How Did Adam Sandler's Uncut Gems Not Get Nominated For Best Picture At The 2020 Academy Awards

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems.
(Image credit: A24)

Okay, so, I've already wondered how The Lighthouse wasn't nominated for Best Picture, as well as how Spider-Man: No Way Home, which I thought was a shoe-in for the Academy Awards, wasn't nominated, but I kind of understand how those two films didn't get the nod upon further consideration. What I absolutely DON'T understand though is how Uncut Gems, which is probably the best film I've seen in the past few years, didn't get nominated at the 2020 Oscars.     

I mean, seriously, that makes absolutely no sense to me, since it has all the calling cards for Oscar success. Now look, I know it was a crowded category in 2020. In that year, nine films -- 1917, Ford v. Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Parasite, Joker, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Little Women, and The Irishman --  were all nominated for Best Picture in 2020. But honestly, I think Uncut Gems was better than all of them, except for maybe Parasite, which won Best Picture that year (and deserved to). Still, that is nine slots, and slot number 10 definitely should have gone to Uncut Gems, and here's why.   

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

(Image credit: A24)

Why Uncut Gems Should Have Been Up For Best Picture  

Directed by the Safdie Brothers, who also directed the amazing movie, Good Time starring Robert Pattinson, Uncut Gems is a masterpiece from the first minute (the very first second, even!) to the last. Adam Sandler stars as a compulsive gambler who forgoes family and even love in an effort to hit the perfect score in his gambling exploits. 

He runs a jewelry store, and manages to get ahold of a beautiful opal, which happens to catch the eye of Kevin Garnett (yes, the basketball player), who grows strangely attached to the piece. But Sandler's character does everything he can to profit off of the rare gem, and what follows is a master class in tension as he gets deeply involved with the wrong people.  

Uncut Gems literally makes me sick to my stomach to watch, as I don't think I've ever been more emotionally stressed out watching a movie in my entire life. Now, this might seem like a bad thing, but I genuinely view it as a positive since it is incredibly rare for a movie to viscerally impact me on that level. But Uncut Gems does so in ways that I find extremely admirable. 

Adam Sandler's character is utterly repugnant, but at the same time, you root for him. He's a philanderer, but you somehow want to see him be happy, even though he doesn't deserve the happiness that he already has with his family. Sure, Uncut Gems is far from being the first crime film out there, but it's so bizarre in its creative risks, and so taut and tense, that it stands in a class all on its own. And it does so mostly due to the towering performance by Adam Sandler. Speaking of which… 

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

(Image credit: A24)

Why Adam Sandler Especially Should Have Been Nominated For Best Actor 

Of the actors who were nominated in 2020, there was Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes, Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory, Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, and Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Now, I can't speak for Antonio Banderas or Jonathan Pryce, because I didn't see Pain and Glory, or The Two Popes, but I did see Joker, Marriage Story, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

And while I enjoyed DiCaprio's fragile movie star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Driver's conflicted father in Marriage Story, and Phoenix's portrayal of the Joker (which won Best Actor) in, er, Joker, none of them come even close to Sandler's sleaze-bag performance as a compulsive gambler. 

Sandler, who used to be the man back in the '90s but had a string of turkeys following 50 First Dates (Let’s be real, Adam Sandler has been in some of the best and worst movies of all time), has kind of flitted around in nebulous territory. Does he make kids movies now like Hotel Transylvania? Does he make goofball comedies strictly for Netflix like Hubie Halloween? Or, is he now making old dude comedies like Grown-Ups

Well, Uncut Gems proved that Sandler can’t be boxed into any specific category, since he can pretty much do anything he puts his mind to, since this performance is every aspect of Sandler's vulgar, manic potency, times a million. His talent creates a frenetic performance that has its low ebbs and its mighty, rushing flows that ultimately creates the role of a lifetime. So, again, how was he not nominated?   

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

(Image credit: A24)

What Uncut Gems Did Get Nominated For 

Like The Lighthouse, Uncut Gems was completely shut out of the Golden Globes. But unlike The Lighthouse, Uncut Gems didn't even get a single nomination at the Academy Awards (The Lighthouse at least got nominated for Best Cinematography). Uncut Gems did, however, get recognized by other prestigious institutions. 

The Critics' Choice Movie Awards nominated Uncut Gems for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Editing, which it lost in all categories (Aww, shucks). That said, the Florida Film Critics Circle nominated it for Best Original Screenplay, which it won. It also won for Best Score by Daniel Lopatin. The Independent Spirit Awards gave the Safdie Brothers an award for Best Director, and Adam Sandler won for Best Male Lead, so the film’s greatness was recognized. Just not by the Academy.  

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

(Image credit: A24)

So, Why Didn't Uncut Gems Get Nominated For Best Picture? 

I'm going to hazard to guess that Uncut Gems is just too unconventional of a crime film to get the big nom. It's weird, it's wonderful… it’s weirdly wonderful… and while weird does sometimes get the nod (see: Jojo Rabbit), it also oftentimes doesn't (see: The Lighthouse). 

Still, I'm more upset that Adam Sandler didn't at least get a nomination. He carries the entire film, and I'd say he's like a Walter White in Breaking Bad, or a Tony Soprano in The Sopranos. By that I mean the story couldn't possibly exist without him as his performance is so large and so commanding, that everything, from the characters to even the setting, kind of gets absorbed into his orbit. In the end, it's just such a shame to me that the film (or Sandler) didn't get nominated. I would have gladly switched Jojo Rabbit, Ford v. Ferrari or Little Women for Uncut Gems any day of the week, but oh, well. You can't force people to like what you like.  

And that's my analysis, but what do you think? For news on the 2022 Oscar nominations and various races, make sure to stop by here often.    

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.