By John H. Foote
Every year there are inevitable snubs among the Academy Award nominations, which I suppose is inevitable given there are just five nominees for each category other than Best Picture, which has 10.
I remember gasping out loud when Amy Adams was ignored for her magical work in Arrival (2017), an absolute masterpiece that lived or died on her performance. Just last year Hollywood was stunned that Spike Lee’s powerful study of friends going back to Vietnam years after the war Da Five Bloods (2020) was ignored for Best Picture, Best Director and most of all Best Actor for Delroy Lindo and Best Supporting Actor for Chadwick Boseman, both of whom deserved to win! This was a terrible slap in the face to Spike Lee, as well as to Netflix who produced the film.
This year? Expect some snubs but I hope they do not go to artists who could be seen as winners.
Here are the artists I HOPE are NOT snubbed, but given the history of the Academy, might be.
BEST ACTRESS — KRISTEN STEWART IN SPENCER
The finest performance by an actress I saw this year was Miss Stewart as Princess Diana. She was luminous and haunting as the doomed Princess, in a film about the weekend she decided to leave her marriage to Charles and the Royal family. Insight is given into the staggering control the Royals had over this poor girl, and her relationship with Charles and her sons, whom she adored. Stewart has been excellent before, so fine in Personal Shopper (2016) and a winner of the New York Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. Yes, she can be sullen; yes, she does not like the spotlight, neither did Brando!! Miss Stewart deserves the nomination, she deserves the Oscar. Through September and October she had no competition but in December the rumblings started against her and she was ignored for a Screen Actors Guild nomination, a terrible injustice. Hers is a performance for the ages, Oscar or not, but she damn well deserves it.
BEST ACTRESS — JESSICA CHASTAIN IN THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE
As Tammy Fay Baker, Jessica Chastain should return to the Oscar circle for the first time since her performance in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) for which she should have won. Nominations should have come her way for Miss Sloane (2016) and again the following year for Molly’s Game (2017). Brilliant in both, why she was not nominated was a shock, but there are just five nominees, right? She should be there this year for her fascinating and heartbreaking performance.
BEST ACTRESS — LADY GAGA IN HOUSE OF GUCCI
There are enough, just enough naysayers for the film that could cost Gaga the nomination. I for one thinks she deserves it but deserving has nothing to do with an Oscar nomination. She was nothing short of astounding in A Star is Born (2018) which landed her a nod for Best Actress and won her an Oscar for writing “Shallow” her now famous duet with director-actor Bradley Cooper. For House of Gucci she absolutely deserves to be nominated but could be the victim of those who believe she is not deserving. Those folks belong to a club called dumbass.
BEST ACTOR — PETER DINKLAGE IN CYRANO
What if the legendary character Cyrano de Bergerac did not have a huge nose, but instead was born a dwarf. Despite his diminutive stature he became a dangerous and lethal swordsman and was not a man to be trifled with. Yet at heart he was a gentle dreamer, a poet deeply in love with his friend, the beautiful Roxanne. Knowing he can never profess his love, he chooses to pen love letters to her and allow his friend to pass them off as his own. Dinklage is magnificent, giving a towering performance as Cyrano, easily the finest I have ever seen an actor give in the role. I thought the finest Cyrano I had seen was Heath Lamberts at the Shaw Festival here in Canada, but Dinklage soars over that wonderful stage actor to own the role. Like Stewart he deserves to win the Academy Award.
BEST ACTOR — NICOLAS CAGE IN PIG
Cage might be the most daring actor at work in film, he takes risks no other actor will take, and more often than not makes it work. Though he has won an Oscar for his doomed alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas (1995) he has been nominated just one other time despite deserving to be nominated more. His film Pig was released way back in May and Academy members have notoriously short memories but I hope, I TRULY HOPE that they reach back and remember Cage in Pig. As a former famous chef who dropped off the radar and out of society, he lives a contented existence in the woods with his pig who forages for mushrooms each day with him. It is an exceptional piece of acting from one of the finest working.
BEST DIRECTOR — STEVEN SPIELBERG FOR WEST SIDE STORY
I hope they do not snub him because his achievement in bringing West Side Story back to the screen was substantial, but they have before. For his first great film, Jaws (1975), they did not nominate him but nominated the film for Best Picture. I had no trouble with his being snubbed for The Color Purple (1985) because I felt direction cost the film much of its power. But snubs for Empire of the Sun (1987)? A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001)? Minority Report (2002)? War Horse (2011)? Bridge of Spies (2015)? The Post (2017)? Yes, I have serious trouble with those snubs and a snub for West Side Story will make me rage. He took one of the most often produced stage musicals ever written, one that has been mounted and remounted for both Broadway and regional theatre often, and then produced by every community theatre and high school theatre department in North America, not to mention a 1961 film that won ten Academy Awards, and made it fresh, new, I daresay original. West Side Story was for me the year’s best film and Spielberg’s achievement was nothing short of monumental.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.