Friday, January 15, 2016

Reacting to the 88th Oscar nominations

Oscar noms are here! Soon we can start the long, tire-spinning process of analyzing the Academy's picks for patterns and trends, reading possible portents into their eventual winners, believing we have it all figured out then talking ourselves out of it, and catching up on all the docs, songs, foreign films, and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.

This process takes weeks, and by the time we reach the season's end we become numb to all the prognosticating, and resigned to the apparent winners. That's why I feel it important to document my first impressions for posterity while they're still fresh in my mind.

At first blush, this year's slate comes down to a whole lot of glaring, disappointing omissions that are redeemed by the outstanding haul for Mad Max: Fury Road. I held out far longer than I should have on its Best Picture chances, superstitiously beholden to the belief that the Academy would never be cool enough to spring for this type of in-your-face action extravaganza. Happy to be wrong. Excluding the foreseeable snub of Junkie XL's manic score, AMPAS gave this movie absolutely every nomination it deserved. We should always remember this as a significant triumph over genre bias.

I do find myself, however, progressively more nettled with every passing hour at the dominance of The Revenant, a uber-masculin ego trip for which I did not care. Sure, it'll finally win Leo his Oscar (Best Grunter in a Leading Role), but seldom has a movie taken so long to say so little. Even The Hateful Eight was better in this respect. The Fox publicists will no doubt move heaven and earth to pitch it as an 'issue movie' about displaced indigenous peoples, but in truth it's a barren, simplistic revenge saga stretched over what feels like 3 hours of disturbing, unpleasant misery porn. While I certainly can't fault the nominations for Inarritu's sound, vfx and design crews (and of course Chivo), it troubles me to envision the Academy seriously considering this for the win.

Far behind those two craft hogs, The Martian was a distant second with seve, followed by Spotlight, Bridge of Spies and Carol with six nods apiece. And yet one of these things is tragically not like the others: Carol was left oft the Best Picture ballot, which only numbered eight for the second straight year. If something as subtle and refined as Spotlight can make it in (and possibly win), why not Todd Haynes' exquisite masterwork? (Some have proposed that the tired old #OscarsSoWhite hashtag should be replaced with #OscarsSoMale)

Check out more knee-jerk reactions -- and a few cursory predictions -- after the cut.

Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Best Director
Lenny Abrahamson
Alejandro Inarritu
Tom McCarthy
Adam McKay
George Miller
The only surprising inclusions here are Room and its director Lenny Abrahamson; All but ignored on the guild circuit, but obviously I was underestimating the TIFF winner's appeal. More surprising is the exclusion of Ridley Scott in Best Director.

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston
Matt Damon
Leonardo DiCaprio
Michael Fassbender
Eddie Redmayne
Not a terribly exciting lineup. Depp was the one on the bubble as it turns out. My gut told me Damon would get in. Shoulda followed through.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett
Brie Larson
Jennifer Lawrence
Charlotte Rampling
Saoirse Ronan
The JLaw love-in continues. Before the BAFTAs, this is what my predicted lineup looked like exactly.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale
Tom Hardy
Mark Ruffalo
Mark Rylance
Sylvester Stallone
Tom Hardy is actually a nice "surprise" here (he was on people's radar a year ago), but only because he should be nominated in Lead Actor for Legend.

Best Supporting Actress
Rachel McAdams
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Rooney Mara
Alicia Vikander (Danish Girl)
Kate Winslet
Category fraud is alive and well. As for the three legit supporting players, Winslet's is the only one I'd consider awards-worth in the least. This category could be (and should be) so much stronger; Mya Taylor, Sarah Paulson, Julie Walters, Tessa Thompson, Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Banks, Vikander for Ex Machina... But instead we get this.

Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton
So Tarantino got pipped by Compton in the end. Not that it would've mattered, as Spotlight can chalk this up as at least one easy win.

