Academy of One: All Categories 2019

I've been doing a series of posts for a few years now where I reimagine the Academy Awards to my liking. I called it Academy of One. It emerged from the backlash of #OscarsSoWhite and my own desires to highlight incredible performances or films that I had seen throughout that year and in years gone by. I attacked this project with verve and pluck, but last year and the year before is when my righteous indignation ran out of steam. The Oscars and the Academy will not change. It will not get better and the body as a whole will continue to be a disappointing spectacle that I've now come to dread as most of the awards come Oscar night are little more than a foregone conclusion.


Plus, my integrity dictated that I see all of the nominees in the major categories despite the fact that they didn't appeal to me as films. That's really the worst part. If I didn't have this code I would have never seen the likes of Green Book, Elle, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Hateful Eight, or Albert Nobbs and I would be all the better for it. It's exhausting trying to fit it all in and express exuberance about coming up with "real" reasons to remove something off its perch other than I don't think it's as good as something else.


So, this year, before the awards are even handed out for real and my malaise is cemented. I'm just going to give my dream list of nominees and winners for each category. The original nominees will be a template, of course, but I will have 10 Best Picture nominees as allowed by the Academy rules, 10 Best Director Nominees, (because seriously, what is a film without its director?), 7 nominees in each acting category and I will be eliminating any nominee from a film I didn't see. I'm not going to do the bloated posts for each category like I did before, either. These changes will have little to no explanation of why I'll be making them. Just assume these removals come with a blanket answer of, "there's a performance/a film I like a hell of a lot better."


As this is the last time I'll be doing this particular kind of post, I don't feel bad about breaking my own rules. It's liberating actually to just heap praise on films and performances I love. So, here is the last gasp of Academy of One.


If you just can't read this, but are curious at my winners, there is a bolded section at the end for the winners of each category.


Best Picture

Original Nominees:

  • Ford v. Ferrari

  • The Irishman

  • Jojo Rabbit

  • Joker

  • Little Women

  • Marriage Story

  • 1917

  • Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

  • Parasite

Removals: These movies are fine. They have interesting moments, great technical achievements, but they give me no joy. Especially as Joker is not anything, but a derivative, dangerous cash grab of an "art house," "comic book" movie.

  • Jojo Rabbit

  • Joker

  • Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Additions: So many that could be added, but these four are the strongest.

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • The Farewell

  • Hustlers

  • Knives Out

My Nominees:

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • The Farewell

  • Ford v. Ferrari

  • Hustlers

  • The Irishman

  • Knives Out

  • Little Women

  • Marriage Story

  • 1917

  • Parasite

Winner: After removing my least favorite two and eye roll of a third, it was actually a difficult decision. There are bona fide masterpieces of cinema on this list and several that represent a new wave of talent that is experimenting and building brilliant, personal worlds all their own. Yet, the film that stuck with me, the only film I've seen twice in a theater in a very long time, is Parasite. Its brilliance is in its : and effortless storytelling. Parasite straps the viewer in and we are along for every bump and bruise along the way because it is too incredible to look away.


Best Actor

Original Nominees:

  • Antonio Banderas - Pain and Glory

  • Leonardo DiCaprio - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

  • Adam Driver - Marriage Story

  • Joaquin Phoenix - Joker

  • Jonathan Pryce - The Two Popes

Removals: I still haven't seen Pain and Glory! Sorry Antonio! As for Pryce, his Spanish lines needing to be dubbed was a big, "WHY DIDN'T YOU HIRE A SPANISH SPEAKING SOUTH AMERICAN/ARGENTINE ACTOR FOR THIS ROLE?" moment, so no thank you.

  • Antonio Banderas - Pain and Glory

  • Jonathan Pryce - The Two Popes

Additions: There were so many great performances this year that they really should expand the nominee pool at the actual awards to get more great people the praise they deserve. These four are just a taste of my faves this year. You know I couldn't forget my absolute fave Daniel Kaluuya, though.

  • Robert De Niro - The Irishman

  • Kelvin Harrison, Jr. - Luce

  • Daniel Kaluuya - Queen and Slim

  • George MacKay - 1917

My Nominees:

  • Robert De Niro - The Irishman

  • Leonardo DiCaprio - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

  • Adam Driver - Marriage Story

  • Kelvin Harrison, Jr. - Luce

  • Daniel Kaluuya - Queen and Slim

  • George MacKay - 1917

  • Joaquin Phoenix - Joker

Winner: This category was tough, too. You seriously can't unsee Joaquin Phoenix's performance as it's so visceral and strange and I love, love, love Leonardo DiCaprio in that all out, bonkers, fabulous performance, but I can't pick either of them for the best performance of the year. For me it has to be Adam Driver. Driver is at his absolute best in Marriage Story. He's funny, charming, sadistic, angry, and deeply, deeply heartbreaking. Adam Driver is one of the best actors around and this performance is the peak of his career so far. Just fabulous.


Best Supporting Actor

Original Nominees:

  • Tom Hanks - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • Anthony Hopkins - The Two Popes

  • Al Pacino - The Irishman

  • Joe Pesci - The Irishman

  • Brad Pitt - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Removals: *SIGH* This is the one that's going to get me the most guff, but yeah, I wasn't charmed in the slightest by Brad Pitt slouching on screen into "cool guy" mode. Awesome bod, ho hum performance. I like Joe Pesci a lot and he gives a great performance, but maybe I just miss the firecracker of youth when I see this slow burn of age.

  • Joe Pesci - The Irishman

  • Brad Pitt - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Additions: Again, a bevy of great performances to choose from.

  • Sterling K. Brown - Waves

  • Willem Dafoe - The Lighthouse

  • Jonathan Majors - The Last Black Man in San Francisco

  • Song Kang-ho - Parasite

My Nominees:

  • Sterling K. Brown - Waves

  • Willem Dafoe - The Lighthouse

  • Tom Hanks - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • Anthony Hopkins - The Two Popes

  • Jonathan Majors - The Last Black Man in San Francisco

  • Al Pacino - The Irishman

  • Song Kang-ho - Parasite

Winner: This is always a hard category for me. Here it's even harder as Al Pacino has his best performance in at least a decade, Tom Hanks made me weep and wish he could reach out of the screen to hold me, Anthony Hopkins continues to just be so solid, and Willem Dafoe gives the greatest blustery speech that's really about needing validation ever put to screen. Yet, there's only one that stands above all others. Song Kang-ho is the best actor in this race. He give so much brilliance to the character. We see his highs and lows in equal measure and he gives so much in just a smile or a blink. It's so spectacular a performance and one that stays with you long after.


Best Actress

Original Nominees:

  • Cynthia Erivo - Harriet

  • Scarlett Johansson - Marriage Story

  • Saoirse Ronan - Little Women

  • Charlize Theron - Bombshell

  • Renee Zellweger - Judy

Removals: Never saw Bombshell, never plan to see it. Sorry Charlize.

  • Charlize Theron - Bombshell

Additions: I should have written, "7 acting nominees, except in best actress." There were an incredible amount of performances this year and I just want to say before I go to the real list, see Booksmart, Clemency and The Nightengale for incredible female led performances. Also, if Scarjo gets two, FloPugh, gets two, too.

  • Awkwafina - The Farewell

  • Lupita Nyong'o - Us

  • Florence Pugh - Midsommar

My Nominees:

  • Awkwafina - The Farewell

  • Cynthia Erivo - Harriet

  • Scarlett Johansson - Marriage Story

  • Lupita Nyong'o - Us

  • Florence Pugh - Midsommar

  • Saoirse Ronan - Little Women

  • Renee Zellweger - Judy

Winner: I want to give Marriage Story the pair. It would be something the couple could compromise on, but my horror women are just too good. I would, in a year without the winning performance, handily award Florence Pugh this title because she goes incredible places in Midsommar, but Lupita Nyong'o is perfect. She plays dual roles with an incredible amount of skill and precision. The detail and nuance she's able to conjure is the kind of alchemy you always hope for in any performance in a film like Us, but she proves that it takes a rare and beautiful talent to pull it off. I will write it again, Lupita Nyong'o is perfect in Us.


