Our Alternative Oscar Nominations from Best On-Screen Crying to Best Stunt

The 96th Academy Awards take place on March 10th, so what do you make of this year's nominees for Best Picture and the other primary categories? Given this is the Oscars, no doubt it's equal parts agree and disagree – after all, what are awards without a little bit of controversy?

Still, it stings to see so many of our favourite movies and actors being shut out of the nominations. That's why we've devised our own Alternative Oscars to honour those brilliantly talented creatives who have been overlooked. 

Remember, you can see several of the Oscar Best Picture nominees back on the big screen at Cineworld for just £5. 

In the meantime, scroll down to discover our categories and elected winners.

1. Best Fourth-Wall Break

Awarded to Helen Mirren's narrator in Barbie

There's nothing better than British acting royalty throwing shade at the star of Barbie, especially in the form of gloriously barbed narration. It occurs when Robbie's Stereotypical Barbie laments the apparent loss of her identity, claiming that she's not "pretty" enough to maintain her status in Barbie-Land.

Mirren's succinct, tart yet affectionate reply: "Note to the filmmakers: Margot Robbie is the wrong person to cast if you want to make this point." The response embodies everything that is wonderfully satirical and funny about Robbie and Greta Gerwig's world-conquering take on the Mattel icon.


2. Best Teen Heartthrob Comeback

Awarded to Josh Hartnett in Oppenheimer

For those of us who remember Hartnett's 90s-defining roles in the likes of The Faculty, seeing him in Oppenheimer was a surprise. The former heartthrob has been quiet for a few years but has now exploded back onto the movie scene akin to the movie's pivotal Trinity Test.

In his role as J. Robert Oppenheimer's loyal colleague (and eventual Nobel Prize-winner) Ernest Lawrence, Hartnett is one part of a bustling multi-layered ensemble that's led by Cillian Murphy as the eponymous Oppenheimer. Nevertheless, Hartnett stands out thanks by conveying a sense of quiet dignity and resolve.


3. Best On-Screen Tears That Got Us Ugly Crying

Awarded to Greta Lee in Past Lives

The Academy may have overlooked Lee's performance in Celine Song's beautiful and rippling ode to fate and time. But we're here to make amends by acknowledging Lee's devastating performance in the film's final moments when (spoilers incoming) her character Nora bids farewell to childhood friend Hae-Sung (Teo Yoo), possibly for good.

It's not a melodramatic performance but rather a beautifully pitched depiction of a woman who's long kept her emotions in check, only to let her guard down at this pivotal and heartbreaking juncture in her life. Yes, we needed to pack the tissues for this one, even on repeat viewings.


4. Best Visit to a Hospital Sequence

Awarded to Dominic Sessa in The Holdovers

Dislocating one's shoulder is rarely funny in real life, but in the movies, it can be milked for sublime comic effect. Alexander Payne's delightful comedy-drama centres on the fractious slow-burn relationship between Paul Giamatti's grumpy, smelly college professor Paul and rebellious student Angus, tracking their evolution from mutual distrust into warm companionship.

One of the moments that unexpectedly secures their bond is when Angus defies Paul's order for detention and throws himself over a gymnastics horse. A perfectly timed pause accompanies Giamatti's delayed, appalled reaction (memorably used in the trailer) and Sessa's off-screen anguish. Cut to the two of them in the nearby hospital and what we get is a marvel of economical comic absurdity.


5. Best On-Screen Alter-Ego

Awarded to Stagg R. Leigh in American Fiction

What's a man to do when his well-intentioned books simply aren't selling? Resort to pandering to the masses, of course. When Jeffrey Wright's despairing college professor Thelonius Monk decides to write a novel showcasing all the most appalling African-American stereotypes, he thinks it will be dismissed as a joke.

The book, initially titled 'My Pafology' and later retitled as something very different, then becomes picked up by a publisher, resulting in some of American Fiction's best moments when Monk has to pose as the novel's alleged author: hardened crim turned writer Stagg R. Leigh. It's brilliantly funny and superbly acted by Wright, and still makes a serious point about rampant cultural ignorance.


