Oscar nominations – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Well, folks. Things went mostly to plan. When you pick 99 of the 123 nominees (I struck out in the Short film categories, so shoot me), you realise it was one of those predictable years. That’s not to say there weren’t a few shocks, surprises and snubs. Thankfully, there’s far more to be happy about this year than previous years. So, let’s get to it.

The good

There will be those that groaned when La La Land tied with Titanic and All About Eve in earning a record 14 nominations, but you know I adore this movie, so I’m overjoyed. I’ll give you the Sound Editing nomination is fairly farcical, even if I had predicted it, unlike many others. But even if you’re not a fan of the film, you have to admire its cinematic accomplishments, which is merely all the Academy is doing. Being so overexposed could do two ways from here; it’s either now entirely unstoppable to sweep at least 8 or 9 of those categories or voter fatigue will set in and become the film’s downfall. All eyes now turn to the PGA in a few days…

Even with its stellar reviews and impressive box-office results, it was always worrying how the Academy would respond to Arrival. Sci-fi can be showered with major nominations (Gravity, The Martian) or completely ignored (Interstellar, WALL-E). Thankfully we had nothing to worry about, bar one disgraceful snub (more on that later). Eight nominations for a sci-fi film is a glorious result, especially the richly-deserved Director nom for Denis Villeneuve.

#OscarsSoWhite is officially dead. Or at least for this year it is. After two years of shocking snubs and cries of racism, people of colour and films about people of colour were well-represented, right across the board. Every acting category features a black actor (three, in the case of Supporting Actress). Four of the nine films in the Best Picture race (MoonlightFencesHidden Figures and Lion) revolve around the stories of people of colour. Viola Davis’ third nomination makes her the most nominated black actress in history. Octavia Spencer became the first black actress to be nominated after previously winning (quite startling, right?). Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) is only the second black writer/director to be nominated in both categories. Kimberly Steward became the second black female to be nominated for Best Picture for producing Manchester by the Sea. Four of the five Documentary Feature nominees are made by black directors, with Ava DuVernay (13th) becoming the first black female director nominated in this category. Bradford Young (Arrival) is only the second black cinematographer to be nominated. Joi McMillon (Moonlight) is the first ever black female nominated for Editing. And that’s not even everything. While it could easily be argued the films and achievements by people of colour were simply of a higher quantity and quality this year, it’s still inspiring to see the Academy showcasing such diversity with its nominees. Keep it up.

While Ruth Negga’s some-what surprise Lead Actress nomination for Loving came at the expense of Amy Adams (again, more on that later), it was entirely deserved. Quiet and reserved performances often get ignored by the Academy, so it’s pleasing to see her included. If only that love could have been extended to Joel Edgerton too. Like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this is a double-act performance. Rewarding one without the other is rather silly.

The best thing about Nocturnal Animals is Michael Shannon’s brilliant performance, and clearly the Academy thought so too. He had initial buzz (he was in my Gold Derby prediction for the longest time), but somewhere along the way, it shifted (and yes, I ended up taking him out). I never understood that shift turning towards Aaron Taylor-Johnson, so to see it turn back made me endlessly happy.

Meryl Streep. Twenty nominations. Enough said.

Bad

Only one nomination for Nocturnal Animals is a travesty. While its chances of a Director nomination for Tom Ford were always slim, to see it snubbed for Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Production Design was truly surprising. For a film to receive nine BAFTA nominations and only come away with one at the Oscars is utter nonsense.

Tom Hanks’ snub for Sully. I don’t know when the Academy started hating him. I don’t know what he did to them. But it’s been 17 year since he was last nominated, despite still consistently giving us award-worthy performances, so clearly something is wrong.

We all suspected Silence would be ignored, so its sole nomination for Cinematography wasn’t surprising but still painful. Maybe it simply came too late in the race to make an impact. Or maybe it was just too dark and heavy, given everything the world has been through recently. In any case, it’s the first time in seven years a Scorsese film has flopped at the Oscars.

Given the year in animation we had, the Animated Feature category was more crowded than ever before. Even so, it’s still truly staggering to see Finding Dory miss out. Sure, it didn’t quite have the magic of the original, but it was still a beautifully made film and deserved recognition. For Pixar, the studio responsible for eight of the 15 winners for Animated Feature, this would be a kick in the guts and seen as a major failure. With two films, Cars 3 and Coco, out in 2017, it’s not wise to write them off just yet.

While Hail, Caesar! didn’t quite have the awards buzz of Coen brothers films of the apst, Roger Deakins’ gorgeous cinematography still should have scored a nod. At least we won’t have to watch him lose for a 14th time…

Ugly

Martin Scorsese. Works on a passion project for over 25 years. Delivers a masterpiece. Doesn’t get nominated. Shameful. Absolutely shameful.

Interestingly, there was a time not long ago where many thought Amy Adams’ likely Lead Actress nomination was the only hope for Arrival to be represented at the Academy Awards. What a heartbreaking turn of events to see her snubbed, but the film pick up eight other nominations. I will never understand this. Adams’ performance is the heart and soul of that movie. In the hands of a lesser actress, it would have fallen to farce. Yes, it has beautiful cinematography, wonderful direction and a brilliant screenplay, but none of that matters without a stellar leading performance to truly bring it to life. That’s exactly what Adams did, like she has time after time before. Failing to acknowledge that, while acknowledging the film in such a large way, is absolutely ridiculous. At least we won’t have to watch her lose for a 6th time. And now it seems destined she will win the next time she’s in contention. Long overdue and now snubbed of a worthy nomination. That usually equals future glory. Just look at Julianne Moore.

Well, we have our nominees. Now the real games begin. But is the game already over, now that La La Land seems truly unstoppable? Or is it poised to join BoyhoodLincoln and The Social Network and become another early-frontrunner that peaked too soon? Game on.

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