When Academy Award winners are announced Feb. 26, about four-fifths of the contenders will go home empty-handed. Though they might feel bad for a while, they’ll always be identified as Oscar nominees. But what about all those people who turned in great work and didn’t even get that far?
Take Stephen Frears. When “Florence Foster Jenkins” opened, there was appropriate buzz about the performances and the design work, but almost none for him. Frears takes tricky material and succeeds, but maybe he makes it look too easy.
In the four acting races, everyone nominated deserves to be there. But with only five slots, there are also other deserving people. Aside from Amy Adams in “Arrival,” the list includes Sally Field, “Hello, My Name Is Doris”; Jake Gyllenhaal, terrific in “Nocturnal Animals”; Issei Ogata, “Silence”; and a trio from “Hidden Figures,” Kevin Costner, Janelle Monáe and Henson.
There are also actors who appear in nominated films, but alas, they didn’t stir up the awards buzz that they deserved, including Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek in “Toni Erdmann”; Chris Pine, “Hell or High Water”; and Vince Vaughn and Hugo Weaving, “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Then there is Ralph Fiennes, memorable in both “A Bigger Splash” and “Hail Caesar!”; in the latter, he plays a director trying to give a line reading to cowboy star Alden Ehrenreich (“Would that it were so simple”) and it’s one of the funniest scenes of the year.
Speaking of comedy: Andrea Martin in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” and Andy Samberg in “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” probably never entertained fantasies about winning an Oscar for their work, but both are pretty darn terrific. And how about Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson, costume designers of “The Dressmaker”? The Australian film starring Kate Winslet may not have been seen by enough voters. But it’s a rare film in which the clothes help drive the narrative and Boyce and Wilson met the challenge.
And a big pat on the back to composers Michael Giacchino for “Rogue One” and Alexandre Desplat, “The Light Between Oceans.” Aside from Frears, other directors did spectacular work, including Clint Eastwood with “Sully”; Pablo Larraín, with both “Jackie” and “Neruda”; and documentary helmers Ava DuVernay with “13th” and Roger Ross Williams, “Life, Animated.”
And finally, a special word for Martin Scorsese and “Silence.” Sometimes a director makes a personal film that is an immediate hit, like Steven Spielberg with “Schindler’s List.” But sometimes not. When Alfred Hitchcock’s very personal “Vertigo” debuted, immediate audience reaction was bewilderment: “This isn’t what I expected.” But time changes perspectives. “Silence,” like “Vertigo,” will undoubtedly be re-evaluated and appreciated more as the years go by. It’s a story of spirituality, but it’s also a metaphor for anyone who goes to a foreign country with good intentions — whether it’s the clergy, the military, or commercial enterprises — only to be confronted with hosts who don’t want their “improvements.” Scorsese’s film works on many levels.
This is not to take anything away from those who were nominated or those who will win. It’s a reminder that life is quirky and sometimes great work is appreciated but not given awards. So give yourself a pat on the back and have fun Feb. 26.