Reactions to the 2021 Oscar Nominations

Biggest Snubs (in order from most to least egregious)

1. First Cow – Adapted Screenplay, Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Production Design
For the first time ever, the New York Film Critics’ Circle pick for Best Film wasn’t nominated for a single Oscar. Like another championed film we’ll get to later, it was a victim of opening (or at least screening) before the pandemic, which may as well have been a thousand years ago. It was a long shot anyway, but I had hoped it would at least get the consolation prize of being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. But alas, Kelly Reichardt will continue to be underrated by mainstream Hollywood.

2. Da 5 Bloods – Actor, Picture, Director
Not sure what more Delroy Lindo could have done. He’s tremendous in a movie that had a Netflix push behind it, and that actors clearly loved (at least judging by its Best Ensemble nomination at the SAG Awards). But I guess they were too busy watching Mank to pay attention and just nominated Gary Oldman (who’s fine, but come on). And considering Spike Lee was nominated and won (in the Adapted Screenplay category) for the inferior Black Klansman, blanking here is baffling.

3. Boys State – Documentary Feature
I had predicted this, but it’s still disappointing. This was one of my favorite films of the year, and it’s timely without being utterly depressing.

4. Time – Film Editing
There should be a documentary in this category every year, but Hoop Dreams remains the only one to pull off a nomination. (The last time I caped this hard for a documentary here was for the massive O.J.: Made in America.) The astonishing mix of new footage and home movies underlines the intensity of the film and the importance of the title in real life. At least it got nominated for Documentary Feature.

5. One Night in Miami… – Picture, Director
It was a long shot for Regina King to pull off the directing nod after only getting the First Time Feature nomination at the DGA Awards. But blanking in Best Picture is really shocking. It’s surprising that there were four major Black-led and directed films competing for Best Picture and the Academy went with the weakest one. (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom also missed in Best Picture.)

6. The Invisible Man – Actress, Sound
I knew it was in trouble when it somehow missed the Visual Effects shortlist, but the film works as well as it does because of Elisabeth Moss’s incredible performance and its tremendous use of sound, particularly in the opening sequence. Almost certainly a victim of opening in February and the sound categories being combined.

7. Tenet – Film Editing, Cinematography
The biggest film of the pandemic era managed just two nods: the expected one for Visual Effects (where it’s the front-runner) and a somewhat surprising one for its excellent Production Design. But how it isn’t leading the way in Film Editing makes zero sense to me. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is also outstanding, no matter how much your mileage may vary on the film itself.

8. Palm Springs – Original Screenplay, Film Editing
I hadn’t expected much, but an original screenplay nomination would have been a pleasant surprise in such a staid category. But a comedy in Film Editing? That’s unheard of.

9. Never Rarely Sometimes Always – Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay
While I think the screenplay is the least stunning part of this incredible film, I thought Eliza Hittman would at least get a consolation nomination. But alas, this was another victim of opening in March. Had it arrived in November, I think it would had a better shot.

10. I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Actress, Film Editing, Production Design, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay
One of Netflix’s prestige projects that got zero traction (even the Christmas bauble Jingle Jangle got some consideration), I’m Thinking of Ending Things is absolutely not for everyone. But even if it doesn’t all make sense, its individual parts are worth celebrating, especially Jessie Buckley’s lead performance. On a technical level, it’s superb.

11. The Assistant – Actress, Original Screenplay
Julia Garner has won two Emmys already (and probably should have a third, for The Americans). I had a tiny hope that could translate into a Best Actress nomination for Kitty Green’s claustrophobic workplace drama. But it was yet another movie that opened at the wrong time.

12. The Vast of Night – Cinematography, Sound
Amazon bought this out of Sundance, but didn’t give it a deserving awards push. It makes the most of its small budget, stunning with its tracking shots and SFX.

13. Possessor – Film Editing, Cinematography, Sound
This never would have happened in a million years, but Brandon Cronenberg’s deeply unsettling sci-fi/horror flick gets under your skin precisely because of its top-notch below-the-line work.

14. The Way Back – Actor
Oh, Ben. Most people are rooting for you, but your movie opened over a year ago, so you were forgotten. Hope you got an extra-large iced coffee today.

15. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm – Original Song
Amazon has nothing to be upset about this morning. It got nods for Maria Bakalova and the film’s screenplay. (That last one is a little baffling, considering how much of the film is improvised.) But I was still hoping its in-your-face, joke’s-on-you number “Wuhan Flu” (actually performed in the film and not merely over the end credits!) would shake up a category that’s almost entirely forgettable, very serious, quasi-inspirational tunes. At least Eurovision Song Contest is there to keep it from being a total drag.

Pleasant Surprises (in no particular order)

Paul Raci nominated for Supporting Actor
After missing some key precursors, I was worried my personal pick for this category would miss. But there was a lot of love for Sound of Metal, which also picked up Best Picture and Original Screenplay nods.

Thomas Vinterberg nominated for Director
As a defender of The Trial of the Chicago 7, it’s been baffling to see some of the awards the film has been nominated for thus far (the cinematography choice is particularly confusing, given the more worthy films out there). Thankfully I don’t have to scratch my head at a Best Director nomination, as Aaron Sorkin was left off in favor of this Danish director, whose Another Round probably deserved another couple of nods.

Judas and the Black Messiah nominated for Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt has done stunning work for years, especially with Steve McQueen. But he got his first nomination finally for stellar work on this Best Picture nominee.

Greyhound nominated for Sound
Another one I predicted, and was happy about. Greyhound isn’t a particularly great film, but the sound work is phenomenal. Were it not for Sound of Metal, this would be the front-runner in the category.

Jared Leto snubbed for Supporting Actor
After the Golden Globes and SAG Awards honored him, I thought the Oscars were doomed to repeat the same mistake. But thankfully Paul Raci was nominated, and it’s nice to see Lakeith Stanfield nominated, even if slotting him in this category makes absolutely no sense.

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