The 2020 movie award nominations have been marred by disappointment due to the dearth of diversity and absence of female filmmakers across the shortlists. But award ceremonies aren’t the only factors in a cinematic success story. There is no better time than now to celebrate the movies that won’t be taking home a haul of accolades this year, but have won over audiences with their standout performances and storytelling. If you haven’t already, add these titles to your what-to-watch-next list.
Lulu Wang’s acclaimed semi-autobiographical movie follows a Chinese-American woman, Billi, played by Awkwafina (who received Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes, but was otherwise lacking in recognition), as it traverses issues of family and culture. On finding out that her Nai Nai (paternal grandmother) is terminally ill, Billi struggles with her family’s decision to keep the beloved matriarch in the dark about her prognosis. Instead, the perceptive and bittersweet comedy-drama gathers the family members together for an impromptu wedding in order to say goodbye.
Jordan Peele’s Us doubles up on its themes (and characters), serving modern horror and societal commentary in equal measure. A family on summer vacation find themselves pursued by their own blood-thirsty doppelgängers, aka The Tethered, with Lupita Nyong’o starring brilliantly and harrowingly as both Adelaide and Red. It might not have received any nominations, but the movie caused a serious stir on its 2019 release – and the combination of Peele’s writing and direction with Nyong’o’s versatile two-fold performance is undeniably killer.
Jennifer Lopez’s head-spinning portrayal of Ramona – a savvy former stripper who masterminds a scam against her Wall Street clientele – was hoped to earn the actress an acknowledgement in at least one of the acting categories come awards time. A nomination, however, was not to be. Lorene Scafaria’s slick and glossy movie, which sees Lopez take Constance Wu (as the younger, less-experienced Destiny) under her wing, is a new-age crime tale, presenting complex questions of ethics and a female-empowered twist on a stripper movie. Most deserving of a nod, though, has to be J.Lo, for the boldest entrance ever made in a movie.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tom Hanks might have picked up his first Oscar nomination in over 20 years for his part in Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, but the movie itself (and Heller’s direction) was notably absent from other categories. Bringing the real-life friendship of Fred Rogers (Hanks) and a jaded journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) – who is skeptical about his assignment to interview the popular TV personality – to the big screen, the result is heartwarming and the optimistic outcome feels called for.
Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy gives a larger-than-life performance in this biopic of singer-turned-standup-turned-actor (and producer) Rudy Ray Moore, known for his legendary alter-ego Dolemite. Moore created the character in his risqué style of standup and played him in the 1975 movie Dolemite, and Murphy took on both roles with apt aplomb. Despite much buzz around the Oscars front, neither his performance nor the movie garnered recognition from the Academy.
J.Lo isn’t the only one being lauded for potentially summoning up the performance of a lifetime – Adam Sandler’s turn as jeweler and gambler Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems is already being called the best of his career. In an explosive and heart-pounding 135 minutes, Ratner finds himself in deep with loan sharks, deciding to pay back his debts by auctioning off a rare black opal that he has acquired. For his part, Sandler took the nominations snub with characteristic humor, tweeting: “Bad news: Sandman gets no love from the Academy. Good news: Sandman can stop wearing suits.”