(*homocinematically inclined)

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Random Thoughts: 2017 Oscar Nominations, Part 2

More reactions to the 2017 Oscar nominations....

Click here for Part 1

Oscar's favorite character actors: With her third nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Best Picture nominee The Shape of Water, sassy sidekick Octavia Spencer cements her status as this century's Thelma Ritter. Of course Thelma, who was nominated six times in the same category (including her first for 1950 Best Picture winner All About Eve) never won, while Octavia was victorious her first time out, for 2011's The Help.

And while he wasn't singled out for his role as the supportive father in Call Me By Your Name, Michael Stuhlbarg can claim bragging rights for appearing in a third of this year's nine Best Picture nominees; in addition to Call Me, he also co-starred in The Post and The Shape of Water. The last actor to pull off a triple like this was John C. Reilly in 2002's The Hours, Gangs of New York and that year's Best Picture winner Chicago.

Octavia, supporting Sally

Best of Times, Worst of Times for the Streamers: Previously only recognized in the documentary categories, Netflix broke into the mainstream races this year with their acclaimed drama Mudbound, which also set a few records with its four nominations: Rachel Morrison became the first female cinematographer to be nominated, the film's director Dee Rees is the first African-American woman to be nominated for Adapted Screenplay, and Mary J. Blige is the only person to be nominated for acting and songwriting for the same film. The streaming giant also added three more documentary nominations (the short Heroin(e) and the features Icarus and Strong Island) to its haul, as well as its first Foreign Language Film nominee, On Body and Soul from Hungary (which starts streaming on February 2nd).

That's an impressive eight nominations total for Netflix. Meanwhile, the news wasn't so good for its rival, Amazon. After becoming the first streaming service to garner a Best Picture nomination and to win Oscars in the major categories last year for Manchester by the Sea, Amazon landed only a single nod this year, for The Big Sick's Original Screenplay. All its other potential contenders — The Lost City of Z, Last Flag Flying, Wonder Wheel and (sadly) Wonderstruck — never quite broke through.

Proud Mary

Great Song Selections: There's not much to gripe about for a change when it comes to the Original Song category. First off: No documentary songs! Although I'm not crazy about "Stand Up for Something" from Marshall (it tries way too hard to be both inspirational and hip and winds up being neither), the remaining four are exceptional, with two thematically strong soundtrack tunes — "Mighty River" from Mudbound and "Mystery of Love" from Call Me By Your Name — and two narratively rich show tunes — "Remember Me" from Coco and "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman. Plus, all of them have the potential of adding memorable musical moments to the telecast, especially a show-stopper like the Gay Pride anthem in-the-making "This Is Me" (see lyrics below), which Keala Settle has already confirmed she will be performing on the Big Night. Let's hope they can book as many of the other original singers as they can, although I'm pretty sure that Supporting Actress nominee Mary J. Blige will be on hand to belt out her mighty "Mighty River".

Fun fact: Three of this year's Best Picture nominees feature previous Oscar winning and nominated songs on their soundtracks, most notably the dreamy "You'll Never Know" from 1943's Hello Frisco, Hello in The Shape of Water, where it is heard several times. Dirty Dancing's iconic "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" is used ironically in a memorable scene in Get Out. And you'd have to be a true connoisseur of classic movie music (like, oh, yours truly) to recognize "My Foolish Heart" (a nominee from the 1949 film of the same name) as a lovely instrumental in an early scene in Phantom Thread.

One can assume Keala will shave before the big night...

And the rest...:
  • It's pretty much a given at this point that Coco will (rightfully) win for Best Animated Feature, but did we really need the phrase "Academy Award nominee The Boss Baby" to be a reality? And what does the Academy have against Lego?
  • Speaking of animation, where's the super-cute gay boys in love story In a Heartbeat in Best Animated Short?
  • Great to see well-deserved multiple nominations for genre faves Blade Runner 2049, Baby Driver and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, including one each in the two redundant sound award categories (the five films nominated in both categories are exactly the same). 
  • As for the Foreign Language Film category, Germany's Golden Globe and Critics' Choice winner In the Fade was criminally overlooked. Instead, they picked Sweden's ridiculously pretentious so-called "satire" The Square, the epitome of the type of foreign language film that make people hate foreign language films.
  • How can the beautifully made Jane not be a finalist for Best Documentary Feature, for which it was not only expected to be nominated but also the winner? This one is arguably the biggest snub (there, I said it) of this year's nominations.
  • On the other hand: yeah for Agn├Ęs Varda, nominated for her very first Oscar for her delightful doc Faces Places. But if she wins it won't be her first Oscar: she received an Honorary Oscar at this year's Governor's Awards. Oh, and she's also the oldest Oscar nominee like ever, with fellow 2017 nominees James Ivory (Adapted Screenplay, Call Me By Your Name) and Christopher Plummer (Supporting Actor, All the Money in the World) right behind her. In other words, no #OscarSoYoung.

Strong man

And last but certainly not least: In yet another Oscar milestone in a year of Oscar milestones, congratulations to Yance Ford, director of the riveting Best Documentary Feature nominee Strong Island, the first transgender filmmaker to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Coming soon: my reviews of this year's short film nominees and a Movie Dearest annual tradition, "If We Picked the Oscars".

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

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