Matt Rodgers on 2018’s forgotten Oscar contenders…
As Jimmy Kimmel steps out onto the Dolby Theatre stage to deliver his introduction to the 90th Academy Awards, spare a thought for those who still have their pre-ordered tuxedo hanging in the closet, or that dress they’d practiced the red carpet walk in still tagged for return, because while Guillermo and Greta needn’t have worried about their invites, they’ll be a roll-call of talent who were signposted for greatness, before scandal and the sands-of-time caused them to be forgotten.
Last year was the turn of Amy Adams, snubbed for a Best Actress nom with Arrival, or the controversy of Sundance record-breaker, Birth of a Nation, which saw it go from ballyhooed contender to forgotten failure. It happens every year, and 2018 is no different. So come with us as we open the rusted gold envelope labeled the Best Also-Rans of 2018.
Emma Stone – Battle of the Sexes
When Emma Stone’s Billie Jean King is asked “You’re a feminist, right?” by a reporter during Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s Battle of the Sexes, she responds with “No, I’m a tennis player who happens to be a woman”.
It’s a moment that underpins the entire movie, as well as the landscape within which the Academy Awards will play out on Sunday, which makes the exclusion of Stone even more surprising, particularly in a role that is arguably more accomplished than the one for which she won the Oscar last year.
You can’t blame the mediocre nature of the film around her, as there have been plenty of examples of nominations emerging from average films; Denzel Washington’s Training Day win, ditto Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. It’s also not a case of timing, as Battle of the Sexes was on the same festival circuit as The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Stone’s emission must simply come down to the fact that there are four better performances, plus the obligatory Meryl Streep nom, standing in her way.
The Disaster Artist
The little-film-that-could, that was the story of The Disaster Artist, as well as the film that inspired it. Written and directed by James Franco, his story about how the best worst film of all time, The Room, become a cult phenomenon, is a loving ode to Hollywood, which we know the voters adore, with a surprisingly moving tale of friendship at its heart.
The buzz from early screenings was deafening, with reports of standing ovations and award’s worthy performances, and the first reviews backed that up. But perhaps like its baffling disasterpiece subject, Tommy Wiseau, it was aiming too high, or The Disaster Artist simply fell foul of the Academy Award’s aversion to comedy.
Ultimately the film’s chances have been sunk by the allegations against Franco, whose alleged misdemeanors came to light at about the same time the film was last prominent on the circuit, at January’s Golden Globe Awards. His performance, as well as a long shot at a Best Picture nomination, was the The Disaster Artist’s only real shot at glory.
Kristen Stewart – Personal Shopper
Kristen Stewart is OUTSTANDING in Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper. OUTSTANDING. And although her performance was never really in the discussion like the other entrants on this list, it should have been.
A meditative, ambiguous ghost story, that premiered as far back as Cannes 2016, where it was booed, whatever weight that carries these days, before bouncing around the festival circuit with glowing notices.
It’s perhaps telling that in researching this list, the release date had to be double and triple checked to make sure that it would even qualify for the 2018 Oscars (10th March 2017 US). Like the sparingly used spectre that Stewart’s grieving twin encounters, Personal Shopper appeared to float around the filmgoer’s peripherals for at least a year, so much so that it seemed to vanish from people’s consciousness.
In all honesty, this writer had to be nudged into watching it, and by highlighting it in this rundown, those of you that haven’t sought it out will hopefully correct that crime against cinema.
What you’ll be greeted with is proof that Stewart is just about the most uniquely interesting actor working today. Here she is beautifully ordinary, acting alone for most of the film, in a silence that’s accentuating that otherworld quality that’s often misinterpreted as cold. It might be a role lacking any obvious cultural parallels, but as a performance you’ll find few better.
Kathryn Bigelow – Detroit
Detroit shamed events of the past, held up a mirror to contemporary society, and acted as a warning for the future. It was also directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the last woman to win the Best Director Academy Award for 2008’s The Hurt Locker. So why is it completely absent from the nominations?
Timely social commentary and condemnation make it one of the most politically Zeitgeisty movies of the year, but unlike The Post or Get Out, this failed to resonate with audiences or voters.
Was it because the film was released at the height of summer, when audiences are hungry for blockbusters over claustrophobically intense dramas? Surely box-office shouldn’t be an indicator for Oscar success? Or was it due to the online backlash citing the predominantly white creative team who were depicting these horrific images of racism? Maybe the fact that you can turn on the TV and see a ‘Ferguson’ or ‘Baltimore’ unfolding on rolling news channels means audiences turn elsewhere for their escapism?
Whatever the reason for the snub, Detroit did something that all good films should do, and that’s start a discussion about much more important things than who missed out on an Academy Award.
There are arguments to be made for the complete lack of love shown towards Last Flag Flying, or the absence of Okja, which led the Netflix nomination bandwagon before Mudbound’s Mary J. Blige’s deserved double whammy, but before you get too upset that your favourite might have missed out, remember that these are the people who chose Crash over Brokeback Mountain.
Please let us know what you think deserved a nomination over those that’ll be suited and booted on Sunday. I gotta go. The orchestra are playing the music…