Monday, June 22, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actor 2017

The Contenders:

Timothee Chalamet: Call Me by Your Name
Gary Oldman: Darkest Hour (winner)
Daniel Kaluuya: Get Out
Daniel Day-Lewis: Phantom Thread
Denzel Washington: Roman J. Israel, Esq.

What’s Missing

I’m always a little leery of doing Oscar posts for more recent years because I always feel like I’m behind on the more recent years. Then I realize that there’s a ton I haven’t seen from every year, so I decide it doesn’t matter. For Best Actor 2017, I’m loathe to bring up Casey Affleck in A Ghost Story. This isn’t because Affleck has turned out to be a terrible human being, but because he plays the role under a sheet and because it’s clearly Rooney Mara’s film. When it comes to Channing Tatum in Logan Lucky, it’s more about the ensemble nature of the cast. Battle of the Sexes could have been better, but Steve Carell is very good in it. The fact that comedies don’t get traction (and the ensemble cast) probably conspired against Steve Buscemi in The Death of Stalin, and it shocks me to say that Buscemi has never been nominated for an Oscar in his career. The Wife is all about Glenn Close’s performance, but Jonathan Pryce (perhaps supporting?) plays perfectly off of her. Joaquin Phoenix feels overlooked for You Were Never Really Here. I think we could talk about either of the Franco brothers in The Disaster Artist, but especially James Franco. As for genuine, surprising snubs, I think most people were shocked that Ethan Hawke walked away empty handed for First Reformed. Oscar’s continued problem with race accounts for the lack of nomination for Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick. Finally, it was evidently a year too early for nominations in serious categories for superhero films. This means Tom Holland was overlooked in Spider-Man: Homecoming (as was Michael Keaton in a supporting role). It also means no nomination for Hugh Jackman in Logan, which is only slightly less appalling than the fact that Patrick Stewart was overlooked in a supporting role in the same film.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I hated Call Me By Your Name so much specifically because of a reason that a lot of people liked it. My complaint about it is that if you change the gender of the Timothee Chalamet character, everyone would be up in arms about the film more or less glorifying a relationship that involves grooming at best and is abusive at worst. You can’t tell me that if this were a heterosexual relationship between a man in his twenties and a girl of 17 that people wouldn’t have been creeped out by it, and so it goes in the “why nominate it?” pile.

4. I tend to like Denzel Washington, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a very unusual role for him. I appreciate that he was able to do it well and believably when it feels very much out of the wheelhouse of his normal role. It’s one of those movies that feels like a one-trick pony, though, the sort of a movie it’s worth seeing once but not worth seeing a second time. Washington is the best part of the movie, but since the movie doesn’t really have a great deal to say, that’s not saying a whole lot. I expect more from my nominations.

3. Daniel Day-Lewis getting a nomination for Phantom Thread was a virtual guarantee. He announced that it would be the last role in his storied career, so unless he sleepwalked through the role, there was no way he wasn’t going to appear here. Of course he did more than just walk through the role; this is Daniel Day-Lewis that we’re talking about. It’s also almost certainly the case that he needed to do a lot more to win a fourth Oscar. In truth, I get the nomination, but I wouldn’t have nominated the performance (since it was Lesley Manville’s movie in many ways).

2. I’m going to say a couple of things about Gary Oldman’s win for Darkest Hour. The first is that Oldman has turned in great performance after great performance in his career, and he was absolutely due for a win. The second is that because that is true and because he won for this film, it’s always going to feel like a career Oscar awarded in a competitive category. Oldman is fine in the role; he almost always is good in what he does. It genuinely feels like it was his turn, though—Day-Lewis and Washington had won before and Kaluuya and Chalamet are young and will be nominated again.

1. Bluntly, when limited to the five nominees, I’m giving this to Daniel Kaluuya because he is the only one of the five nominees I would keep when creating my own list. Oh, you might twist my arm to keep Oldman, but I’m probably not going any further than that. Kaluuya turns in a very good performance here, and I like the fact that he was nominated. I also think it’s likely we’ll be talking about him as an Oscar winner in years to come. Had I been given a vote, he’d have been my choice, but since I can pick whomever I want, he’s still going to be on the list, but not winning.

