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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

89th Academy Awards Nominations & Thoughts


The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards have been announced. This list features a lot of favorites, many predictable nominations and a few snubs and surprises. As always, while Oscars are certainly a huge achievement, they do not suddenly take away the thoughts that you or anyone had on certain films. Not seeing a film mentioned does not mean you were wrong or that they were right in the varying amounts or praise, things just happen the way they do. That said, I'm happy to share some thoughts on this list of nominations. There are a variety of ways to look at things, so it stands to reason that just as much fun can be had with going over how things didn't work out, as much as they did. Of course, the ceremony itself won't take place until February 26, where the winners will be determined.

Best Picture: (Ranked in my order of preference from greatest to least)
“Moonlight”
“La La Land”
“Hell or High Water”
“Manchester by the Sea”
"Arrival”
"Hidden Figures"
“Fences”
"Lion”
“Hacksaw Ridge"

While some may be bummed that Deadpool didn't pull off a Best Pic nom (I'm glad all that nonsense is over), the only thing close to a surprise may be seeing Hacksaw Ridge here, along with in plenty of other areas, but more on that later. Really, all the noms here add up to what you'd expect. There are 9 nominees here, up from the 8 noms we've seen in the past couple years. Loving didn't make the cut up here, but audience favorites (critics and box office-wise) Hidden Figures, Arrival and of course La La Land certainly did.
Best Actor:
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land,”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Another category that basically shows what everyone expected. Viggo Mortensen may have been a bit of a wild card, but I'm happy the Academy supports him enough to show respect to the smaller films he is in (think Eastern Promises). I would have preferred to see Garfield nominated for Silence and Gosling for The Nice Guys, but didn't really expect it. Given that Paterson was my favorite film of the year, I'd also shout out Adam Driver, but didn't see that or anything coming for a film I heartily recommend to fans of deliberately-paced character studies.
Best Actress:
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Okay, so here's where things get wonky. Great to see Negga score her first nomination for an understated performance in Loving. Also good to see Huppert up for Elle. Strangely missing is Amy Adams, who seemed like a lock, given her praise by all the other guilds. Annette Benning for 20th Century Women is another missed opportunity, but this was a tough field. It was especially tough given that Streep apparently equals automatic nomination. She received her 20th nomination and while she's obviously good in Florence Foster Jenkins, it does amount to another "Meryl wears hats and does an accent performance," in a film. It would have been nice to see acclaim given elsewhere.

Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Another category full of potential, but all of the actors here are certainly worthy by my estimation (save for maybe Hedges). Interesting seeing the great Michael Shannon here and not Aaron Taylor-Johnson (something the Shannon character would certainly smirk at in Nocturnal Animals). Props to Dev Patel for scoring a nomination for Lion.
Best Supporting Actress:
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

This may as well be called the Viola Davis category this year, as she seems like one of the few locks, but hey, there are four other solid performances as well. I could have seen Janelle Monae getting in for Hidden Figures instead of Spencer, but it's no big deal. It seemed like Greta Gerwig was really gunning for a nom too, given her performances in both Jackie and 20th Century Women. Still, this is Davis' category.
Best Director:
“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Mel Gibson
“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan
“Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve

There is lots of great talent being represented here and Chazelle certainly seems primed to become the youngest director to win this Oscar in history. You also have Mel Gibson. I don't need to dwell on this, but apparently, all you have to do in Hollywood, after revealing yourself as anti-semitic, racist and abusive, is lay low in B/C-action movies for a while and be white. It would have been great to see Martin Scorsese get a nod for Silence, as he put in some amazing and challenging work up on the screen.
Best Animated Feature:
“Kubo and the Two Strings,” Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
“Moana,” John Musker, Ron Clements and Osnat Shurer
“My Life as a Zucchini,” Claude Barras and Max Karli
“The Red Turtle,” Michael Dudok de Wit and Toshio Suzuki
“Zootopia,” Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer

Zootopia didn't get that screenplay nomination it deserved (let alone Best Picture), but I am sure happy to see it here, which was a given. This whole category was easy to predict, really. That said, if Kubo wins over Zootopia, I would hardly be upset, as Laika could use the increased amount of notice.
Best Animated Short:
“Blind Vaysha,” Theodore Ushev
“Borrowed Time,” Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” Robert Valley and Cara Speller
“Pearl,” Patrick Osborne
“Piper,” Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

Have not seen all of these films as of yet, but I look forward to it.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
“Arrival,” Eric Heisserer
“Fences,” August Wilson
“Hidden Figures,” Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
“Lion,” Luke Davies
“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins; Story by Tarell Alvin McCraney


I figured Loving or Nocturnal Animals would have made it here, but Hidden Figures really took things by storm at the end there. It seems like Moonlight can't lose here, but also interesting to see the late August Wilson receive a nomination for the adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Arrival also deserves props, as it has a terrific script.

Best Original Screenplay:
“20th Century Women,” Mike Mills
“Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan
“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle
“The Lobster,” Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
“Manchester by the Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan

Obviously, the Oscars are gonzo for La La Land, even if the screenplay isn't its best aspect, though I am a huge fan of the film. That said, while Hell or High Water and The Lobster were both lower on my personal top ten list, I love seeing their representation here and would happily enjoy either of them taking the actual award, however unlikely that may be. Still sad to see no Zootopia nom here (and of course Paterson).
Best Cinematography:
“Arrival,” Bradford Young
“La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
“Lion,” Greig Fraser
“Moonlight,” James Laxton
“Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto


Probably my favorite category and certainly a competitive one, all of these films have earned their spot on this list. Still, I could have easily seen Nocturnal Animals, Jackie and even Woody Allen's Cafe Society as possible nominees. All that said, with Arrival's nom, Bradford Young becomes the second black nominee ever in this category for a film that surely deserves the credit. Have to shout out The Witch here, as it could have worked its way in somewhere and this probably would have been it.

Best Documentary Feature:
“13th,” Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick and Howard Barish
“Fire at Sea,” Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo
“I Am Not Your Negro,” Raoul Peck, Remi Grellety and Hebert Peck
“Life, Animated,” Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman “O.J.: Made in America,” Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow
For the first time in a while, I've actually seen almost all of the documentary nominees, before the Oscars were announced. This is a great category, with multiple black directors at the helm of them. There a lot of good movie-making on display here, for a category that seeks to enlighten, as well as entertain, with a non-fictional narrative.


Best Documentary Short Subject:
“4.1 Miles,” Daphne Matziaraki
“Extremis,” Dan Krauss
“Joe’s Violin,” Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen
“Watani: My Homeland,” Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis
“The White Helmets,” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Have not seen all of these films as of yet, but I look forward to it.

Best Live-Action Short Film:
“Ennemis Interieurs,” Selim Azzazi
“La Femme et le TGV,” Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff
“Silent Nights,” Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson
“Sing,” Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy
“Timecode,” Juanjo Gimenez

Have not seen all of these films as of yet, but I look forward to it.

Best Foreign Language Film:

“A Man Called Ove,” Sweden
“Land of Mine,” Denmark
“Tanna,” Australia
“The Salesman,” Iran
“Toni Erdmann,” Germany

I've only seen The Salesman thus far, so I can't say much here. However, I've heard plenty of great things about the German comedy Toni Erdmann, along with A Man Called Ove. All of that said, this category has consistently great films that I like to catch up on.


Film Editing:
“Arrival,” Joe Walker
“Hacksaw Ridge,” John Gilbert
“Hell or High Water,” Jake Roberts
“La La Land,” Tom Cross
“Moonlight,” Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

No real surprises here, as this category generally matches the Best Picture nominees, save for the presence of action films that are particularly engrossing thanks to the well-edited action, as well as well-liked. All that said, this seems like a lock for La La Land.



Best Sound Editing:
“Arrival,” Sylvain Bellemare
“Deepwater Horizon,” Wylie Stateman and Renee Tondelli
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
“La La Land,” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“Sully,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

It seems like we're going a bit too far in giving La La Land recognition here too, the first in some time for a live-action musical. That said, lots of good contenders in a fairly safe line of nominees (plenty of action/genre films could have fit here).

Best Sound Mixing:
“Arrival,” Bernard Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye
“Hacksaw Ridge,” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
“La La Land,” Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth

Things will get tricky here, as I don't think (and I'm not alone) La La Land's sound mixing is particularly good (I love the music, but the lyrics are tricky to make out in the theater). If the Academy makes it a big sweep, the film could win here, or they go with one of the 3 war movies also nominated, which would make more sense.

Best Production Design:
“Arrival,” Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock
“Hail, Caesar!,” Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh
“La La Land,” David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
“Passengers,” Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena

Nice to see some genre films and the Coen Brothers get some love here. It's a strong and diverse category all around.

Best Original Score:
“Jackie,” Mica Levi
“La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
“Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
“Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
“Passengers,” Thomas Newman

It's almost like the Academy wanted to nominate Passengers, despite the bad reviews (I liked it), just to break Thomas Newman's heart yet again (14 nominations and no wins). This one has to go to La La Land, though the haunting Jackie score does a fine job creating the required mood. Similarly, things can be said about Moonlight as well.

Best Original Song:

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land” — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls” — Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
“City of Stars,” “La La Land” — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story” — Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana” — Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Well, La La Land has two nominees here, shutting out chances for Sing Street, but maybe the two will split the vote and Lin-Manuel Miranda will earn his first Oscar. Also, J. Ralph must be getting plenty of money to put together songs for documentaries that no one knows.


Best Makeup and Hair:
“A Man Called Ove,” Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
“Star Trek Beyond,” Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
“Suicide Squad,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson

I have not yet seen A Man Called Ove, but I can only hope it wins here. It helps that it has a Best Foreign Language film nomination. I guess there is an area I would have liked to see Deadpool recognized in, after all.

Best Costume Design:
“Allied,” Joanna Johnston
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Colleen Atwood
“Florence Foster Jenkins,” Consolata Boyle
“Jackie,” Madeline Fontaine
“La La Land,” Mary Zophres

It would have been great to see Hail, Caesar! get a bit more love here, but I have no real issue with this category to a point. It would be nice to see non-period films be embraced more, given how wild some of the original creations for other films can be, compared to movies where we know what the clothing looked like.

Best Visual Effects:
“Deepwater Horizon,” Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
“Doctor Strange,” Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
“The Jungle Book,” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
“Kubo and the Two Strings,” Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould

This is a terrific list of nominees and kudos to Kubo for being the first animated film since Nightmare Before Christmas to receive this honor. Also cool, Deepwater Horizon's nomination here, as ILM did some top-notch work in making a realistic-looking disaster movie. I'll be very curious to see who comes out as victorious.

***
And that does it for my thoughts on the nominations. I am certainly looking forward to the ceremony, even if Jimmy Kimmel does not excite me as a host. There are a lot of good films vying for awards, so it will be neat to see who comes out on top. If La La Land sweeps, it is sure to set some record, or we could get a lot more films sharing the wealth all around. We will see.

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