The Oscar snubs and misfires have become just as legendary as the TV and show-biz spectacle telecast worldwide.
Hollywood’s most prestigious award-giving body for film doesn’t always get its shortlist right, and the contentious nominees, especially those able to snag a golden statue, make you question if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still is a true arbiter of great cinema. Perhaps it’s time to take the Oscars with a grain of salt?
So here’s an alternative look at some of the nominees for the 90th Academy Awards (because poking irreverent fun at the things we love makes their failures a little less disappointing).
“The Shape of Water” – Something fishy goes on in this fairy tale movie and we don’t just mean the interspecies romance that’s supposed to have an underlying message of acceptance and equality. There really is a merman and he’s got good gills.
“Darkest Hour” – To make peace or go to war? That’s the burden of Winston Churchill’s appointment as prime minister in the time of Hitler’s invasion of Europe. The trigger-happy trio of Donald Trump, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Syria’s Bashar Assad could learn a thing or two about statesmanship from this film.
“Dunkirk” – British troops trapped on a beach have nowhere to hide—not even in dreams within dreams—in Christopher Nolan’s World War II action epic. No other film in recent memory has dealt with retreating Allied forces with such panache—and got Harry Styles to play soldier.
“Phantom Thread” – How to make obsessive, tyrannical behavior into an absurdly beautiful film? Find a Daniel Day-Lewis to portray the subject: a rich middle-age bachelor who designs women’s fashion but is inclined to acquire and then discard them for the sake of his craft.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – Vengeance has its virtues, but only if the one seeking it has the rage and indignation of the perennially fierce Frances McDormand.
“Get Out” – The tables have been turned. White people scare the bejeezus out of blacks in this horror movie. But wait, are the blacks just being paranoid?
“The Post” – Steven Spielberg conjures a piece of fairly recent history all citizens of democracies can benefit from. It shows that when a president suppresses and delegitimizes the media, he probably has epic secrets to hide from the people he governs.
“Call Me by Your Name” – “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” is transplanted to 1980s Italy. The flamboyant Maxi becomes a highbrow nerd obsessed with books, art, history and languages, which makes him appealing to one of the Winklevoss twins.
“Lady Bird” – This is the cool movie adaptation of mother-daughter dynamics as well as the uncoolness of adolescence.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“On Body and Soul” – This Hungarian love story sounds as complicated as the name of its director Ildikó Enyedi. A woman finds love in a slaughterhouse and her affair with the man plays out vividly better in dreams than in real life.
“The Square” – People go crazy when they lose their mobile phones. This applies even to sophisticated, well-heeled Europeans.
“Loveless” – This contender by controversial filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev paints a picture of a dark modern Russia. In the film, parents lose their child because they have been hideously distracted by selfishness and extreme loathing for each other.
“A Fantastic Woman” – The title refers to a transgender who plays a transgender in this Chilean film that makes a statement about transgenders—that they are human beings just like you and me.
“The Insult” – Racism and bigotry has deep roots in this Lebanese entry. It takes a village, even a nation, to raise and enable racists.
Guillermo del Toro – The only filmmaker on the roster with legit monster-making cred makes audiences dive into (pun intended) the world of “Shape of Water.”
Jordan Peele – “Get Out” earned raves for being a terrific parody about racism and other social ills. Perhaps the biggest compliment it received was that it doesn’t look like a rookie filmmaker’s project.
Greta Gerwig – The longtime indie darling learned filmmaking only on the set of the films she starred in. In her debut as (solo) writer-director for “Lady Bird,” she’s essentially just flipping her hair, basking in the fact that women do make great artistic multitaskers.
Christopher Nolan – The master of bending time and space uses his skills in capturing the story of Dunkirk.
Paul Thomas Anderson – “Phantom Thread” has been praised for being highly stylized, elegant, gorgeous. Its director also has the distinction of being the last of his kind to ever work with the great Daniel Day-Lewis, who has declared that “Phantom” would be his last acting gig.
Sally Hawkins – The Brit actress with pale skin and meager frame can otherwise be a monster at conquering roles like Elisa, the sympathetic mute cleaning lady in “Shape of Water.”
Meryl Streep – As Katharine Graham, Lady Streep is soft-spoken and often quiet in a roomful of male executives. Eventually the socialite-turned-publisher gets fired up and tells her longtime politico friend—about whom an exposé will come out on her newspaper—that “I’m not asking your permission. I’m just informing you.”
Frances McDormand – We’ve seen her angry way too many times. It didn’t seem a stretch for McDormand to play “Three Billboards” grieving mom Mildred Hayes, a character whose temperament is similar to that of Olive Kitteridge, from the namesake HBO miniseries.
Margot Robbie – She’s so good at portraying wild and crazy that she can give teenagers a run for their money. Alas, her age cannot match her acting chops, as Robbie looks too mature to be a 15-year-old Tonya Harding.
Saoirse Ronan – She’s a teenager with strong opinions, emotions, ambitions—and everything else somebody of that age would intensely express. But Ronan’s Christine (aka Lady Bird) McPherson is so charming and lovable, you’d want her to be your best friend.
Daniel Day-Lewis – He’s retiring? No way, because his role as womanizing dressmaker in “Phantom Thread” is astoundingly hawt.
Timothée Chalamet – Dorky hair and skinny bod aside, Chalamet’s Elio Perlman continues to haunt us. We cannot unsee the kinky peach scene and the nighttime dalliances, and especially not the wretched phone call and his final shot by the fireplace.
Daniel Kaluuya – He’s “the perfect hero,” said one film critic, of the British actor’s take on a black photographer who’s dating a white girl who’s parents live in a place where it seems the only two other black people are the help.
Denzel Washington – In this crime film (a familiar genre for Washington), the often forceful actor serves up a defense lawyer named Roman J. Israel. He’s got some form of autism (unfamiliar territory for the Oscar winner) that’s why the only time he enters the courtroom is when his law firm partner dies.
Gary Oldman – You will not find Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.” There’s only the highly astute, intensely oratorical and imposing man of conviction, Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lesley Manville – When one is given the role of doting sister and confidante to Daniel Day-Lewis, one has no choice but to be as awesome as one’s costar.
Allison Janney – There is no greater force than a mean chainsmoking mom with a squawking bird on her shoulder.
Laurie Metcalf – She was the perfect momma to Lady Bird—
nagging but fiercely devoted, pragmatic yet generous and sympathetic. Metcalf is one of the most relatable moms in indie film history.
Mary J. Blige – When the R&B star ditches her bling and glamour, it has to be for a good (award-winning) cause.
Octavia Spencer – The actress makes the most of the role of Zelda the cleaning lady, which director Guillermo del Toro custom-wrote for her. Unfortunately, Allison Janney will make sure the third time won’t be the charm in Spencer’s bid for another Oscar.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sam Rockwell – We’re still wondering how this guy’s dull-witted homophobic racist could possibly hold a candle to Christopher Plummer’s class act as oil billionaire J. Paul Getty in “All the Money in the World.”
Woody Harrelson – He wasn’t in “Three Billboards” long enough to create an impact. And his voiceover was nowhere near as engaging as Scarlett Johansson’s in the 2013 romantic science fiction “Her.”
Christopher Plummer – Said an Atlantic film review: “Plummer is so good in his role that it’s genuinely hard to imagine a whole other movie exists with a whole other performance.” Meaning, the film’s last-minute replacement was so awesome there was no need to hire Kevin Spacey in the first place.
Willem Dafoe – He does major fathering to children of families living in cheap hotels beside Disney World, and the role, as well as the film, genuinely tugs at the heartstrings.
Richard Jenkins – Over a hundred films and projects later, the guys gets to be in a film with Guillermo del Toro’s monster magic proportions. Let’s just give Jenkins a round of applause.