Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

22 January 2016

Oscar Nominees 2016: Part 1 of 11

Every year in the weeks leading up the Academy Awards ceremony, I post my thoughts on all of the nominees, although I exempt myself from the documentaries because I don't really like documentaries all that much. For me that means 47 films this year (3 fewer than last year). I said that 2015 was even stranger than 2014, but it seems to me that the 2016 awards seem somehow even more strange. Many people are complaining that the Oscars are too white (they are – more on this soon). But because my favorite thing about all of this movie hubbub is the surprises, I am still blogging this Oscar season, even though I wasn't a fan of a lot of the movies the Academy loved.

A while ago I did post an elaborate set of reasons for why I still pay attention to the Oscars, I want to amend this in light of a philosophy I developed regarding the foreign language films:

I hear a lot of complaints about which films should have been nominated, which films were passed over and "snubbed", etc. (I myself still plan to complain about Beasts of No Nation and Creed not getting enough nominations.) But here's what I will say: if there are movies that you loved that you are sad didn't get nominated, comfort yourself by reminding yourself that you've already seen those movies! Use the Academy, instead, to draw your attention to movies you haven't seen. For the folks who saw Carol and loved Carol, you already know that you loved Carol. Let the Oscars direct you toward a hidden gem that you haven't seen yet. I've already, for example, been completely surprised by the Animated Feature nominee Boy & the World, which I found absolutely magical, and also by Kenneth Branagh's really charming Cinderella, which I expected to be Disney fluff (it is, but it is charming fluff). Even when the Academy creates a mess, they're still going to point us toward some great movies.

Finally, and I say this every year, but most of the films in my top ten for the year were passed over (White God, Beasts of No Nation, Saint Laurent), but most of them scored a nomination or two (Son of Saul, Mustang, Youth, 45 Years) and two were nominated for Best Picture (The Revenant and Spotlight). In any case, this is a bizarre year, and I am excited for what is going to happen.

If the nominee has been nominated for Oscars previously, he or she will be listed next to his/her name in parentheses).

This year's nominees:

The Revenant
12 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman or the Unexpected Value of Ignorance, Babel)
  • Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street, Blood Diamond, The Aviator, What's Eating Gilbert Grape)
  • Supporting Actor: Tom Hardy
  • Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (Birdman or the Unexpected Value of Ignorance, Gravity, The Tree of Life, Children of Men, The New World, Sleepy Hollow, A Little Princess)
  • Film Editing: Stephen Mirrione (Babel, Traffic)
  • Production Design: Jack Fisk (There Will Be Blood) & Hamish Purdy
  • Costume Design: Jacqueline West (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Quills)
  • Visual Effects
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
  • Makeup & Hairstyling
Director: Iñárritu
Cast: DiCaprio, Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Duane Howard, Arthur Redcloud, Melaw Nakehk'o, Fabrice Adde, Lukas Haas

I loved this movie. I loved it for so many reasons, but primarily for all of its Malickian choices, which make it feel derivative at times, but also such a great tribute to the master. I am surprised at how well the Academy likes this movie, though. It's artistry is certainly front and center, but that doesn't always matter for the voters. In any case, I am delighted that the Academy likes it so well. Huge congratulations, too, are in order for Iñárritu, who has made a story about revenge and some kind of generic triumph of human will into a movie about violence and colonialism and masculinity, and about the thoughtless extermination of American native peoples. The Revenant beautifully brings together strains from many of Iñârritu's earlier films, and he's made a simply gorgeous movie. ...And right now it's looking like it's going to win everything. If he does win director, it will be the first time a director has won twice in a row since Joseph L. Mankiewicz won back-to-back Oscars in 1950 and 1951. I am not really a huge Leo fan, and I don't think he ever really does much in this movie, but I expect him to win. Lubezki also seems poised to win his third Oscar in a row. In many ways this is a big studio creation filled with big contributors, and honoring it means honoring the big studios for the kinds of things they can occasionally churn out. It's hard for me to feel mad about that, though, when I loved the movie as much as I did.
Will Win: Picture, Director, Actor, Cinematography, Film Editing
Could Win: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling
My Rating: #8 out of 58

Mad Max: Fury Road
10 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: George Miller
  • Cinematography: John Seale (Cold Mountain, The English Patient, Rain Man, Witness)
  • Film Editing: Margaret Sixel
  • Production Design: Colin Gibson & Lisa Thompson
  • Costume Design: Jenny Beavan (The King's Speech, Gosford Park, Anna and the King, Sense and Sensibility, The Remains of the Day, Howards End, Maurice, A Room with a View, The Bostonians)
  • Visual Effects
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
  • Makeup & Hairstyling
Director: Miller
Cast: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Melissa Jaffer

I was not into this movie, and I continue to be surprised by everyone's absolute love for it. The success of this film should indicate to us all that the popular voice at the Academy is still being heard loud and clear (we saw this last year with American Sniper's popularity with Oscar); fanboy culture is completely mainstream, in case you hadn't noticed. I expect it to win most of the below-the-line stuff here, and I could say that it probably deserves a lot of them, too. The look of the film is unique and very cool. It might be worth noticing, in passing, that although Leonardo DiCaprio is probably going to win an Oscar for an action-hero performance in The Revenant, Charlize Theron's similar action-hero performance in this movie got basically no buzz at all. Not even at the Golden Globes.
Will Win: Production Design, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling
Could Win: Cinematography, Film Editing
My Rating: #49 out of 58

The Martian
7 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Actor: Matt Damon (Invictus, Good Will Hunting)
  • Adapted Screenplay: Drew Goddard
  • Production Design: Arthur Max (American Gangster, Gladiator) & Celia Bobak (The Phantom of the Opera)
  • Visual Effects
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Benedict Wong, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Donald Glover

I've started to dislike this movie more now that it has gotten so many nominations. In truth, it isn't terrible; it's just so annoyingly smug. I would say that its seven nominations seem a bit inflated here, too, but I had singled out The Martian's gorgeous production design in my own review of the movie, and the film really does look very cool technically. As for Matt Damon, we should all be embarrassed that this has happened. He didn't get nominated for The Talented Mr. Ripley or The Bourne Supremacy or even that old Oscar bait nonsense The Legend of Bagger Vance, but we'll throw him a nomination for The Martian?! People be crazy.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #38 out of 58

6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Tom McCarthy
  • Original Screenplay: Tom McCarthy (Up) & Josh Singer
  • Supporting Actor: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher, The Kids Are All Right)
  • Supporting Actress: Rachel McAdams
  • Film Editing: Tom McArdle
Director: McCarthy
Cast: Michael Keaton, Ruffalo, McAdams, Brian D'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Len Cariou

This is my favorite of the Best Picture nominees, and one of my favorite films of the year. It probably shouldn't be, because it is a mostly conventional potboiler that is set in a newsroom, and it's about doing detective work and figuring something out that in fact we all already know about, but I didn't mind one bit. In fact, I just was with it the whole time. It helps that the acting is great and it's about big, big issues about which I care a great deal. At one time this was the frontrunner for Best Picture, and it is still clearly in the big top five, but I think upon reflection Spotlight can start to feel more and more underwhelming next to the larger-than-life grandeur of The Revenant, Mad Max, and The Martian. I think we're looking at one Oscar only.
Will Win: Original Screenplay
Could Win: Picture, Film Editing