Oscar nomination voting is now open for the 95th Academy Awards, and though I do not have a vote, as I am not a member of the Academy, I am an avid moviegoer, as well as a creator and critic, and thus I have strong opinions about who and what should — and should not — be honored when nominations are announced on Monday, Jan. 24.
Because I am a generous sort, I am going to share some of those thoughts with you and any awards voters who might deign to listen to some outside advice regarding how they should mark their ballots.
Also, because I am not one of these spineless kibitzers who complain about someone getting shafted without ever saying whose place they should be taking, I will be naming names of those who seem to be serious contenders, but whom I do not believe to be as worthy as those for whom I am partisan. Nothing personal — it’s all about the work. I wish everyone here well, I just think some of them deserve Oscar nominations more than others do. Get angry at me all you like, but you can’t call me a coward.
And so, without further ado, some Do’s and Don’ts for voters. Enjoy… and vote wisely.
DO: VOTE FOR TOM CRUISE FOR BEST ACTOR
I know, I know, but think about this. Cruise doesn’t just bring humanity and gravitas to Pete “Maverick” Mitchell as he faces late middle age and the end of his sterling naval career — he carries every other actor in this film. Read any interview with any of his co-stars and they’ll talk about the magnetism of both his personality and his performance, and how both served as guiding lights for their own work. Set aside what he does as producer and visionary for the project — it’s almost certain he’ll get a Best Picture nomination for his troubles — this is arguably the finest acting of his incredible career, elevating his signature role to one of legend. Watch it again. There is not a false note in it, not even when he’s pulling real G’s in the F-18 fighter jets used in filming. I’d like to see anyone else try pulling that off.
DO: VOTE FOR JOSEPH KOSINSKI FOR BEST DIRECTOR
Something that’s getting lost in the talk about Top Gun: Maverick‘s brilliance is Kosinski’s work behind the camera. He doesn’t seem to be getting nearly the credit he deserves for helming the most exciting and entertaining movie of the year. It’s not just the aerial majesty, either. As fantastic and thrilling as that is — and the fact that it’s all real only makes it that much more impressive — it’s really the little things that make the film. Take, for instance, the scene at Penny’s bar, The Hard Deck, in which almost all the major supporting characters are introduced. It starts just after the 21-minute mark of the movie, lasts almost exactly 11 minutes, and is a clinic in how to stage a sequence involving no less than nine important characters, all but one of whom are being seen for the first time, and all of whom have different sight lines and perspectives. Not only does it never lag or lose pace, but there is also never any confusion about what is happening, where a character is in the scene, to whom they’re talking, none of it. It’s incredible, and it’s an ideal example of what a good director does, even if it’s not terribly flashy.
DON’T: VOTE FOR TODD FIELD FOR BEST DIRECTOR
People seem to like Tár for some reason I cannot fathom, and it’s getting a seemingly unending stream of awards buzz. Let’s set aside the fact that it is at least an hour too long. It’s also wildly self-indulgent and seems to hate its main character. Field is not a bad director — I’m not a fan of his two previous films, In the Bedroom and Little Children, but will acknowledge the man understands the craft — but this is a mess of a movie. The fact that he seems to have done exactly what he wanted to do with it doesn’t mean he gets extra credit. It means his whole concept of the thing was flawed. Chances are, though, the Artsy Fartsy wing of the Directors Branch is going to salute him for this, and it’s a shame because recognizing Artsy Fartsy at the expense of more populous fare, even if it’s of similar quality, is part of how the Academy found itself with sinking TV ratings and an increasingly indifferent public.
DO: VOTE FOR CAUSEWAY AND BROS FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Two wildly different projects, each done with enormous skill and aplomb. Causeway is a fabulous portrayal of trauma, without being mawkish or over the top. Bros is the best romantic comedy since The Big Sick, and that got a well-deserved nomination in this category. These two films are both far more inventive and entertaining than two other options you have in the same category, namely …
DON’T: VOTE FOR THE FABELMANS OR TRIANGLE OF SADNESS FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
I love Steven Spielberg and place him on the Mount Rushmore of great filmmakers. I also enjoyed his latest movie, though I don’t think it deserves the Best Picture nomination it will certainly score, as well as its probable win in the category. I especially don’t think the script is all that great, primarily because of how easily it falls into cliché. The antisemitic high school classmate, for instance, might as well have had a mustache to twirl. Likewise, while Triangle is getting a lot of credit for its social commentary, I thought the whole thing was terribly on the nose and used the “subtlety with a sledgehammer” form of storytelling. I mentioned flashiness above. This is a classic example of a flashy script that is well short of substance. All sizzle no steak, and so on.
DO: VOTE FOR EMMA THOMPSON FOR BEST ACTRESS
I don’t know what I was expecting when I sat down to watch Good Luck to You, Leo Grande a few months ago, but I was surprised and completely blown away by just how egoless Thompson’s lead performance was. Thompson embraces her age, her wrinkles, her insecurities, and then lets down her guard and allows us to see them all and marvel at how she deals with them and she does so with an unending amount of charm. It’s both heartbreaking and inspiring, and it’s sort of stunning to me that she’s not getting more attention for it.
DON’T: VOTE FOR MICHELLE WILLIAMS FOR BEST ACTRESS
Speaking of getting attention, Williams’ work in The Fabelmans is good, no question, but aside from the fact that this feels like more of a supporting role than a lead one, I didn’t find anything terribly remarkable about her work here. Maybe the fact that she’s always so good works against her, and that’s certainly not her fault, but it does then force us to look at why she’s getting so much attention for this. I mean, it’s fine, yes, but one of the best performances of the year? Hardly.
DO: VOTE FOR JAMIE LEE CURTIS FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Speaking of one of the best performances of the year, Michelle Yeoh is rightfully getting a lot of attention for her lead work in Everything Everywhere All at Once, but don’t forget about Jamie Lee, who had herself a pretty great year, between this and Halloween Ends. I loved this movie, and especially loved what she did in it. My initial thought is that I sort of can’t believe the Academy has never recognized her before, but then I have to stop and think about what she’s done that would warrant it. The truth is, while she’s always been a very good actress, she’s never really starred in awards-type fare. With EEAAO getting so much attention, it would be wholly appropriate to recognize her supporting performance.
Changing tack, I would like to pay tribute to my Below the Line past by suggesting you…
DO: GIVE THE BATMAN ALL THE TECHNICAL LOVE
I was appalled that Michael Giacchino‘s haunting score was not shortlisted by the Academy, but let’s skip past that and point out that Matt Reeves‘ movie nails every single below-the-line category. The costuming is fantastic, the production design top-notch, the editing, cinematography, sound, makeup and hairstyling, literally all of it. The Batman should score a handful of nominations, and with that in mind, I’m going to request one more …
DO: VOTE FOR THE BATMAN FOR BEST PICTURE
I know this has no chance, but I can’t in good conscience write this column without a mention of my favorite movie of the year. There’s talk that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever might earn a nomination, which would only be silly because this is a far superior movie. I will once again point out that if the main character was just a detective and not a superhero, it would be getting awards buzz beyond the technical categories. Because it’s Batman, however, people are ignoring it, which is a damn shame.
Ultimately, I don’t have a lot of faith that the Academy is going to make the right choices in a lot of these categories, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stump for what I think is most deserving. Hope, after all, springs eternal. So too, it would appear, is Tom Cruise, but that’s a column for another day.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for more than 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.