6. Best On-Screen Dog

Awarded to Messi the border collie in Anatomy of a Fall

The Cannes Film Festival has the Palme Dog award, so why don't the Academy Awards have their own canine-themed category? We're inventing our own, and it goes to the adorable Messi who plays the pivotal role of Snoop the Dog in Justine Triet's riveting courtroom thriller.

Snoop is no mere background player but an active participant in the narrative as Sandra Huller's walled-off wife and mother is put on trial over her husband's death. It was therefore necessary to cast exactly the right kind of mutt with expressive features that say both everything and nothing. There's no denying that Messi was the top dog for the job.


7. Best Dream Sequence

Awarded to Tantoo Cardinal in Killers of the Flower Moon

Martin Scorsese's sprawling adaptation of David Grann's bestselling novel recaps the Osage Nation tragedy and the encroaching greed of early-20th-century American expansion. It has everything we expect from a filmmaker of Scorsese's caliber, including top performances from regulars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, and sharp editing from long-time collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker.

Amid the film's engrossing tapestry of oil, conspiracy and betrayal, we wanted to award its most eerie and atmospheric moment. It comes when ailing Osage woman Lizzie Q (Tantoo Cardinal), mother of the imperilled Mollie (Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone), passes on and greets her Osage ancestors who have been tragically and prematurely cut down by the ruthless influence of American oil prospectors. It's a fine testament to show don't tell storytelling and embodies the film's desire for authentic indigenous representation.


8. Best Dance Sequence (Poor Things)

Awarded to Choreographer Constanza Macras for Poor Things

It simply isn't a Yorgos Lanthimos movie without a madcap, anachronistic dance sequence. From The Favourite to this year's Oscar contender Poor Things, there's nothing like characters aggressively cutting a rug amidst period finery and general decorum.

In Poor Things, Emma Stone's human experiment Bella Baxter feels compelled to take to the dance floor for the first time, and her controlling caddish lover Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) isn't far behind. Full credit to choreographer Constanza Macras who synergises Stone's go-for-broke energy and Ruffalo's period-appropriate jigging. It's hilariously funny while also making a profound statement about Bella's quest for liberation.


9. Best Stunt That Had Us Holding Our Breath

Awarded to Tom Cruise, a bike and a cliff in Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

This category could also be titled 'Man Who Makes the Rest of Us Look Bad'. Tom Cruise's daredevil dedication to big-screen entertainment reached new heights (literally) in the latest hair-raising instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, which also showcases the fine work of stunt co-ordinator Wade Eastwood and his team.

In a stupendous example of raging against the dying of the light (the actor turns 62 this year, lest we forget), Cruise piloted a bike off a Norwegian cliff before smoothly transitioning into a base jump. It's a breathtaking moment of bravery (maybe insanity) that acted as the fulcrum of the movie's marketing campaign while also underlining the need for a Best Stunt category at the Oscars.

10. Best Physical Transformation

Awarded to Zac Efron in The Iron Claw

No Oscar nomination for Efron's imposing yet tender performance in this engrossing wrestling saga? For shame. That's why we saw fit to acknowledge Efron's brilliant turn as Kevin von Erich, wrestling champ, eldest son in the Von Erich family who stands to win a world championship title – if the alleged family curse doesn't get to him and his three brothers first.

Efron is built like the proverbial brick outhouse and we're compelled to award him simply on that basis, as he finally leaves his squeaky-clean High School Musical image in the dust. But get beyond that and it's the seething pain in Efron's eyes that resonates, underscoring Kevin's decline from title-tipped favourite to on-the-ropes fourth seed within the ranks of his own family.


11. Best On-Screen Parents of the Year

Awarded to Claire Foy and Jamie Bell in All Of Us Strangers

Acknowledged at the BAFTAs but ignored by the Academy, Andrew Haigh's devastating metaphysical drama is a beautiful ode to love and loss. Andrew Scott's isolated gay writer Adam is pining for some form of connection that then manifests in the form of handsome stranger Harry (Paul Mescal), and a transcendent reunion with his deceased parents.

This impossible act is present in entirely objective and grounded terms, belying the fantasy and allowing us to locate the recognisable emotional nuances that speak to real-life human relationships. Said parents are played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell who superbly channel tensions over Adam's sexuality with evident relief over the possibility of a long-delayed reconciliation. 



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