The idea of “snubbing” is a rampant one that punctuates the Twitter-sphere at the beginning of each year. Award show nominations are announced, the people get mad their favorites didn’t make the cut, and the cycle continues until March comes.
This year’s movie award season notably left out some incredible movies. Fans of “Us,” “Uncut Gems” and “Midsommar” were understandably upset when the Golden Globes and Academy Awards left out Lupita Nyongo’s, Adam Sandler’s, or Florence Pugh’s (who instead got nominated for “Little Women”) strong performances. Unfortunately, leaving horror and thriller-dramas out of award shows is not surprising, and it will still take them a few years to catch up. Yet strong, independent dramas such as “Honey Boy” and “The Farewell” are unfairly being shut out against big-budget, blockbuster films — a fact that stands to prove a point that award shows have a long way to go to promote the inclusion it claims to support.
“Honey Boy” and “The Farewell” are both female-directed, semi-autobiographical films from their writers. In “Honey Boy,” Alma Har’el directs a slightly warped version of Shia Lebeouf’s life as a child actor. He plays a character modeled after his own father, and portrays the rough edge he was forced to walk upon as a kid. The script was originally written as a form of therapy by Lebeouf while in rehab after being diagnosed with PTSD, and wasn’t initially meant to ever see the light of day. That is, until Har’el, a close friend, read through it and helped convince Lebeouf to create the project with her help directing. It’s a raw and emotional film that runs deep with metaphors of how Hollywood can twist the children that work in it. Still, it got zero nominations at the Golden Globes or Academy Awards.
“The Farewell,” on the other hand, is certainly a bit lighter, as Awkwafina acts out the true lie that director and writer Lulu Wang experienced when her family refused to tell her grandma she was dying of cancer. To say their goodbyes without being suspicious, the family puts on an elaborate wedding ceremony, where everyone is in on the secret except for the grandmother.
The film is spoken mostly in Mandarin, with Awkwafina occasionally interrupting in English, a fact that was vital to Wang’s portrayal of the situation. The story closely analyzes Chinese culture surrounding family death and contrasts it with the American lifestyle that Awkafina’s character, Billi (based on Wang), is used to. It’s a complex narrative that uses the dark edges of death to create an uplifting viewpoint on life, especially considering that Wang’s real grandma beat cancer and still lives today.
Fortunately, it had a much larger audience than “Honey Boy,” and garnered several Golden Globes nominations, including a Best Actress win for Awkwafina. Still, there were no nominations at the Academy Awards.
Since awards season, the two movies have had the distribution rights bought by Amazon, so the two are available on the Prime Video streaming platform. Hopefully with this easy availability, the two movies will gain the larger audience they deserve and viewers will be encouraged to gush over their strong performances and writing. The nomination absence of these films leaves much to be said about how the Academy lacks support when it comes to smaller indie films, and proves that we still have a long way to go to continue to be diverse.