(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, January 22, 2018

MD Top 10: My 2017 Oscar Nominations Wish List

The nominations for the 2017 Oscars will be announced early tomorrow morning, and with it all the months of predictions and pontificating will finally come to an end... and all the outraged op-eds about the perceived "shocking snubs!" will commence (likely in greater number than commentaries on what/who was actually nominated).

Instead of adding to the noise of trying to second guess the Academy on what films and filmmakers will make it one step closer to going home with their own little gold man, I instead offer up my own highly opinionated (and maybe slightly selfish) "wish list" on what I hope will... and will not... be nominated for the latest Academy Awards.

Dear Oscar, this is what I want on Oscar Nomination Morning:

1. The Shape of Water lands the most nominations of the year: Even though this is the most likely to happen, I will still be elated that my favorite movie of the year will be leading the field come Oscar Night. The question remains though on just how many nominations it will get. It could conceivably join All About Eve, Titanic and last year's La La Land as one of the most nominated movies in Oscar history with 14 nods (blame the finicky Makeup branch for ruining the chance of a first-time 15 nominations): Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. Of those, I'd say Costume Design is the most vulnerable (hey, 13 nominations ain't too shabby either), but some pundits are actually predicting it will be passed over in Original Screenplay (wtf?!?) and/or Visual Effects (wt-double-f?!?!?), which is just crazy talk.

2. "Smaller" films get some love: Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, Wind River and Wonderstruck entered this award season with high hopes and strong potential. Yet as time passed they fell through the cracks more often than not, even though all three are more than deserving of recognition (certainly more so than the overrated likes of, say, Call Me By Your Name or The Post). In a perfect world, Film Stars' stars Annette Bening and Jamie Bell, Wind River's Jeremy Renner, and Wonderstruck's cinematography, production design and score, plus the screenplays for all three, would be bigger perceived contenders in their respective races, not to mention the films themselves as Best Picture candidates.

3. Little to no recognition of The Florida Project: I have yet to write my official review of this movie so spoiler alert: I hated it. I am utterly baffled that anyone would think this was one of the best of the year (let alone the best) or that anything from it is remotely award-worthy aside from maybe Willem Dafoe's good but still overpraised supporting turn. I'll be OK if Dafoe, as expected, makes the cut, but utterly repulsed/depressed/livid if it squeezes into the Best Picture line up (oh, for the saner days of just five BP nominees). Thankfully, the Producers, Directors and Writers Guilds took a pass on it, and I really really hope the Academy does as well.

4. No "default" nominees in the acting categories: There is nothing more frustrating than when a great performance (like say, Annette Bening in 20th Century Women last year) is passed over for a nomination while an entirely average one (like say, Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins last year) makes the cut. That's right, nomination record holder (or is that "nomination hog"?) la Streep is back already, poised to nab a coveted Best Actress spot for her "That's So Meryl" performance in The Post. Like I said last year, please Academy, just say no to Meryl and yes to Jessica or Diane or (lord knows you owe her one) Annette.

5. Great scripts nominated in both the highly competitive Original Screenplay and the wide open Adapted Screenplay categories: I don't think we've seen such a disparity in the writing award categories as this year, what with the embarrassment of riches in Original and the dearth of worthy prospects in Adapted. With just five slots, there will be, no question, something big left out of Original Screenplay (The Big Sick? Get Out? The Shape of Water???), while on the other hand something not so big could slip into Adapted Screenplay (how is The Disaster Artist a front runner?). When all is said and done, let's hope that the final ten will all be worthy of the recognition.

6. Five good songs nominated for Best Original Song: Ah, the much maligned (often rightly so) Original Song category. Please let this be the year that they finally get back on track and, you know, actually nominate the best movie songs of the year. And there's a good chance of it happening, with the Oscar winning songwriters of Aladdin, Frozen and La La Land all back in the running with tunes from, respectively, Beauty and the Beast, Coco and The Greatest Showman, plus strong tracks from Call Me By Your Name, Mudbound, Murder on the Orient Express and even Patti Cake$. And please music branch, no more dreary documentary dirges.

7. No "filler" in the Best Animated Feature category: Some years the field of contenders for this award is vast, some years... not so much. Sadly, 2017 is the latter, and to complicate matters more are some new voting rules that could favor big studio toons over smaller independent/foreign fare. Honestly, I doubt broadening the voting pool to more Academy members is going to result in a vastly different set of nominees than from years past, but some are predicting nods for the likes of The Boss Baby and Despicable Me 3, which irritates me because then I would have to watch The Boss Baby and Despicable Me 3. However, let me point out something interesting from the official Academy rule book for this category: "In any year in which 16 or more animated feature films are released and submitted, a maximum of 5 motion pictures may be nominated". The key phrase here is may be nominated, so there doesn't have to be five nominees. Which means that this year (which saw 26 films submitted) could actually be when we see quality win out over quantity.

8. More "upbeat" documentaries nominated for Best Documentary Feature: The typical batch of Documentary Feature nominees usually feature such downer subject matter as racism, global warming and, you know, the Holocaust, so it would be nice if we got some lighter fare every once in a while. Possibilities this year include Agn├Ęs Varda's delightfully quirky Faces Places, Frederick Wiseman's literary adventure Ex Libris – The New York Public Library, the Long Strange Trip of The Grateful Dead and Jane, a portrait of famed primatologist Jane Goodall. Sadly, the feline fest Kedi didn't make it past the first round.

9. Wonder Woman isn't overlooked: As is often the case with a watershed film like 2017's hugely popular Wonder Woman, the pundits stated buzzing early about such (admittedly long shot) nominations as Best Picture and Best Actress for Gal Gadot. Alas, such wishful thinking soon faded quickly with the subsequent release of each more-obvious Oscar baiting film, to the point that it looks like the Amazing Amazon could end up — "Merciful Minerva!" — empty handed once the dust settles on Oscar Nomination Morning. It would be a shame if one of the year's most talked about films is overlooked, so hopefully it will get nominated for... Costume Design? Sound Editing? Maybe even Adapted Screenplay? We'll just have to wait and see.

10. Diversity: What with all the hashtaggy social movements permeating the zeitgeist these days, I personally am strongly praying that there is plenty of diverse representation across the board, in every category, of this year's Oscar nominations. And no, the reason I am wishing that this will happen is not for some noble, morally correct sense of right (which is, don't get me wrong, all fine and dandy). No, the reason I am wishing that this will happen is because if it doesn't than that's all we are going to hear about from tomorrow until at least Oscar Night on March 4th. And there you have it: the best way to fight for diversity is to just do it so everybody shuts the hell up about it.

See you back here after the nominations are announced; I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about.

By Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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