My one problem with this year’s Oscar nominations

This year’s Oscar nominees are great. But,, they aren’t perfect. Photo Credit:

By Kamryn Olds, Copy Editor


This year’s list of Oscar nominees is incredible.

Coming off of two years plagued by controversy over its said lack of diversity and inclusion, it seems the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is finally attempting to right its wrongs and recognize a much broader and more varied group of filmmakers.

Specifically, this year’s group of contenders includes both Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, the former being only the fifth woman ever to be nominated in the Best Director category and the latter only the fifth African-American to do so. In addition, Rachel Morrison is now the very first woman ever to be nominated for Best Cinematography in the Awards’ 90-year history.

All of this comes on top of the fact that this year’s nominees are representative in some way of most of 2017’s generally most well-liked pictures.

I personally was ecstatic upon first looking at this year’s list of nominees. In short, I felt that the Oscars had finally “gotten it right.” And, it seemed I was not alone in this sentiment.

However, after taking a step back and allowing my initial excitement to subside, for some reason, I still felt a bit of a hole in my heart, a small feeling of discontent that took awhile for me to understand.

Eventually, I realized that I was not quite as happy as I thought because, even though the Academy may have gotten it more right than usual, they still had not quite hit it out of the park.

Even though this year’s list of nominees expanded somewhat to include more wholly the most basic groups of women and people of color, it did not expand to fully recognize all of those it likely should have.

It did not expand to include actress Tiffany Haddish and Girls Trip, the incredibly-reviewed comedy in which she starred. And, it did not expand to include the history-making Wonder Woman, and its female director, Patty Jenkins.

Yet, what I think was the most criminal snub was that of actor and pioneer of “performance capture” acting, Andy Serkis.

Anyone unfamiliar with this actor is likely familiar with the work he has done. Beginning his career as a motion-capture artist by playing Gollum/Smeagol in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he later starred as Kong in the 2005 King Kong film, and played Captain Haddock in the Steven Spielberg Tintin Adaptation, before then reprising his Gollum role in the first of the Hobbit films.

Yet what has likely solidified his title as the “king of performance capture” has been his portrayal of Caesar in the most recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, as this role required Serkis not only to learn and master the mannerisms of a chimpanzee but to infuse them with the emotion and humanity of a character whose pain and tragedy leads him to build an entirely new world.

To put it a bit more simply, Serkis is, yes, playing an ape. However, with a tight-gray suit on and camera firmly attached to his head, he also portrays the most basic and archetypal of human emotions. He has mastered this art form and become the model for how it should be done.

Still, if you were ask him, Serkis would say that performance capture is just like any other type of acting, that all of the same work is still being done, just in portraying a character that is not exactly human.

But, if this is true, then why has he not been nominated for an Oscar?

Why has a man whose talent as an actor has taken him beyond the realm of human portrayal itself not fully been recognized for that feat?

I think that the answer is quite simple. It is because this year’s War for the Planet of Apes, the climactic culmination of Serkis’s portrayal of Caesar, was simply not the kind of movie that gets nominated for an Oscar.

Just like the comedy, Girls Trip, and the superhero/action film, Wonder Woman, Planet of the Apes just isn’t the right genre or style of film to be recognized with that honor.

And it seems like even the members of the Academy itself recognize this, as both Haddish and Serkis were given the ability to announce this year’s list of nominees. But neither was included in that list.

Now, some might argue that my discontentment with this fact is unreasonable, that the Oscars have always been this way, and that there is no use in trying to change them. They may say that I am really playing devil’s advocate with this argument and that I should be happy with this year’s great list of nominees.

And, to some extent, I might agree. The Academy seems to have made some progress this year, and, as an enthusiastic Oscars-watcher,  I am really happy with that. However, I simply cannot say that I will ever be fully satisfied until, as a movie lover in general, I feel that all films, of all types, are able to be recognized with the highest honor they could ever achieve (at least in the United States.)

And, maybe, as Serkis seems to think, that change is coming soon as well. But, until then, as I happily watch the Academy Awards on the night of Sunday, March 4, I still won’t quite be satisfied.