If you tune in to watch the Oscars on Sunday night, you will see many talented people and fantastic films get their due praise. However, here are some folks and films that won’t appear in these respective categories.
Whether they were overlooked indie darlings or unheralded major studio pictures that were somehow ignored, these are the outstanding nominees for the Underdog Awards.
Most Inspirational or Heartwarming Story/Greatest Perseverance or Resiliency
Creed II: The sequel admirably follows up its predecessor, and stands alone as one of the best sports movies in recent years and is a triumphant crowd-pleaser. Co-stars Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson elevate the movie to lofty heights.
Hearts Beat Loud: My selection for the most delightful family story of the year. Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are excellent as Frank and Sam, a father and daughter duo that creates songs together as Frank, a widower, reckons with Sam’s impending cross-country move for college.
Crazy Rich Asians: A heartwarming rom-com in which love wins! Stay tuned for my full review in the coming weeks…
Free Solo: A documentary about one man’s (Alex Honnold) life journey and his climb to the top of the legendary El Capitan. Simultaneously mesmerizing and terrifying, but incredibly satisfying!
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A World War II-era love story that features impossibly beautiful shots of the English countryside. It’s streaming on Netflix and is perfect for a family movie night.
Paddington 2: The Rotten Tomatoes score speaks for itself. A universal crowd-pleaser that is good for the soul.
Set It Up: Read my full review of one of the anchor films for Netflix’s “Summer of Love.”
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Same as above.
Lean on Pete: A teenage boy’s journey from Oregon to Wyoming features plenty of distressful and harrowing situations. But the bond he develops with an aging racehorse is deeply affecting. Charley (Charlie Plummer) shows unfathomable resilience in the face of constant adversity.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: Morgan Neville’s documentary is a love letter to Fred Rogers, a man who brought joy to many. Mister Rogers’ lessons about kindness to others and embracing our uniqueness are timeless.
Winner: Hearts Beat Loud; Runner-up: Paddington 2
Leave No Trace: A stunningly beautiful movie in multiple ways. The backdrop of the expansive forests in the Pacific Northwest. The loving bond between a daughter and father. And the epic performances by Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster (both of whom will appear later in this piece).
The Rider: Many of the same things that I said about Leave No Trace apply for this movie as well. Amazingly, though, Director Chloe Zhao created this movie with a cast composed entirely of non-actors. Given the greatness of the movie and the performances, this is difficult to fathom.
Eighth Grade: If you have ever been fourteen years old and/or have ever parented a fourteen-year-old child, this movie will absolutely resonate. Not bad for a first-time director (Bo Burnham) and relatively unknown leading actress (Elsie Fisher). And by not bad, I mean ridiculously impressive.
Blindspotting: An occasionally hilarious but deeply personal movie about the undeniable impact of gentrification in Oakland. Daveed Diggs stars in this timely gem of a movie.
Support the Girls: A tender, slice-of-life story that depicts the experience of a team of women who work in a sports bar with a mostly-sleazy clientele. The trio of Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, and Shayna McHayle are especially memorable for their outstanding performances.
Love, Simon: One of the key movies that revitalized the rom-com in 2018. Stay tuned for my full review next week.
Hearts Beat Loud: See previous category.
Blaze: Quite possibly the most overlooked movie of the year. Unlike the typical biopic, this movie’s subject is one that many viewers likely knew nothing about. Ethan Hawke proves he has great directorial vision, and Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, and Charlie Sexton shine on-screen.
Private Life: Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn are awesome as a married couple desperately trying to conceive. It isn’t surprising that this pair expertly balances comedy and drama. But it is surprising how emotionally keen this movie is. A testament to Tamara Jenkins’ gift for telling stories about the human experience.
Shoplifters: I won’t spoil the plot, but I will say that this movie takes you on a journey that you probably won’t expect. It somehow walks a tightrope of being heartwarming and tragic, while offering moments of great humor. This movie is a truly original story and an unforgettable experience.
Thunder Road: The opening scene of this movie is unlike anything else I’ve seen. An MVP-worthy performance from Jim Cummings who wrote, directed, and stars in this darkly-hilarious story about a man struggling to keep it together amidst tragic circumstances.
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Rose Byrne, Juliet, Naked
Regina Hall, Support the Girls
Kathryn Hahn, Private Life
Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace
Kiersey Clemons, Hearts Beat Loud
Winner: Regina Hall; Runner-up: Thomasin McKenzie; Hall deserves an award for her performance. She and the rest of the Support the Girls ensemble deliver an amazing effort in an impactful movie.
