Admission: I’m pretty dispassionate about this swath of award season films. That’s not to say I didn’t really dig many of the films. Lady Bird spoke to me as a theatre nerd, crush-addicted teenage girl coming of age in the late 90s/early ‘00s. I, Tonya is a really enjoyable film that reminded me in its quirky tone of another favorite film of mine, To Die For. Seeing Get Out in an actual movie theatre was one of the most exciting, unnerving, and downright fun social experiences I’ve had in a long time. I honestly believe it should win Best Picture because of its smart writing, flawless acting, wholly unique premise, and critical and public popularity. It won’t though, because Screen Actors’ Guild Awards are a great predictor of Oscar success AND the Academy is stodgy and rarely awards films loved by large and diverse audiences. FACTS. Get Out did snag a Best Picture nom, so there is still hope… but doubtful, it’s going to Three Billboards, calling it now.
Where The Academy really let me down is yet again ignoring the paternal perfection that is Michael Stuhlbarg. Even if you don’t know him by (insert Call Me By Your Name pun here) his name, you know his face because it’s EVERYWHERE. First of all, he was inexplicably stubbed by the Oscars in 2009 when he failed to receive a nom for his brilliantly neurotic breakout performance in the Coen Brother’s A Serious Man.
Since then he’s pulled his weight in supporting roles in so many great films: Hugo, Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Trumbo, Arrival, and many more. He’s also found time to make an impact in several prestige television shows: Boardwalk Empire, Transparent, and Fargo. He starred in three out of this year’s ten Oscar Best Picture nominees (The Shape of Water, The Post, and Call Me by Your Name). To say this man is is doing the quality work is an understatement. I mean, I will admit he’s not perfect; he’s one of the many men who’s worked with Woody Allen (Stulhbarg was in Blue Jasmine) who has yet to make a statement against Allen. But as a famous musical about flawed men once said, I’m willing to wait for it. I also understand that there are larger issues in the Academy than a white man not receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination—I’m a woman who’s worked in the entertainment industry and I’m not an idiot. But today I’m taking up this mantle because I just love him in a way that feels almost familial and his performance as the warm and woke father in Call Me By Your Name was pure Oscar bait. In my eyes, he’s America’s Dad and a true National Treasure.
Maybe it’s because he looks so much like a beloved graduate school professor of mine or that his presence in Call Me By Your Name, even before his award-worthy scene towards the end of the film, felt so warmly familiar, like a friend’s dad who’d you endure long, dull lectures about archeology because he’d offer you wine and take you seriously while you rambled about teenage dreams. His portrayal of Mr. Perlman felt so whole that in the scene where Armie Hammer’s character Oliver corrects Mr. Perlman in some arcane archeology fact, I too basked with Oliver in the glow of Mr. Perlman’s pride in his new assistant. Without spoilers, I’ll say that Michael Stuhlbarg plays a great, smarmy villain in other roles, but he just felt so at home and right in this role as a nurturing father with a complex inner life. He gives a performance with such a light touch that his speech at the end just hits the viewer like a crushing ton of bricks. It’s one of those moments in films that makes you want to re-watch the film just to watch Stuhlbarg’s scenes again.
It’s hard to say whom I would have cut from the list to make room for Stuhlbarg. I have yet to see The Florida Project, but I love Willem Dafoe and I hear he’s wonderful. I need to also watch The Shape of Water, but I feel similar protective feelings of affection for Richard Jenkins that I do for Michael Stulhbarg (blame it on my undying love for Six Feet Under). Despite the multitude of think pieces questioning the worthiness of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Sam Rockwell gives an incredibly skillful and worthy performance. I’ve liked Woody Harrelson better in other films and maybe I’d cut him because while his role had it’s own award-bait moments, it just didn’t hit me as hard or as earned as Stuhlbarg’s big finish in Call Me… and this is also Rockwell’s award to lose. The other one I’d maybe like to knock off this list in favor of Stuhlbarg (and my BYT cohort Alan is also in agreement with me on this one) is Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World. It’s a “fine” performance and I feel like he’s getting this nom as a thank you for taking over for Kevin Spacey post scandal. He also has a major role in this film but was probably put up for supporting actor in the hopes that Mark Wahlberg might have gotten the best actor nom, which hahahahaha…nope. Michelle Williams is the underrated star of the film, but her snub I’m less fired up about because her performance is great, but she’s had better too, for which she has a stable of noms and awards and I have no doubt (a ton of hope) that she has more award-winning roles ahead of her in her career.
Not that I don’t think Stuhlbarg has a lot of great roles ahead of him too, but he had two of them already and still got snubbed. Also when I took a look at his IMDB, his next film in post production is Gore, a film about Gore Vidal’s entanglement with a young man in Italy. Unfortunately for Stuhlbarg in that he’s 1) Not playing Vidal (he plays Vidal’s long time lover Howard Austen) and 2) Gore Vidal is played by Kevin Spacey. In the nasty cocktail of bad timing, casting, and content this film, no matter how good Michael Stuhlbarg is in it is guaranteed to either be buried, trashed, and/ or critically tank. I’m putting my award’s hope for my dear Michael Stulhbarg in the rumored Call Me By Your Name sequel. I’m already stumping for Stulhbarg for Best Supporting Actor 2020.