“Welcome to Earth Prime. Before there was thought, there was this place. One earth, with a single history. But with the coming of man came the illusion of free will. And with that illusion came chaos. With every choice we make, we literally create a world. History branches in two – creating one earth where we made the choice and a second where we didn’t. That’s the secret of the universe, you know? Billions of people making billions of choices, creating infinite earths.”
– Owlman, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
I created Schrödinger’s Plot to explore a pop culture multiverse of infinite possibilities. Today, I want to gaze out in that world to imagine a mythical universe where Hollywood actually got the Academy Award nominations right (or, at the very least, a universe where everyone agrees with me).
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s overlooked films that should have been nominated, peering into a world where the trending hashtag on Twitter is #OscarsSoRight, not #OscarsSoWhite …
Frankly, I’m a bit baffled by Sicario‘s lack of Academy Award recognition. Featuring some truly great performances (more on that in a bit), a collection of tense, gripping action sequences and a compelling story about the murky gray area federal agents in America must inhabit to combat the Mexican drug trade, it is a film that I find myself thinking about quite often. Besides, it deserves an award for the shootout scene at the Mexican-America border alone.
Diary of a Teenage Girl
With films like Room, Mad Max: Fury Road and Brooklyn, the Academy did a pretty solid job recognizing films with strong female characters. But it overlooked this film about a young girl in the 1970s who is confronted with a slew of complex emotions when she begins having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. It’s both a charming and haunting look at a young woman crossing the threshold from being a teenager to being an adult. It deserved some Oscar love.
[There were only eight Best Picture nominees, so both of these films could have been added without losing any of the films that were nominated.]
Actor in a Leading Role
Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories have been thoroughly explored from every conceivable angle at this point. We’ve seen modern adaptations, Guy Ritchie’s action movie take on the story and shows like House that are essentially “Sherlock Holmes as a doctor.” But this film manages to find a fresh take on the character by imagining Holmes at the end of his life with his memory beginning to fail. McKellen’s plays Holmes at two different points in his life – one when his career was winding down, but he was still in peak mental health, and then at the end of his life as his mind begins betraying him. He does both utterly convincingly, which is no easy task.
Michael B. Jordan, Creed
How can you nominate Sylvester Stallone (who is considered the frontrunner for Creed), but not Michael B. Jordan? The film relies on the chemistry of its two lead actors to succeed and it’s their relationship with one another that is the heart of this film. Jordan nailed the part, both physically and emotionally, and he deserves the nod. Come on, Academy, “Where’s Wallace?”
Jacob Tremblay, Room
Speaking of films that rely on the chemistry of its two lead actors to succeed, Room doesn’t work without Jacob Tremblay. As great as Brie Larson was, it wouldn’t matter if Tremblay couldn’t pull his weight. (Larson, to her credit, seems completely aware of this and makes sure to praise Tremblay every chance she gets.) Just because he’s a child doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the trophy. If anything, I think it means he deserves it more for being able to access such complex emotions to play a part well out of his comfort zone. Most child acting is awful, but what Tremblay did was a work of art.
[In order to make room for these three nominations, I’d bump out Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne and Matt Damon.]
Actress in a Leading Role
Emily Blunt, Sicario
FBI agent Kate Macer is the moral center of Sicario. She is a competent, honest federal agent who is thrust into a world of moral relativity in order to make a real different in the war on drugs. Blunt’s shock and disgust in the opening scene perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the film and her performance throughout is stellar.
[In this alternate universe, Blunt gets the nod over Jennifer Lawrence.]
Actor in a Supporting Role
Stanley Tucci, Spotlight
I’m utterly convinced that Mark Ruffalo got a nomination for Spotlight because all of his scenes are opposite Tucci. Stanley Tucci is one of the most versatile and talented actors working today and he makes everyone around him better. Yet, for some reason, his work is usually overlooked. His performance in Spotlight was easily one of the best, which is saying something in a film with such a stellar cast.
Benico Del Toro, Sicario
Del Toro’s performance throughout Sicario is amazing, but he completely owns the final act of the film. As the movie reaches its climax, he emerges as the driving force for all of the action and its a performance that is both mesmerizing and terrifying. His performance was so good that there are talks of having him star in a spinoff, which I would be in line for on opening night.
[Mark Ruffalo and Mark Rylance would get the boot to make room for these two nominations.]
Actress in a Supporting Role
Leem Lubany, Rock the Kasbah
I know, I know – I’m the only one with any fondness for this quirky Bill Murray film, but Lubany’s portrayal of a young pashtun woman named Salima who dreams of performing on Afghan Star was fantastic. Her performance put a human face on a region that Americans often overlook and it got me interested in the life of Setara Hussainzada, the real-life woman the character was (very-loosely) based on.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Jennifer Jason Leigh got the nod for The Hateful Eight, but I would have much rather seen her get it for Anomalisa. It was a much more nuanced and moving performance as the “Anoma-Lisa” the title refers to, which is impressive since it was only Leigh’s voice. At the end of the day, I’d much rather see Leigh rewarded for playing a lonely, sweet woman looking to make a meaningful connection with another human than a mustache-twirling villain whose dialogue mostly consists of shouting the “N-word” at Samuel L. Jackson.
[Kate Winslet loses her nomination in this scenario and Jennifer Jason Leigh simply swaps the film she’s nominated for.]
So there you have it, my corrected Oscar ballot. While I feel pretty good about these selections overall and wish we lived in this reality, I fear that Jada Pinkett Smith would still boycott these alternate universe Oscars since I just can’t, in good conscience, give Will Smith a nomination for his ridiculous accent in the train wreck that is Concussion.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.