Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Oscar Narrative: Round 2 Begins

So today the Oscar nominations were announced, and as always they are always an entertaining enterprise. Even if you are devastated by a snub (Ridley Scott), or thrilled by a surprising inclusion (Charlotte Rampling), you can always count on the Oscar nominations to be thrilling. So now that the first phase is over, we kind of wipe a blank slate. Yes its hard to forget Mad Max and The Revenant missing on SAG nods, or Spotlight missing the Eddie. But in many ways, this is the part that really matters. The momentum has shifted, there plenty of winners and losers, and while not everything that came before the nominations should be forgotten, this is where the real contenders rise, this is where the race begins. Runners set your mark!

Best Picture and Best Director
So Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and The Big Short enter phase two as the top four contenders. All either over-performed (Spotlight and The Revenant), or hit all the marks they were supposed to (Big Short and Mad Max). The Martian did manage to snag a Best Picture nomination, and a lot of well-deserved nominations and I honestly thought that it would be the one to emerge as the clear winner in what has been a truly unpredictable and constantly changing season. But Ridley Scott missed out. This is wrong for so many reasons. First, The Martian is one of the best films of the year, and a lot of credit is owed to Scott's vision. But the real problem for me is that I seriously thought that no matter what happened in Best Picture, that this was the year that the Academy finally gave Scott an overdue Oscar. He could still win in the film wins Best Picture, but that is looking a lot less likely at this moment. Bridge of Spies and Brooklyn were predicted by a lot of folks, and so their nominations seemed right. But Room getting in, and Lenny Abrahamson beating out Ridley Scott is shocking to me at this point. After Toronto, Room seemed like a lock, but then it got hardly any guild support. But this is clearly a film that has a lot of passionate support, and I think it spells good news for Brie Larson. Now onto the snubs. Straight Outta Compton and Sicario did so well at the guilds, and despite six nominations across the board, it could not crack the Best Picture race. It becomes this year's Foxcatcher. The film that is clearly respected, but not beloved, and as we know it is passion that gets you those number one votes, not respect. Also, despite some nice showings from genuine blockbusters, my two favorite films of the year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Inside Out were snubbed, although both did well below the line. We will give more discussion to who will win this thing, but let me take a moment to reflect on this year's lineup. The Oscars got in a lot of trouble last year for ignoring popular films. While I would have loved a Star Wars or Inside Out nod, it is nice to see big films like The Revenant, Mad Max, and The Martian in this lineup. Combine that with middle contenders like Bridge of Spies and The Big Short, and genuine indies like Brooklyn, Room, and Spotlight, and you really have a great lineup. Yes we can nitpick about who should have gotten in instead, and we will. But I think that his lineup, unlike last year's lineup, truly reflects, across the board, a broad cross-section of the film industry in 2015. And while we all had films we wish had gotten in, it is hard to argue the quality and value of the eight that were selected.

First, let me point out that SAG went 13/20 this year. They are too early, and have too many TV elements with the AFTRA folks to be too much of an impact, although both The Big Short and Spotlight could keep the Ensemble streak alive. Best Actor went as expected, and with Vikander and Mara making it into Supporting Actress, that category felt expected as well. Helen Mirren missed out for Trumbo, but then again, that film did not do as well here as I had thought. The other two categories had some interesting inclusions and exclusions. In Best Actress, the real surprise was the inclusion of Charlotte Rampling, and I could not be more thrilled. She is so deserving, and pulled the Marion Cotillard trick where she gets in despite no major precursors. I don't honestly think she will win, but after an incredible career, the nomination is worthy enough for me. Best Supporting Actor though had the biggest surprise of the morning. Idris Elba's snub was interesting, and considering how Room did, and the SAG Nod, the exclusion of Jacob Tremblay feels off. But both were beaten out by Tom Hardy. No precursors, but three great performances this year, and a lot of love for The Revenant, lead him to his first nomination. That category has so many face lifts, that picking a winner right now is tricky, and all of the categories will get more scrutiny and discussion as we go on. But, let me say this, there are no guarantees this year, and I love it.

Everything Else
The Animated branch continues to literally not care and go for what they like, with surprise nominations for Boy in the World and When Marnie Was There. Doc feature missed Meru and Listen to Me Marlon, but a great lineup of five, and surprises Theeb and Embrace of the Serpent marked the first nominations for Jordan and Colombia in this category. The tech categories had a few snubs and a surprises, but overall seemed to be within the realm of possibility, although I am still shocked that Star Wars got that editing nod over The Martian.

More to come, a lot more to come. We will talk, we will listen, we will watch movies. And as always, we will have to wait and see...

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