The Biggest Snubs from this Year’s Oscar Nominations

One of the fun things to discuss, debate, argue, or silently complain about on social media is Oscar snubs. Luckily this year, the ship has been righted and I think we can put the #Oscarssowhite controversy to rest because of how diverse the nominees were this year. Although to be fair, the Academy set the bar pretty low the past two years in terms of cultural variety. But there’s one thing the Academy can never escape and that’s snubs. While I certainly don’t believe some of my snubs ever had a chance, they are deserving of some gold.

Best Picture Snub
Swiss Army Man

I knew this was a longshot. I know the Academy isn’t about to publicly acknowledge a farting boner corpse movie. But a little part of me had hoped that its indie cred, combined with its existential storytelling, would have made it a respectable dark horse in a field of 10. It’s unique, fascinating, moving, well-acted and wonderfully shot. Its only flaw is that it’s too off putting for general audiences and slightly juvenile for the snobby voters in Hollywood. I swear this is the last time you’ll hear or see me cheerleading for this movie.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: 20th Century Women

Best Director Snub
Robert Eggers, The Witch

Eggers immersed himself in 1630’s New England to deliver a historically accurate portrayal of terror in the unknown wilderness of early America. Everything from the film’s dialogue to the farmstead were meticulously groomed and crafted by the director. He managed to wrangle four (including one teenager) child actors, keeping them from being annoying, as they traditionally are in horror movies. This production designer turned director crafted an atmospheric horror masterpiece. Eggers is one to watch out for.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, Swiss Army Man

Best Actor Snub
Tom Hanks, Sully

Let’s clear up this presumed notion I’ve seen on social media. Tom Hanks doesn’t get nominated every year. He hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 2001 and hasn’t won a golden statute since 1995. I’m not asking the Academy to throw him a bone, he doesn’t need one. But don’t overlook the fact that “Sully” is a sub par movie-going experience without Hanks’ hefty talents in the pilot seat. Hanks’ navigates Clint Eastwood’s so-so work into a memorable tale of average Joe heroism and the bureaucratic blame game.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals

Best Actress Snub
Sasha Lane, American Honey

I wouldn’t blame you for not watching “American Honey.” Three hours of wanderlust is too much for the average audience. But first time actress, Sasha Lane, is a treasure to watch. She was up for every challenge of portraying an impoverished young adult. Lane portrays an innocent, if not naive, teenager looking for her purpose and a slice of the American dream. Her character, without speaking usually, represents youthful aspirations and good intentions, despite the thieving people around her. Lane keeps the flame of hope in her character lit throughout the movie, making her character one to root for her and admire.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Amy Adams, Arrival

Best Supporting Actor Snub
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

The story within a story is the strongest part about “Nocturnal Animals,” mainly due to its wonderful performances. Leading the way is Jake Gyllenhaal, but his emotionally distressed character would be nothing without the terrifying Texas psychopath played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. While visually disgusting, Taylor-Johnson’s grimy character radiates off the screen. He’s calculating, but relaxed. He’s vicious, but calm. The dynamic extremes of his character are balanced by Taylor-Johnson who’s “ablicious” and repugnant.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Ben Foster, Hell or High Water

Best Supporting Actress Snub
Haley Bennett, Girl on the Train

I know. I know. This is a bad movie. But the Academy has not been above nominating a bad movie or rewarding the components of a bad movie. Let’s not forget that “50 Shades of Grey” is an Oscar nominated movie with five Razzie wins under its belt. While Emily Blunt should certainly be commended for her performance, it’s Haley Bennett’s performance as the tragically flawed suburban floozy that becomes the center of the movie’s suffering. Her character lives life emotionally empty, only to be killed when finding new life. In the rear view mirror of 2016, Bennett’s performance is brave and engaging, but trapped in a lifeless cliché movie.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

Best Animated Feature
Finding Dory

Is “Finding Dory” that average? I thoroughly enjoyed the Pixar movie and was surprised it didn’t, at the very least, get a nod. It’s not the best of the year, but it can certainly be mentioned in the same breath as the other candidates. I haven’t seen “The Red Turtle” or “My Life as a Zucchini” so I can’t comment on their quality since they certainly secured the final two spots. I’m sure they’re good. Maybe this is a sign that Pixar should just avoid sequels for a while. At least “Sausage Party” didn’t steal one of the nomination seats or else there’d be hell to pay.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: None. This was a year that saw Angry Birds, so we need to do better in 2017.

Best Original Screenplay

It’s been mentioned before, and not just by me, that “Zootopia” benefited from coming out at the right time. The script, while being generously relatable to kids and adults alike, has a wonderful message about acceptance. A city populated with cute, furry animals taught everyone that sexism, racism, classism and xenophobia are still very real and can divide us in a heartbeat. Disney could have easily settled for a buddy cop movies with animals, but instead allowed the script to naturally evolve and survive the rewriting process. Despite nine credited writers, “Zootopia” never became diluted or a jumbled mess. Instead it ran smoothly with a clear message of tolerance.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: The Invitation

Best Adapted Screenplay

Martin Scorsese’s decades long passion project is based on a work of historical fiction. While having never read the novel myself, the folks who have read the book have left nothing, but glowing reviews of it online. If the purpose of the 20th century novel is to make us reflect and question spirituality and our religious beliefs as a whole, Scorsese captured that wonderfully in a movie that, while drawn out, is beautifully retold on the silver screen. Scorsese painted a beautiful picture just like the book certainly transported readers back to post-Feudal Japan.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: High-Rise

