In any given year many Oscar nominees are elevated by career narratives (being “due” or launching a comeback). More recently or over the last five or six years, it’s been a matter of narrative plus identity with an emphasis on the latter.
In other words the Oscars have never been solely about merit, but since ’17 and especially in the Best Picture realm** they’ve become equity-driven and identity-branded, certainly as far as the Best Picture winners have been concerned. (The exception was Peter Farrelly‘s Green Book, which won in early ’19.)
We’re all familiar with this year’s recipients of equity largesse, but some nominees have made the grade solely on merit…imagine!
The merit nominees include Cate Blanchett‘s Tar performance, obviously, in the Best Actress realm. (She won’t be winning.) Elvis‘ Austin Butler (likely winner), Banshees‘ Colin Farrell and Living‘s Bill Nighy among lead actors. The Whale‘s Hong Chau (deserves to win) was nominated completely according to merit. Among support male performers the leading meritorious trio are Banshees‘ Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan, and The Fabelmans‘ Judd Hirsch.
And among the purely meritorious Best Picture nominees there’s no elbowing aside Top Gun: Maverick, All Quiet on the Western Front, Tar, The Banshees of Inisherin, The Fabelmans.
** Moonlight (’17 — counterweight to “Oscars so white”), The Shape of Water (’18 — mousey spinster has sex and falls in love with the grandson of The Creature From The Black Lagoon), Parasite (’20, absurdly plotted, chaotically concluded social drama from plump South Korean nerd director), Nomadland (’21, rootless nomad shitting-in-a-bucket drama, directed by female Asian who went on to shit the bed with The Eternals), CODA (’22, hearing-impaired feelgood family drama that also won because everyone realized at the last minute that they really didn’t want Jane Campion‘s The Power of the Dog to win the big trophy.) When EEAAO wins Best Picture Oscar next Sunday (3.12) the Academy will have bestowed six identity-driven Best Picture Oscars over the last seven years.