(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Random Thoughts: 2017 Oscar Nominations, Part 1

9 for the 90th

The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced yesterday, and all things considered they are a pretty good batch, with a few surprise "ins" and "outs" (I loathe the term "snub") that proves that the Academy does have a (collective) mind of their own despite what all the Oscar pundits out there have to say about it. But that doesn't mean that we can't keep talking about it...

 To wit, some random thoughts on the 2017* Oscar nominations:

Nine Best Picture nominees: It's supposedly statistically nearly impossible for ten nominees, and we've only had eight nominees twice since this whole "sliding scale" thing started seven years ago (after just two years of a solid top ten). So it looks like nine will be the norm, even if that means that includes a fading Best Picture contender like The Post that has just one other nomination (yep, Meryl Streep got another one). This expanded slate of Best Picture nominations was originally intended to include all the films that Academy members are "passionate" about, but how strong is that passion for a film that only generates one other nomination?

See you on the OBT, beotches

Over- and under-performers: Speaking of The Post, it was not the only presumed front runner that came up short when all was said and done. Both The Big Sick and The Florida Project could only squeeze in with one nomination each (thankfully in the case of the latter), while Call Me By Your Name managed only four, totally missing out in the Supporting Actor category even with two contenders (Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg) in that race. And then of course is the long list of those favorites that were totally left out in the cold, chief among them being the beloved blockbuster Wonder Woman, which I sadly expected would happen.

On the other hand, both Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread surged ahead, netting six nominations each, including Best Picture. For Darkest Hour, one should remember to never count out those who love so-called "old fashioned" filmmaking (myself included), while Phantom Thread shows that being the last to the party (its release date was exactly a month ago today) can still reap big rewards.

"I did not **** her, it's not true! It's bullshit! I did not **** her! I did naaahttt! Oh, bye Oscar."

Scandals can help as much as hurt: With James Franco dropped from the Best Actor lineup, it looks like poor Tommy Wiseau, the cult movie icon played by Franco in the biopic The Disaster Artist, won't be coming to the Oscars after all (unless he crashes or, even better, is asked to present). Since news of the sexual misconduct allegations against Franco broke right at the end of the Oscar nomination voting period, we'll never really know if that was the reason he didn't make the cut or if, let's be honest, the Acting Branch just didn't like his performance enough to be nominated; remember, comedic roles rarely get nominated, especially in the lead acting categories when not attached to a Best Picture contender. (Personally, I was perplexed that he was even in the conversation in the first place.) In the end, Denzel Washington benefited, nabbing Franco's perceived slot and his ninth career nomination for his lawyer role in Roman J. Israel, Esq., a development that shouldn't have been so surprising considering his Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations.

But then there's Christopher Plummer, now the oldest acting nominee ever at age 88 for his supporting turn as millionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. By now I'm sure you all know that, due to the Kevin Spacey sex scandal, Plummer was brought in to replace Spacey... in November. Plummer was cast on November 8th and then filmed his role from November 20th to the 29th. Cut to just over two months later and he gets nominated for an Oscar. That has got to be some kind of a record.

No, Kevin Spacey (right) did not go on to play Jacob Tremblay's grandfather in Wonder.

Lots of new faces in the acting and director categories: Call Me By Your Name's 22-year-old Timothée Chalamet became the third youngest Best Actor nominee, while Lady Bird's Saoirse Ronan landed her third nomination at age 23. Other newbies in the acting races are Mudbound's Mary J. Blige, Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya, Phantom Thread's Lesley Manville, Lady Bird's Laurie Metcalf, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri's Sam Rockwell and I, Tonya's Allison Janney and Margot Robbie.

Meanwhile in the director race, only Phantom Thread's Paul Thomas Anderson is a previous nominee in the category. Yep, both The Shape of Water's Guillermo Del Toro and Dunkirk's Christopher Nolan, who have been nominated in other categories before, are first timers for Best Director this year. And speaking of first timers, both Lady Bird's Greta Gerwig and Get Out's Jordan Peele are nominated for their debut features (solo debut, in Gerwig's case). Ironically, both are just the fifth nominated, respectively, female and black directors ever.

Three Golden Globes Outside the Beverly Hilton, California

And about those acting races...: In the three televised award shows to date (the Golden Globe, Critics' Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards), all four acting winners have been the same: Best Actor Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour, Best Actress Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell also for Three Billboards, and Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney for I, Tonya. Not to say that any of these four fine actors aren't deserving of such accolades, but I personally prefer some variety in the winners across the board, especially in a year such as this that, until these four three-peats, was considered "wide open", for the most part at least. Yeah, not gonna lie: I kinda hope that at least two and maybe even three of the Oscar wins go to somebody other than this quartet. (Who? You'll have to wait for this year's "If We Picked the Oscars" to find out.)

More random thoughts on this year's nominations to come...

* I am of the school that the year that the films honored by Oscars were released, and not the year of the actual Oscar ceremony, is the proper way to denote the year of each annual Academy Awards. Why? Because I was raised that way, that's why.

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

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