Arrival is up for a lot of Oscars this year -- Best Picture, Directing, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing and Mixing, and Production Design.
You know what Oscar Arrival isn't up for?
Best Actress in a Leading Role.
You know what that is?
Even the Academy itself seems like it kinda knows Amy Adams should've been nominated for Best Actress, because she was, in fact, briefly listed as a nominee on the offical website for The Oscars!
But, look, this isn't the first article you'll read confirming your opinion that Amy Adams deserved the nod for her performance in Arrival, so let's first acknowledge why she was snubbed.
Because the Oscars are dumb, that's why.
Okay, okay. Settle down, my personal id. The truth is that, when it comes to science fiction and fantasy films, major award shows often focus on the flash bang of the technical, because they feel that's what makes these movies exceptional. And they're not wrong about Arrival's technical achievements. Its look and its sound are absolutely award-worthy. Arrival is visually arresting, and the sound and the score's tone (which we awarded already) marry the familiar with the alien perfectly.
But the Oscars often miss the nuance of the performances in sci-fi film. They lose the subtlety amid the noise. And when there's a glut of smaller, more intimate dramas, it's easy for actors in sci-fi and fantasy to get lost in the shuffle.
Even taking all of that into account, however, I still say Amy was robbed.
First of all, Arrival is not a noisy film. It is, despite the giant hand aliens, an intensely intimate movie. So many shots feature Adams alone, walking across the set, shaking her hands in wonder and fear and catching her breath in her throat. There is so much nuance in her performance, you could almost completely forget about the aliens.
Arrival isn't about aliens; not really. Arrival is about how we communicate with each other when spoken language becomes an immediately dangerous barrier. What language do we use when words are meaningless? Stories dealing with challenges that defy the spoken word are where the best actors live.
There are moments that put into sharp relief just what an incredible performance Amy Adams gives, even compared with the other great actors in Arrival. She utilizes a full-bodied kind of acting where nothing is taken for granted.
When Louise first approaches the Heptapods, we can see the tightness in her unmoving hips and in the shake of her hands. And, conversely, when Louise tricks Colonel Weber into letting her do what she wants through a clever lie about kangaroos, you can see her confidence in the crinkle of her eyes and in the sway of her hips as she leaves the room. That's butt acting! Amy Adams' performance is so full-bodied, you can tell what Louise is feeling from behind.
And Adams' breathing is everything. It portrays fear, elation, exhaustion, even attraction. Louise could be speaking a language we don't understand the whole movie sans subtitles and we'd still know exactly what she's thinking and what's going on.
Through her performance as Louise Banks in Arrival, Amy Adams is speaking the true and timeless universal languages of joy and loss. No amount of scripting or direction can teach an actor how to do that. And only the best of actors can portray both at the same time.
Every time Louise experiences memories of her daughter, Hannah, before the actual moments occur in her timeline, she is experiencing pure joy and sadness simultaneously. She has a daughter. Her daughter will die. There are no moments in which both of these truths are not in every layer of Amy Adams' performance. It's in her eyes, her hands, the way she walks, or hugs Ian, or struggles to understand the Heptapods.
Amy Adams gave the performance of a lifetime. Arrival is well written and well shot, but it would be incalculably less without her.
So, Amy Adams, if you are reading this: Go down to the police station and file an official report against the Academy Awards. Because, damn, girl -- you was robbed.