Tuesday, January 24, 2017
THE 2016 NOMINEES: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Well, the 2016 Oscar nominees are out, and while glancing over them, I can't say I see any surprises: LA LA LAND, which dominated at the Golden Globes (a record seven awards), racked up an impressive 14 nominations, putting it well into the lead for the Best Picture award. The film is a mostly upbeat, colorful, musical with likable, attractive stars that manages to both pay homage to old musicals while remaining modern. It's a hit with both critics and audiences, and it's Hollywood setting is something many Academy members can relate to. (How many of them haven't wanted to sing and dance their way out of a traffic jam?). All of this means that the Best Picture winner will probably be a lock for LA LA LAND, but then I also thought that about Hillary Clinton.
It also appears that the "Oscars so White" campaign of last year has not fallen on deaf ears, with 6 different African American actors being nominated from films like FENCES, HIDDEN FIGURES and MOONLIGHT, (not to mention South East Asian actor Dev Patel being nominated for LION) and those films all picked up other nominations for direction and screenplays. Political correctness aside, I think all three are fine films and I'm glad that the nominations will help them all find a bigger audience. And in many ways, the most relevant film of the year was African American director Ava Du Vernay's documentary 13th., which is up for Best Documentary and will hopefully win.
While studying the nominees overall, I think the Academy did a good job this time around, with no glaringly overrated films. I like that the nine Best Picture nominees included a good Science Fiction film (ARRIVAL) and a cop movie (HELL OR HIGH WATER), along with the usual prestige dramas.
My biggest disappointment is that neither Chan-Wook Park's THE HAND MAIDEN or Paul Verhoeven's ELLE were nominated for Best Foreign Film (Isabelle Huppert was given a nomination for her excellent role in ELLE). I also wish that Amy Adams, who gave two good performances this year in ARRIVAL and the oddball NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, had gotten a Best Actress nomination instead of Meryl Streep for her fun but fluffy performance in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS. But I'm sure Adams, who's been nominated 5 times already, will win someday soon.
Despite my few reservations, it appears that the Academy is doing what it does best: showing that movies for grown ups still matter and making more audiences aware of lower budget films like MOONLIGHT and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA. So, bring on the overblown musical numbers and inevitable president Trump bashing, the Oscars are coming!