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Who Do We Really Want at the Oscars?

Forget great performances. We’re handing out nominations to the people who will give us the best awards show.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

It’s almost almost November. And while it’s hardly clear at this point who will be winning Oscars in late February, it’s becoming clearer and clearer who won’t. Which is too bad: because a lot of great work, work that deserves a real second look, is about to get lost in the shuffle.

This isn’t an article about that work.

This is an article about the other genre of fringe contenders who deserve a second look: the contenders whom we should think twice about dismissing, not because their work was excellent — but due to a very simple, noble, and beautiful idea: that the Oscars would be more fun if these actors were there.

Am I saying that we should make the Oscars into the Golden Globes and turn the night into a big drunken starfuck and also say the names of some new TV shows out loud? No, of course not. I wouldn’t want to nominate someone only because we wanted them there. But … as a tiebreaker? For a legitimately, on its own, very (or pretty, or sort of, or not very, IDK, stop badgering me) good performance? Yeah, I think so. Why not? They’re just awards I care about for some reason more than life or death. Let’s go a little crazy.

These are the “We Want Them There” All-Stars.

Chris Pine, Best Actor — ‘Hell or High Water’

Third in Chris Wars … first in Oscar Wars?

Look, I don’t want to say that The Ringer’s late-July article about Chris Pine’s lagging C Rating (that’s Q Rating but for Chrises) lit a fire under his eyebrows and jump-started his entire career (and maybe life) revival. I don’t want to say that. It’s just — that’s not me. OK?

But I have to.

Here is everything that Chris Pine has accomplished in life since July 26 of A.D. 2016:

Getty Images via <a href="">GQ</a>
Getty Images via GQ
Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Starred in Hell or High Water, not a good enough movie for me to remember not to call it Hell Hath No Fury but still a very good movie that a lot of people liked a lot. (Jeff Bridges as a Grizzled Cop™ has gotten most of the attention for Hell or High Water, and Ben Foster as a generous lover has gotten most of the attention for Robin Wright: “I’ve Never Come More,” but it’s Pine as an up-against-it bank robber who really owns the film. It’s almost an automatic reflex, at this point, when a Marvel or DC actor does an “acclaimed indie,” for people to rush to call it a “revelation,” or a “surprise standout,” or “so-and-so like you’ve never seen them before.” But this is a sharp, confident, delicate turn from Pine — in a way we really have never seen him. One of my favorite types of performance is the type that works for the exact same reason that, when I first watched the trailer, I was certain it wouldn’t. And that’s Pine in High Water: He’s too modern for a Western, I figured. Too pretty, and cocky, and clean. But it’s his modernity that makes the movie — that takes it out of the Western and subtly into where it wants to belong: as heist, and chase, and myth.)
  • Almost made it work:
<a href="">Just Jared</a>
Just Jared
  • Built up some Oscar buzz. (A “contender” for Hell or High Water, per Awards Daily, and a “long shot,” according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg.)
  • Wore a double-breasted navy suit (no socks) at Suits actor Patrick J. Adams’s bachelor party, the official social-media hashtag of which was #manfestofdestiny.
  • Tumblr’d a soft “prob not” to Princess Diaries 3.
  • Took a “stance” on facial-hair dying b/w gave the hot version of Leonard Cohen’s “I’M READY TO DIE” interview.
  • Isn’t starring in Passengers.
  • Adopted a dog.


But before we vote, our man needs a heat check. And if they’re nothing else — then let’s at least say this for the Oscars:

They’re the greatest heat check of all.

Haley Bennett, Best Supporting Actress — ‘The Girl on the Train’

<a href="">9Gag</a>

Think of it this way: If you were running a Talented Mr. Ripley–style long con on Jennifer Lawrence’s life, where would you play your last card?


It’s time to figure out what Haley Bennett’s twisted endgame is, once and for all. I didn’t even like the performance (Gold Derby: 100–1!); I’m just curious.

Halle Berry, Best Actress — ‘Kidnap’

Why aren’t we making a huge, Travolta-in-’94-level deal about a potential Halle Berry comeback? This is such an underrated comeback!

Have you even watched the Kidnap trailer?

