The Oscars: Snub? Snob? Both?!

The Oscars are as notorious for snubbing worthy films as they are for nominating the unworthy, reports Andrew Carroll

Find your kingdom. #TheFloridaProject opens this October.

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Brooklyn Prince as Moonee in The Florida Project. Sean Baker’s film is nominated in only one category making it the most surprising and upsetting snub this awards season.

The Oscars have a long and storied history filled with mistakes, missteps and mishaps. Most recently the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been beset by accusations of institutional racism and misogyny. These two forms of discrimination have been written about since at least the 1960s and deservedly so. However, the Oscars has a love-hate relationship with both movie critics and fans. Accusations of irrelevance and snobbery fly thick and fast at this time of year. But the most enduring accusation of all is the Oscar snubs.

Ten years ago in 2008 there was outrage from fans and critics including Ben Child of the Guardian who said “There is simply no other way to explain the absence of The Dark Knight, 2008’s most seen movie, from this year’s best film list.” the fact that both Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was left out of the Best Picture race. In 2008 there were only five spots for Best Picture but after this glaring oversight was put under a media microscope the Academy changed its tune and added five more possible entry spots.

Since then the Academy seems to have gotten over its genre film fear. Diversity in terms of both films and people nominated has improved but 2018’s nominations are a mere stepping stone on the path to proper diversity and equality. The Oscars seem to be stuck between two poles. They have nominated the incredibly stuffy British drama Darkest Hour, a film that received just two BAFTAS. At the other end of the category they have also nominated the visually bright but heartbreakingly romantic LGBTQ drama Call Me By Your Name something that could not be more different from its competition.

Also worth noting is the likelihood that Gary Oldman will win the Oscar for Best Actor leaving his younger competitor Timothée Chalamet at a loss. When we say that someone becomes their character in a film it must be because they fully embody the person that they’re portraying. A fatsuit, hours worth of wax like prosthetics and nicotine poisoning does not make you worthy of an Oscar especially when Oldman is portraying someone as controversial as Churchill.  

“The Academy’s awareness of what’s happening in America on a grass roots level is lacking”

Chalamet’s performance as Elio in Call Me By Your Name requires nothing more than raw emotion and a deep knowledge of why the character feels this way at this moment. Becoming someone else requires no real appearance change as long as you commit to the emotional core of that character which is what Chalamet has done. What makes his snub hurt all the more is that it will probably be because of his youth rather than any real denial of how impactful his performance was in Call Me By Your Name.

The Oscars is a transitionary period in terms of the global film scene. As the 2017 awards season ends, the 2018 awards season begins with the likes of Sundance, Berlinale and the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. Next year’s potential Oscar contenders will all be revealed as the Venice, Cannes and Toronto film festivals begin in summer. Film festivals reveal more than the Oscar contenders however they reveal the Oscar snubs as well. God’s Own Country was praised to the heavens all across Europe as one of the greatest British LGBTQ dramas ever put to screen. The Oscars didn’t even longlist it.

Some films are locked out of the bigger categories by virtue of their lack of success. Whereas Dunkirk can be regarded as one of only a few avant-garde films ever nominated it’s success, both critical and commercial, are also a big reason for its nomination. Blade Runner 2049 a critical darling but commercial flop found itself nominated in only the technical categories with barely a mention of Denis Villeneuve’s masterful direction or Hampton Fancher and Michael Green’s bold, searing screenplay. But the cruellest snub of all is perhaps the most surprising.

The Florida Project topped a great many Top 10 lists around the world. Set in the poverty stricken slums just outside Disneyland in Florida, Sean Baker’s film takes a sympathetic look at those living in motels just miles from the so-called Happiest Place on Earth. Baker shoots the film through the eyes of carefree six-year-old Moonee and her almost as carefree mother Halley. The Florida Project found itself nominated only for Best Supporting Actor for Willem Dafoe’s put-upon but no less empathetic motel manager Bobby.

The Academy is aware of its own failings at this point. Its triple nomination for Jordan Peele, the African-American director of Get Out, is historic as is its nomination for Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison, the first woman to ever receive one for cinematography. The Academy’s awareness of what’s happening in the United States on a grass roots level is lacking however. What else can we expect from a group of incredibly wealthy and privileged people? The Florida Project, beneath its incredible sense of fun and pastel facade, is a glaring indictment of the modern America so many see but refuse to acknowledge. Looking at Trump’s America and The Florida Project side by side it’s clear that no other film feels more relevant. This quiet snub speaks volumes about how much more the Academy has to do if it wants to represent the diversity it clearly wants to be known for.

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