Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016 Oscar Nominations (Reaction and Analysis)

Bright and early this morning, the 88th Annual Academy Award nominations were announced live in Beverly Hills by AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and actor John Krasinki. Despite maybe one or two fairly big surprises, I wouldn't say there were any real "shockers" that couldn't be explained away by the Academy's usual voting patterns. I thought it was a thin (though not necessarily weak) year with some categories barely filling the required slots, so any conversations regarding snubs need to, as usual, be taken with a grain of salt. And of course, we have what's become the annual debate about the lack of diversity in the nominations. But I'll assume that detractors really mean to say that the INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE needs to present more opportunities for minorities to be put in a position where they can be nominated.

With a smaller pool to choose from, it's inevitable there will be omissions, so simply "diversifying" the nominations for the sake of it really doesn't address the problem. I wish the media would phrase it like that, instead of hurling accusations of racism at an entire voting body of industry professionals who missed a few of nominations.  And as usual, each alleged "snub" should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. That seems fairest, especially since it's impossible to recognize everyone's favorites. But as we know, the Academy is more often than not out of step with the general moviegoing population and sometimes even the critics. So let's assess the damages and talking points:

-The Revenant is the one to beat, leading with 12 (!) nods. And barring a huge upset, Leonardo DiCaprio is finally getting his Oscar. 

-No Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Best Picture. I loved it and would have been pleased to see it there but let's be honest: This was a real long shot. A special set of circumstances surrounded the 1977 original being nominated, and even that didn't win. The Empire Strikes Back wasn't even nominated. In my mind it's a four-star movie but a different kind of one than what's typically nominated for the top prize, even with 8 nominees. Instead, they went for two other populist entertainments in its place. 

-J.J. Abrams also gets shut out. Again, no surprise there. The film's notices predictably came in the technical categories, while 83 year-old John Williams becomes a nominee yet again for his magnificent score, which expertly combined the old with the new.  
-Carol not being nominated for Best Picture or Best Director (Todd Haynes) is as close to a shock as we'll get. Then again, if you go back through the Academy's history, this isn't a subject matter they're particularly comfortable with. Though, Eddie Redmayne got in for playing a transgender in The Danish Girl, so who knows?

-Cate Blanchett is in for Best Actress while Rooney Mara goes supporting for Carol. Some category fraud  there but given the picture being snubbed, things could have been worse for them.

-Jennifer Lawrence gets in for Joy, despite the film's lukewarm (at best) reception. But she was never really at risk. At 25, she's now officially the youngest actor ever to earn four Oscar nominations. Not bad. They do love her, but she won't be winning one again this year.

- ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE BRYAN CRANSTON. Didn't think this would happen for him this soon after Breaking Bad but boy am I glad it did, as he inches closer into EGOT territory.

-The Martian is nominated for Best Picture, becoming my least favorite contender in that category in years. Ridley Scott doesn't get in for Best Director, which I can live with. But his direction and Damon's performance were the best things about it.

-Matt Damon in for Best Actor. He was kind of on the bubble, but made it. I have mixed feelings, as I enjoyed what he did with the role, but question whether it's actually award-worthy.

-George Miller takes Ridley Scott's Best Director spot for Mad Max: Fury Road, which is also in for Best Picture. The rare sci-fi movie to earn such a designation. Of course, that's assuming we're still counting The Martian as a comedy.  

-Michael Fassbender gets in for Steve Jobs. Would have also liked to see a surprise Best Picture nod, but I'll take it. And Winslet's expected supporting nod. Can't believe they overlooked Sorkin's script though.     

-No Will Smith for Concussion but how many people were really raving about that performance or the film? It may be great for all I know, but it had very few supporters.

-The Big Short gained incredible momentum when the ballots went out, as a comedy gets in for Best Picture and the man who helmed Anchorman (Adam McKay) gets nominated for Best Director. Now THAT qualifies as a shocker.

-Surprise supporting nominees: Rachel McAdams for Spotlight, Tom Hardy for The Revenant and, to a slightly lesser degree, Christian Bale for The Big Short (I think most suspected Steve Carrell to get in instead).

-No Idris Elba supporting nomination for Netflix's Beasts of No Nation or Kristen Stewart for Clouds of Sils Maria. Both of these were longer shots than they actually appeared because of all the enthusiasm and support behind them. Enthusiasm that unfortunately didn't carry over to industry voters.

-No Peanuts Movie for animated feature? Charlie Brown really can't catch a break, can he? Good grief.

-Once again, Academy Award nominee Sylvester Stallone, for returning to the role he made famous over thirty years ago in Creed. Here's hoping he uses this as a launching pad to do more character-driven work moving forward. 

-The omission of Creed's Michael B. Jordan is probably the strongest case that can be made for a flat-out snub in the Best actor category, even if few seem to have predicted him

-Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's Paul Walker tribute track "See You Again" from Fast and Furious 7 fails to to snag a Best Original Song nomination. Are they ever going to get these song categories right?

-At least they didn't screw up the documentary category this year, as the beloved Amy Winehouse doc, Amy, justifiably gets in.

-I had to do a double take to even notice Spielberg's Bridge of Spies was nominated for Best Picture. That's how talked about it's been. In some ways it's the biggest shock of the morning, included mainly out of obligation to who directed it.

-Brie Larson. Brie Larson. Brie Larson. That is all.

-Not only does Room get in for Best Picture, but Lenny Abrahamson is nominated for Director.

-As if the reaction to Tarantino's Golden Globes speech wasn't indication enough, the full brunt of the backlash has finally hit. He's snubbed for writing and directing for The Hateful Eight, which also failed to get a Best Picture nod. It did get cinematography and a somewhat surprising (but welcome) first nomination for Jennifer Jason Leigh in supporting. 
-Sorry, but it's tough to be surprised Straight Outta Compton wasn't nominated for Best Picture. The reviews, while very good, weren't entirely rapturous, and we know the Academy's taste and makeup. That it even got a writing nod (presumably knocking out Tarantino) is pretty damn impressive enough though.    

-Much to my chagrin, Love and Mercy is overlooked in all categories, most disappointingly Paul Dano's transcendent performance as Brian Wilson.

-I clearly have a lot of cramming to do before February 28th.

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