9 Great 2019 Performances the Oscars (and Everyone Else) Ignored

Wake up! The Academy slept on them, but you don’t have to.

Jeremy Helligar
6 min readFeb 4, 2020


Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Naomi Watts in Luce (Photo: Neon)

Another year, another predictable Oscar season overwhelmed by award prognostications from one would-be Nostradamus after another. Oops, they did it yet again. The online Greek chorus of writers, critics, and cinephiles has become so obsessed with forecasting who will be nominated and who might be nominated that anyone who should be nominated but has practically zero chance of getting in has become a perennial afterthought.

These days, precursors like the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards seem to be more invested in predicting the final Oscar line-up than casting a wide net and rewarding the most worthy work. We keep reading about the same movies and the same performances while equally worthy ones are largely left out of the discussion. By the time the Oscar nominations are announced, they, predictably, echo the names and titles we’ve been hearing for months.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts weighed in on February 2, and if their 100 percent white acting nominees (a phenomenon that spawned a new #BAFTAsSoWhite movement), revealed anything, it was this: Any list of the year’s five best supporting performances by women that includes Margot Robbie twice (for Bombshell and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) while leaving out Hustler’s Jennifer Lopez is missing the mark by a mile (or a kilometer).

It’s hard to argue with the merit of presumed Best Actor and Best Actress frontrunners Joaquin Phoenix in Joker and Renée Zellweger in Judy (both of whom, like Marriage Story’s Laura Dern and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Brad Pitt, swept the precursors leading up to the February 9 Academy Awards ceremony), but it’s too bad there has been little room in the Oscar conversation for several acting turns that were shut out in the proverbial cold.

Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge in Clemency

We see it every year, especially in Best Actress. Even before anyone sees the movies, certain actors (usually white) are hailed for their “Oscar-worthy” performances.

This season, we saw it happen with Charlize Theron for Bombshell and Saoirse Ronan for Little



Jeremy Helligar

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj