(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Random Thoughts: The 2016 Oscar Nominations


The announcement today of the nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards held a few surprises but was, for the most part, what was expected. And we can all breath a sigh of relief that this year's slate, which offers an ample dose of diversity across the board, will shut up all those "Oscar So White" complaints... at least for this year.

Some records were made or at least matched, the big one being La La Land's eye-opening haul of 14 nominations, tying the record with All About Eve and Titanic for the most Oscar nominations for a single film, a feat even the most ardent of La La-ers didn't see coming (Sound Editing, really?). Also of note is Viola Davis' Supporting Actress nod for Fences, her third career nomination, which makes her the most nominated black woman in Academy history (yes, really). And what is increasingly looking like overkill is the semi-annual nomination of Meryl Streep, who once again broke her own record and now has a total of 20 acting nominations. That she did it for a questionable performance (in that trifle Florence Foster Jenkins) in a highly competitive Best Actress field (which doesn't happen very often, mind you) is even more of a frustration. But hey, she did that speech at the Golden Globes, so... whatever.

"...Eighteen! Nineteen! TWENTY!!!"

Some random thoughts on the various categories:

The Best Picture race is back up to nine contenders after two years at just eight. Some things to ponder: if they had stayed at ten nominations, what would be the tenth? I'd say Jackie (the only film with more than two nominations that isn't already a BP nominee) or maybe Zootopia, although some were predicting everything from the epic documentary O.J.: Made in America to the box office superhero hit Deadpool. (A wise word to Oscar pundits out there: don't get all whipped into a frenzy by curveballs thrown by the precursor awards.) Also, if we were still at only five nominees, which ones would have made the cut? I'd say the three heavyweights (La La Land, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight) for sure, plus Arrival and Lion. Your thoughts?

Speaking of Lion, it's a really shame that Garth Davis, who was nominated twice for the Directors Guild Award (which I believe is a first) got passed over for the often hamfisted direction of Hacksaw Ridge by Mel Gibson, who I guess is now officially back in the Hollywood fold. Of note: all the Best Director nominees except Gibson are first timers, and if Damien Chazelle wins he will be the youngest direction winner ever (he just turned 32).

His birthday party was wild.

As for the acting races, Best Actor and Supporting Actress went as planned, copied verbatim from the Screen Actors Guild nominations. Supporting Actor deviated slightly from most predictions, with Michael Shannon, not Aaron Taylor-Johnson, getting recognized for Nocturnal Animals (Shannon was an early favorite, but then things got all wonky with the Golden Globes, go figure).

And, as previously stated, Best Actress was a crowded race this year, with first timers, acting legend Isabelle Huppert (for Elle) and relative newcomer Ruth Negga (for Loving) in, previous nominees Amy Adams (for Arrival) and Annette Bening (for 20th Century Women) out.

What she said.

In addition to Huppert and Negga, the other first time acting nominees are Mahershala Ali, Andrew Garfield, Naomie Harris, Lucas Hedges and Dev Patel. And the Oscar winners among this year's acting class are Jeff Bridges, Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep (three previous wins) and Denzel Washington (two previous wins).

I'm glad to see the quirky The Lobster and the otherwise sadly overlooked 20th Century Women up for Original Screenplay, especially over the anticipated (but highly overrated) Captain Fantastic. And is Tarell Alvin McCraney, author of the play that inspired Adapted Screenplay nominee Moonlight, the only openly LGBTQ person nominated this year...?*

I'm bummed that Hail, Caesar! didn't get recognized for its Old Hollywood costumes and the Sing Street showstopper "Drive It Like You Stole It" missed the cut for Original Song, it sure would have rocked the Kodak Theatre (and I'm still pissed that Disney didn't even submit The Rock and roll number "You're Welcome" from Moana). By the by, the song nominees are a definite improvement over last year's, and I'm sure the producers were ecstatic that the hit pop ditty "Can't Stop the Feeling" was chosen, ensuring a ratings-drawing Justin Timberlake performance.

Hopefully more impressive than this.

But did the music branch have to pick another documentary dirge? (That would be that Sting toe-tapper "The Empty Chair" from Jim: The James Foley Story.)

In closing, I would like to thank the Academy for not nominating The Birth of a Nation, The Founder and Sing as I really didn't want to have to watch them. And on a similar note: thanks Academy for forcing me to watch Deepwater Horizon, Passengers and Trolls.

The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday February 26.

* Duh, Scott Rudin is one of the nominated producers of Best Picture contender Fences.

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