Thursday, January 14, 2016

The 2016 Oscar Nominations

They're here!  They're finally here!  Movie nerds and awards prognosticators get to see if their predictions/worst fears were correct, and the Oscar race can kick into full gear.  Today brought some good surprises and some glaring omissions.  Ready to dive in?

Let's look at the Best Picture nominations first.  Eight spots made room for "Bridge of Spies" and "Brooklyn," but left out "Carol," and "Inside Out."  Longer shots "Steve Jobs," "The Hateful 8," and "Sicario" also didn't make the cut.  There's a lot of giddiness from the fanboys over the fact that "Mad Max: Fury Road" made it in, and George Miller got a Best Director nod to boot.  Remember to thank the critics, kids, who gave the campaign so much momentum by heaping it with major critics' awards earlier in the season.  I'm also happy to see "Brooklyn," which along with "Room" represent the smaller, less flashy titles from unfamiliar names.  More on all the Best Picture nominees later in the season, after I've caught up on the last few I haven't seen.

In the acting categories, Best Actor and Best Actress came out about exactly as expected.  I thought Tom Hanks might be in over Matt Damon or Bryan Cranston, but not this year, apparently.  Will Smith and Johnny Depp will also have to sit this round out.  Leonardo DiCaprio will probably win Best Actor, and I'll be rooting for Brie Larson or Saoirse Ronan for Best Actress.  Best Supporting Actress also shook out the way I expected it to.  Rooney Mara really should be a co-lead with Cate Blanchett for "Carol," but the Supporting race isn't going to be easy for her with Winslet and Vikander in the mix.

Best Supporting Actor, however is an absolute disaster - this category seems to get worse every year.  I can understand Stallone for "Creed" and Mark Ruffalo for "Spotlight."  Mark Rylance has been the one major lock since the beginning.  But what on earth is Christian Bale doing there for "The Big Short"?  The standout performance from that movie was Steve Carrell, who I wouldn't even consider to be in contention.  And fine, Tom Hardy was pretty good in "The Revenant," but not as good as Benicio Del Toro in "Sicario," Paul Dano, in "Love & Mercy," Jacob Tremblay in "Room," and Michael Shannon in "99 Homes."  Maybe he's better than Idris Elba in "Beasts of No Nation."  Maybe.

On to the major Best Picture predictor categories.  I'm honestly surprised to see Adam McKay up for Best Director for "The Big Short," since some of his choices were so bizarre.  He edged out both Ridley Scott for "The Martian" and Steven Spielberg for "Bridge of Spies," diminishing those films' chances.  It looks like it's going to come down to a fight between "The Revenant" and "Spotlight."  The Best Editing nods are the same, notably missing "Room," which went to "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" instead.  Best Cinematography, however, only has two nominees in common with the Best Picture nominees. Roger Deakins is up for "Sicario," his fourth nomination in a row, and it's likely that he'll lose to Emmanuel Lubezki for the third time in a row.

The Best Screenplay categories always offer an interesting look at potential alternates in the Best Picture category. "Carol" and "Inside Out" fill in some of the extra spots there as expected, but we also have "Straight Out of Compton," with its only nomination, and "Ex Machina," which also got one for Visual Effects.  "The Revenant" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" cleaned up in the technical award nominations, giving them the highest nomination totals with twelve and ten respectively.  Among the non-Best Picture nominees, "Carol" had the highest total with six, right ahead of "Star Wars," which racked up five nominees, mostly in the technical categories that you'd expect.

Now a nice surprise is the Best Animated Feature Film race.  I was expecting the nominees to follow the Annie Awards, since they share similar voting groups.  However, instead of "The Good Dinosaur" and "The Peanuts Movie," we have international titles "Boy and the World" and "When Marnie Was There."  The former comes from Brazil's Alê Abreu, and the latter is from Studio Ghibli.  Those two are traditionally animated, and "Anomalisa" and "Shaun the Sheep" are stop motion, leaving "Inside Out" the only CGI feature.

Over in the Documentary category, both of the controversial titles, Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next" and the Church of Scientology expose "Going Clear" failed to make the cut.  Best Foreign Language Film is full of unfamiliar titles - there was some grumbling earlier in the season that "The Assassin" and other favorites were left off the short list - but that's par for the course.  To be blunt, it hasn't been a good year for foreign films, and there were only a few that anybody was gunning for to begin with.

It's interesting to look at the films that initially seemed to have great prospects, but people cooled on.  "Steve Jobs" only ended up with two acting nominations.  No Screenplay nod for Aaron Sorkin.  Ditto "The Hateful 8."  Nobody seems to be in the mood for Tarantino's antics this year.  "The Danish Girl" did slightly better, but is almost totally out of contention in all its categories.  I'm very surprised that "Inside Out" didn't make the Best Picture list.   Also, I would have pegged "The Martian" as our frontrunner a few weeks ago, but the momentum seems to be shifting to "The Revenant."

Personally I'm disappointed to see the shut outs of "Love & Mercy" - not even a Best Song nod, in what remains the Oscars' consistently worst category -  along with "Beasts of No Nation" and "99 Homes."  "Crimson Peak" should have gotten a nod for Art Direction at the very least.  And every single acting nominee is white.  Chris Rock is hosting, and he's going to notice.  You know he will.

Still, this isn't a bad year as far as these things go.  "Ex Machina" came away with two nominations.  "Sicario" landed three.  And they didn't forget Don Hertzfeld's "The World of Tomorrow" or Richard Williams' "Prologue."  I can't look at that Animated Feature category and not grin.  The Oscars will air on February 28th.  Let's go watch some movies.


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