10 February 2020

HUNGER’s Alternative Oscars 2020

Besides Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant reign, there was definitely room for improvement in this year’s list of nominations.

At last night’s Oscars ceremony, the unthinkable happened: the award for Best Picture award actually went to the year’s best film, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Also picking up three other prizes including Best International Feature and Best Director, the South Korean drama made history as the first film in a language other than English to win the Academy Awards’ top prize.

The significance of Parasite’s success can’t be overlooked, not only as a challenge to Hollywood hegemony but as a reminder that we don’t have to lap up the same stale narratives year after year. But let’s not pretend that the success of one film can distract from the Academy Awards’ sketchy track record of overlooking the talents of people of colour and womxn. This year, in particular, it felt like something strange was afoot – and we’re not just talking about Eminem’s surprise performance. Namely, only one person of colour, Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo, was nominated in any acting category and zero womxn were up for Best Director accolades. 

Because this year’s Oscars left a lot to be desired, we’ve rounded up a few alternative suggestions of who we would have liked to walk away with golden statuettes last night.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. in 'Waves'

Best Actress

Who won: Renée Zellweger for her role as Judy in Judy
HUNGER’s suggestion: Lupita Nyong’o for her role as Adelaide in Us

Critics have been widely favourable towards Renée Zellweger’s character study of late singer Judy Garland, particularly her attention to detail. We’ve not got anything against her performance either but, let’s be real; she’s not a patch on Lupita Nyong’o in Jordan Peele’s Us. Playing both protagonist Adelaide and doppelgänger Red, Nyong’o literally gave us double the performance…not to mention that voice.

Best Actor

Who won: Joaquin Phoenix for his role as Arthur in Joker
HUNGER’s suggestion: Kelvin Harrison Jr. for his role as Tyler in Waves

Yep, this is an unpopular opinion but you need to hear it: Joker is not a good film and Joaquin Phoenix is wasted in it. Phoenix is a great actor, there’s no denying it, but he really should have won his Best Actor award back in 2013. Then, he was nominated for his work on Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and somehow lost out to Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, a film that nobody’s mentioned since. This year, we think it was fresh face Kelvin Harrison Jr. who deserved the Best Actor accolade for his gut-wrenching performance in Trey Edward Shults’ Waves; an emotionally claustrophobic family drama unpicking the pressures of teenage perfectionism.

Constance Wu in 'Hustlers'

Best Supporting Actress

Who won: Laura Dern for her role as Nora in Marriage Story
HUNGER’s suggestion: Constance Wu for her role as Destiny in Hustlers

We love Laura Dern’s work – without Renata, Big Little Lies would be nothing and Blue Velvet is the first film we’d name drop to try and impress an artsy crush of ours. But Marriage Story wasn’t exactly ground-breaking and neither was Dern’s performance. What was ground-breaking was the nuance that Constance Wu brought to her role as Destiny in Hustlers, a film that could easily have veered into sensationalism or insensitive generalisations in the wrong hands.

Best Supporting Actor

Who won: Brad Pitt for his role as Cliff in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
HUNGER’s suggestion: Song Kang-ho for his role as Ki-taek in Parasite

Parasite director Bong Joon-ho had a busy night yesterday but his cast was overlooked with none of the ensemble receiving any acting nominations. This seemed like a particular surprise when it came to Song Kang-ho’s role as family patriarch Ki-taek, particularly given Song’s stature as one of South Korea’s most prolific actors, working with auteurs like Lee Chang-dong and Park Chan-wook. Brad, who?

Waad al-Kateab and Sama al-Kateab in 'For Sama'

Best Documentary

Who won: American Factory
HUNGER’s suggestion: For Sama

Released by the Obamas’ production company Higher Ground Productions and exploring both the 2008 recession and receding workers’ rights, American Factory is undoubtedly an important release. Yet did it really deserve the Best Documentary accolade over For Sama? Directed by Syrian journalist Waad al-Kateab and English film-maker Edward Watts, the documentary spans a five year period and focusses on ordinary life –  marriage, motherhood and growing up – amidst the conflict in Aleppo. Reconciling the personal and the political, it’s the kind of release that sticks in your mind when documentaries like American Factory fade from memory.

Best Cinematography

Who won: Roger Deakins for 1917
HUNGER’s suggestion: Darius Khondji for Uncut Gems

In one of the biggest “are you kidding me?” moments of the Oscars 2020, Darius Khondji’s exhilarating work on Uncut Gems wasn’t even nominated for the Best Cinematography award. Rather, his stylised, 80s-inspired visual language was overlooked in favour of the likes of Roger Deakins’ immersive realism on 1917; proving once more that the Academy prefers to recognise work that feels familiar over work that pushes in a new direction.

Liked this? Check out our interview with cinematographer Drew Daniels, whose “subjective realism” captured  Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s stunning performance in Waves.

Cover Image Lupita Nyong'o in 'Us' (Claudette Barius/ Universal)

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