Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oscar Nomination Reactions

Since I’m a cool guy who set his alarm to be up for the announcement of the Oscar nominations, some quick thoughts…

* In a year where La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea dominated the Oscar buzz, I’m a little surprised to see nine nominees in the Best Picture category.  I sort of thought that, given the statistical process involved in the Academy’s voting, there might just be seven or maybe only six nominees (the BP field can have anywhere between 5-10 films).  Consider that in 2014, you had Birdman and Boyhood as the heavy favourites, and that year only yielded eight nominees, though then again, 2014 was one of the worst Best Picture fields in recent memory.

Here you have nine movies, and pleasantly, most of them are very good.  Hacksaw Ridge is the only weak link, and even it really picked up its second half, once it involved less of Andrew Garfield’s terrible West Virginia accent.  In a related note, a Best Actor nomination for that performance?  Really?

* Based on the Oscar bellwether categories of Best Director and Best Editing, it seems like “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Arrival” are the only possible dark horse candidates to upset La La Land or Moonlight.  Really, LLL seems like the giant favourite at this point (14 nominations?!) with Moonlight as the rather longshot of a second choice.  Since ManchesterBTS didn’t get an editing nomination, I’m eliminating it from Best Picture candidacy.   

This is just anecdotal evidence, but in the past week I’ve had two different close friends text me saying that they finally saw LLL and (to be generous) didn’t see what all the fuss was about.  Is there room for a Stone/Gosling backlash?  I’m always in favour of Best Picture winners that break the Academy’s mould, plus I think Moonlight is the better movie of the two, so I’d be cool with an upset.  Could the Academy go Spotlight and then Moonlight in consecutive years?  Is there a movie called, like, Flashlight coming out next year that I can bet on as the 2017 Best Picture winner?  Is Sylvester Stallone kicking himself for releasing ‘Daylight’ 21 years too early?

* First-time Oscar nominees: Garfield!  (Sigh)  Isabelle Huppert!  (Probably overdue)  Ruth Negga!  (Something of a surprise nominee, especially for anyone who knows her only as overacting villain Raina the Inhuman on ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’)  Mahershala Ali!  (Well deserved!)  Lucas Hedges!  (Well deserved!)  Dev Patel!  (Kind of category fraud, but c’est la vie)  Naomie Harris!  (Moneypenny herself!)  Having only seven first-timers out of 20 acting nominees is not a large number, though it’s worth noting that six of the other nominees are only getting their second career nomination, so it’s still somewhat of a fresh field. 

* Among the remaining seven old hats at the nominee process, you have the oldest hat of them all with Meryl Streep making it an even 20 Oscar nominations.  Denzel Washington and Jeff Bridges now have seven each, Michelle Williams and Nicole Kidman each have four, and Viola Davis/Natalie Portman each have three.  So this year, it only takes the *four* next most oft-nominated actors to top Streep’s number.  You’re slipping, Meryl!

* Given that the Academy seemed to love “Arrival,” the most inexplicable snub of the year was Amy Adams not getting a Best Actress nomination.  It’s weird that you can love everything about a film yet not recognize the actress who carries the entire thing.  While we’re on the heels of the multiple-nominee paragraph, it’s worth noting that this would have been Amy Adams’ SIXTH career Oscar nomination.  I mean, I like Amy Adams and everything, but even I’m a little shocked at that stat.  (And you can argue she should have six already had she been nominated for “Enchanted.”)  Dumping Jim Halpert during the Dunder-Mifflin booze cruise really turned her life around.

* Other notable snubs included….Annette Bening for “20th Century Women,” which was a fantastic movie….Hugh Grant for “Florence Foster Jenkins,” who delivered a fine performance but it would’ve been major category fraud if he’d been in Supporting Actor as intended….Joel Edgerton for “Loving,” since if Negga got in, you figure Edgerton must’ve also been pretty close….Janelle Monae for “Hidden Figures,” and you wonder if co-star Octavia Spencer got the nod on more ballots since she’s the more familiar name….Taraji P. Henson, as long as we’re talking “Hidden Figures” snubs….Tom Hanks for “Sully,” and get a load of this, do you realize Hanks hasn’t had an Oscar nomination since 2000?  Do Academy voters just take him for granted by this point?……Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” which was almost shut out entirely save for a well-earned Cinematography nomination.  Ironically, if Garfield had gotten his Best Actor nom for this movie, I wouldn’t have complained.

* Of the 20 acting nominees, the only one that strikes me as an outright silly choice was Garfield, so that’s a pretty good percentage.  Bridges, Davis and Patel are all verrrrrrry borderline category fraud cases, though after last year’s absurd Alicia Vikander win as a “supporting” actress, nothing seems to make sense any more.  I actually haven’t seen one of the nominated performances yet, as the trailer for “Captain Fantastic” made it look like a Portlandia sketch, but sure, good for Viggo Mortensen.  The poor guy has to listen to almost three decades of jokes about being named after the evil painting from Ghostbusters 2, let’s toss him a nomination out of pity.

* The Kevin O’Connell watch is back on!  If you’re an Oscars geek like me, you of course know that this hapless sound effects mixer has been nominated a record 21 times without a victory.  Even more exciting, this might actually be O’Connell’s year.  The majority of Academy voters don’t really know what sound mixing is, per se, so they might very well check their ballot for the Best Picture nominee that had an extended battle scene. 

La La Land is also in this category and is a big threat if it ends up just sweeping everything, but if there’s one award it shouldn’t win, it’s this one.  Was I the only one who couldn’t understand a word of the lyrics in the opening number on the freeway?  Wise up, LLL sound editors, take some lessons from O’Connell.

* In case you’re wondering, yes, La La Land’s 14 nominations is a big deal.  It ties the record with Titanic and All About Eve, both of which were naturally Best Picture winners.  I should probably note that my two friends who didn’t like the movie aren’t Academy members, so their disdain might not amount to a hill of beans.  (I just looked this up, but Casablanca was only nominated for eight Oscars.  I mean, it won Best Picture and all, but still, only eight?  Bogie didn’t win?  Claude Rains didn’t win?  Ingrid Bergman DIDN’T GET NOMINATED?!) 

* And finally, the Academy’s ridiculous #OscarsSoWhite voting trends of the last two years came to a resounding end, as this year’s nominee list is a very diverse group.  With such a big turn-around in the diversity of the nominees, the only way the Academy could ruin the good PR would be if they nominated Mel Gibson or something, but that would be silly!…uh….

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