I’m going to be controversial today.
I’m going to say some not-nice things about Emma Stone.
Please understand – I enjoy her goofy-relatable-talented shtick as much as anyone.
Her bit in Superbad was Superfun, Easy A gets top marks from me, and Crazy, Stupid, Love also deserves more crazy, stupid love than it gets.
But Emma Stone won an Academy Award for the exceptionally forgettable La La Land.
To do so, she beat out a list of nominees including:
- Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, a movie created to test the limits of how bad a movie Meryl Streep can appear in and still get an Oscar nomination.
- Ruth Negga, in Loving, by all accounts a fine movie despite being obvious Oscar bait.
- Isabelle Huppert in Elle, the token film from outside the US included so the Oscars can (ludicrously) claim to the pinnacle of global film-making.
- Natalie Portman in Jackie, the first US political biopic ever made that didn’t win 152 Oscars.
Emma Stone beat them all.
But I’m actually not all that fussed about that.
I’m more irritated that Emma Stone also beat someone more deserving… who wasn’t even nominated…
Someone who should have beaten Emma, and Meryl, and Ruth, and Isabelle, and Natalie.
Amy Adams should have won that year for her performance in Arrival.
I’m utterly convinced of that. The fact she wasn’t even nominated is like some sick joke, and the fact she didn’t win is the greatest Oscar snub in recent memory, including all those times the Internet wanted Leonardo Dicaprio to win.*
Adams didn’t win because her movie was sci-fi, a genre that has typically struggled to impress Academy judges.
Stone won because her movie was about the glitz, glamour, and spontaneous dance routines of Los Angeles, which is a genre that generally causes Academy judges to... well…
But let’s compare the actual acting task of Stone in La La Land to the acting task facing Adams in Arrival.
To play her part in La La Land, Emma Stone had to act… like an aspiring actress.
If a movie role came across my desk asking me to play the world’s handsomest blog author, I would obviously find that very easy.
Similarly, it’s not exactly a stretch for someone who had literally spent years as an aspiring actress to play an aspiring actress.
We didn’t give Eminem an Oscar for 8 Mile for this very reason. He was legitimately good in that movie! But it came with the asterisk that he was basically tapping into his own lived experiences.
Same deal for Stone in La La Land.
Stone also had to pretend to fall in love with Ryan Gosling, only to end the movie apart.
The more difficult part would’ve been letting Gosling slip through her grasp, but since the bloke is a happily married family-man, I like to think Stone could’ve convinced herself to let him escape.
Meanwhile, Amy Adams had to play an internationally-renowned linguist who spends the entire movie in a chronological flux.
I can only speak one language and sometimes I forget which day it is. What possible experiences could Amy Adams have used to inspire her character on these points?
Adams doesn’t have a linguistics doctorate… I checked… although I suppose if she took Spanish lessons while so drunk the room was spinning the whole time, that might help… Assuming that didn’t happen, though, it means she had to actually create the personality, the characteristics, the mannerisms… And that’s even before…
She also has to portray what it would be like to deal with the first ever human contact with an intelligent extraterrestrial lifeform.
I have literally gotten headaches thinking about outer space, and normal native-to-earth octopuses kind of freak me out.
Convincingly playing a human coming face-to-face with an alien can either be comical (See: Paul), or terrifying (See: Predator), or awe-inspiring (See: Close encounters of the Third Kind). The third scenario is the most difficult to pull off, and Adams acted the crap out of it.
The two acting tasks aren’t even comparable, and Adams absolutely crushes it in her role. It doesn’t matter if Stone was good, or even very good. Her task was easier.
Adams took on a more difficult role and nailed it.
Adams deserved it.
She didn’t get it.
And that sucks.
Because I want more Arrivals and fewer La La Lands.
LA sucks, anyway.