‘And the winner isn’t . . . ’
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not always get things right. After all, “Academy,” which sounds so exalted, effectively means 9,000 or so people who have something to do with moviemaking, most of whom live in Southern California, and many of whom see fewer movies each year than you do. Infallible they are not.
Bad enough that there are undeserving nominees. Hey, good for them, right? Think of how proud their mothers must be. Far worse that there are deserving non-nominees whose work goes unrecognized.
Here, alas, are several names you will not hear mentioned on Sunday night’s Oscar telecast — and that should have been.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Regina Hall (“Support the Girls”)
As Lisa, the manager of a Hooters-like restaurant deep in the heart of Texas strip-mall land, Hall is a wonder. She’s variously indomitable, overwhelmed, joyful, forthright, cunning, in charge, put upon, and always, always, gloriously alive. The restaurant is unthinkable without her, and so is “Support the Girls.” Hall doesn’t just support the movie. She uplifts and transports it.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jonah Hill (“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot”)
Hill has two previous nominations in this category, for “Moneyball” (2011) and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013). Both performances are fine. They also benefited from being in movies nominated for best picture. This performance, in a movie hardly anyone saw, is better. As Donnie, a rich, gay Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Hill’s barely recognizable. With his long blond beach-boy hair, he’s like a bloated Wilson brother. God only knows where his other-side-of-no-tomorrow calm comes from. But it’s unmistakably, and overpoweringly, there.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
The omission of Morgan Neville’s documentary about Fred Rogers, the legendarily gentle longtime host of the PBS children’s program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” wasn’t just a snub. It was a shock. Taking in nearly $23 million at the box office, “Neighbor” was the most popular 2018 documentary, grossing nearly 50 percent more than the runner-up,” Free Solo” (which did get nominated). Not that commercial success is necessarily an indicator of artistic quality, but it sure was in this case.
“The Other Side of the Wind”
This is the feature that Orson Welles spent the final 15 years of his life working on. A posthumous version was finally completed and released last year. Is it a Wellesian-worthy addition to the filmography ? A pretentious mess? Both? Opinions differ. What’s beyond dispute is that the editing, by Welles and Bob Murawski (an Oscar winner for “The Hurt Locker”), is a cascading marvel of speed and precision. At first glance, it might just seem flashy; Welles was never averse to hey-look-at-me virtuosity. Look closer, and you realize that technique becomes meaning: editing not just as craft but outright art.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
The most imaginative and playful aspect of this highly imaginative and playful best animated feature nominee is the glorious pastiche that is Michael Giacchino’s score. Along with expertly done superhero blare, moviegoers get all of the following: crime jazz, Esquivel swank, blaxploitation funk (courtesy of Frozone’s theme song), and elevator music — that’s literal elevator music. You can feel — you can certainly hear — how much fun Giacchino is having, which means the audience does, too.
“Ready Player One”
What got moviegers’ attention was all the video-game stuff and the truly fabulous movie-within-a-movie “visit” to “The Shining.” But Adam Stockhausen’s all-too-believable visualization of The Stacks — a set of vertical trailer parks, which is how most people live in Columbus, Ohio, in 2045 — is the most striking rendering of urban life in a dystopian American future since “Blade Runner” (which lost in this category to “Gandhi”!). Visually, the conception is stunning. Intellectually, it’s terrifying. Urbanistically, it’s all too plausible. Maybe no one in the Academy knows what a trailer park is — or has been to Ohio?