Oscar nominations were released on Tuesday, to both excitement and criticism from fans and the film community as a whole. In addition to the usual faces (Meryl Streep received her 21st Oscar nomination this year for her role in “The Post”), some nominations were filled with new blood, a welcome change for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been criticized for its exclusivity and prioritization of seasoned actors as well as for its lack of diversity following the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite.
This year features the youngest Best Actor nominee since 1931 — “Call Me By Your Name’s” 22-year-old Timothée Chalamet — and the oldest Supporting Actor nominee ever, “All the Money in the World’s” Christopher Plummer at 88 years old. Daniel Kaluuya also received his first nomination for the harrowing, allegorical horror film “Get Out,” a nod to the Oscars’ improving diversity that started with“Moonlight’s” Best Picture win last year.
Yet, some categories remain entrenched in tradition, leaving impeccably talented actors, directors and editors off the list. Most specifically, while the stunning LGBTQ+ love story “Call Me By Your Name” garnered four nominations, it was snubbed for nearly just as many. While the film received the Oscars’ most prized nomination, that of Best Picture, it would not have earned it without the spectacular work of the following individuals.
The first is editor Walter Fasano, a longtime friend and collaborator of director Luca Guadagnino. Editing is often a talent overlooked in cinematic viewership, since skillful editing blends seamlessly with the rest of the film. And in many cases, editors can make or break a film simply through its pacing. This is clear with films such as “Dunkirk,” whose editor Lee Smith is nominated for Best Editing. In the film, Smith intercuts three timelines to create a feeling of heightened anticipation and anxiety for the entire film. Unlike Smith, Fasano brilliantly succeeds in a dangerous gamble — taking his time.
“Call Me By Your Name” is slow — not boring, not monotonous, but languorous in the way that one feels in a hot summer in Northern Italy. Fasano wonderfully includes quick close ups of the leads’ bodies, which, instead of being distracting, only add to the film’s sensuousness. These short cuts are juxtaposed by the longer drawn-out shots such as Mr. Perlman’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) heartbreaking speech to his son or Elio’s (Chalamet) wonderfully melancholic reflection in the last shot of the film. “Call Me By Your Name” could easily have been a different film without the stunning work of Fasano, and for that he deserves a nomination.
Next, “Call Me By Your Name” is absent from the Best Supporting Actor category, despite having two spectacular supporting performances by Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman, a classics professor and a quiet but loving father, and Armie Hammer, the lanky American doctoral student Oliver, who develops a relationship with Elio. Both actors are not new to the screen. Stuhlbarg has appeared in a variety of films, from “Men in Black 3” and “Doctor Strange” to “Trumbo” and “Steve Jobs,” bringing a level of professionalism and honesty to every performance, no matter the genre. Yet, 2017 was a banner year for Stuhlbarg, appearing in three films nominated for Best Picture (“The Post,” “The Shape of Water” and “Call Me By Your Name”).
Stuhlbarg has perfected the art of the supporting role, but none of his performances reach the precipitous heights of his performance as Mr. Perlman. Stuhlbarg brings a quiet power to the role, a character whose shocked wonder at chatty Italians and youthful, joyous giggles create a gentle father and influential teacher to Elio and Oliver, respectively. His heart-crushing speech at the end of the film alone makes him deserving of the nomination, displaying a soft and knowing intelligence with grace and ease, saying exactly what Elio needs to hear.
Hammer, too, is not an uncommon name in Hollywood, but in recent years, his journey from action flicks including “The Lone Ranger” to dramatic roles in films such as “The Social Network,” “Nocturnal Animals” and “Call Me By Your Name” has been a long one. Hammer’s Oliver is unlike any performance he has ever given. Perfectly cast as the brazen American whose colored swim trunks and abrupt catchphrase — “Later!” — stun the Italians in the film, Hammer brings a wonderful depth to the role, easily missed at first.
When Mr. Perlman calls Oliver “shy,” Elio rolls his eyes, but Hammer’s Oliver is just that. As the film progresses Oliver’s brazen exterior collapses into a deeply introspective and gentle man, who showcases his love in a beautifully honest and vulnerable way. Just as Elio and Oliver’s relationship defines the film, Hammer and Chalamet’s chemistry transforms it. The intellectual flirtation and frustration between the two characters create a complex tension that permeates the film’s beginning, and it makes it that much more rewarding when both characters finally let their guard down. Though Chalamet is spectacular in his own right, the support of both Stuhlbarg and Hammer rendered his performance palpably honest and pure.
Films don’t often have two strong actors that earn nominations for the same category, but this year is an exception, as “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” garnered two Best Supporting Actor nominations for Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Though Rockwell is admittedly superb, Harrelson’s subpar performance — offering yet another version of himself — affirms that both Hammer and Stuhlbarg were far more deserving of that spot.
Finally, the Best Director category is filled with newcomers, among them, first-time nominees Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), Guillermo del Toro (“Shape of Water”) and longtime director Christopher Nolan, who finally receives his first Best Director nomination for “Dunkirk.” While these choices are deserving, “Call Me By Your Name” director Guadagnino is perhaps the biggest snub of the Oscars this year. An incredibly traditional category, the Oscars often recognize directors who make their presence felt on screen. Nolan’s style is palpable in his film, as is nominee Paul Thomas Anderson’s form in “Phantom Thread.” Unlike these nominees, Guadagnino’s style is one of invisibility. From fostering the chemistry between Hammer and Chalamet or the immersive atmosphere of the entire filming process, “Call Me By Your Name” succeeds because of Guadagnino’s brillant humility.
In fact, “Call Me By Your Name” almost never made it to the big screen. Guadagnino began as a producer, but after several years of failing to gain enough support with directors or producers, he took on the role of director and transformed the project. Filming entirely in his hometown of Crema, Italy, Guadagnino introduced the setting as an entirely new character, showcasing the beauty of Northern Italy as provincial and inherently sensual, immersing his actors for months and adding to the essential tone of the film.
Above all else, “Call Me By Your Name” requires vulnerability of its actors, its director and even its viewers. The success of Elio and Oliver’s uniquely genuine and honest relationship is in this emotional vulnerability, welcomed and encouraged by Guadagnino throughout the process creating this wonderful work of art. In doing so, he creates a film that is emotionally unique and capable of evoking feelings from viewers they may have never felt before. This is Guadagnino’s brilliance, blending in to his film and letting his actors steal the show, but it is because of him that “Call Me By Your Name” received any nominations at all.
Undeniably, the Oscars are changing. By including more films by and about women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, the Academy is slowly moving away from its traditional and exclusionary past, but it still has a ways to go — in some cases, by simply recognizing artists who descend so far into their art that they become invisible, their brilliance subtly felt in the film, rather than obviously seen. Maybe one day Guadagnino will be in the Dolby Theatre and finally hear the academy call him by his name.