Oscar Profile #604: Oscar’s Tenth Decade (2018-2021)

Peter Farrelly’s Green Book won Best Picture of 2018 over Best Director Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, kicking off the decade. Among the other six nominees were Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. Not nominated were such films as Damien Chazelle’s First Man and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed.

2019’s Best Picture award went for the first time to a foreign language film, Best Director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite which also took home the award for Best Foreign Language Film. Among the nine nominees were Sam Mendes’ 1917 and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman but not Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes or Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse.

Oscar’s 2020 Best Picture and Director Oscars went to Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland in an eight-film race over such films as Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari and Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal. Among the films not nominated were Regina King’s One Night in Miami… and Kevin Macdonald’s The Mauritanian during the Covid-19 pandemic in which the eligibility period was extended through February 2021.

For 2021’s shortened ten-month eligibility period, Oscar gave its Best Picture award to Sian Heder’s crowd-pleasing CODA while giving its Best Director award to Jane Campion’s vastly superior The The Power of the Dog. Included among the ten nominees were Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast and Ryusuki Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. Among those not nominated were Fran Kranz’s Mass and Rebecca Hall’s Passing.

FILMS THE ACADEMY SHOULD HAVE NOMINATED BUT DIDN’T

FIRST MAN, directed by Damien Chazelle (2018)

This compelling biography of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was an early frontrunner for Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Ryan Gosling as Armstrong), Supporting Actress (Claire Foy as his wife), and numerous technical awards. By the time the nominations came out, it was nominated for just four technical awards, winning only for Visual Effects. This was shocking considering the initial acclaim for the film and Chazelle’s previous success in becoming the youngest Oscar winning director two years earlier for the extremely over-rated musical, La La Land.

FIRST REFORMED, directed by Paul Schrader (2018)

This critically acclaimed drama about an upstate New York minister slowing falling into unsurmountable despair was an early Oscar favorite for at least two Oscars, those for Best Actor (a sublime Ethan Hawke) and Best Screenplay for the shockingly never nominated Paul Schrader whose previous screenplays include those for Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Raging Bull, Light Sleeper and Affliction. Best Picture and Best Director were considered a possibility, but in the end the film received just one nomination for Schrader’s screenplay.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…, directed by Regina King (2020)

The title refers to a once in a lifetime meeting of Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) in 1968. This highly anticipated feature film directorial debut by five-time Emmy Award-winning Actress and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner (If Beale Street Could Talk) Regina King was an early favorite for Oscar nominations in numerous categories including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Odom), Screenplay, and Original Song (“Speak Now”). It ended up being nominated just for the latter three, sadly losing all three.

MASS, directed by Fran Kranz (2021)

Actor Fran Kranz received 20 awards out of 50 nominations for his writing and directorial debut with this chamber piece about two couples meeting in a church basement in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a school. Martha Plimpton and Jason Isaacs play the parents of one of the teenage victims while Ann Dowd and Reed Birney play the parents of the young shooter. All four players were touted for awards with the two actresses receiving the most mentions. Both have showstopping scenes. The only question is which was better. Although Dowd wound up with more nominations and wins, I give the edge to Plimpton.

PASSING, directed by Rebecca Hall (2021)

Another writing and directorial debut by actor, in this case, British actress Rebecca Hall, whose adaptation of Nella Larsen’s very American 1929 novel received numerous U.S. critics’ awards. It was also well received in the U.K. where it received four BAFTA nominations for Best British Film, Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, Actress (Tessa Thompson) and Supporting Actress (Ruth Negga). Thompson is the film’s protagonist, a light-skinned Black woman in an unhappy marriage to a successful doctor considering emulating Negga’s passing for white that is so successful that even her own husband is unaware of her subterfuge.

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