Snubs are a good thing. They mean that there’s enough great work being done that the Academy needs more than five, or even 10, nominations to recognize it.
Snubs are a bad thing. They mean that great work is getting overlooked — sometimes in favor of, ahem, less deserving nominees. Not to name names, of course.
Either way, here are six examples where the Academy could consider a remake — and we know how much Hollywood loves remakes.
Amy Adams (“Arrival”)
What makes “Arrival” unusual among when-extraterrestrials-land movies — and what makes it memorable — is having at its heart a human presence. That presence belongs to Adams. She’s had five nominations already, four for supporting actress (“Junebug,” “Doubt,” “The Fighter,” “The Master”), one for best actress (“American Hustle”). Fine as she is in each, in none is she as good — as assured, as moving, or as important to the success of the entire enterprise — as in “Arrival.”
Josh Brolin (“Hail, Caesar!”)
As production bigwig Eddie Mannix in the Coen brothers’ love-hate spoof of Studio Era Hollywood, Brolin is hilarious and indomitable. Doesn’t matter. Oscar-wise, he has two strikes against him. Strike one: It’s a comedy. Academy members consider comedy suspect. It’s not serious enough. Strike two: It’s an ensemble piece. Academy members don’t get ensemble. You know that saying there’s no “I” in “team”? Oscar, too.
Has a Pixar backlash finally set in? For two decades, it’s set a standard in animation. The studio does have an animated short nominee this year (“Piper”). It’s true that “Finding Dory” is a sequel, to “Finding Nemo.” But there have been amazing Pixar sequels (“Toy Story 2” and “3”) as well as not-so-amazing ones (“Cars 2,” “Monsters University”). “Finding Dory” is a lot closer to the former than the latter. That imaginativeness and technical virtuosity at this level should go unrecognized sure looks less like oversight than snub.
“Knight of Cups”
Brolin had two strikes against him. Emmanuel Lubezki had three: He won this category in 2014 (“Gravity”), 2015 (“Birdman”), and 2016 (“The Revenant”). Actually, he had four. Terrence Malick’s moody meditation on male self-regard is awful and self-indulgent. Turn down the sound, though, and you can savor the crisp, searching look Lubezki has given to Los Angeles. It would be no small irony if another, lesser rendering of LA wins, Linus Sandgren’s in “La La Land.”
“Rules Don’t Apply”
Speaking of visions of LA and male self-regard, there’s Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes movie (but don’t call it a biopic). Jeannine Oppewall’s production design does double duty. Stylish and assuredly understated, it evokes a very particular time in that very particular place. Not that the Uxbridge native hasn’t done it before. Oppewall earned the first of her four Oscar nominations for art direction for “L.A. Confidential.”
Beyond its own considerable merits, Alex Gibney’s film about cyberwarfare and the Stuxnet virus has a larger, formal significance, one that the Academy would have done well to single out. The judicious use of anonymous sources is essential to reporting almost any controversial topic. Protecting a source’s identity is hard enough in print or online. How to do it on a motion picture screen? Gibney not only pulls it off, with a brilliant flourish at the end of his documentary. He does it in a way that demonstrates just how tricky an issue anonymity poses.Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.