The 2020 Oscars took place in Los Angeles at the Dolby Theater on Sunday, and stars like Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, and Laura Dern, as well as filmmakers like Bong Joon-Ho, all took home awards.
But while some winners (like Joon-Ho’s genre-defying thriller “Parasite”) definitely deserved their Academy Awards, others, like Phoenix, Pitt, and Renée Zellweger, weren’t as worthy — especially considering high-caliber acting demonstrated by their fellow nominees.
Laura Dern was one of the highlights of “Marriage Story,” but Florence Pugh gave “Little Women” a whole new meaning.
This category was tough because Dern’s performance in “Marriage Story” was one of the film’s more enjoyable parts. But her character (a charismatic divorce lawyer named Nora) didn’t have the arc — or the range — that Pugh’s Amy March did.
It’s worth noting that Dern made the most of her supporting role — but whether it was because of how Nora was written, or how she was portrayed, Dern’s performance didn’t have quite the impact that Pugh’s did.
And that’s because as Amy, Pugh took on a famously challenging part as the least-liked March sister. Historically, Amy’s been viewed as the worst sibling, the antithesis to the worldly and ambitious Jo (Saoirse Ronan).
But Pugh (along with “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig) made Amy a likable character, and stood her own against her costars Dern, Ronan, and Meryl Streep in the process.
If you still aren’t convinced that Pugh deserved the Oscar for best supporting actress, just watch her impassioned and well-reasoned speech to Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) about marriage being an economic proposition — easily one of the highlights of the entire movie.
Renée Zellweger didn’t deserve her Oscar for “Judy,” considering the performances both Scarlett Johansson and Saoirse Ronan gave.
“Judy” was a fine film, but Johansson and Ronan also gave career-defining performances, too — in “Marriage Story” and “Little Women,” respectively.
In a departure from her high-profile role as a Marvel superhero, Johansson’s turn as Nicole Barber, an actress, wife, and mother in the throes of marital crisis, is breathtaking in its power and subtlety. She doesn’t need to be battling villains to command the screen — for as “Marriage Story” shows, Johansson is at her most powerful when she’s quietly mourning the end of her marriage.
As for Ronan, she was basically the highlight of “Little Women,” holding court over industry veterans like Streep and Emma Watson with ease. Ronan played Jo March, arguably the most popular of all the March sisters, but her performance didn’t just focus on the noble parts of Jo — instead, she gave a well-rounded portrayal of one of literature’s most beloved heroines, flaws and all.
Tom Hanks warmed hearts with his portrayal of Fred Rogers, and deserved the award for best supporting actor instead of Brad Pitt.
Pitt definitely stole the show with his role as Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but it’s Hanks’ performance as Mr. Rogers that’s stayed with me ever since I saw “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
As Cliff, Pitt was able to work without boundaries, since his character was entirely fictional. But as Mr. Rogers, Hanks proved that even skilled actors won’t let real-life boundaries get in their way.
Some have argued that Hanks didn’t have to do much acting for his role as the beloved television personality, since he’s pretty well-regarded already as a nice, charming guy. But I think it’s harder to embody a real person — especially one as iconic as Mr. Rogers — than most people are giving Hanks credit for.
And not only did Hanks embody Mr. Rogers, but he lent a new earnestness and edge to the public figure that hadn’t really been explored before — in a performance that was definitely worthy of an Oscar.
Joaquin Phoenix was a shoo-in for the best actor Oscar, but Adam Driver should have won for “Marriage Story” instead.
While Phoenix went bold with his portrayal of Arthur Fleck in “Joker” — complete with several impassioned outbursts, and some seriously weird dancing — Driver’s performance as a man in the midst of a dissolving marriage was subtler, sadder, and infinitely more memorable.
Phoenix’s character follows a pretty predictable trajectory, and it’s clear from the nuances of his performance that Fleck’s mental illness and isolation will lead to an explosive and violent conclusion.
But as Charlie Barber, a brilliant theater director in the throes of a marital crisis, Driver uses his performance to keep the audience guessing — will Charlie admit to his affair? Will he reconcile with Nicole? How will he maintain a relationship with his son?
With the exception of a particularly heartrending and explosive argument with Nicole, Driver proves that when it comes to giving a memorable and emotional performance, less is more — and his role as Charlie was definitely more worthy of an Oscar than Phoenix’s turn as Arthur.