choices at such a devastating and complex moment in history. For Sama has been heralded as a depiction of the “female experience of war,” and while this is true, the film also shows the toll that war takes on all humanity, as births, marriages, and funerals all become secondary to the need to survive.
I Lost My Body
Since the Academy opened up who could vote on Best Animated Feature, we saw two Netflix animated films knock out the usual animation giants for nominations this year. One of those contenders is the French independent animated film I Lost My Body. Although it was not what I expected, I absolutely loved this unique story about a severed hand desperately trying to find its body again. It will break your heart—but in the best way—and I recommend you stop what you are doing and watch it on Netflix right now.
The Netflix film Klaus emerged as a very popular Christmas movie during the holiday season, and many are rooting for it to nab a statuette on Oscar Sunday. The film proposes that the things we know about Santa Claus today were started by a lonely mailman who needed a reason to send letters. With a star-studded voice cast and an animation style that perfectly matches the tone of the film, Klaus might just surprise everyone with a win for Best Animated Feature.
This stop-motion animated feature shocked everyone by winning the Golden Globe over both Toy Story 4 and the not-even-Oscar-nominated-in-this-category Frozen 2, so it comes as no surprise that it managed to nab a Best Animated Feature nomination from the Academy as well. The movie is my personal favorite to win, as the twist halfway through the film shifts the audience’s initial perception of the story. I would have loved to see this movie nab a nomination for Best Costume Design, as any costumes designed for stop-motion animation serve the unique purpose of making inanimate objects look real, but I’ll have to settle for rooting for this film to win Best Animated Feature instead.