Movies - The Oscars postsTuesday January 24, 2017
'La La Land' Lands 14 Nominations for 89th Academy Awards
A movie about movie people in L.A. is celebrated by movie people in L.A.
My main concern last night was that Oscar would follow the lead of BAFTA, which gave “Nocturnal Animals,” one of my least-favorite movies of the year, an astonishing nine nominations earlier this month. That didn't happen this morning. Tom Ford's pointless exercise in ennui and horror came away with a measly one nom, for Michael Shannon in supporting.
The big story is the 14 nominations “La La Land” landed. Only two other films have ever received that many noms: “Titanic” in 1997, which wound up winning 11, including picture and director; and “All About Eve” in 1950, which wound up with six, including picture and director. Does that mean we're done? Is “La La Land” getting this thing? Should director Damien Chazelle, who just turned 32 but looks 12, make room on his mantle? Probably, and it's not just the sheer number. Think about how much movie people in L.A. love movies about movie people in L.A. What sprawling historical epics were to the '80s (“Reds,” “Chariots,” “Out of Africa,” “Last Emperor”), movies about movie people in L.A. are to the 2010s (“The Artist,” “Argo,” “La La Land”). Take note, future filmmakers.
I haven't been paying attention much this Oscar season, but I was surprised by the love for “Hacksaw Ridge,” which came away with six noms, including best director for Mel Gibson (hello, you), and the lack of love for “Loving,” which got one: Ruth Negga for best actress. I don't like the word “snubbed” as it relates to Oscar, since we're talking a finite number of slots for a huge amount of talent, but if anyone in the acting categories got snubbed this year it was Joel Edgerton. His performance as Richard Loving was one of my favorites.
Meryl is up gain, for “Florence Foster Jenkins”: She has 20 nominations now, a record in acting. No one's close. (Jack Nicholson and Katherine Hepburn are tied for second with 12. Twelve. Meryl is the Yankees of actors, except we still love her.) Octavia Spencer got nominated again. Apparently she's the first African-American actress to get nominated after winning an Oscar. That's a sad little fact. Dev Patel, supporting for “Lion,” is the third Indian actor to garner a nomination. Viola Davis, meanwhile, for a supporting nod for “Fences,” became not only the most-nominated black actress in Academy history, but, according to Nathaniel Rogers at Film Experience, the most nominated black woman ever. She has three. She wasn't won yet? Yeah, that'll change this year.
Here are the best pictures:
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
I still need to see “Hacksaw,” “Hidden” and “Lion,” but my vote would go with “Manchester by the Sea,” which sadly seems all-but-forgotten now. Go see it, if you haven't.
You can find the rest of the nominations on Nathaniel's site. Or pretty much anywhere.
One thing we won't get this year is an #OscarsSoWhite controversy, which was the furious social-media focus last year. This year was much more inclusive: seven of the 20 acting noms were for people of color, while nearly half of the best picture noms focused on their stories, while more than half (three of the five) documentaries focused on racial matters: “I Am Not Your Negro,” “OJ: Made in America,” and “13th.”
What's less inclusive this year? The White House and Congress. Win some, lose everything.
The Oscar ceremony is Sunday, Feb. 26.
Post-Oscar Quote of the Day II
“As an aside, I thought Chris Rock was really good as host (though the girls scout cookie thing dragged a bit), and I thought Louis CK's presentation for Documentary Short was the highlight of the night. But I will say that the way diversity so overwhelmed the Oscars broadcast was a bit disconcerting. It's obvious that the Academy utterly embarrassed itself by not nominating even a single person of color, and yes it was something that the Oscars would have to face head on. But we are also in the midst of an incredible (defined as: impossible to believe) election, and to think that there was barely a joke or word all night about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tells you that maybe we're not paying attention.”
-- Joe Posnanski, “Oscar Predictions 2016,” Are asides more interesting than the point of the piece? Sometimes.
Post-Oscar Quote of the Day I
“Finally, it's worth another raspberry for the producers' use of Ride of the Valkyries to 'play off' winners who went on past the 30-second mark. I've always argued that the thank-you speeches are much more interesting than the scripted shtick and that straitjacketing people at perhaps the apex of their careers is both cruel and stupid. But it was particularly outrageous last night — especially when Wagner was invoked to drown out the Hungarian Jew who'd won an Oscar for his Holocaust movie, Son of Saul.”
-- David Edelstein, “David Edelstein Looks Back on the Uneven But Memorable 2016 Oscars,” on Vulture.com. Damn straight. I'm seriously tired of this shit. My favorite Oscar speeches, such as Dustin Hoffman in 1979, require a little room. Give it to them.
My Oscar Picks
Every year we have an Oscar pool, and every year friends tell me they can't do it because they haven't seen enough (or any) of the nominated movies, and every year I tell them the same thing. You're better off that way. You don't have any opinions. You can vote with the head and not the heart.
The picks below are heart picks; they're what I want to win. Your mileage will vary—particularly if you like “Mad Max.” (See Nathaniel at Film Experience, who inspired this post):
- PICTURE: “The Revenant,” but I'd be happy with “The Big Short” or “Spotlight.”
- DIRECTOR: Alejandro Inarritu, “The Revenant.”
- ACTOR: Leo, damnit, for “The Revenant.” One, he's most deserving; and, two, let's get this over with already and move on.
- ACTRESS: Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years,” although I'm not passionate here.
- SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies,” although Sly makes for a better story, and let's face it this is a stacked category.
- SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Rooney Mara, “Carol.” If she'd been nominated in lead, I would've picked her there, too.
- ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Pete Docter, et al., for “Inside Out.”
- ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for “The Big Short,” a book that no one, including its author, could envision as a movie. These guys nailed it.
- CINEMATOGRAPHY: Emmaneul Lubezki, “The Revenant,” but I'd be happy for the oft-nom'ed, never-won Roger Deakins winning for “Sicario.”
- FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Theeb,” yo! Sadly, haven't seen any of the others, even though three (“Son of Saul,” “Mustang” and “A War”) are currently playing in Seattle. Who wants to go this week?
- ANIMATED FEATURE: “Inside Out,” although I haven't seen most of the others.
- PRODUCTION DESIGN: Adam Stockhausen, et al., for “Bridge of Spies.”
- FILM EDITING: Hank Corwin, “The Big Short.”
- COSTUME DESIGN: Sandy Powell for “Carol.”
- VISUAL: Andrew Whitehurst, et al., for “Ex Machina,” although I'll take “Star Wars.”
- MAKEUP AND HAIR: Lesley Vanderwalt, et al. for “Mad Max.” I'll give them this one since there are only two other options, and “100 Year Old Man” should not win.
- ORIGINAL SCORE: No skin in this game.
- ORIGINAL SONG: Blech. Worst category, year after year.
- SOUND MIXING: I don't know enough about this to have an opinion.
- SOUND EDITING: Seriously, what do I know?
- DOCUMENTARY: Wow, I haven't seen any of these! When was the last time that happened?
- DOC SHORT: Someday I have to get off my ass and see the shorts before the Oscars.
- LIVE ACTION SHORT: See above.
- ANIMATED SHORT: See above.
The Nominees and the Noise
Was it racist that Idris Elba wasn't nominated? Or would it have been racist to nominate him?
It's less the Oscar nominations now than the noise surrounding the Oscar nominations.
This year, it's been the outrage of #OscarsSoWhite, led, in my Twitter feed anyway, by Sasha Stone of Awards Daily, who has been one relentless piercing note on the subject, despite being part of a group you might as well tag #CriticsSoWhite. Glass houses, kids.
Here's the issue: For the second year in a row, no person of color has been nominated in any of the acting categories. This used to be a regular thing, then it wasn't, now it is again. Here's the history of African-American acting nominations and wins by decade:
So a big surge in the 2000s, followed by a drop-off. Because of that surge? Who knows? I wouldn't mind a more in-depth discussion of that from an industry insider.
But why am I not more outraged like these other white critics? I don't know. Maybe my outrage meter broke 10 years ago when “Crash” beat “Brokeback Mountain” for best picture. Maybe I assume the worst from the Academy. Maybe I'm not into identity aesthetics. (I'm not into identity aesthetics.)
Or maybe I just don't see the fuss this particular year. Basically I find myself in agreement with Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere, who posted a podcast with Sasha and another critic, Erik Anderson, Thursday, adding this on his blog:
Neither Erik nor Sasha would admit that The Revenant is far and way the likeliest winner of the Best Picture Oscar at this stage. Not would they grapple with my riff about current racial profiling gripes (i.e., why no nominations for Straight Outta Compton and Creed?) not being worth discussing except in the case of Beasts of No Nation's Idris Elba, who definitely should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
That's my feeling. Who else should have been nominated? Alyssa Rosenberg over at The Washington Post has a soft piece in which she lists “8 great performances by black actors” without saying if they should have replaced any of the nominated actors, and if so who. The whole piece is the sound of one white woman patting herself on the back. Her choices: Michael B. Jordan (Creed), O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Abraham Atta (Beasts of No Nation), Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL), Audra McConald (Rikki and the Flash), Adepero Oduye (The Big Short), John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Teyonnah Paris (Chi-Raq).
Some of these are headscratchers. Oduye? She was in the movie for like a New York minute. Pinkett Smith? In that awful film? Rosenberg says Atta was as great as Jacob Tremblay in “Room,” but of course Tremblay didn't get nominated either. (Kids rarely do in lead roles.) Jordan was fine, and if you'd swapped him out with Matt Damon for “The Martian” I wouldn't have blinked; but Damon lost weight for his role, Jordan built up for his. The Academy rewards you for starving yourself rather than working out with a personal trainer.
“Beasts of No Nation” might also have suffered with the Academy because 1) it all-but-premiered on Netflix, giving it a “straight to video” vibe; and 2) it was condemned, in some circles, as racist. On Roger Ebert's site, Matt Zoller Seitz brought up the issue of Hollywood's constant depiction of the monstrous African man. Movie critic Charles Muedede was even more insistent. So nominating Elba might have opened up the Academy to a different charge of racism: that the Academy only recognizes the work of scary black men: Denzel in “Training Day”; Forrest Whitaker in “The King of Scotland.” That can be countered with Jamie Foxx in “Ray” and Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby,” but it would've been out there. There will always be an outrage.
My outrage, such as it is, is for the number of nominations for “Mad Max,” which, to me, is a two-hour-long chase movie, in which bad, ugly people pursue good, good-looking people, and the good, good-looking people win. Somehow this meant critics awards and 10 nominations.
But mostly I was happy; the Academy recognized some of the best movies I saw in 2015: “The Revenanat,” “The Big Short,” “Spotlight,” and my favorite film, “Theeb,” which became the first movie from Jordan to be nominated in the best foreign language category. It's about a Bedouin boy in the 1910s; it's “Lawrence of Arabia” from a different perspective. Oscars aren't always so white.