Kidnap looks amazing. They kidnap Halle Berry’s son; she files a missing persons report; he’s never found; the end. JUST KIDDING, she takes matters into her own hands. I’m honestly not sure you understand the extent to which Halle Berry takes matters, and I’m honestly not sure you understand the extent to which they’re in her own hands. The kid will be fine. The kidnappers — line: “You took the wrong kid” (not literally; it’s more of a figure of speech, as in, like, they shouldn’t have messed with her) — are fucked. Halle Berry has extremely, really got this. And you should definitely know that.

But you should also know that Kidnap is out December 2 — Oscars qualifying run, bitches — and I already can’t wait. I’d call it Halle Berry’s Taken but that’s way too obvious, and frankly too low of a bar. My modest proposal: Let’s worry less about what kind of movie this is, and more about what kind of comeback this is. Here’s what kind: major. Halle Berry is an Oscar-winning tornado of an actor who excels in every genre imaginable and gives a shit about making movies fun. For this to be her career’s last decade on IMDb


… is not acceptable.

So let’s not accept it. The Halle Berry comeback starts today* (*with me going up to random people I see on the street and saying, “You kidnapped the wrong kid”**) (**and then again on December 2 when we all see Kidnap***) (***and then again whenever Oscar nominations are announced****) (****and then some other times after that, I’ll keep you posted). Travolta got nominated in ’95 — and in ’17 Berry should do the same. Because Kidnap isn’t her Taken.

It’s her Pulp Fiction.

Gareth Edwards, Best Director — ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

I hope genuinely and sincerely, every year, for the Oscars to be good. But I live genuinely and sincerely, every year, for the Oscars to get awkward.

Slickness and grandeur? Pass. Give me an ambitious joke bombing. Give me another ambitious joke bombing. Give me a third ambitious joke, about the first two jokes bombing, also bombing. I want to see someone beloved and super-revered get played off by accomplished string music. I want to see a skit be bad, and then get worse, and then get improvised because it’s going so badly, but then get improvised badly, and then just pivot back, desperately, to its original version, in a last-ditch effort to save itself, which it can’t, because it’s still bad, like it was before, when it had to be improvised in the first place.

I want to see the Oscars flourish. I want to see the Oscars go down in flames.

As for this year’s source of awkwardness — I’ve narrowed my wish list down to one: Gareth Edwards. Why Edwards? Well, because he may or may not or may or may not or may or may or may have been relieved of his duties directing Disney’s high-stakes Ben Mendelsohn cape drama, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Tony Gilroy (writer of Bournes, director of Michael Clayton) was reportedly brought on to “supervise” an edit of Edwards’s film — and, per The Hollywood Reporter, “was heavily involved in five weeks of reshoots that tackled several issues, including the ending.” (I’m sure it’s fine.)

Anyway, I’m hoping that all of that drama (here is a cogent breakdown from Vulture’s Kevin Lincoln) can untangle into an Oscar contender — and that Edwards himself can ride an underdog (as far as Star Wars properties go) wave all the way to a Best Director nomination.

Here is how I imagine it playing out on the red carpet:

“Gareth — Rogue One. The awards, the box office … what a wild ride these last few months have been for you. What a film.”

“The terms of my nondisclosure agreement dictate that I not answer that question.”

[Laughter] “So modest. Up for Best Director! A huge night for you tonight. Tell us a little about what this means to you, to get a nomination for Rogue One.”

“The terms of my nondisclosure agreement dictate that I not answer that question.”

[Laughter] “Well, my kids loved it. I loved it. We all loved it. And who are you wearing?”

“The terms of my nondisclosure agreement dictate that I not answer that question.”

[Laughter] “Well it was an excellent choice — you look fantastic. Now, I know everyone says they’re not nervous … but come on … you can tell us. This is your first nomination — are you a little nervous?”

[Sits on red carpet Richie Tenenbaum–style and gently begins to weep.]

Dakota Johnson, Best Supporting Actress — ‘A Bigger Splash’

A Bigger Splash marks the first real moment of Dakota Johnson’s genius as an actor and genius as a celebrity intersecting as one: an electric performance in which she spends most of her time reading, swimming, flirting, listening to music, negging Europe, being blasé about a murder, and giving Ralph Fiennes a look that says, “What are you, like, 100?”

