April 25th, 2024

Best cameo? Best hat? Ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards, AP hands out its own Oscars

By Lindsey Bahr And Jake Coyle, The Associated Press on March 5, 2024.

This image released by MUBI shows Alma Pöysti in a scene from "Fallen Leaves." (MUBI via AP)

The Academy Awards honor many things in movies but not some of the most important. Ahead of Sunday’s Oscars, AP Film Writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle make selections for their own awards – some more offbeat than others.

BEST ACTUALLY SUPPORTING PERFORMANCE: Cory Michael Smith, “˜May December’

Sometimes the best truly supporting performances are the ones that will never, ever get the “awards push,” like the brilliant Cory Michael Smith as Georgie Atherton in “May December.” With his subtly manic energy, sad smile and that awful bleached hair, his is that kind of undeniable presence who steals both scenes he’s in and also completely upends everything we’ve come to understand so far. But this is how awards season works and something that only our awards strategist friends can justify. – L.B.

BEST HAIRSTYLE: Gwen’s upside-down ponytail, “˜Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’

There are, no doubt, more elegantly styled heads of hair among this year’s Oscar nominees. But no ‘do could match the gravity-assisted beauty of the ponytail that hangs suspended in the air when Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) and Miles (Shameik Moore) sit together, clung to the underside of cornice, gazing out at an upturned New York in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” For a topsy-turvy, canon-breaking film series, Gwen’s upside-down ponytail points the way. – J.C.

BEST DUO ACT: Jeffrey Wright and John Ortiz, “˜American Fiction’

As great as the whole ensemble is in Cord Jefferson’s incisive drama, the movie is never better than when Wright and Ortiz are matched together. When Wright’s frustrated novelist Monk Ellison meets with his agent Arthur (Ortiz), “American Fiction” sparkles with the comic interplay of two character-actor greats. Give these guys a sitcom and I’d watch six seasons. – J.C.

BEST CAMEO: Margot Robbie, “˜Asteroid City’

Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” got a raw deal this year with zero nominations (maybe he’ll win his first Oscar for his Henry Sugar short ). One performance in a sea of great ones that really made an impact was a true cameo that’s saved for the very end: Margot Robbie as the actor whose scene as Jason Schwartzman’s dead wife was cut for time. She gets only a few minutes, to remind her would’ve-been co-star of their would’ve-been lines, dressed in Elizabethan garb a balcony away. It is an emotional gut punch of the best kind, brief and perfect. – L.B.

BEST FACE: Willem Dafoe, “˜Poor Things’

Willem Dafoe’s face is already a work of art, but “Poor Things” turns it into a Munch-esque masterpiece. His scarred Dr. Godwin Baxter, whose deformities come from experiments performed on him, is like a fusion of mad scientist and wounded victim. He’s Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster, in one. – J.C.

BEST STUNTS: “˜Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One’

It remains wild that the film academy still doesn’t recognize stunts, but we can here. “Mission: Impossible ““ Dead Reckoning” isn’t the underdog in this category but that doesn’t make what they did any less impressive. The obvious “best” is the cliff jump, which most of us know by now that Tom Cruise did himself. But I’m also partial to the Rome car chase in which Cruise and Hayley Atwell try to escape capture in a creaky, vintage Fiat 500 while handcuffed together. – L.B.

BEST USE OF EARTH WIND AND FIRE’S “˜SEPTEMBER’: “˜Robot Dreams’

“September” has probably been heard in a hundred movies and at a billion weddings, but the best animated feature nominee “Robot Dreams” uses the disco classic to perfection. In a movie that is strikingly grown-up about a relationship between a dog and robot, all of the joy and nostalgia of “September” has never been more moving. It sends you out of the theater humming “The bell was ringin’, oh, oh / Our souls were singin’.” – J.C.

MOST STYLISH: “˜Priscilla’

This is perhaps a silly superlative to give to a movie that was easily one of the strongest adaptations of the year, taking what was essentially a young woman’s diary entries and making something evocative and profound without the use of first-person narration. The thoughtful style of Sofia Coppola’s film helps make this point, transporting audiences into this intoxicating and dreamlike wonderland of the most beautiful clothes and glamorous settings with the biggest star of the time, and guiding us along with Pricilla to the realization that it is also a nightmare. – L.B.