Ben Foster, Leave No Trace
Jim Cummings, Thunder Road
John David Washington, BlackKklansman
Lakeith Stanfield, Sorry To Bother You
Daveed Diggs, Blindspotting
Brady Jandreau, The Rider
Winner: Daveed Diggs; Runner-up: Lakeith Stanfield; a great movie year for Oakland (see also: Black Panther) and these two performances are major reasons why.
Best Supporting Actress
Haley Lu Richardson, Support the Girls
Shayna McHayle, Support the Girls
Mackenzie Davis, Tully
Kayli Carter, Private Life
Madeline Weinstein, Alex Strangelove
Maura Tierney, Beautiful Boy
Laura Harrier, BlacKkKlansman
Mayu Matsuoka, Shoplifters
Winner: Haley Lu Richardson; Runner-up: Mackenzie Davis; Richardson’s performance was relentlessly cheerful and constantly made me laugh.
Best Supporting Actor
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Tim Blake Nelson, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Josh Hamilton, Eighth Grade
Brian Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk
Jasper Paakkonen, BlacKkKlansman
Charlie Tahan, The Land of Steady Habits
Jyo Kairi, Shoplifters
Michiel Huisman, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Winner: Timothee Chalamet; Runner-up: Jyo Kairi; Chalamet is almost over-qualified as he is basically 1b to Steve Carell’s 1a in this movie, but he’s listed as a supporting actor elsewhere so he wins here. Kairi was nearly his equal.
Kay Cannon, Director- Blockers
Bo Burnham, Director– Eighth Grade
Yalitza Aparicio, Actress– Roma
Bing Liu, Director- Minding the Gap
Shayna McHayle, Actress– Support the Girls
Ben Dickey, Actor– Blaze
Winner: Bo Burnham; Runner-up: Yalitza Aparicio; In probably the most loaded category on this ballot, Burnham gets the nod for creating a movie that will probably resonate with all viewers on some level.
Debra Granik, Leave No Trace
Chloe Zhao, The Rider
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
Bing Liu, Minding the Gap
Andrew Bujalski, Support the Girls
Carlos Lopez Estrada, Blindspotting
Tim Wardle, Three Identical Strangers
Winner: Chloe Zhao; Runner-up: Debra Granik; this was practically a coin-flip, but I give the nod to Zhao for casting non-actors in a narrative (non-documentary) movie.
Best Original Screenplay
Boots Riley, Sorry To Bother You
Tamara Jenkins, Private Life
Andrew Bujalski, Support the Girls
Diablo Cody, Tully
Jim Cummings, Thunder Road
Mark Perez, Game Night
Winner: Boots Riley; Runner-up: Tamara Jenkins; I’m pretty amazed at the uniqueness of the story that Riley created.
Jim Cummings; wrote, directed, and starred in Thunder Road.
Bo Burnham; wrote and directed Eighth Grade.
Tamara Jenkins;wrote and directedPrivate Life and wrote the adapted screenplay for Juliet, Naked.
Hirokazu Koreeda; wrote and directed Shoplifters.
Andrew Bujalski; wrote and directed Support the Girls.
Nicole Holofcener; wrote and directed The Land of Steady Habits and wrote the adapted screenplay for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Boots Riley; wrote and directed Sorry To Bother You.
Ethan Hawke; starred in First Reformed and Juliet, Naked; wrote and directed Blaze.
Winner: Jim Cummings; Runner-up: Nicole Holofcener; M-V-P! M-V-P! Cummings channeled James Harden and put this movie on his back. I have already written at length my admiration for Holofcener, who had an incredible year and earned an Oscar nod for her Can You Ever Forgive Me? screenplay.
Winner: Thomasin McKenzie; Runner-up: Elsie Fisher; McKenzie and Fisher provided two of 2018’s most powerful acting performances. McKenzie gets the nod because the final scene between she and co-star Ben Foster is arguably the best movie scene of the year.
James Laxton, If Beale Street Could Talk
Ryuto Kondo, Shoplifters
Michael McDonough, Leave No Trace
Chayse Irvin, BlacKkKlansman
Doug Emmett, Sorry To Bother You
Alar Kivilo, The Land of Steady Habits
Winner: James Laxton; Runner-up: Michael McDonough; I am stunned that Laxton’s cinematography is not nominated for the Oscar. If Beale Street Could Talk was one of the most aesthetically gorgeous movies in recent memory.
Did I miss one? Comment below!