Alternate title for this superficial article could be “SMH at old white dudes in the Academy” or “75-year-old voting member missed the goddamn boat on young, culturally diverse, films again.” I know there is only room for so many nominations, and that complaining about the Oscars is an old hat worn by cawing bloggers and early morning television hosts, but I want to bring up a few omissions that bothered me. “Moonlight” should win everything, if there is a God, but the likelihood of Barry Jenkins hauling his awards back in a giant fishing net is a long shot, especially with 2016’s version of “The Artist”, “La La Land”, pattering its feet near audiences (most of whom desperately crave levity). Here are a few films and performances that deserve your attention.
Kate Lyn Sheil in KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE
Here’s a performance that rolled with smoke, tightrope walked over popping embers, and masticated convention with its molars. Kate Lyn Sheil gets lost in a foundry of regret. This is a movie that we’ve explored, ad nauseam, for its use of an unorthodox and psychological narrative. Even if Sheil wasn’t nominated, formally, this is a film that will mesmerize and sear viewers for years to come.
Leah Fay Goldstein in DIAMOND TONGUES
The spiritual successor to Naomi Watts’ “Ellie Parker”, Leah Fay Goldstein rocks a Winona Ryder lilt and a self-involved smile. She’s a breakthrough performance candidate, easily, and should be recognized for her work as a cataclysmic mess in “Diamond Tongues”. Goldstein slackens her lifeless body on couches, stomps on blacktops, and rolls her eyes with the pop and pronunciation of a struck cue ball. This is the best portrayal of my generation’s obsession with excess-n-access since Jenny Slate in “Obvious Child”.
Zhao Tao in MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART
Zhao Tao delivers more crushing blows in this movie than I know what to do with. The trembling nuances, quaking rushes of optimism, and drawn shadows of regret tumble, one after another, in Jia Zhangke’s turbulent ode to life. If anyone should be nominated for best actress — aside from Isabelle Huppert — it’s Zhao Tao. Just thinking of this film makes me turn into a twenty-gallon trash bag of tears.
Rebecca Hall in CHRISTINE
“Kate Plays Christine” jostles the psychological doorknob of Christine Chubbuck’s life a little more than “Christine” does, but Rebecca Hall, in a performance that emanates restrained fury and shuddering confusion, makes this film worth seeing. Hall is terrific as the tortured newscaster, and brings the idiosyncratic tics and vocal hiccups of Chubbuck to life with an eerie energy that feels of unrest. Rebecca Hall should be in everything, always.
Michael Barbieri in LITTLE MEN
“Little Men” deals in the currency of deep rooted, systematic, and aggressively present socioeconomic issues that plague our country today. Even with its punctual message and moving direction, it never fully clears the horizontal bar in which it wants to high jump. That said, Michael Barbieri delivers an incredible performance that feels of hot coal bleeding with fire. There’s not one second, when the young actor appears on screen, that you’re not wholly invested in his fury and passion. Young dude is the real deal.
Théophile Baquet in MICROBE & GASOLINE
“Microbe & Gasoline” eschews conventional narrative and climbs aboard director Michel Gondry’s grayscale cloud of self-discovery, friendship, and road tenderizing fury. Théophile Baquet (pictured left) quickly assimilates into the mercurially strange world and spends the duration of the film bounding, from situation to situation, with a self-assured grit and carbonated glee. Between this and Michael Barbieri’s performance in “Little Men”, 2016 was a banner year for actors under 20. This kid is going to have an incredible career.
Cast of CERTAIN WOMEN
Kristen Stewart, Lily Gladstone, Laura Dern and Michelle Williams all deserve our continual praise. So does director Kelly Reichardt, who has silently become one of our most important filmmakers. She distills the loneliness and transmuting pride of what it means to be human, and husks the allusion of safety. “Certain Women” contains the second best diner scene this year, and the very best horse riding scene.
Imogen Poots in GREEN ROOM
“Green Room” pivots, wildly, and proclaims itself to be more than a simple genre film. Pockets of gore and eviscerated upholstery spring up in director Jeremy Saulnier’s grimy thriller. But at the center of the whooshing knives and racking shotguns is an intensely electrifying performance by Imogen Poots. Here, in a world of chaos and claustrophobia, she appeals to the basest of human subsistence and reaction. All that warpaint, though.
Everything in GIRL ASLEEP
From its cherry-vanilla color palette to its erudite use of shapes and spiritual geography, director Rosemary Myers transforms a coming of age story into a haunting, sometimes supersonic, tale of cold bark and splintered walls. Here is a film that was absolutely robbed of production and costume design nominations at this year’s Academy Awards. In “Girl Asleep“, the fantastic Bethany Whitmore steps into a pastel-driven universe of fine-tuned dance moves, stylistic pirouettes, and ephemeral jolts of star-crossed uncertainty. Go. Watch. This. Film.