Play It Again, Tim: My two cents on Oscar noms

Written by Tim Miller

In “The Wizard of Oz,” Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion sings “If I … were king … of the forest …”

With the Academy Award nominations in, I’m going to take Bert’s sentiments, with a slight adjustment:“If I … were king … of the Oscars …”

If I were king of the Oscars, the nomination list would look considerably different than it does. Of course, that’s the case most years. Film critics – and other moviegoers – love to complain about so-called snubs and other poor decisions the academy has supposedly made. I suppose it’s part of the fun of this Oscar business: to disagree. Overall, though, I’d say the Oscar folks made decent choices, with a few exceptions.

That said, here’s my personal assessment of the noms in the top six categories:



Alana Haim stars in “Licorice Pizza.” The movie and its director, Paul Thomas Anderson, have been nominated for Oscars. Haim was not nominated, but should have been. (Universal)

Nominees: “Belfast,” “CODA,” “Don’t Look Up,” “Drive My Car,” “Dune,” “King Richard,” “Licorice Pizza,” “Nightmare Alley,” “The Power of the Dog,” “West Side Story.”

Great choices: “Drive My Car,” “Licorice Pizza,” “CODA,” “Nightmare Alley,” “West Side Story.”

Good choice: “The Power of the Dog.”

Good movies, but Oscar worthy?: “Belfast,” “King Richard.”

Really?: “Dune,” “Don’t Look Up.”

Missing: “The Worst Person in the World,” “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” “C’mon C’mon,” and at least one of the following: “Final Account,” “Val,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”

Overall: It’s a relief that “Drive My Car,” a Japanese drama, was nominated.  But it’s still the only foreign-language film up for the big prize, and that’s a joke. Norway’s “The Worst Person in the World” couldn’t crack the academy’s top 10? That’s not a surprise, only because it’s typical of the voters. But it’s unfortunate. At least “Worst Person” did nab noms for foreign-language film and original screenplay.


Nominees: Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”; Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”; Penelope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”; Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”; Kristen Stewart, “Spencer.”

Great choices: Chastain, Cruz, Kidman.

Good choices: Stewart, Colman.

Missing: Renate Reinsve, “The Worst Person in the World”; Alana Haim, “Licorice Pizza.”

Overall: This is a very strong category as is. But Reinsve and Haim belong in this group as much as anyone. I’d definitely place them ahead of Stewart and Colman.


Nominees: Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”; Andrew Garfield, “tick, tick … BOOM!”; Will Smith, “King Richard”; Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”

Great choices: Cumberbatch, Washington.

Good choices: Smith, Garfield, Bardem.

Missing: Joaquin Phoenix, “C’mon C’mon”; Hidetoshi Nishijima, “Drive My Car”; Bradley Cooper, “Nightmare Alley.”

Overall: Again, solid choices. But Phoenix and Nishijima should have gotten nods over Smith, Garfield or Bardem.


Nominees: Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”; Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”; Judi Dench, “Belfast”; Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”; Aunjanue Ellis, “KIng Richard.”

Good choices: Buckley, DeBose, Dunst, Ellis.

Really?: Dench.

Missing: Joanna Lumley, “Falling for Figaro”; Susanna Son, “Red Rocket”; Ruth Negga, “Passing”; Kathryn Walker, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”; and any of the following: Michaela Watkins, “Werewolves Within”; Vera Farmiga, “The Many Saints of Newark”; Regina King, “The Harder They Fall”; Anya Taylor-Joy, “Last Night in Soho”; Diana Rigg, “Last Night in Soho.”

Overall: I love Judi Dench – Who doesn’t? – but she wasn’t the best supporting actress in her own film; Caitriona Balfe was. I’m OK with the rest of the choices, though I would have gone with any of those listed under “missing” instead.


Nominees: Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”; Troy Kotsur, “CODA”; Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”; J.K. Simmons, ‘Being the Ricardos”; Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog.”

Great choice: Kotsur.

Good choices: Hinds, Smit-McPhee, Plemons, Simmons.

Missing: Ray Liotta, “The Many Saints of Newark”; Anders Danielsen Lie, “The Worst Person in the World”; Bradley Cooper, “Licorice Pizza.”

Overall: Not a bad pick in the nominated bunch, but I’d choose Liotta, Danielsen Lie or Cooper (funniest performance of the year) before anyone but Kotsur and Hinds.


Nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”; Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”; Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”; Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”; Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story.”

Great choices: Hamaguchi, Anderson, Spielberg.

Good choices: Campion, Branagh.

Missing: Joachim Trier, “The Worst Person in the World”; Hamaguchi, “Wheel of Fantasy and Fortune”; Mike Mills, “C’mon C’mon.”

Overall: I’d give Hamaguchi a second nomination for “Wheel,” which, like his “Drive My Car,” is like fine literature on film. Trier is like Jean-Luc Godard at his best, surprising us with his daring and intelligence with “Worst Person.” And Mills touches our hearts with “C’mon C’mon.” I’d put them in the place of Campion, Branagh and (though deserving) Spielberg if I had my way.

The Oscars will be presented March 27 – way too late in the year, if you ask me. Stay tuned for a column in which I write about which nominees I’d choose (though I think I’ve already given you more than a few clues).

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Play It Again, Tim

Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and womr.org (archived shows at https://womr.org/schedule/broadcast-archive/). He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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