Culture Trips

Comfort food: the Oscars nominations are not nearly as radical as they think they are | Film

As ever when the Oscar nominations are announced, there is a sense of mystery about the industry’s revealed groupthink, that consensus which is unveiled as solemnly as the half-time score at the Super Bowl. This is an interesting and lively Oscar nomination list, but is there something a bit retrograde and nostalgic about the frontrunner – however brilliant it assuredly is? Will the 2021 Oscars reflect modern America and contemporary issues in the way increasingly demanded of awards ceremonies? I’m not sure.

David Fincher’s Mank is a gorgeously rendered monochrome fantasy about the genesis of Orson Welles’s classic 1941 movie Citizen Kane, and the role played by its co-writer Herman Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman; it is now the frontrunner, surging ahead with 10 nominations, notably in front of Chloé Zhao’s stunning docu-fictional road movie Nomadland, Sound of Metal, with Riz Ahmed as the drummer losing his hearing, Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah, about the FBI’s killing of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, the dementia drama The Father, with a heartwrenching performance from Anthony Hopkins, Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, an exceptional tale of Korean immigrant farmers in Reagan’s America, and Aaron Sorkin’s egregious liberal-patriot drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 – all with six.

But as for Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, her wonderful and resonant tale of the old west and one of the very best American films of the year – zilch. Or how about Kitty Green’s stunning sexual politics drama The Assistant? No movie could possibly have confronted with more ferocity and candour the issue of Weinsteinian abuse — something that so recently was convulsing the entire industry. But no nominations there. Those films were comprehensively bested by efforts like News of the World, a very moderate, stolidly unexciting western starring Tom Hanks (with four nominations) or indeed Ron Howard’s ropey and muddled family drama Hillbilly Elegy (with two nominations, including one for Glenn Close for best supporting actress, in the borderline absurd role of the frizzy-haired backwoods grandma.)

In fact, it seems that this Oscar nomination list is frankly not especially strong on feminist issues, despite a respectable two out of the five best director nominees being women: Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell, for her fierce and brilliant rape-revenge satire Promising Young Woman, which clocks up a solid five nominations, including a best actress nod for Carey Mulligan (who was overlooked in this category by the Baftas).

Well, David Fincher’s Mank is a brilliant and bold dive backwards into movie myth, audaciously – and provocatively – creating a lucid dream about one of the greatest films of Hollywood’s golden age. And as ever with anything to do with Welles, it has elicited strong and rather proprietorial reactions from critics and Wellesians, both for and against. I found it an entirely fascinating reverie, although the Academy tends to love movies about its own industry – and maybe embraced it as a kind of comfort food. There is a strong role for Gary Oldman as the hardbitten Herman “Mank” Mankiewicz who is reimagined as a wised-up Bogartian cynic, with everything but a trenchcoat and a gun.

The theatrically conceived Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom gets five nominations, including a best actress nod for Viola Davis as the legendary blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and a posthumous best actor nomination for the late Chadwick Boseman, playing her mercurial trumpeter. These are wonderful performances, though my guess is that Anthony Hopkins’s emotionally devastating performance as the old man with dementia will sweep everything else away on the night. The other big acting performances have to be Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, each up for best supporting actor in Judas and the Black Messiah, as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and William O’Neal, the Panthers’ security chief who betrayed him to the FBI. It’s a pity they can’t jointly win.





Yuh-jung Youn in Minari.



Best supporting actress nomination … Youn Yuh-jung in Minari. Photograph: Courtesy of A24/AP

It’s great to see Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari emerge as such a formidable contender, a family drama brilliantly reinventing and reinvigorating the classic theme of incomers chasing the American dream. Veteran Korean star Youn Yuh-jung has a thoroughly deserved best supporting actress nomination as the peppery and outspoken grandmother.

Finally, there is Sacha Baron Cohen’s mighty Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the new adventures of the hapless ex-Soviet bloc reporter, which has two nominations, including a best supporting actress nod for the newcomer Maria Bakalova as Borat’s innocent daughter. She may not defeat Olivia Colman, Glenn Close, Amanda Seyfried and Youn Yuh-jung. But her amazing prank on Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani may have helped change the course of American history.

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *