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morganroberts
11th April 2022

Alternative Oscars: Who should have prevailed?

What if the current Oscar nominated films didn’t exist? We present our picks in our ‘Alternative Oscars’ list.
Alternative Oscars: Who should have prevailed?

Little over a week later and audiences and critics alike are still trying to comprehend what happened at the 94th Academy Awards. After Will Smith marred his first Oscar success by hitting host Chris Rock, and unlikely candidate CODA beat the highly acclaimed The Power of the Dog to win Best Picture, The Mancunion figured it was worth taking our Oscar analysis in a slightly different direction.

We’ve decided to focus on a different kind of hit, namely, the hit films that failed to gain the Academy recognition they perhaps deserved.  Our writers have scoured the cinema listings from the last year and come up with an alternative list of Oscar worthy films.

 

Best Picture: 

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch was by a considerable margin, the film I enjoyed the most last year. Its anthology format is made for Wes’ unique style, with the whip-smart dialogue, beautiful story-book cinematography and genuine emotional undercurrents working in tandem to forge an experience taken from every Wes Anderson fan’s dreams. The roster of elite actors and actresses is something to behold, with every one of them turning in performances which delightfully balance quirky comedy and delicate drama: it is testament to Anderson’s directorial pull that he can continually lure in acting heavyweights, even in the smallest of roles (see Willem Dafoe as Albert “the Abacus”) . How this film didn’t receive any nominations is beyond me – not even receiving the customary Wes Anderson set design and costume Oscar nods, The French Dispatch is surely the most severe snub of the 2022 Oscars. Morgan Roberts

C’mon C’mon has to be one of the most Oscar-baity films to not receive a nomination for Best Picture. However, this was one of the few films on the big screen this year that successfully made me cry, so congrats C’mon C’mon (and The French Dispatch, which also rightfully deserved a Best Picture nomination). I loved how human C’mon C’mon felt, and it stuck with me for a while after I saw it. I loved watching the relationship between Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and Jesse (Woody Norman) develop, as Johnny tries desperately to help his struggling sister Viv (Gaby Hoffman). From becoming an estranged uncle to one of Jesses’ best friends, it’s incredibly wholesome to watch both characters grow and learn from each other. I would personally throw Don’t Look Up’s nomination into a (recycling) bin for C’mon C’mons place. The former was both Oscar-bait and awful, which are two sins rather than C’mon C’mon’s singular Oscar-bait sin. At least C’mon C’mon was good, and somehow still less pretentious than Don’t Look Up, despite being filmed in black and white. Sophie Hicks

 

Best Director:

Whilst I was fairly content with the Best Director winner (save for the omission of a certain Wes Anderson), I felt as though there were some other viable alternatives who could have perhaps been selected. Although I wasn’t blown away by Cary Joji Fukunaga’s No Time to Die, I feel as though his directorial vision for the film has been somewhat under appreciated since its release. Fukunaga, with the aid of Linus Sandgren’s crisp cinematography and smooth editing from Elliot Graham and Tom Cross, manages to direct a fitting send off to Daniel Craig’s Bond in a way that isn’t grandiose or pretentious, but rather more subtle. Whilst I don’t necessarily think that he was a shoe-in to the Best Director category, Fukanaga at least deserves mention for his very solid efforts this year. MR

I was genuinely shocked when the Oscar nominations announced a distinct lack of Denis Villeneuve in the Best Director category. Villeneuve is no stranger to directing, with iconic works such as Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017) in his bag. Considering Dune is his most nominated work, totalling a staggering ten, it’s hard to believe that the Academy didn’t see Villeneuve’s skilful work as worthy of consideration. However, I’m not entirely sure who I would’ve knock off the list of Best Directors to put Villeneuve there, as all of them were worthy nominations. Maybe Paul Thomas Anderson? As much as I enjoyed Licorice Pizza, I think Anderson’s writing and the chemistry between the cast itself is what made the film great, rather than the directing as such. SH

 

Best Actress:

Garnering Golden Globe, BAFTA and Critics Choice Award nominations, I was very surprised not to see Alana Haim’s name on the list of nominations for Best Actress. She gave a stellar performance in her film debut Licorice Pizza, proving to have fantastic chemistry with fellow debutant Cooper Hoffman. Licorice Pizza was one of my favourite films of the year, however I don’t think that it would have worked if not for Haim’s presence. P.T Anderson’s faith in the untested star pays off here, as she is equally hilarious and heart-wrenching as the charismatic lead of the story. In the hands of an inferior actress, the film may not have worked as well as it does. Had she been nominated for Best Actress, I believe she would have been fully deserving of the win. A stunning debut. MR

