Every Oscar season, critics and analysts can’t help rooting for particular films to find the recognition they deserve. Which means nomination morning can send up cries of delight and anguish in the newsroom, as some favorites get exalted and others left behind. Here, our team highlights the 2019 results they found most devastating — or thrilling.
Snub: Toni Collette, “Hereditary”
Hail Paimon! Your handmaiden has been robbed of her rightful prize! Hail Paimon! Despite having given us the mother of all psychological conflagrations in “Hereditary,” despite having merged the fury of 10,000 demons with an emotional acuity worthy of Bergman and Cassavetes — despite! despite! despite! — Toni Collette, destroyer of dolls, climber of ceilings, bringer of fire, mother of pain and dark goddess of all she surveys, was denied an Oscar nomination. But her sacrifice shall not be in vain! Collette shall rise again! She shall bathe in the tears of academy members as they endure the fires of hell, forced to watch “Green Book” on repeat for all eternity! Hail Paimon!
— Justin Chang
Snub: “Leave No Trace”
Debra Granik’s beautiful, haunting film did just that on nominations day — and it’s a shame. The story of a war-damaged Will (Ben Foster) and his 13-year old daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), as they are yanked from their off-the-grid life in the Oregon wilderness is a vivid contemplation of nature, both literal and human. We are immersed in the beauty and perils of the forest, and of growing up, watching as Tom matures and longs for a more stable and communal life than the one her dad has chosen. Most girl-on-the-verge stories focus on sexuality; Tom’s journey, written by Granik and Anne Rosellini, and shot by Michael McDonough, is about accepting people for who they are, even if that means letting them go.
— Mary McNamara
Surprise: “Cold War”
I first saw Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” in a setting rich in Hollywood history. The room belonged to Amazon, but once it was part of the legendary David O. Selznick Studios, and ghosts still seem to walk its halls. Though the film’s exceptional qualities were visible at once, the idea that it would get nominated for multiple Oscars was not on anyone’s mind, including mine. Shot in gorgeous black and white in the traditional screen ratio, “Cold War” smolders with an old-Hollywood atmosphere of star-crossed romance. That the film walked off with both director and cinematographer nods alongside its foreign-language film nomination is a tribute to the enormous skill with which it’s been made. David O. Selznick would be proud.
— Kenneth Turan
When Steve McQueen’s “Widows” premiered to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, awards season expectations were high. And then something mysterious happened. The revolutionary heist movie that expertly blends social issues and genre entertainment came up empty handed with one awards group after another. Nothing for McQueen. No major recognition for co-writer Gillian Flynn. Barely a critics group mention for standout supporting player Elizabeth Debicki. And a complete Oscar morning shutout. Outside of a surprise lead actress nod for star Viola Davis from the British Film Academy, the film has become an awards season widow, left to be rediscovered sometime down the line as one of 2018’s most singular — and underappreciated — achievements.
— Geoff Berkshire
Surprise: “Minding the Gap”
In “Minding the Gap” the Oscars have nominated an underdog story worth cheering — and streaming, stat. While the academy snubbed feel-good hit “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, this portrait of three small-town skateboarders scored a first-ever Academy Award nomination for streaming platform Hulu (it premieres Feb. 18 on the PBS series “POV”). In a stunning debut, director Bing Liu turns his lens on himself and his two best friends over the course of 12 years, tracking the trio’s evolution from restless teens to young adults navigating intersecting currents of race, class, and toxic cycles of masculinity in Middle America. The film sparks important conversations for both filmmaker and audience alike.
— Jen Yamato
Snub: Michael B. Jordan, “Black Panther”
“Black Panther” earned seven Oscar nominations on its way to becoming the first Marvel movie to be feted for best picture. But even that haul feels at least one nod short. Where was the recognition for Michael B. Jordan’s charismatic turn as the swaggering Erik Killmonger? Like all great villains — or is he the hero? — Killmonger engenders the audience’s empathy: His viciousness comes from a place of reason and deep, emotional trauma. Some of us may even have rooted for him to exact his revenge, largely because of the seductive charm and stinging pathos Jordan brought to the role. Anyway … who needs an Oscar nomination? Jordan puts Killmonger in the Antihero Hall of Fame.
— Glenn Whipp