In honor of her achievement, here are The Five People Whom It Would Be Most Fun to See Dakota Johnson Be Rude to on This Year’s Oscars Red Carpet, As Part of Our Proposed Annual Tradition, “Every Year on the Oscars Red Carpet Dakota Johnson Should Be Rude to Someone,” Presented in Ascending Order of Fun:

5. Tom Hanks

4. Natalie Portman

3. Emma Stone

2. Robert DeNiro

1. Melanie Griffith, again

Fox Searchlight
Fox Searchlight

Vin Diesel, Best Supporting Actor — ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’

Vin Diesel is a fringe Best Supporting Actor contender for Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, say the folks at AwardsCircuit. Which is objectively insane, but forget about that for second (and maybe don’t ever think about it again). Here is all you need to know about why Vin Diesel needs to get nominated for an Oscar this year: Fast 8 season is approaching.

And since the Oscars air February 26 … and Fast 8 is out April 14 … well … do the math. Vin Diesel getting nominated for a 2017 Oscar would mean — yeah: the holy grail. It would mean Vin Diesel attending an Oscars ceremony in official Vin Diesel Fast & Furious Promotional Mode. Which is to say: Vin Diesel attending an Oscars ceremony in what scientists understand to be humankind’s happiest, Diesel-est, most shameless, and best-known state.

I see this outcome potentially playing out in one of three ways:

1. Vin Diesel becomes the first person in the history of the Oscars to drive, instead of walk, the red carpet.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

2. Vin Diesel and the Rock go rogue during an award presenter’s bit and get into the first-ever fistfight on the Oscars stage.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

3. Vin Diesel plays the Oscars long game to perfection.

And this is the one I’m hoping for. Most people have long since already forgotten, but: About a year and a half ago, last March, Vin Diesel was brave enough to put the whole system on trial. He looked around at the awards landscape, and saw that it needed a hero. And so he became one — by throwing an unconventional choice for Best Picture into the Oscars ring. It was a sequel — the seventh film in a long series — and in fact hadn’t even come out yet. It also didn’t belong to a genre whose films normally get nominated for Oscars. But Vin Diesel simply didn’t care — not about any of those things. He stood his ground; he stuck to his beliefs; and he realized that prestige is a meaningless construction invented by people who don’t know anything about cars.

And he promoted the ever-living fuck out of that movie.

And when an interviewer asked our hero what to expect upon the movie’s release, later that spring? Well: He gave a quote that is now certain to be passed down for generations.

“It will probably win best picture at the Oscars,” Vin Diesel said. “Unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.”

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

That Best Picture contender was Furious 7.

Furious 7, of course, did not win Best Picture that year. It — wait, wow, is this right? — didn’t even get nominated. Instead, eight other movies did. Here are those movies, so you can see how they stack up next to Furious 7 (best sense of family in any movie, best cars in any movie) for yourself:

  • Bridge of Spies (pretty good sense of family, terrible cars)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (average sense of family, really good cars)
  • The Revenant (pretty good sense of family, zero cars)
  • Spotlight (not much sense of family, can’t remember a single car)
  • The Martian (below average sense of family, maybe there was a car)
  • The Big Short (OK sense of family, possibly a small handful cars)
  • Room (really good sense of family, a few cars)
  • Brooklyn (great sense of family, terrible cars)
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

And it’s in the face of this injustice that we need a Vin Diesel Best Supporting Actor nod — and need it now more than ever. Because it’s finally time to raise the stakes. Iconically predicting a Best Picture win in an interview in Variety in late March wasn’t enough to secure an Oscar nomination for one of the most beloved American movies of the century. Which means that, for the next installment, Vin Diesel has no choice. He needs to make history — again.

And this time he needs to make it even better.

Vin Diesel needs to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination this year. He needs to drive to the ceremony in a great car, you couldn’t handle it, honestly just you looking at it is offensive. And then he needs to become the first actor, ever, to campaign for next year’s Oscars …

while giving his speech to accept an award at this year’s Oscars.

Vin Diesel’s Oscar speech, for Best Supporting Actor, for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, needs to be: “Fast 8, in theaters April 14, Best Picture 2018, good night.”

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

And only then, after its ultimate mission is completed, will Vin Diesel Fast & Furious Promotional Mode become fully realized. And only then will American cinema fully be able to reclaim what it has lost. And only then — truly, only, then — will the Oscars have a chance to reach their highest and most Vinsane possible level of fun.

Vin Diesel for Oscars 2017. For the past. For the present.

And for the future.