Cinephilia: If I could hand out Oscars

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The summer movie season is nearing an end and the Academy Awards will never recognize any of my picks, so I’ve decided to assemble an Oscar ballot for the first two thirds of the year, before the awards season hopefuls are released from September–December. The politics behind the group that has the ability to deem something “The Best Picture” skew their ability to look at the entire year objectively, as they often ignore films for ridiculous reasons. Academy Award voters, feel free to plagiarize this ballot.

Best Picture: About Elly

Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2011, but About Elly, which was actually made in 2009 and never received a theatrical release, might be his masterpiece. With the tension of a Hitchcockian mystery that slowly unfolds, About Elly emerges as a striking character study and a political critique of the sexism in Iranian culture. But this will never win, because apparently the “best picture” has to be American every single year.

Best Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

The acting, cinematography, and storytelling had the potential to be unwieldy and annoying, but with contrasts through dynamic and static camerawork, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has made a delightful film that is fun and exciting, but also poignant and raw. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl has the potential to feel self-indulgent and manipulative but, to his credit, Gomez-Rejon’s film is as technically dazzling as it is emotionally devastating. But it’s just a movie about teenagers — it’s not a historical drama, biopic, or movie about movies. Good luck, Gomez-Rejon!

Best Actor: Paul Giamatti: Love & Mercy

Love & Mercy, the experimentally structured biopic on Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson, is a heavy-hitting film anchored by John Cusack and Paul Dano’s shared portrayal of the music icon. But without Paul Giamatti’s nightmare-inducing performance as Dr. Eugene Landy, the film’s emotional pull wouldn’t be anchored by any real threat. The long-time character actor holds our attention every time he’s on screen. We feel him slowly boil up with small changes in his diction and expression, but when he freaks out, he is as scary a threat as Jason or Freddy. Giamatti will give you nightmares, but the Academy won’t remember him by morning, let alone next February.

Best Actress: Sarah Snook: Predestination

Playing both the male and female parts of the same character, Sarah Snook’s layered performance in the heartbreaking Predestination, a time-travel romp about identity, masterfully captures different mannerisms, gaits, and diction, done while Snook seamlessly plays two different genders. As Snook was unknown to me, I just assumed that the two genders were played by two actors, but such is the greatness of her performance. She is that character. But she is that character in an indie sci-fi time travel movie, so we’ll have to forget about her, too.