The issue of diversity has dominated the discussion around this year’s Oscars, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to nominate any people of color in the major categories. But these omissions only become more egregious as you dig into the actual nominations, because as it turns out, you can’t even trust the Academy to get their white-people movies right.
The only movie that absolutely needed to be nominated for Best Picture was Todd Haynes’s Carol, about a love affair between two women in 1950s New York. The Academy has approximately 6,000 members, and of those 6,000, only 300 votes are needed to nominate a film for Best Picture — which means the Academy couldn’t be bothered to round up even 300 votes for Carol, even though Carol is the best film of this year — or any year, really, assuming you consider all perfect things to be equal. To illustrate the vast injustice of Carol’s snubs, here is a list of all the Oscar categories Carol should have won. (It's all of them.)
Best Picture: Carol uses the camera to articulate an unspoken language of love, communicating through close-ups, color, and camera movement all of the longing and isolation that comes with profound love. It is not only a radical look at the history of women’s desire, it’s a statement on behalf of filmmaking itself — a declaration of cinema’s power to communicate subjective worlds within objective images. Carol is a masterpiece. It is also not nominated for Best Picture. But, you know, it was really cold when they shot The Revenant; I guess that’s the same thing.
Best Director: Todd Haynes has made melodramas, musicals, Bob Dylan kaleidoscopes, and biopics with Barbie dolls. He is a pioneer of American cinema, one of the principal artists of the New Queer Cinema movement in the 1990s, and he’s still making radical work 30 years after he started. Carol is one of his very best films, impressively shot in only 35 days after massive budget cuts gutted the film’s financing. Haynes has never been nominated for an Oscar. The Oscars are the fucking worst.
Best Actress: OK, so here’s the thing. I could respect the Academy’s decision to nominate Rooney Mara for Best Supporting Actress and just give this to Cate Blanchett. Rooney’s only the protagonist, she only has the most screen time of anyone in the film, and it’s only the best performance of the year and her career by a country mile. But as I have explained, the Academy has lost its Carol privileges. So Rooney is going to be my winner in the category where she belongs, the only category at the Oscars that matters, Best Actress 2015, AMEN.
Best Actor: The character Carol proves in the film Carol to be a woman superior in every way to all men and most other humans — a dynamic that mirrors real life, since Cate Blanchett is an actress better than all actors. I have argued for years that splitting the acting categories by gender makes it possible for boystars to get by with dumbo Trumbo mediocrity while women are forced to squeeze a full year of excellence into just five slots. Cate has already won Oscars in Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. It’s time to give her the gender-neutral (gender-transcendent?) Oscar she deserves.
Best Supporting Actress: Sarah Paulson is not only the Best Supporting Actress of the year in Carol, she is in fact the best supporting actress in every film in which she is a supporting actress.
Best Supporting Actor: Where do I even begin? Kyle Chandler? Jake Lacy? John Magaro? That skinny dude who interrupts lesbian breakfast but who turns out in a very unexpected twist to be blessed with a surprisingly shapely booty? If anyone ever tries to tell you Carol doesn’t consider the male perspective, kindly point out that you could have filled Best Supporting Actor with nothing but men from Carol and come out with a perfectly respectable category.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Phyllis Nagy’s script adapts crime-novel mastermind (and longtime friend) Patricia Highsmith’s book The Price of Salt with a sensitivity for both what makes the book great and what makes film unique as an art form. The inner monologues of the novel are translated into a language of subjective images, and what might have been static dialogue scenes instead build and cut like action sequences, each word and action a step in the scheme of romantic conquest.
Best Original Screenplay: Yes, the Screenplay awards are traditionally devoted to the text, and yes, Carol is based on a book, but dear reader, what about the subtext? Such subtext that Oscar dreams are made of…
Best Cinematography: Shot on 16mm film, the look of Carol was inspired by the photography of midcentury artists and photojournalists like Saul Leiter and Ruth Orkin, and it’s so beautiful the real world will make you ill once you’re forced to leave the theater.
