** SPOILERS AHEAD **
The 2020 Academy Awards took place on Sun., Feb. 9. While the Academy gave many well-deserved wins, there were several performers nominated who I believe should have won in their respective categories.
Disclaimer: I have not seen all of the films or performances nominated.
Ford v. Ferrari
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
Parasite – WINNER & MY PICK
Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is undeniably a masterpiece. The first South Korean film to win this Oscar category, Parasite addresses classism and wealth inequality through morally ambiguous characters, developing what initially seems like a predictable plot into a highly suspenseful storyline. The film refuses to be confined to one genre, simultaneously functioning as a comedy, drama and thriller. While I connected more personally with Noah Baumbach’s examination of the intricacies of divorce in Marriage Story and the comedic genius of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit cannot be understated, the fact is that Parasite remains the most masterful work nominated in this category. The cast and crew have rightfully earned their place in history as members of the first foreign film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story) – MY PICK
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) – WINNER
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)
Adam Driver’s performance in Marriage Story is honest, beautiful and heartbreaking. As he traverses the waters of divorce while attempting to maintain a relationship with his son Henry, Driver’s character Charlie Barber illustrates the film’s theme of performance, drawing a stark contrast between his independent behavior and his behavior when navigating the court system. When he yells in anger at his soon-to-be ex-wife Nicole, the viewer hears the anguish and lingering affection underlying his screams; when he takes his son trick-or-treating on Sunset Boulevard after he’s already been with his mother, the viewer feels Charlie’s disappointment and desperation for his son’s approval despite his face being obscured by his “Invisible Man” costume; and at the conclusion of the film, when he sings Sondheim’s “Being Alive,” from Company, the viewer reminisces about what Charlie has lost alongside him. Although Joaquin Phoenix’s iteration of the Joker was certainly impressive, it did not seem particularly unique. Rather, it was highly similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker without the malice that Ledger so clearly conveyed, and with more cringe-inducing tendencies. Driver’s portrayal of Charlie Barber is incredibly genuine, a characteristic of nearly all of his performances, and his work in Marriage Story surpasses his prior roles and the others nominated in this category.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) – MY PICK
Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)
Al Pacino (The Irishman)
Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) – WINNER
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a perfectly fine movie. That being said, I believe it is remarkably overrated. The story is interesting enough and the acting, including Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, is perfectly believable, but I found nothing about the film or Pitt’s performance particularly moving or impressive. Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Fred Rogers, however, was both accurate and emotional, providing the viewer with an insight into the television personality’s peaceful demeanor off-screen. Hanks was the perfect casting choice for this role, capturing the almost other-worldly, calming and sensitive nature of Mr. Rogers.
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story) – WINNER
Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit) – MY PICK
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)
Laura Dern’s performance as a successful, manipulative divorce attorney is certainly one of the highlights of Marriage Story, and her portrayal of the high-heeled Nora Fanshaw is very well-crafted. However, the character lacks the depth of Scarlett Johansson’s Rosie Betsler, the playful, yet passionate mother who shelters a young Jewish girl druring the Holocaust. Rosie is at once a caring parent and an activist for peace. Johansson maintains the strength of her character while also conveying the vulnerability of a single mother vying to convince her Nazi-brainwashed son of his misguidedness. As the eventual martyr of the film, Johansson generates enough sympathy over the course of the story to elicit a highly emotional response from viewers upon her eventual death, an effect that Dern is unable to secure.