Brady Jandreau is tall in the saddle in “The Rider,” the best movie of 2018 no matter what the Academy says. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Brady Jandreau is tall in the saddle in “The Rider,” the best movie of 2018 no matter what the Academy says. (Sony Pictures Classics)

If our critic Robert Horton chose the Oscar nominees …

… “The Rider” would get the love, and mediocrities such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” would not.

If I got to pick the Oscar nominations, would they look different from the Academy’s list?

You bet.

Here are the nominees I would have chosen, with my favorites in bold. Any similarities with the actual Oscar nominees are, for the most part, happy accidents on the Academy’s part.


“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”



“First Reformed”


“Leave No Trace”

“The Rider”


“Support the Girls”

“You Were Never Really Here”

I know what you’re thinking: This year’s Oscars look destined for disaster. Will they really not have a host? Are they actually not including a bunch of traditional categories in the televised broadcast? Would they really give the Best Actor Oscar to Rami Malek’s false teeth? Even if the Oscars seem loopier than ever, let’s remember some good movies came out in 2018. In drawing up a list of the movies I think should have been nominated, I went for two criteria: movies from my Top 10 list (“Roma” and “First Reformed,” for instance) and movies that didn’t make my Top 10 Best list but captured something vital and exciting about life in 2018 (“BlacKkKlansman,” for instance — despite its being a period piece!). I didn’t have a strong No. 1 this year, but “The Rider” gets my pick for its highly original and ultimately heartbreaking approach.


Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”

Ryan Gosling, “First Man”

Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”

Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Joaquin Phoenix, “You Were Never Really Here”

From the Oscar list, I’m keeping Mortensen’s raucous comic performance (the man can fold a pizza in half like a pro) and Dafoe’s sensitive Van Gogh. The Academy’s biggest mistake was leaving out Hawke, who won lots of critics’ awards. Phoenix is an actor I don’t always like, but his absolute commitment to playing a disheveled assassin is impressive, and Gosling does a minimalist thing as the tightly buttoned astronaut Neil Armstrong that strikes me as much more challenging than Rami Malek’s single-note turn in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”


Toni Collette, “Hereditary”

Edie Falco, “Outside In”

Regina Hall, “Support the Girls”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Thomasin McKenzie, “Leave No Trace”

A much richer category than Best Actor this year — I could easily make a case for Natalie Portman (“Annihilation” or “Vox Lux”), Saoirse Ronan (“Mary Queen of Scots”), KiKi Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) or Carey Mulligan (“Wildlife”), too. Nothing especially wrong with the Oscar picks, but come on — Collette would’ve been an easy nominee except for the prejudice against horror movies, and Hall doesn’t get credit for being such a great comic actress. Lynn Shelton’s locally made “Outside In” was way under Hollywood’s radar, but Falco was mighty in it.


Simon Russell Beale, “The Death of Stalin”

Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”

Ben Foster, “Leave No Trace”

Hugh Grant, “Paddington 2”

Brian Tyree Henry, “Widows”

Hugh Grant is too handsome and makes it look too easy — but he’s always been a terrific actor. His hilarious performance as a hammy thespian deserves at least a nod. The acting in Spike Lee’s movies is consistently inconsistent, but Oscar-nominated Driver quietly did offbeat things within the “Klansman” carnival. Beale was terrifying as a lethal Soviet politico, and Henry (who was also spellbinding in “If Beale Street Could Talk”) owned the screen, although his role in “Widows” was probably too small to get past the competition. Foster will win an Oscar some day, and if “Leave No Trace” had gotten the attention it deserved, he might have won this year.


Sakura Ando, “Shoplifters”

Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Shayna McHayle, “Support the Girls”

Andrea Riseborough, “Mandy”

The Oscars have the splendid Colman in the Best Actress category, but her role feels like it belongs more in the supporting ranks. McHayle (you undoubtedly know her better by her hip-hop name Junglepussy) was 2018’s biggest scene-stealer, and I love Ando’s soulfulness as the matriarch of the mysterious family in “Shoplifters.” As for the British Riseborough, her transformation into a mousy-nerdy-brilliant partner to Nic Cage’s recluse was one of the most astoundingly precise performances I saw last year — all the more amazing for taking place in a gonzo acid-trip of a movie.


Joel and Ethan Coen, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”

Debra Granik, “Leave No Trace”

Lucrecia Martel, “Zama”

Chloe Zhao, “The Rider”

Oscar nominee Cuaron will likely win this award, and it’s hard to argue with that. My other choices lean toward directors with strong styles, as demonstrated in Granik’s empathetic study of people adrift in the Pacific Northwest, Martel’s slightly surreal South America and Zhao’s searching look at cowboys in the heartland. As for the Coens, they remain the masters of putting everything in place just where it needs to be.



“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”

“The Death of Stalin”

“Lean on Pete”


Both “BlacKkKlansman” and “The Death of Stalin” are based on true stories, and both use comedy to tell wildly dramatic tales. Similarities end there: Spike Lee’s film is all over the place, while Armando Iannucci’s tale of Soviet chicanery is razor-sharp in its satire, but somehow they both succeed in ingenious ways. The low-key “Lean on Pete” is a deceptively simple yarn about a boy and his horse, while “Zama” is a model of how to adapt a challenging novel into an unconventional movie.


“Eighth Grade”

“The Favourite”

“First Reformed”

“Leave No Trace”

“Support the Girls”

If I could sneak in one more as an underappreciated script, I might opt for Diablo Cody’s “Tully,” a clever and risky dark comedy. Otherwise, my choices — including the Oscar-nominated “First Reformed” and “The Favorite” — all share a willingness to take chances and not follow those formulaic how-to screenwriting books that everybody is supposed to obey. Among the pleasantest surprises of the year, “Support the Girls” and “Eighth Grade” were two funny/serious films with an abundance of heart.

Talk to us

More in Life

Sierra Wilkin wipes down pens for customers during the opening day of Cama Beach Cafe on Friday, May 22, 2020 in Camano Island, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Shutdown hit Camano cafe hard, but owner’s used to a challenge

When Cama Beach Cafe was forced to close, Donna King’s yoga-derived sense of calm helped her cope.

Quarantine days: Some of our favorite photos by Herald readers

Staying at home all day has given Snohomish County shutterbugs plenty of time to take pictures.

Columbia Valley wineries look back on ‘St. Helens Vintage’

Growers Mike Sauer and Dick Boushey and winemaker Rob Griffin shared their recollections of the eruption.

Gumbo made without shellfish reminds her of South Carolina

This one-pot gumbo is made with chicken, spicy andouille sausage and the holy trinity of Creole cooking.

Whip up homemade mayo for the best sandwiches and salads

Mayonnaise from scratch has a silkier texture and fresher flavor than the jarred stuff.

Want a bright start to each day? Bake this yogurt lemon loaf

Orange blossom water gives this cake a lovely floral scent and a unique citrus aroma.

An easy-to-make taco that’s good for you any time of day

Here’s a vegetarian taco made with earthy-tasting soft whole wheat tortillas that fold easily.

She reorganized the pantry to reduce food waste at home

With the help of a label maker, this mom is reorganizing foods by expiration date instead of type.

Rick Steves on foraging Europe’s markets for the perfect picnic

Your tummy will be full of delicious food and your mind will be stuffed with tasty memories.

Most Read