Best Editing: Editor Affonso Gonçalves respects the spaces between words, favoring moments in performances that are jagged and full of unexpressed and maybe unconscious meaning. The editing alternates with a subtle violence between holding us claustrophobically close to the characters and distressingly far, mimicking the impossible longing of the characters and ripping your insides apart in the process.
Best Production Design: Production designer Judy Becker has the shabby-chic look of the postwar era on lock. Pegboard and dirty windows have never looked so good.
Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell is nominated in this category twice, once for Carol and once for Cinderella. If she wins for Cinderella over Carol, Donald Trump becomes our president on the spot. That's the rule. This basura world deserves no better.
Best Hair/Makeup: BOTH CATE BLANCHETT AND ROONEY MARA WERE WEARING WIGS. I REPEAT: THAT IS NOT THEIR REAL HAIR, GIVE THIS MOVIE ALL THE AWARDS.
Best Sound Mixing: Sound Mixing is the Oscar for how the sound department brought together all of the recorded sounds of the film to create an atmosphere, and Carol’s sound mix is actually the best argument for seeing Carol in theaters as Todd intended. If you just watch on your TV, you might never notice that the ambient noise, the dialogue, and the score all seem to float in from different directions, overtaking each other as needed to serve the emotional timbre of the scenes.
Best Sound Editing: Sound Editing is the Oscar for the production and recording of new sounds, and anyone who has seen Carol could tell you that the record that Carol makes of Cate Blanchett’s speaking voice is actually the sound made by black holes when they collide. She rattles the air itself.
Best Original Score: Iconic. Dah dahhhhh dah — plinkplinkplinkplinkplink — dah dahhhhhh dah — plinkplinkplinkplinkplink — dah dah dahhh dah, dah dah dah ... everybody!
Best Original Song: Trailblazing rock musician Carrie Brownstein speaks in Carol for approximately 15 unbroken seconds, which is more than enough to count for this nonsense category. Brownstein’s original composition, with lyrics by Phyllis Nagy, has more going on above and below the surface than any song Lady Gaga has ever written.
Best Visual Effects: Yes, I suppose on one hand, you could say Carol has no visual effects. But on the other, much more important hand, what visuals produce more effect than the visuals of Carol?
Best Documentary Feature: The characters in Carol might be fictional, but all documentaries employ narrative manipulation of some kind, and Carol is a document of absolute truth.
Best Documentary Short: Pick a scene in Carol. Straight up any one. There’s your best Documentary Short.
Best Animated Short: Carol is neither animated nor short, but did you know star Rooney Mara is only 5-foot-3?
Best Live Action Short: The problem with the category Best Live Action Short is that people have been pronouncing it wrong. It’s not live action as in jive action, but in fact live action as in shiv action. When pronounced with the correct emphasis, “Live action, short!” reveals itself to be a command director Todd Haynes must have used many times in reference to Therese Belivet’s journey to free herself from indecision and live her truth as a lesbian despite the repressive nature of society.
Best Animated Feature: Carol’s images could be described as painterly, but, you know, what is animation when you are dealing with the nature of moving images? #reallymakesyouthink
Best Foreign Language Film: Two members of the same magnificently cheekboned alien species find each other against all odds amid the chaos of human relations, and they proceed to communicate their rapidly developing desire through a subterranean progression of glances and gestures. You can’t get more foreign if you ask me.
The Irving G. Thalberg Award: This award isn’t given every year, but it’s for lifelong achievement by producers. If a troll like Warren Beatty can win this, then Carol producers Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen more than deserve it for 30 years of excellence in this trash-ass industry.
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Another award that’s only given occasionally; this one is for industry members who have devoted themselves to humanitarian causes. Carol raised $10 million and then donated every cent of it to my own personal happiness. If that’s not a humanitarian effort, I don’t know what is.