Once again, completely baffled at how Rachel Zegler didn’t even get a nomination. I understand that she’s new and it’s her first film, but that’s what makes her performance even more impressive: she has so much more to learn. To say that a West Side Story adaption directed by Steven Spielberg is your debut film is impressive, but to be critically acclaimed for your performance is a true feat. She’s been nominated for every other major award, and I don’t see why she didn’t deserve an Oscar. She brought new life to Maria, who is such an iconic role that it must be terrifying to even attempt to do so. I felt her joy and pain, and I loved Zegler’s performance from start to finish. Personally, I’d have replaced Kristen Stewart’s nomination in a heartbeat. Zegler was a fantastic Maria. It was even more impressive to successfully pretend to have chemistry with Ansel Elgort. SH

 

Supporting Actress:

2021’s The Tragedy of Macbeth was a great addition to Joel Coen’s filmography (Macbeth was Ethan-less, which still frustrates me today), with some truly premium acting and spectacular cinematography. An absolute highlight was the inclusion of classically trained theatre actor Kathryn Hunter, who is an absolute scene stealer in her role(s) as the three witches. Having garnered critical praise in theatre productions playing prestigious characters such as Cleopatra and King Lear whilst also winning an Olivier award for her work as the millionairess in Friedrich Durrenmatt‘s The Visit, Hunter’s reputation precedes her. That being said, Hunter still manages to stun playing all three witches, outshining Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand (which is no easy feat), miraculously innovating in a role which has been played out so many times. From a purely-acting based perspective, Hunter’s contorted, imaginative portrayal of the witches could likely be the most impressive performance of the year. MR

Belfast was a fantastic film, and Caitriona Balfe is a fantastic actress. I ached with her struggles throughout the entire film, faced with the prospect of leaving all she’s ever known, she must sacrifice all just for the chance to find a better future for her family. If she was nominated, I’d have said that she would have had a good chance of winning. Whilst Judi Dench was excellent in the film, I’d have definitely given the nomination to Balfe instead. At this point, I feel like Dench gets nominated because she’s Judi Dench, and not necessarily because she was actually the best performer – that might be a controversial opinion, but I stand by it. Balfe should have at least won a BAFTA. SH

 

Best Actor:

In what might have been my favourite performance in the last year, Simon Rex hits every note as ‘Mikey Sabre’ – ex-pornstar and strong contender for the “worst human alive” award. Red Rocket, directed by The Florida Project director Sean Baker, follows Mikey as he struggles to make a living upon his return home after an ultimately unsuccessful 17 year stint in Los Angeles. His screen presence is electric, repellant and intriguing at the same time. Considering Simon Rex’s resume before Red Rocket, which consists of a number of parody films, a short-lived rap career and an early foray into porn himself, the now 47 year old Rex provides an unbelievably good performance. Audiences can tell that Rex is relishing in the role, with the excitement of a genuine late career comeback bubbling beneath the surface of every outrageous line. Despite playing a reprehensible character with almost no redeeming qualities, Rex is able to gain both the characters and the audience’s trust through his instantly captivating portrayal of Sabre. I would’ve loved to see him recognised. MR

I loved C’mon C’mon despite its Oscar-baity essence, and I was convinced that Joaquin Phoenix would gain a nomination. Alas, no, to my utter surprise. Considering how powerful this film is and how limited its cast is, Phoenix plays a more than central role. I believed every decision Phoenix took, scared to make the wrong decisions for his nephew Jesse and afraid that he wouldn’t be able to bond with him. Phoenix’s chemistry with Norman is entirely believable and organic, and I think Phoenix deserves credit for the feat that was achieved. Whilst I was also hoping that Andrew Garfield would win the Oscar it would have been nice for Phoenix to have gained recognition for this role. SH

 

Supporting Actor:

Another Licorice Pizza performance, another snub. It’s already been a fine year for Bradley Cooper, performing well in Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, however I feel his standout contribution came in P.T Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, as Barbra Streisand’s tempestuous husband Jon Peters. The great thing about his performance is that his character’s inclusion in the film really isn’t necessary. However, his impact reverberates through the narrative after his initial appearance. In a very limited amount of screen time, Cooper is able to leave an enormous impression, in one moment seething with unlimited rage, in the next going for audacious pick-up attempts. I wouldn’t have taken any issue had Cooper been nominated over Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog, as he provided a standout performance in a film full of them. MR

Justice for Mike Faist! He was my favourite part of the new West Side Story, and he’s been snubbed from most of the awards this year. Mike Faist as Riff is the perfect casting. He perfectly captures the essence of a broken man who wants to appear strong. Riff is scarred and in moments of weakness, his childish nature shines through because he’s terrified of everything around him – whether that is of himself and the realisation that he’s going to die young due to his recklessness, or how society seems to be moving on without a place for him. A terrific singer and dancer and one hell of an actor, I am most upset over Faist’s snub. Once again, he had to pretend that he was best friends with Ansel Elgort, and that deserves some form of nomination in itself. I get that The Power of the Dog was good, but two nominations for one film seems like a lot when Faist was so clearly deserving of a nomination. I’m not sure who I would replace out of the two nominations, but can we have a moment of silence for Mike Faist? SH

