Nominated for Nothing: Why Palm Springs , the peak 2020 movie, floated right by the Oscars

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Derek Lawrence
·5 min read
Nominated for Nothing: Why Palm Springs , the peak 2020 movie, floated right by the Oscars
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They're destined to score zero Academy Awards, but they won our attention throughout a year (and awards season) like no other. Ahead of the 93rd Oscars ceremony on April 25, EW is breaking down the year's best movies, performances, and directorial achievements that were nominated for nothing.

The film: If your 2020 felt like you were just reliving the same day over and over, then just be glad you weren't Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) on Nov. 9. Written by Andy Siara, directed by Max Barbakow, and produced by the Lonely Island crew, Palm Springs couldn't have arrived at a more eerie time.

Released on Hulu in July, a few months into all of our quarantines, this sci-fi rom-com is set at the desert wedding of Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe (Tyler Hoechlin), but the festivities take a Groundhog Day turn when a hookup between sister-of-the-bride Sarah and life of the party interloper Nyles ends with a trip inside a mysterious cave and begins all over again when they wake up. While this is old hat for Nyles, who has lost track of how long he's been stuck in this time-loop, Sarah, understandably, comes in hot to her new reality. Eventually, she joins in on his shenanigans and daily routine, which occasionally includes being attacked by time-loop third wheel Roy (J.K. Simmons). But this is a rom-com after all, so they fall for each other, then have a falling out, only to come back together with what we expect might be cinema's most punctuated declaration of love, before finally making it to Nov. 10.

Jessica Perez/Hulu

Why it wasn't nominated: Because it's a rom-com? Because it's too timely? Because it's funny? Because we can't have nice things? As much as we like to think the Academy is evolving and opening doors for different kinds of films, there was a never a chance that Palm Springs would receive any Oscars love. You will never be able to convince me that The Trial of the Chicago 7, a film set in 1969 that feels like it was made in 1969, is better than Palm Springs, but one of those is the prototypical Best Picture nominee — and the other has dinosaurs and an iconic pizza float.

In the last year, there weren't 10 more deserving and innovative films than Palm Springs; there weren't five more original screenplays than Andy Siara's; there weren't five more impressive instances of cinematography, especially given Palm Springs' indie budget constraints, than the job done by Quyen Tran; and there weren't five more daring, unexpected performances by a female actress than the one given by Cristin Milioti.

EW's Clark Collis pointed out in his Nominated for Nothing on The Invisible Man that horror films are rarely ever recognized at the Oscars, and I'd argue that goes double for comedies. For some inexplicable reason comedies have long been looked at as being below the traditional prestige drama, which someone, somewhere, once decided always has superior direction, writing, cinematography, and performances. At least the horror genre saw The Silence of the Lambs win in 1992, whereas my wrist got tired of scrolling to try and find a true comedy awarded Best Picture — and the laugh we all got when Green Book won doesn't count.

In summary, stop overlooking movies just because they opt for humor instead of hubris.

Why history will remember it better than the Academy did: No matter which movie walks away with the big prize on Sunday, Palm Springs will forever be the film of 2020 — for better or worse. Not even Independence Day literally being released the day before Independence Day can top the timeliness of Palm Springs' release, which I would call luck but there was nothing lucky about 2020. And that doesn't even account for its record-breaking success at last January's Sundance Film Festival, one of the last major U.S. events before the world shut down, where the film broke the festival's then-sales record — by 69 cents (as Samberg's Brooklyn Nine-Nine character Jake Peralta would say, "Noice!").

But this is also hopefully just the beginning of long big screen careers for the ever-charming leads. Between Brooklyn, Saturday Night Live, and Lonely Island (can I retroactively write a Nominated for Nothing for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping?). Samberg has been a comedy fixture in our lives, but Nyles allowed him to show new levels and range, hopefully leading to more nuanced opportunities in his future. And Hollywood can no longer deny the leading actress talent that is Milioti. Wherever she has popped up, whether it be on Broadway as a Tony winner, How I Met Your Mother as the titular mother, Black Mirror as the heart of one of the most memorable installments, or her new HBO Max series Made for Love as the glue that holds it all together, she leaves an impression. Following the success of Palm Springs, we're ready to relive her as a goddamn movie star, over and over.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

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