Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Performances That Deserved Oscar Nominations, from Margot Robbie to Leonardo DiCaprio to Penelope Cruz, Fantasia


It’s been a day of digesting the Oscar nominations in a very competitive year.

If only there were eight slots in each acting category! That would make this all so much easier.

And if only the SAG nominations or anything else were an actual sign of what Academy voters were thinking. With these Oscars you can throw out the playbook!

Three actresses I’d have liked to see in the Best Category: Penelope Cruz, Fantasia, Margot Robbie. How could they not have made it? Cruz’s performance in “Ferrari” is like its own opera. She’s amazing. Fantasia is incredibly moving as Celie, singing out her heart in “The Color Purple.”

And then there’s Margot Robbie. There’s no other actress as hard working and consistently good. She made “Barbie” the movie happen, then created the character. She was also outstanding in the second “Suicide Squad” movie. In “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” she gave light to a dark film.

Another big miss: Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Ernest as Leo played him is a befuddled character, torn between loving his family and being loyal to his uncle. I still think this one of Leo’s three best acting jobs ever, just a shade behind “Wolf of Wall Street.” But Academy voters may see him apart from regular actors at this point. He’s sort of a Special Case who has his Oscar, millions of dollars, gorgeous girlfriends, and a life of fantasy.

The other glaring omission, that I can’t explain, is Greta Gerwig for Best Director. She had a singular vision for “Barbie” and executed it like a 5 star chef. “Barbie” is a complete movie from top to bottom. The Directors Guild got that, they included her without fail. So what happened? Justine Triet’s surprise nomination, I think, owes more to the international additions to the Academy. They really embraced “Anatomy of a Fall,” despite France not choosing it as their official selection.

There are some proper choices, too. Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” got a lot of nods, with good reason. “Maestro” isn’t perfect — too much about the love life. But those performances by Cooper and Carey Mulligan are soaring. Like “Barbie,” this is a singular vision and you can feel it. If there were a 7th slot for directing, Cooper would have had it.

Of course, in directing, you always run into this problem. Five slots and at least two marquee names are a given — Scorsese and Nolan. So that limits the field. And Yorgos Lanthimos — he was a given this year because “Poor Things” is an off the wall creation. (I loved it.) That leaves two spots. The one I don’t get is Jonathan Glazer. I found “Zone of Interest” a monotonous dead end. Cooper or Alexander Payne would have been my choices.

Sidebar: congrats to Annette Bening. Her portrayal of Diana Nyad is exceptional. She’s never won an Oscar. Boy, does she deserve it!

Still, all the films that were launched in a timely fashion got something. Some studios should learn a lesson — if you wait until mid November, nothing will happen. We who write about these things sit and scratch our heads when by Halloween the buzz isn’t there for a film we saw in September and liked. How many times did we say “What happened to Origin?” for example. By that point, it’s just too late.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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