Sunday, January 17, 2016
The nominees for the 2015 Oscars were announced on Thursday January 14th., and they immediately caused some controversy; for the second year in a row, not a single African American was nominated in a major category. In fact, Latino Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, nominated for best director for the film THE REVENANT, is the only nonwhite person to make the list at all. Also, women were ignored in the directing category, although, really, that wasn't a huge surprise, given so few Hollywood movies are directed by women in general.
I think it's time to repeat what I said when the movie SELMA was mostly looked over last year; the over ninety percent white Academy needs to find ways to diversify its membership or cease to be relevant, and that would be a shame. Honestly, Oscar time is probably the only time of year that Hollywood releases films for grown ups anymore.
The big snubbed film this year was F Gary Gray's surprise hit STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, which received only one nomination, for its screenplay (and in a cruel bit of irony, all of the film's writers are white!). It really is disappointing that Gray's direction went unnoticed, especially considering that a haunting drive though a post riot LA in STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON was one of the most memorable scenes of the year. Another overlooked performer was Samuel L Jackson, who so powerfully dominated Quentin Tarantino's THE HATEFUL EIGHT.
As for the nominated films themselves, well, they are a mixed bag: while I was glad to see that Lenny Abrahamson's excellent low budget independent film ROOM was nominated for best picture, and I greatly enjoyed BROOKLYN, THE REVENANT, BRIDGE OF SPIES, SPOTLIGHT and THE BIG SHORT, I found MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, which got a whopping ten nominations, to be vastly overrated. Oh sure, the thunderous action scenes are fun, (although Tom Holkenborg's bombastic soundtrack is deafening) but Tom Hardy's performance in the title role is downright sonambulistic. Hardy even later apologized to director George Miller for his on set behavior, which clearly means he wasn't happy being there, and it showed in his performance; perhaps the Academy just wanted to reward Miller for having to put up with Hardy!
Perhaps the most intriguing question raised from the Oscars is whether or not director Iñárritu will pull off a second consecutive best picture win, for his revenge western THE REVENANT. (He won last year for BIRDMAN). If THE REVENANT does win, that will be the first time any director has pulled off such a feat (remember that while the Francis Ford Coppola films THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER II both won, there was a year between them). The fact that THE REVENANT leads the pack with twelve nominations may mean that an interesting precedent may be set, and even more interesting given the lack of diversity in the overall nominations, it may be set by a non white director.