My Choice

This should have gone to Hugh Jackman. The Academy’s reticence in early 2018 to nominate a performance in a film simply because it was a superhero film is ridiculous, since Logan was certainly not kids’ stuff but a serious drama. It’s a smart movie, and a brutal one, and Jackman, having lived in that character’s skin for so long, had absolutely perfected the role. Both he and Patrick Stewart were robbed not just of nominations but of wins—the revolution of nominating films from this genre in major awards should have not just come a year sooner, it should have paid dividends. His not even being nominated is ridiculous.

Final Analysis


  1. I really think it should've gone to Ethan Hawke while I would have no problem with Daniel Kaluuya or Hugh Jackman winning the Oscar (Jackman for Logan and not for the fucking The Greatest Showman). I would also vouch for Tom Holland as I really loved his performance as Peter Parker while I would do the same for Chris Hemsworth for Thor: Ragnarok. Yet, the one performance I never saw that I want to see is Joaquin Phoenix for You Were Never Really Here.

    1. Hawke is probably my number two, and after Jackman, the biggest snub in my opinion. Phoenix is probably the third biggest snub.

      Chris Hemsworth is a good addition.

    2. Hemsworth is fantastic in Ragnarok.

    3. He is--that's a movie I didn't expect to like as much as I did.

  2. I really didn't care who won this because I didn't think much of any of the performances I saw, I have yet to see Get Out-it just does not look like my kind of movie.

    I was bored to sobs with Darkest Hour and it is the sort of film I usually love. But it was ponderous and Oldman, an actor I admire let the makeup do the acting for him.

    I had heard such effusive praise for Call Me By Your Name that I went in with tempered expectations. I was sure it couldn't possibly live up to all that hype and it didn't. I was left wondering what I'd missed because it left me cold.

    I'm not a big Washington fan in the main though I've warmed to him somewhat lately but this one did nothing for me.

    I really hope that DDL changes his mind. I'd hate to think the sour and dull Phantom Thread is his last role.

    1. Get Out plays like a racially-based Stepford Wives with a liberal splash of Being John Malkovich. It feels much more like thriller than horror to me. It really is worth your time.

      But seriously, this should have been Hugh Jackman's, or Ethan Hawke's.

  3. I thought Hawke gave a fantastic performance in "First Reformed," but the final third of that movie went totally off the rails for me.

    1. I knew you weren't a fan of the third act. Hawke, though, is top of his game, and he really should have been nominated.

  4. For the record, if Hawke were to have gotten the nomination, it would've been in the following year: First Reformed did get a nom for its screenplay, but for the 2018 calendar year. Which kinda makes Hawke's absence an even more egregious snub considering the nominees of 2018.

    I also still haven't seen Logan yet, which is a little sad considering how good I've heard Jackman and Stewart are in it.

    1. You're right about First Reformed, of course. I get very easily confused by such things.

      Track down Logan. It's surprisingly moving for a genre you expect little more from than just an excuse to eat popcorn.

  5. You and I are in in lock-step in our feelings about Call Me By Your Name.

    Of the noms, I'm also with you here. Kaluuya gets my vote. And I actually have seen all the noms this time.

    I'm working on my own awards for 2017 right now and while I can't guarantee that Jackman will get the win, I certain he'll get a nom. Others I'm considering, aside from the actual Oscar nominees:

    Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming
    Robert Pattinson, Good Time
    James Franco, The Disaster Artist
    Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
    Thomas Jane, 1922
    Jeremy Renner, Wind River

    1. Robert Pattinson for Good Time is a great call, and a clear miss on my part. I haven't seen your bottom three mentions.

      Call Me By Your Name appears to be a movie in the right place at the right time for a lot of people. I know a number of people who will intensely dislike a story about a heterosexual couple but will love the same story about a homosexual couple. I can't get myself to judge things that way--Call Me By Your Name is creepy regardless of gender.