BEST SCENE: The Trinity Test, “˜Oppenheimer’

I don’t love everything about Christopher Nolan’s epic but I think the Trinity Test scene is a sequence that will be taught to film students for generations. It’s not just the explosion itself, which was accomplished with old-school moviemaking techniques like forced perspective (doing something small but making it seem big). It’s the rumbling tremors of the moments that follow, when Oppenheimer, after hearing that the bomb has been dropped on Hiroshima, is greeted by a flag-waving gymnasium audience. Oppenheimer’s face is horrified, reckoning with what he’s wrought. The crowd turns grotesque and ashen. A girl (played by Nolan’s daughter) shrieks. Here is the real thunder of “Oppenheimer.” – J.C.

BEST DREAM BALLET: ‘Barbie’

Last year had so much great dancing, from the sweaty club scenes in “Passages,” to the wedding line dance in “The Iron Claw,” Jeff’s silly moves in “Bottoms,” Bella Baxter’s broken doll euphoria in “Poor Things,” “M3GAN’s” boogie and, of course, the end of “Saltburn.” But the trophy goes to Greta Gerwig’s euphoric “I’m Just Ken” dream ballet, a sequence she fought to keep in that is also the best in the film. – L.B.

BEST FIGHT: Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies, “˜You Hurt My Feelings’

Sure, you could pick more violent encounters. But is there possibly anything more ferociously rock ’em-sock ’em than an author overhearing her husband say he doesn’t like her latest book? In Nicole Holofcener’s “You Hurt My Feelings,” it’s the opening salvo in a painfully, hysterically acute examination of honesty in relationships. Not, I repeat not, a date movie. – J.C.

BEST USE OF A PREEXISTING SONG: ‘Silver Joy’ by Damien Jurado, “˜The Holdovers’

I think the original song category needs an overhaul. For years, movies have helped introduce me to songs that exist that I might have missed, that become immediate favorites because of the emotional association with a movie. Selecting the right existing song is such an art and one last year stood out over all the rest: Damien Jurado’s “Silver Joy” in “The Holdovers.” – L.B.

BEST HAT: Michael Fassbender’s bucket hat, “˜The Killer’

Meticulous movie hitmen have long worn stylish hats. Think of the fedora of the protagonist of “Le Samouraï.” The assassin of David Fincher’s “The Killer,” though, wears a bucket hat. It’s just as much a silhouette, but he looks more like a dopey tourist than a stone-cold killer. That’s much the point for a movie about murder in increasingly anonymous times. – J.C.

BEST ONE-SCENE PERFORMANCE: Audra McDonald, “˜Origin’

In Ava DuVernay’s too-overlooked “Origin,” much of the film’s sense of humanity comes from the rich presences of the actors who float in and out of the movie. Not just the stellar lead, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, but a number of performers – including Jon Bernthal, Emily Yancy and Nick Offerman – add to the nuance of “Origin.” That’s especially true of Audra McDonald, who turns up for just one scene that may be the most potent of the film. McDonald plays a woman named Miss Hale, and her story of how she got that name is a delicate powerhouse. – J.C.

MOST ROMANTIC: “˜The Taste of Things’

There are not many truly romantic films made for big audiences these days. Sure there’s the odd rom-com here and there, but sweeping, luscious, capital R romances are few and far between and rarely celebrated at awards season (yes, I’m still thinking about Joe Wright’s “Cyrano” ). This season, that title went to “The Taste of Things,” which doesn’t have an ounce of cynicism, just pure love. – L.B.

BEST NFL PLAYER PERFORMANCE: Marshawn Lynch, “˜Bottoms’

With exactly zero apologies to “80 for Brady” (Jets fan here), no former footballer made more of a big-screen impression than Marshawn Lynch, the former elite running back known as “Beast Mode.” In Emma Seligman’s raunchy lesbian teen comedy “Bottoms,” Lynch turns up as a high school teacher and is quite funny acting opposite Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri. The role also has poignance. Lynch has said he did it to help make up for how he handled his sister, Marreesha Sapp-Lynch, coming out in high school. – J.C.

BEST DOG NOT NAMED SNOOP: Chaplin, “˜Fallen Leaves’

Snoop, the all-seeing dog in the best picture nominee “Anatomy of a Fall,” has really hogged the pooch spotlight. Messi, the dog who plays Snoop, has been all over the place, including the film academy luncheon. But it’s time his reign of terror came to end. In Aki Kaurismäki’s “Fallen Leaves,” my favorite film of 2023, a pair of loners find nourishing points of connection in a cruel and grim world: the movies, karaoke and a dog named Chaplin. The dog, named Alma in real life, is Kaurismäki’s own mutt, and deserves a few bones thrown her way, too. – J.C.

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Follow AP Film Writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle at: https://twitter.com/ldbahr and http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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For more coverage of the 2024 Oscars, visit https://apnews.com/hub/academy-awards

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