Oscar nominations lean mainstream, fail to highlight smaller films

As recent award shows have strayed away from typical nominations, the Oscars may have not received the same memo



The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will air on February 24 and bring with it controversy between the indie lovers and the mainstream movie fans. One side argues that the Oscars were designed to applaud the best of films regardless of status or rank in Hollywood, and for the ceremony to start to award blockbuster films goes against the very principles it was built on. The other believes the blockbuster films become so well-known because of the talent and creativity shown in the film. 

Keep it Indie by Mackenzie Fortino

It seems as if the Academy has taken a  step backwards from last year. This year’s nominations signal a year of groundbreaking films not getting the recognition they deserve while blockbuster movies are getting above and beyond attention.

Films like “Call Me By Your Name,” “Ladybird” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” all received  nominations last year, despite being independent films with low budgets. “A Star is Born” and “Black Panther” are both well-funded movies which have received a lot of attention throughout their theater run and further promotion of these popular films is pointless as it outshines smaller, independent films. It’s a joke to watch actors and actresses praise themselves in fancy clothes just to win awards they don’t necessarily need.

There is nothing inherently wrong with famous celebrities like Christian Bale winning prestigious awards. However, I believe The Academy should showcase new films and actors, making that the focus of the ceremony.

It was refreshing to see Timothée Chalamet receive a nomination last year, and it would have the same appeal if Lucas Hedges was nominated, both being new actors. The Academy, however, has taken a step backwards and has left many young artists in the dark. While films like “BlacKkKlansman” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” both have powerful  messages that deserve to be vocalized, the independent films that happen to provide the same passion regardless of a low budget, deserve the chance to shine in the spotlight.

Independent filmmakers put a lot of heart into their craft with no idea if it will be successful. However, movies like “A Star is Born” are born into that spotlight, with repeat Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper and pop-star Lady Gaga as the faces of the project. Famous faces of Hollywood, like frequent nominee Sam Rockwell, are set up for success no matter how good or bad the film is.

More specifically, one film that got completely snubbed from all award shows is “Hereditary.” Directed and written by Ari Aster, the film adapts all the classic elements of horror into something new and unique.

With “Hereditary” as his debut film, the pool of Hollywood professionals underestimated Aster’s talent in filmmaking. In a perfect world, he should have been nominated for (Best Director and Best Original Screenplay). Last year, “Get Out” won Best Original screenplay for its new twist on horror, and it would have been exciting to see a similar film receive the same recognition.

While “Roma” for Best Picture and Rami Malek for Best Actor in “Bohemian Rhapsody” are bright spots, most films this year did not have time for audience feedback . For example, Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” was released on December 26 and Adam McKay’s “Vice” came out on December 25, with the Oscar nominations following not even a month later on January 22. While the acting and cinematography of these films are surely impressive, the timing is suspicious.  

Instead of championing new talent, it seemed the Academy already had a favourite. Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” which started off as a small indie film, worked its way up from the Sundance Film Festival to the Golden Globes Awards. The film caught the attention of the public, captivating all age groups. The common man–the audience– should have more of a say in who is nominated; just because the subject is not as heavy as many of the other contenders does not mean it doesn’t deserve and Oscar. 

While the merit of these awards can be argued, they do exist and since the audience doesn’t have much of a voice, The Academy should notice those who work their way up from the bottom.

Mainstream still quality by Isabella Canizares

While some indie-film fans may be bitter because of the lack of independent films nominated, the Oscar nominees are deserving this year. Denying films this honor because they are successful comes off hypocritical. While the lack of independent movies is disappointing, the films who did get recognized are excellent.

“Roma,” a film about a young women working in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. It broke barriers on ideas of Mexican culture and life to the mixed audience. Yalitza Aparicio was nominated for Best Actress for her role in “Roma,” the first time a Latina actress has been nominated for this category in 14 years. With beautiful cinematography and a refreshing take on Mexican culture in film, it’s no wonder the movie has raked in the most nominations this year.

Another equally impressive nomination goes to Rami Malek for Best Actor as his uncanny portrayal as Freddie Mercury in the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Universally praised for his acting, Malek practically transformed into Mercury, embodying his persona perfectly, keeping the audience captivated throughout the whole movie.

“Black Panther” is another standout this year and follows Marvel superhero T’Challa’s return to the fictional African nation, Wakanda, to take his rightful place as king. It was one of the films nominated for “Best Picture” and makes history by being the first superhero movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture. This signifies great changes in the Hollywood industry.

However, regardless of these fantastic nominations, there is one category that seems to be lacking the most diversity. The nominees this year for Best Director are all male, which is a repetition of previous nominations, taking a significant step back from the recent past of diverse nominations. 

The Oscars need to be more inclusive  to all races and genders, and this step back is does more harm than good for the future of films.

In the end, regardless of issues of diversity and inclusiveness, there is no doubt that the films acknowledged by the Academy deserve their place at the podium. An Oscar win is one of the most prestigious honors a person can attain in the film industry, and it is bodes well that a more diverse group of people than ever are now eligible for the recognition.