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room
Sucks that Sorkin's lively Steve Jobs script fell victim to its own poor box office. Does anybody actually believe The Big Short was a more well written movie?

Best Animated Feature
Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie was There
Leave it to the animation branch to keep this category interesting. I didn't realise GKIDS was handling Boy and the World, or that Hiromasa Yonebayashi's more sedate Ghibli offerings would ever catch this branch's eye. I do feel bad for Blue Sky though; I maintain that The Peanuts Movie is sorta wonderful.

Best Foreign Film
Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul
Theeb
A War
Clearly Hungary's to lose. Hope I get to see the other four before the Oscars. I hear good things about all of them.

Best Documentary
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone
Winter on Fire
I guess the doc branch didn't want to face the outcry of snubbing Amy. It'll win this walking away, and in doing so will be the third music doc to win in four years.

Best Cinematography
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario
One of two categories I aced, and a strong one at that. Chivo's third in a row? Possibly, unless the vfx=cinematography trends rises again (please, God, no), which would bode well for Mad Max.

Best Editing
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Didn't expect to see Star Wars in here over The Martian, but happy for MaryAnn Brandon and Mary Joe Markey, who deserved to be nominated a while back for Star Trek. More importantly, the nods for Spotlight and The Big Short make them the only two with all the "requisite" nominations to win Best Picture (not a hard and fast rule, as we saw last year).

Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
I got a feeling Adam Stockhausen might repeat last year's win. His work on Spielberg's Cold War drama is exceptional stuff, and though subdued, is still a more typical winner than half this field. Danish Girl could challenge.

Best Costume Design
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Glad to see this branch let their freak flag fly by citing Jenny Beavan for Mad Max, but where is Brooklyn? As for Powell's double-dip, I'm having a hard time deciding which one I like better.

Best Original Score
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Yay Carter Burwell! And yay Johann Johannsson. I'm all about Sicario in this category. Excellent nomination. But I think the prospect of awarding Morricone may prove too tantalizing.

Best Original Song
"Earned It"
"Manta Ray"
"Simple Song #3"
"Til It Happens to You"
"Writing's on the Wall"
Eeeeeeeennnnnnnhhhhhhhhh... The Lady Gaga/Diane Warren one is... tolerable.

Best Sound Mixing
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The other category I got 5/5. They're all solid contenders too. I have a tough time deciding between Mad Max and The Revenant for my personal preference, as I suspect voters will too. Guessing these is gonna be hell.

Best Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury RoadThe Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Another excellent nomination for Sicario. Glad it wasn't limited to Deakins.

Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Huge score for supporting effects, with mentions for The Revenant's convincingly animated wildlife and Ex Machina's beautiful robotics. But here's the question: Can Star Wars' enormous popularity trump the Best-Pic-nominees-never-lose-to-non-Best-Pic-nominees rule in this category?

Best Makeup
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go rest my fingers after typing that last title. Maybe I'll stream it while I'm at it (currently on Netflix!).

7 comments:

  1. Oh come on, The Revenant wasn't that bad, lol.

    The good thing about the Original Song contenders is you don't have to see the movies, just hear the songs, which is a good thing because Fifty Shades is the Razzie frontrunner (although I admit I actually do like "Earned it" as a song)

    Sad to see the underrepresentation of Inside Out. I had a theory a while back that Animation was no longer allowed in Best Picture because of them credited director and producer in Animated Feature the last few years instead of just director. Makes no sense for a producer to be nominated in both. And I wanted to not believe it with Inside Out, but I think it's sadly true, and also the worst case of bias, and borderline "film racism" I've ever seen.

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    1. Some Oscar enthusiast. Everyone knows if you don't see the film the song's from then it doesn't count!

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  2. I'm looking for The 100 Year Old Man on Netflix and cant find it.

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    1. Really? I found it on Netflix last night.

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    2. Canadian Netflix is probably why, I don't see it either...

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    3. Woo-hoo! Once again it pays to be a Canuck!!

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