Best Supporting Actress

Original Nominees:

  • Kathy Bates - Richard Jewell

  • Laura Dern - Marriage Story

  • Scarlett Johansson - Jojo Rabbit

  • Florence Pugh - Little Women

  • Margot Robbie - Bombshell

Removals: Another couple of did not, will not removals. Sorry Kathy and Margot. I would have likely still removed Margot Robbie for Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, though, if that was her nomination because that is a nothing part.

  • Kathy Bates - Richard Jewell

  • Margot Robbie - Bombshell

Additions: My list was absolute concrete at these four names. I've been circling these since the nominations came out. Though, all of the women of Parasite could easily be this list of nominees.

  • Jennifer Lopez - Hustlers

  • Park So-dam - Parasite

  • Octavia Spencer - Luce

  • Zhao Shuzhen - The Farewell

My Nominees:

  • Laura Dern - Marriage Story

  • Jennifer Lopez - Hustlers

  • Scarlett Johansson - Jojo Rabbit

  • Park So-dam - Parasite

  • Florence Pugh - Little Women

  • Octavia Spencer - Luce

  • Zhao Shuzhen - The Farewell

Winner: All of these women are incredible. They break your heart, they make you pay for your ignorance, and they are willing to grow and change as they accept hard truths. Yet, for someone to play a young tween/teenager all the way to a 20-something convincingly is a feat I never thought possible. That is until I saw Florence Pugh in Little Women. She's so good at finding those little movements or vocal patterns, she's so believable at each stage, and she's just a fascinating portrait of a character who grows into someone entirely other from first scene to last.


Best Director

Original Nominees:

  • Martin Scorsese - The Irishman

  • Todd Phillips - Joker

  • Sam Mendes - 1917

  • Quentin Tarantino - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

  • Bong Joon-ho - Parasite

Removals: I'm very much a traditionalist when it comes to Best Picture and Best Director, so if it wasn't on the Best Picture list, the director's not making this list, so that goes for films I remove as well. I would like to note that despite my feelings about Joker as a whole, I would be, and always will be removing Todd Phillips from any list that has "best" in the title because he blatantly copied the stories of two of the films of another directer on this list to create Joker. He's a hack.

  • Todd Phillips - Joker

  • Quentin Tarantino - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Additions: Welcome to the party, ladies! (And the those loveable gents, too!)

  • Marielle Heller - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • Lulu Wang - The Farewell

  • James Mangold - Ford v. Ferrari

  • Lorene Scafaria - Hustlers

  • Rian Johnson - Knives Out

  • Greta Gerwig - Little Women

  • Noah Baumbach - Marriage Story

My Nominees:

  • Marielle Heller - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  • Lulu Wang - The Farewell

  • James Mangold - Ford v. Ferrari

  • Lorene Scafaria - Hustlers

  • Martin Scorsese - The Irishman

  • Rian Johnson - Knives Out

  • Greta Gerwig - Little Women

  • Noah Baumbach - Marriage Story

  • Sam Mendes - 1917

  • Bong Joon-ho - Parasite

Winner: We can cut to the chase here. I never separate Picture from Director. Bong Joon-ho is absolutely the best director of this year. He put together an incredible masterpiece that's not only timely and relevant, but universal and thrilling. He packed more genres into this film than I can count and it never suffers from an indulgence that isn't earned. From first frame to last, Bong Joon-ho has made something to behold.


This brings us to the end. It wasn't that hard to find women who did a spectacular job at directing this year or people of color who are stellar at their craft. Why is it so hard for the Academy to do this every year? Oh yeah, they're overwhelmingly old, white, straight, men who are out of touch. I look forward to what the future holds for the Academy as they enter another year of misguided changes in format, exclusive member entry, and shortsightedness about the greatness that is out there on the great big, glowing rectangles of the cinema. I won't think about them much anymore. I'm just going to enjoy my time in the dark with what I think is worth seeing, not what a voting body decides is the best.


Recap:


Best Picture: Parasite

Best Actor: Adam Driver - Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actor: Song Kang-ho - Parasite

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong'o - Us

Best Supporting Actress: Florence Pugh - Little Women

Best Director: Bong Joon-ho - Parasite

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