Best Music
Cliff Martinez, Neon Demon

While I’m not completely sold on “Neon Demon” being a good movie, I found myself listening to the soundtrack of “Neon Demon” multiple times. While adding another layer to the movie, the soundtrack on its own accord is a wonderful synth album inducing feelings of hope and despair. “Neon Demon” is a visual experience, complimented by a wonderful score that spurs dread and bouncy optimism, sometimes within a single song. “Neon Demon” is the only movie this year where the music feels like an unseen narrator for how we’re supposed to feel.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Johann Johannson, Arrival

Best Music, Original Song
Drive it Like You Stole It, Sing Street

The coming-of-age love letter to the 80’s, “Sing Street,” should have been more popular. Not only did the Clash, A-Ha, and the Cure get some much deserved love on the screen, but the movie featured some dynamic original music. Most of the original content, like “Riddle of the Model,” was short nods to music by Duran Duran or other iconic bands. However, the movie reaches its crescendo with its most poppy rock hit, “Drive It Like You Stole It.” The song is a big metaphor for the final act and growing up in general. Just listen to it and tell me that’s not the best original song of the year.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: Montage, Swiss Army Man

Best Foreign Language

I’m finding it difficult, once again, to put into words why I like this movie so much. Just read my review.

Honorably Snubbed as Well: I’m not sure. I should be more cultured.


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Film Review: “American Honey”

Starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough
Directed By: Andrea Arnold
Rated: R
Running Time: 163 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

The thought of a nearly three hour movie starring Shia LaBeouf is likely to scare a lot of people off from watching “American Honey” and I’m not going to sway you back. “American Honey” is a road trip movie without an end or direction, but during its entire runtime, it feels like it should. It’s a unique movie with an honest portrayal of Middle America, but also a frustrating long movie without a rebuke for some of its more sour themes.

Having been filmed in parts of the Kansas City metropolitan area, I admit I felt a unique connection to the movie, seeing all the familiar sights. That familiarity helped me attach characters to people that populated my own Kansas City high school and neighborhood. But the movie doesn’t begin in my hometown; it begins in lower class suburban Florida with Star (Lane). When we meet her, she’s scouring dumpsters for tossed out food that’s still in the bag. It’s so she can feed her younger brother and sister because no one else will. Her father seems more focused on drinking beer and groping Star to slow-dance music, while her mom, having moved on with her life, seems more obsessed about line dancing at a country bar.

So it makes sense that Star is lured away by Jake (LaBeouf) and a crew of ruffians that sing along to gangster rap and Rihanna’s #1 hits. Jake’s innocent flirting and the promise of a life without restraint convinces Star to abandon her siblings, leaving them in her divorced parents “care”. This new life though, with Jake and the others, is actually a “magazine crew” (those annoying kids who find a different lie every time to sell overpriced magazine subscriptions) that goes from town to town across the country. Leading these youthful Nomads is a druggie vagabond that’s never sober.

The journey takes the “magazine crew” from Kansas City to Oklahoma to Grand Island, Nebraska and to Williston, North Dakota. Each city offers an interesting slice of Americana, from the rich people that dot the Midwest farmland to the blue class workers stuck in underpaying jobs. “American Honey” seems to offer more spice and intrigue with the people that Star encounters, which is unfortunate considering how interesting Star’s character is.

She’s good-hearted and naturally trusts the strangers she encounters, even hopping in a vehicle with three adult men in Nebraska who take her back to their place for expensive tequila and steaks. She loves Jake even though he’s clearly a loser with deep emotional issues. She befriends everyone in the “magazine crew” and appears to enjoy the work even though the “job” is exploiting her. She finds different ways to cheer up people around her or help those that she doesn’t know. Yet we never get a distinct feeling about how the sights and interactions are impacting her psyche or if she’s intelligent enough to understand the deteriorating situations around her.

Her aimless path possibly signifies the wanderlust that has infected much of America’s youth today. It never vilifies or champions the magazine crew beyond portraying them as the fun-loving potheads that they are. None of them seem like bad individuals or rotten apples, just young adults without ambition outside of money, getting inebriated and fornication. “American Honey” may simply be stating that youthful lethargy is a consistent no matter the generation. But there’s no denying that during the course of the movie, the pop-culture they consume is feeding into their apathy and idleness.

“American Honey” never blames Star and the others for what the audience may be faulting them with, but it never really points any blame at anyone. Without ever coming to a conclusion, it’s very frustrating that the movie never points a finger of blame or indirectly implies that the actions of someone, something, or society has led Star to this fun, yet troubling point in life. “American Honey” may simply be asserting that bad things happen and may always happen to a certain demographic of this country and that their joy is just as fleeting as their youth.

“American Honey” will certainly have meaning to various people and that might actually be one of its strongest points. It paints such a vivid and beautiful picture of youth in the U.S., that it could say a lot of honest things to a lot of different people. It’s a movie that grew on me, much like a melancholy memory from my youth. I may not have enjoyed the experience, but looking back on it I slowly begin to understand its importance and significance. But I go back to the first sentence of this review and say, do you really want to watch a directionless movie that pushes towards three hours with Shia LaBeouf? If you want an idiosyncratic art film, this is it. But you also run the risk of finding yourself bored and exasperated.