Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oscar Nomination Reactions

It’s another eight-movie field for Best Picture, as the Academy’s weird and byzantine voting procedures that guarantee “between five and 10” Picture nominees have again rolled a snowman.  Still, at least we can take solace in the fact that this year’s field is streets ahead of last year’s disappointing octet.  Birdman was an excellent movie and deserving winner but overall, the 2014 Best Picture field was a stinkeroo.

Not the case this year.  Some thoughts on the Oscar nominees….

* I haven’t seen the Revenant yet and Bridge Of Spies was a wholly disappointing bore.  The other six Best Picture nominees, however, all range from very good to great.  If Revenant is as good as others seem to believe it is, this is one of the stronger BP fields in recent memory.

* And “Mad Max: Fury Road” was nominated!  Despite all the critics’ awards and recognition the film received, part of me still feared the Academy would snub it since it’s SO not an “Academy movie.”  Highly well-deserved honour for George Miller and company.

* The question now is whether Mad Max has a shot at actually winning, and I’m tending to think no.  Best Picture is probably a three-horse race between Spotlight, Revenant and the Big Short, since while the Academy liked ‘Room,’ it strikes me as too small a film to actually win.  (I’m probably safe in writing off the chances of Brooklyn, Bridge Of Spies and the Martian since those films didn’t rack up the usually all-important corresponding Best Director nomination.)  That being said, MM:FR clearly has a ton of popular support behind it since it’s made it this far, so what the hell, why not think big and hope it can go all the way.  If there’s a significant “science fiction/action movie/genre picture” voting bloc within the Academy, they can mobilize their votes behind MM:FR now that Martian or Star Wars aren’t factors.

* I’m still not sure if Spotlight is the new “Up In The Air” (the assumed favourite that just fades away as the Oscar season goes on and other movies step up) or if it’s the quiet consensus favourite that everyone likes and will hold its position the whole way.  The film missed a couple of key precursor awards in the leadup to the Oscar nominations yet it scored big across the board with the Academy — the editing nomination was a good sign, as were the nominations for McAdams and Ruffalo within hard-to-figure supporting categories.  I also still have to laugh that this generation’s best movie about committed journalism was directed by the guy who played Scott Templeton, one of TV’s worst-ever journalists.

* It was a nice of mix of up-and-comers (Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander) and old-timers (Charlotte Rampling, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mark Rylance) amongst the first-time nominees.  Also not really fitting into either category are Tom Hardy and Rachel McAdams, both of whom were well-deserved.  It’s a wee bit surprising that Hardy hadn’t gotten one already given how many acclaimed films he’s appeared in in recent years.

* It’s another kick at the can for Thomas Newman, who’s now been nominated 13 times in the music categories and is still looking for his first victory.  Nothing against Newman but I’m hoping he loses again since ENNIO FREAKING MORRICONE is in the category.  Morricone has never won a competitive Oscar, so the Academy can right a long-time wrong this year.

* Everything that carried Adam McKay’s personal brand on SNL (i.e. his digital shorts or when he appeared on the show himself as the audience heckler) was notably terrible.  Watching SNL at the time, I kept wondering why the hell this guy got any screen time, not realizing he was the show’s head writer or that he was the brainchild behind countless classic Will Ferrell sketches.  Fast-forward about 20 years and here he is, Best Director nominee and a good chance at being a Best Director winner.

* I saw several variations of this line on Twitter, but the Best Supporting Actor category consists of little old Mark Rylance against Rocky, Batman, Bane and the Hulk.  It’s also crazy that you have Sly Stallone in an acting competition against heavyweights like Rylance, Bale, Ruffalo and Hardy, yet Stallone would be a completely deserving winner.  (Frankly, I thought his performance was the best of the bunch.)

* My favourite nominations….Anomalisa as Best Animated Film, Morricone, Inside Out for Best Original Screenplay, anything from Mad Max.

* My least-favourite nominations…anything from Bridge Of Spies, Michael Fassbender’s poor man’s Josh Lyman impression as Best Actor, Straight Outta Compton for screenplay (that cliched pile of Dre/Ice Cube hagiography was the worst part of the movie), the category fraud of Vikander and Rooney Mara somehow being categorized as ’supporting’ performances. 

* And now, onto the snubs!  The big ones were Ridley Scott not getting a best director nod and Carol not getting into Best Picture, though don’t sleep on Idris Elba being left out of the supporting actor field and thus creating another #OscarsSoWhite scenario.  Supporting Actor was such an odd category this year that I thought Elba actually had a strong chance had he gotten the nomination — Stallone and Rylance seem to be the two consistent favourites in most precursors, though who knows how the Academy could’ve swung.  Had the voters done their jobs and nominated Mara in Best Actress (ousting Jennifer Lawrence), that could’ve opened the door for another good supporting actress candidate like Kristen Stewart or Julie Walters.  I’m ok with Vikander’s nomination since I’ll just pretend it was really for her also-deserving work in ‘Ex Machina.’

* And here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write….Wiz Khalifa was robbed of an Oscar nomination.  “See You Again” didn’t get into the original song category, and am I wrong in thinking that the least the Academy could do is get Wiz and Charlie Puth to perform it at the ceremony over the In Memoriam list?  I guess it might be weird to have a song so associated with Paul Walker linked with various other deceased film notables, but still.

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