 

Writing (Original Screenplay):

It was a shame not to see Red Rocket up for any Oscar nominations. I was blown away by the performances, however they would not have worked half as well without the excellent screenplay from director Sean Baker and frequent collaborator Chris Bergoch. The writing is brilliant, giving space for the actors to really delve into the roles and deftly incorporating the Deep South setting to lend the film a very grounded and regional feel. Red Rocket often feels like a hang-out movie, due to its almost constant attachment to the main character Mikey and his day-to-day life, but it never meanders. Red Rocket always finds new ways to surprise in excruciating and hilarious ways, thanks to its excellent script. MR

The French Dispatch was snubbed in pretty much every regard, but the fact that it didn’t even receive an Original Screenplay nomination when the trash that is Don’t Look Up did is beyond me. I loved the different stories in The French Dispatch and it honestly transported me to a different world, as all of Wes Anderson’s beautiful creations do. The characters were memorable, the writing was witty, and it was Wes Anderson on peak form. Is it his best screenplay? No, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of a nomination – it was still an absolutely fantastic watch. It was the only film I saw last year which made me cry, not because it was sad, but because I just had a lovely time, and I didn’t want it to end. Justice for Wes Anderson this awards season! I feel like The French Dispatch was forgotten so quickly, perhaps because it’s so comically Wes Anderson that it’s almost a caricature in itself, but personally this is my Original Screenplay winner. SH

 

Best Adapted Screenplay: 

Steven Levenson’s screenplay adaptation of the late Jonathan Larson musical of the same name, Tick, Tick… Boom! is a fantastically realised dive into the world of musical theatre, told cleverly through the semi-autobiographical story of Larson himself. There is a real sense of inspiration imbued within every line of the script, with Andrew Garfield brilliantly fulfilling the role of the hopeful protagonist. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Levenson manage to craft an expertly-told tale, all the while incorporating some stand-out musical numbers: a particular favourite was the “Sunday” sequence set in the Moondance Diner, which contains what is essentially a who’s who of Broadway. The writing masterfully presents Larson’s imaginative stream of consciousness through its combination of well-told drama and excellent musical performances. Tick, Tick…Boom! would undoubtedly have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, if not for the host of unusually strong competitors. MR

I can acknowledge that In The Heights wasn’t even the best musical of 2021 to hit the big screen. But I was still shocked that it didn’t receive a single nomination this year. Quiara Alegría Hudes did a fantastic job of adapting Lin-Manuel Miranda’s source material. It can be extremely challenging to cut songs and adapt a performance that breaks the fourth wall so much to fit a film, but Hudes managed to make it work. I’m still mad that ‘Everything I Know’ was cut from the film because Abuela was such a standout character in the musical, and in the film she feels more like an afterthought, but I still think that this was an ambitious project that did a great job. I haven’t seen either CODA or The Lost Daughter to judge them, so I’m once again unsure of what I would remove for In The Heights to receive a nomination. Honestly, even if it didn’t get an adapted screenplay nomination, I would’ve been happy to see Anthony Ramos get a nomination for his role as Usnavi. SH

 

Best Music (Original Song): 

Whenever I mention ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ to people, they are also baffled that this wasn’t the Encanto song that Disney put forward for consideration. I see what Disney did, they picked ‘Dos Orutuitas’ to try and win another Pixar’s Coco (2017)  ‘Remember Me’ Oscar. But this was just entirely the wrong choice. I’d have been happy with either ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ or ‘Surface Pressure’ receiving nominations, and Disney missed the bar with both by ignoring them. I feel like Disney messed up Encanto’s marketing expectations in general to be honest, because they didn’t expect Luisa and Bruno to be so popular. Turns out, kids wanted more of the muscle lady and the rat man. The fact they didn’t put ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ forward is absurd, especially considering that it showcases what Lin Manuel-Miranda does best – layering vocals and having the entire ensemble sing together with witty wordplay. I’m not entirely sure what focus groups Disney used for Encanto, but next time, try not to mess up this badly. ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ dominated social media for a reason – because it’s so ridiculously catchy and more than worthy of an Oscar win over the mediocre ‘No Time to Die’. SH

 

Best Original Score:

Another baffling Wes Anderson-related omission from the Oscars was the glaring Alexandre Desplat-sized hole in their nominations for Best Original Score. Desplat concocts yet another delightful collection of melodies, perfectly fitting the idyllic visuals of small town France. Desplat has been a fixture in Anderson’s films since his first contribution in the 2009 classic Fantastic Mr Fox, also winning Best Original Score for his work on The Grand Budapest Hotel. He continues this great form here, delivering jazz-influenced, piano-heavy compositions which feel as meticulously constructed as the film it accompanies. How the uninspired score for Don’t Look Up was picked over Desplat’s excellent, highly unique offering, I guess we’ll never know. MR


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