I wouldn’t call myself a morning person. Sure, I wake up early because I need to but I don’t function normally until after 8:00 a.m. Since I reside in Los Angeles, the Academy Award nominations get announced here after 5:00 a.m. so it can be the talk of the Hollywood trades as soon as everyone starts their day.
Since I had to be up to post the nominations here at Reel Talk, I had my alarm set and ready to go but I admittedly was a bit groggy while some of the nominations were announced. Despite my half-asleep state, I knew when I heard certain names or movies, I would perk up with excitement because you see some of these projects and just know who is going to be in the running for the best of the best.
When the nominations were revealed for Best Actress, I heard the names called. Emma Stone? Check! Natalie Portman? Check! Meryl Steep? Again? Ruth Negga? That’s surprising! Isabelle Huppert? Sadly, never heard of her.
Then it was on to the next category…but wait…did I miss something? Did I fall asleep for a few seconds and miss Amy Adams’ name? Was that four names I heard? Are they doing six this year and just surprising us? Was that really ALL FIVE NAMES?
Sadly, it wasn’t a case of being half asleep and no, my TV didn’t go out for a second and I simply missed her name being called. The Academy pulled a fast one and did not nominate one of the best female performances of last year. Despite being nominated for just about everything else and being universally lauded for her performance, Adams failed to receive an Academy Award nomination and I’m here to say that it’s one of the biggest snubs I can think of in recent memory.
Amy Adams has been invited to the Oscar party several times and each time it was well deserved. She was first recognized in 2005 for her role in Junebug and her second followed in 2008 for her turn in Doubt. In 2010, she received a third nomination for stealing all the scenes in The Fighter and in 2012, it was time for number four for her role in The Master. Her fifth and final nomination, as of now, came a year later for another scene-stealing role in American Hustle. Her roles in all of these films were so very diverse and authentic but what they lacked that her role in Arrival possessed in spades was the weight of carrying a film squarely on her shoulders.
A lot of times you’ll hear critics mention that a certain performer is the heart and soul of the film. These words couldn’t be truer for Amy Adams in Arrival. In my review of the film, I said of her performance,
“I know she has been the lead in a few films before, but Arrival is further proof why she should be more often. This is actually a pretty psychologically complex performance because a lot of her story is revealed, even to her, as the film progresses. Adams has to react to these revelations appropriately and she never misses a beat. I also liked that she presented some of the flaws in the character as well. She is strong and independent but her hands tremble and her breathing becomes heavy as the moment of truth approaches. I would find it odd if this didn’t lead to her sixth Oscar nomination as this is the best female performance I’ve seen so far this year.”
Well, damn it! I do find it odd! There is so much nuance and subtlety in her portrayal that allows you to be instantly drawn to her. You want to know more and you want to go on the journey with her that the film is trying to tell. She makes you invested in the story and while I don’t want to take away from the film’s other achievements – the Academy did nominate the film in several major categories- she’s arguably the film’s biggest achievement. I honestly think without her, the film wouldn’t be as successful as it is.
There is something to be said about being relatable. The goal of any performer is to make you forget that they’re performing. Adams does that from start to finish in Arrival. You buy her grief regarding the death of her daughter. You respond to the loneliness she had endured as she tries to piece her life back together. You understand her conviction in regards to the sci-fi phenomenon that is taking place around her. She crafts a real and engaging character that is completely authentic.
This is especially true during the film’s major revelations as we reach the climax. The last few minutes of Arrival is the perfect storm of great writing, editing, direction, music and at the center of that storm is the performance given by Amy Adams. She brings the climax together because as she begins to get it, we begin to get it and we are with her every step of the way. That is the sign of a great actress who draws you in and she does so with ease. For Amy Adams in Arrival, this is an effortless feat.
So how did Adams get ignored despite universal acclaim and the fact that anyone who could hand out an award nominated her up until this point? Some have cited the Nocturnal Animals excuse. Adams also gave a top notch performance in that film and it happened to be released mere weeks after Arrival. Some feel she might have split votes by a slight studio push for her performance in Animals but I’m not sure I buy that. Oscar buzz was strong for her role in Arrival even before it opened. Paramount Pictures clearly pushed her much harder in their campaign than Focus Features did in theirs. She’s the lead in both films and perhaps that could be the reason for the shut out but it rings a bit false to me.
The other, more controversial, reason is that the Academy wanted to make up for #OscarsSoWhite in a big way. As you know, history was made with a total of six African American actors being nominated in major categories. I mentioned that Ruth Negga, despite her terrific portrayal in Loving, was a surprise because her name was on the cusp of Oscar buzz but she certainly wasn’t a frontrunner. Some believe the Academy wanted a perfect minority sweep and threw her into the Best Actress race because she’s of Ethiopian descent. I don’t want to discredit her performance because it is great but hers is the only name that is a head scratcher because most expected to hear those other names but not hers. This scenario brings up a topic of great debate.
Lets take race out of it though and assume Ruth Negga had that spot locked down. If you keep her in, I can think of who Adams could’ve easily replaced. I love you Meryl Streep and you gave a funny turn in Florence Foster Jenkins but at this point some of your nominations feel like career nominations rather than for the role itself.
Is her performance in that film Oscar worthy? Not in my opinion. She’s good and she’s completely likable and enduring in it but it’s not even in her top ten best performances. I get that the Academy loves her and it’s always fun to have her at the party but she could’ve easily just attended to cheer on her former Doubt co-star and called it a day. Maybe I’m bitter because I think Viola Davis deserved that Oscar for The Help over Streep’s role in The Iron Lady – thank God Davis doesn’t have to compete with her in that supporting category because if she doesn’t win for Fences, I’m throwing chairs but that’s another rant for another time.
I suppose awards don’t mean everything and we should just appreciate the performance and the power of it but sometimes you want to see great work be rewarded properly. If Adams had landed her sixth nomination for Arrival, I think she had a strong chance of actually winning and that is what makes the snub sting more. All I know is that Adams deserves to be up there some day before she becomes the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards.
This was easily her best shot and I can honestly say that I think the Academy got this one very wrong because it’s easily a prime example of one of the strongest female performances of 2016.