Every year, the Academy Award nominations come out and people look for snubs, forget the overall body of nominees, and spend the day pouting. I should know. I've done it most years. But I won't do that tonight.
Sure, I am disappointed that Adam Sandler and the Safdie Brothers didn't get recognized for their unique jewel, "Uncut Gems." I am displeased that the Academy once again left out female directors in a year where many were deserving.
I am not just talking about the Prom Queen, Greta Gerwig. What about Melina Matsoukas for "Queen and Slim" or Lorene Scafaria for "Hustlers?" Then again, there wasn't a female director in my top five directing picks for the year. It wasn't a rebellion against female filmmakers; just a critic picking the ones that hit him the hardest.
While it's fun to locate the snubbed party and complain about the injustice of a performer being left out, in the end, the talent selected should still be appreciated. In a perfect world, the voting body that decides the Oscar nominations would be split right down the middle, male and female -- but that's not how it is, and I can't change that.
There are many talented writers out there making a case for Gerwig for her re-imaging of "Little Women" and Jennifer Kent for her brutally original take on revenge, "The Nightingale." Solid cases can be made for each, but so can for the ones selected in Sam Mendes' "1917" and Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood." It's a see-saw battle, a never-ending one that gets tiring. People threaten not to watch the show, quietly watch it in social media silence, and applaud here and there.
2019 was a strong year for film. A very strong one. A year where my top ten list shape-shifted more than a Major League Baseball team General Manager's comments after being caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
The top 20 I configured went through remakes, reboots, and a few revisions. I'm probably the only critic in America who didn't have "Parasite," "Knives Out," and "Little Women" not in his top 15 films. Sorry, not sorry. All three films were solid experiences, but couldn't even sit in the same room as "The Peanut Butter Falcon."
That's film for you. Everybody sees a piece of art differently, the reflection catching each set of eyes at an adjusted angle. It was an invigorating year at the movies.
Here's what I loved seeing when I kicked my legs out of bed on Monday morning. I love that Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce got into the Best Actor category. Both first time nominees who indeed gave the performance of a lifetime. Banderas playing an old school director having to stare down the barrel of his storied past when a lifetime achievement upsets his comfortable retirement. Pryce portraying Fernando Meirelles and Anthony McCarten's take on Pope Francis, a reformer who challenged the historic methods of the church. Due to Pryce's interpretation, I now pronounce oregano as "O-REEE-GANO!" It's the priceless gifts you get at the movies that nothing else in life, sports included, can provide inside two hours.
Far too many are forgetting the awards circuit dominance from Hildur Guonadottir, whose score for Todd Phillips' "Joker" perfectly drenched the film in a dreary yet gleeful haze for a couple of hours. Without her music, the film drops a full notch for me. Similarly, without Thelma Schoonmaker's editing, Martin Scorsese doesn't have a Best Picture finalist in Netfix's "The Irishman." Without Barbara Ling's production design, Tarantino's awards darling doesn't collect double-digits in nominations.
Speaking of Q.T., Arianne Phillips' costumes made that '69 time warp so seamless. Far too often in their snub complaints, people forget about the key role players behind the scenes making film's look gorgeously authentic and carrying the right fearful sound.
I'll take a knee and salute Phillips, who picked up the biggest bat in town and swung it as hard as he could with "Joker." You don't touch this material without carrying a mile's worth of confidence and ingenuity. Phillips stuck to his guns, made his movie, and released a film that grossed over a billion dollars and collect the most Academy Awards. That's a home run with a giant bat flip and epic plate stomp. Before this film, he was the comedy director who gave audiences "The Hangover" and helped create Frank The Tank. Now, he's the guy who found a way to make DC's Clown of crime seem like fresh chaos instead of yesterday's news. Cheers to him.
I'll give Scarlett Johansson a standing ovation while I am at it. She's been good for a long time, putting in the work and the rules to build a career equally prepped for drama or action. But in 2019, playing two women whose superpower didn't come with a gun yet were still made out of stone, Johansson took a victory lap. A quietly rebellious yet potent mother in a time of war. A mother who decides to take her own life back. Both organic builds with unique tempos.
What about Renee Zellweger capturing Judy Garland's endless supply of tenacity in such a beautiful and heartbreaking way? Saoirse Ronan claiming her fourth Oscar nomination before the age of 26? Instead of wondering which women weren't nominated, I'll celebrate the ones who were. Don't forget that three of the song nominees are sung by women.
Yes, I'll be voting for Missouri boy Brad Pitt to take home the award for a role of a lifetime in Cliff Booth and give a solid speech as well. Along with cementing Pitt's effortless career-enhancing streak of work, the role enlivened the family of stunt performers and their brilliant work. Without stuntmen and stuntwomen, the films drop a couple of pegs, becoming less magical in an instant.
You may not know this about me, but I don't go into a film having to know whether a man or woman directed the movie. I don't care. Sitting down and being given something special and affecting is a paramount virtue that can't be matched by the dummy manner of interpreting a certain sex's vision before the lights go out. I just want to be entertained. The less I know, the more sneaky a movie can be.
Last year, a lot of films got sneaky and walloped me without my knowledge beforehand. When I left "The Two Popes," I was thinking about the riveting nature of religion and its interpretations. As I left "Ford V. Ferrari," I wanted to get out on the road and listen to my car become "weightless." You don't need labels when the movie is well made.
So I won't complain too much about the nominations. I'll embrace the 22 nominations that Netflix received. Perhaps, in a couple of weeks, the rage will have rebuilt itself and taken over. Maybe I just loved what 2019 had to offer in film. For once, I didn't feel the need to always stay home and watch a television show. I needed to see a movie somewhere. I saw many films more than twice.
As the Oscars sit less than a month ahead, I'll reflect back on a year where movies were KING.