The Alternative Oscar Nominations
Elizabeth Quinn makes a case for films absent from the latest batch of Oscar nominations.
The 92nd Oscar nominations have been no different from its predecessors, ignoring the majority of the films released over the past year, focusing instead on the few tactically released films with traditional ‘Academy’ sensibilities (war films or adaptations of literary classics) and while the majority of the Best Picture nominees are deserving of their recognition, here are some alternative films that I would argue, are equally deserving of nominations.
The Oscars have historically ignored horror films – only rewarding one (The Silence of the Lambs) the prestigious Best Picture award in its history – and Midsommar is no different. Ignored by the Academy in this batch of nominations, I believe that this visually intoxicating film deserved two; one in Production Design (Henrik Svensson), and the other Costume Design (Andrea Flesch). Florence Pugh is also worthy of a Best Actress nomination, but hopefully will gain the international recognition she deserves via her nomination for Best Supporting Actress as Amy March in Little Women.
The visual world of Midsommar is a key part of the film’s unsettling aesthetic, the fictional Swedish village where the sun rarely sets filled with vibrant colour, which gradually becomes more arresting as the gore increases. Svensson’s extensive world-building is clear from the moment the group pass through the intricate ‘doorway’ composed of overlapping wooden slats beckoning them into the kaleidoscopic world of Haga. The saturated blue sky is contrasted to the green meadow and the imposing yellow pyramid, a religious temple which remains a constant presence in the back of shots, a reminder of the true horror of the village, even during the group’s brief naivety. The pyramid is the most iconic structure from the film, and it’s fitting that the final sacrifice takes place within it.
Booksmart is a hilarious depiction of female friendship and the American high school experience. Its fresh take on the coming of age story-arc makes it a unique and incredibly witty film.
The finale also features the May Queen dress, which is Andrea Flesch’s crowning creation. While her work throughout the film, including detailed embroidered dresses for all Hagan residents with personalized runes, should be lauded, it is the May Queen dress that is her most impressive piece. The 15kg finale dress took 2 months to create and used 10,000 silk flowers carefully chosen for their bright colours to create the look of a full meadow. The piece mirrors the work of Svensson (in combination with director Ari Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski) resulting in the creation of a technicolour nightmare.
The fact that we remain, for the 92nd year, with only five female director nominations, and only one win, fills me with anger.
Beyond Midsommar, I would also argue that Booksmart should have received more recognition and I would even argue that Olivia Wilde deserves a Best Director nomination. Booksmart, like Midsommar, has been ignored by the Academy. Whilst many have reasonably argued that Gerwig has been unfairly excluded from the Best Director nominations, I believe that Wilde also deserves a spot, as well as an Original Screenplay nomination (Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman). Booksmart is a hilarious depiction of female friendship and the American high school experience. Its fresh take on the coming of age story-arc makes it a unique and incredibly witty film. The soundtrack is also excellent (although there are no Oscar nominations outside of original scores).
The fact that we remain, for the 92nd year, with only five female director nominations, and only one win, fills me with anger. This year, there have been numerous female directors whose films have received both critical and commercial success; Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Kasi Lemmons (Harriet), Lorene Scarfaria (Hustlers) to name a few high-profile examples. All have been left out of the nominations for Best Director.
I’m suggesting…an acknowledgment that female directors have once again been overlooked and that the Oscars are insufficient as a reflection on western cinema.
I am not arguing that the male directors on the list don’t deserve their nominations. There are some incredible directors nominated who have had a direct influence in shaping cinema. However, as an example, Martin Scorsese has been nominated nine times for Best Director – almost double the number of times female directors have been nominated – and as stated earlier, this year has been packed with excellent films directed by women! I’m not suggesting quotas or required nominations, since that undermines the value of the award, but simply an acknowledgment that female directors have once again been overlooked and that the Oscars are insufficient as a reflection on western cinema.
Beyond concerns with gender discrepancies, as well as an equally concerning discrepancy in racial diversity, my suggestions for the nominations show how genre films are often completely ignored by the Academy. I would strongly recommend both these films despite their lack of nominations, and would encourage readers to keep an eye on the Independent Spirit Awards (Saturday 8th Feb) for a slate of brilliant independent films, as an alternative for the Oscars in general.