The Academy Awards are awful. This is not up for dispute. They’re trying to get better—this year’s nominees present a definitively more inclusive list than in years past—but at its heart, the event is a self-congratulatory, out of touch, typically-discriminatory money grab that almost always awards the wrong thing. Nevertheless, it will inevitably elicit coverage from every media outlet that also denounces the ceremony on the aforementioned grounds. Talking about movies is fun. So, without further ado, The McGill Tribune has compiled a list of the most glaring snubs from this year’s nominations.
Best Foreign Language Film: Raw (France, dir. Julia Ducournau)
In her feature-length directorial debut, Julia Ducournau spins a grisly and emotionally-charged coming-of-age tale. Garance Marillier plays Justine, a vegetarian freshman at veterinary school who is forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney in a hazing ritual, and soon begins to develop a craving for flesh.
Raw is truly the best descriptor of the actors’ candid performances (particularly Marillier’s), the cold and derelict interiors of the campus’ buildings, the kinetic and claustrophobic cinematography, and the unflinchingly gruesome portrayals of Justine’s metamorphosis. With a slow pace and sparse dialogue, Ducournau makes a bold statement about the pain and trauma of loss of innocence in a society that treats women as objects without desires.
Best Animated Short Film: World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (dir. Don Hertzfeldt)
Kobe Bryant was nominated for this award. 81-points-in-a-game-Kobe Bryant. Settled-rape-allegations-out-of-court-Kobe Bryant. Nominate literally anyone instead of Kobe Bryant, but especially nominate Don Hertzfeldt. If World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts sounds like a lot for a title, the film’s ideas are also a lot for its 23-minute runtime. Akin to its brilliant predecessor, Episode Two takes the unscripted dialogue of Hertzfeldt’s five year-old niece, Winona Mae, as the launching pad for a ridiculous, life-affirming odyssey through memory, grounded in the experiences of Emily Prime (Mae) and her clone (of a clone of a clone of a clone, from the future) (Julie Potts). Mae for Best Actress is another blurb entirely. Episode Two finds Hertzfeldt perfecting his signature blend of childlike wonder, affectless stoicism, and iTunes visualizer-level backdrops. It lands in a good spot somewhere in the vacuum between Kubrick, Adventure Time, and Camus.
Best Original Song: The Pure and the Damned – Oneohtrix Point Never (feat. Iggy Pop) (from Good Time)
As funny as a Sufjan Stevens (Call Me By Your Name) acceptance speech would be, there’s no way it could top an Iggy Pop acceptance speech. Good Time’s “The Pure and the Damned,” produced by Oneohtrix Point Never with lyrics by Iggy, is a beautiful, shattering piano ballad that accompanies the best final scene of 2017. The song takes the template of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” (old singing man and younger producing man), and ups the weird ante with minimalist piano and wacky synths. The fantastically terrifying video uses non-film footage featuring an extra veiny CGI Iggy Pop, a bloodied wolf puppet, and Robert Pattinson wearing what looks to be a counterfeit sleeveless Baltimore Ravens/Orioles shirt.
Best Original Screenplay: Wind River (dir. Taylor Sheridan)
The final installment of Taylor Sheridan’s American Frontier trilogy (following 2015’s Sicario and 2016’s Hell or High Water) was woefully forgotten after receiving an eight-minute standing ovation at Cannes. The crisp cinematography, Nick Cave-scored soundtrack, and chilling performances by Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, and Jeremy Renner, make it a seemingly obvious contender. A neo-Western set in a blizzarding Wyoming stage, Wind River documents the investigation of the brutal homicide of a young Native American woman. Sheridan uses this singular event as a microcosm to the larger issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the inclusion of this narrative would have been incredibly powerful.
Best Documentary: Casting JonBenét (dir. Kitty Green)
Casting JonBenét made a splash when it first came out last April, but deserves more official credit than the 15 minutes of fame it received. Unlike the dozens of other JonBenét Ramsey films, Casting Jonbenét offers a multiplicity of narratives that expose and support each other to uncover new layers of understanding about the mysterious 1998 murder of the American six-year-old beauty queen. The documentary films the interview and audition process of these actors trying out for the roles of JonBenét’s nuclear family using local actors who remember the event when it occurred. As these individuals are questioned about their own theories of the murder, the documentary lays bare America’s obsession with cold cases and biases towards the creation of the perfect suspect.
Best Picture: “Una” (dir. Benedict Andrews)
In Benedict Andrews’ adaptation of David Harrower’s play Blackbird, Rooney Mara stars as Una, a young woman who confronts her childhood neighbour and abuser, Ray (Ben Mendelsohn, of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Set almost entirely in an empty factory warehouse, “Una” plays out like an intricately choreographed dance between Mara and Mendelsohn, wandering through a labyrinth of corridors and storage rooms as they revisit the painful and murky past. Andrews refreshingly avoids stereotypes of the helpless victim and remorseless predator, instead crafting a believable and heart-wrenching (albeit toxic) relationship between the two characters.
After a year when sexual harassment and violence have been at the forefront of popular discourse, “Una” is potent and relevant, boldly exploring the blurred lines of consent, healing from abuse, and reclaiming one’s self-worth.
Best Actor: Robert Pattinson in Good Time (dir. Josh and Benny Safdie)
Aside from being perhaps the most underrated and spectacular movie of 2017, the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time brought us the year’s best performance from the most unlikely of indie movie stars. Good Time is a manic take on the classic New York street thriller, and Robert Pattinson’s leading turn as sociopath criminal Renaissance man Constantine Nikas is the film’s furiously beating heart. Pattinson spends the movie carefully balancing Connie’s unflinching manipulative cool with a subtly accumulating sense of desperation. The result is a masterful performance which holds together an invigorating and understatedly moving thriller. After Good Time, Pattinson deserves to be remembered as the inventive talent that he truly is, rather than just a teen vampire hunk. The Academy should recognize as much.