Delroy Lindo and Kelly Reichardt Among Possible First-Time Oscar Nominees That Should Already Have Nominations

Other possible inaugural contenders that are overdue include Judd Apatow, Sean Bobbitt, Daniel Pemberton and Robin Wright.

Dick Johnson is Dead
Courtesy of Barbara Nitke/Netfli

The Oscars were built to highlight the cinematic year’s most audacious and outstanding achievements. Past snubs have left many of the industry’s finest filmmakers, actors and technical artists waiting for their first Dolby Theatre invitation. This year, multiple contenders are angling for an inaugural mention, even though it should be one of many. So who are they?

It’s always gratifying to see a veteran actor — in this case, Delroy Lindo — finally receiving the acclaim he’s deserved for his nearly 40-year career. Lindo’s role in Vietnam War drama “Da 5 Bloods,” which reunited him with director Spike Lee after 1995’s “Clockers,” could bring him his first nomination for best actor. But where were the voters in 1995 or in 1992 for “Malcolm X”?

Robin Wright hopes to drop into a very competitive Oscar race with her directorial debut “Land,” which is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Despite her work in “Forrest Gump,” “She’s So Lovely” and “The Congress,” the talented actress hasn’t had much luck with the Academy. The director’s and actress races are so stacked this year, and she’ll likely suffer the same fate.

Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” is one of the year’s most beloved features in critics’ circles. The writer and director has built her a legion of admirers since 1994’s “River of Grass.” Admittedly an acquired taste with her sense of nontraditional storytelling, Reichardt’s “Certain Women” failed to garner recognition despite a beautiful screenplay she wrote.

Labeled as just a “comedy director” by critics and journalists, Judd Apatow has been deserving of one or two encounters with the Academy, most notably with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” (both of which found love from the Writers Guild Awards). “The King of Staten Island,” with co-writers Pete Davidson and Dave Sirus, is his most personal expression yet.

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Carey Mulligan (front) stars as “Cassandra” and Bo Burnham (back) stars as “Ryan“ in director Emerald Fennell’s PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit : Merie Weismiller Wallace / Focus Features Merie Weismiller Wallace; SMPSP

“Promising Young Woman” has generated a passion in entertainment circles that could bleed over into major awards attention, especially for actor Carey Mulligan and writer and director Emerald Fennell. We can also hope that the Academy remembers co-star Bo Burnham, whose writing and directorial debut, “Eighth Grade,” was overlooked in 2018, though he won the DGA Award for first-time feature.

You can find even more first-time Oscar hopefuls in the artisan races. Daniel Pemberton’s score and song for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is keeping him in the conversation, but his compositions for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Motherless Brooklyn” were ignored. Similarly, makeup designer Donald Mowat enters the race for John Lee Hancock’s “The Little Things” but couldn’t find the traction to get noticed for “Blade Runner 2049.”

Kirsten Johnson is looking strong for her first nomination in best documentary feature for helming “Dick Johnson is Dead” for “Dick Johnson is Dead,” AMPAS may feel guilt for ignoring her last film, 2016’s “Cameraperson.” She also served as the cinematographer for both of her films, which serves as another example in which a documentary should have been nominated outside its conventional category. To date, there have only been six documentaries able to do so, although best original song, has been an accessible place for recognition with only Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” winning for “An Inconvenient Truth,” which also won doc feature.

The six documentaries are:

  • 1927’s “Chang” – best unique and artistic picture, which is no longer active (lost)
  • 1930’s “With Byrd at the South Pole” – Joseph T. Rucker and Willard Van der Veer for best cinematography (winner)
  • 1970’s “Woodstock” – Thelma Schoonmaker for film editing (lost), Dan Wallin and L.A. Johnson for best sound (lost), Bob Maurice for best documentary feature (won)
  • 1994’s “Hoop Dreams” – Frederick Marx, Steve James, William Haugse for film editing and was not nominated for documentary feature (lost)
  • 2008’s “Waltz with Bashir” – best international feature representing Israel but was not nominated for documentary feature (lost)
  • 2019’s “Honeyland” – Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Atanas Georgiev for best documentary feature (lost) and best international feature representing North Macedonia (lost)
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Daniel Kaluuya and Dominique Fishback in “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.) Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Shooting a best picture winner should make someone a topic of conversation in everything that follows, but that mysteriously hasn’t been the case for cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. His work on “Judas and the Black Messiah” from Shaka King might be his finest outing to date, and it doesn’t hurt to remind voters that his work in “12 Years a Slave” and “Widows” went uncounted. Also notable: Bobbitt is one of the few DPs out there who can beautifully and perfectly light and capture Black skin on film — a distinction he shares with masters like James Laxton (“Moonlight”), Matthew Libatíque (“Straight Outta Compton”), Rachel Morrison (“Black Panther”) and one of the few Black cinematographers in the game, Bradford Young (“Selma”).

Check the Awards Circuit Winners Chart to see who leads in the precursors so far this season.

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