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

26 January 2016

Oscar Nominees 2016: Part 2 of 11

Bridge of Spies
6 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Original Screenplay: Ethan Coen (True Grit, A Serious Man, No Country for Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Fargo), Joel Coen (True Grit, A Serious Man, No Country for Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Fargo) & Matt Charman
  • Supporting Actor: Mark Rylance
  • Original Score: Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks, Skyfall, WALL·E, The Good German, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Unstrung Heroes, Little Women, The Shawshank Redemption)
  • Production Design: Adam Stockhausen (The Grand Budapest Hotel, 12 Years a Slave), Rena DeAngelo & Bernard Henrich
  • Sound Mixing
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Hanks, Rylance, Amy Ryan, Sebastian Koch, Austin Sowell, Will Rogers, Scott Shepherd, Mikhail Gorevoy, Alan Alda

First of all, this was an original screenplay? Bridge of Spies is incoherently stuffed full of so much stuff that I would have bet $100 it was an adaptation of some absurd novel. Huh. Oh well. I thought this movie was pretty boring and unsuspenseful, and had a long conversation about it here. But I am a Spielberg hater and everyone knows it, so I guess this shouldn't deter you if you usually like him. Still, the Best Picture nomination is a kind of strange stand-out here. The Academy obviously liked the movie (a screenplay nomination is a big deal), but they ignored Bridge of Spies' director, its lead actor, and its photographer Janusz Kaminski, so it didn't like the movie that much. Thomas Newman deserves his nomination here (his twelfth). He has never won an Oscar and, once again, will not win this year. It's starting to be a very notable situation. I keep hoping he'll write the score for a movie that people can really get behind. I expect almost all of the Academy's love for this film to have evaporated by February 28th. No Oscars for this movie.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #56 out of 61

6 Nominations
  • Actress: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Elizabeth: the Golden Age, I'm Not There., Notes on a Scandal, The Aviator, Elizabeth)
  • Adapted Screenplay: Phyllis Nagy
  • Supporting Actress: Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Cinematography: Ed Lachman (Far from Heaven)
  • Original Score: Carter Burwell
  • Costume Design: Sandy Powell (Cinderella, Hugo, The Tempest, The Young Victoria, Mrs Henderson Presents, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Shakespeare in Love, Velvet Goldmine, The Wings of the Dove, Orlando)
Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Blanchett, Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith

I didn't write my own review of this because everyone seemed to like it so much and I was sort of soft on it. Besides, Carol is gorgeous – beautifully designed, beautifully acted, exquisitely costumed – and the script is really tight and lovely. For me, though, something was off. I wanted something else from Carol, and the more I think about it the more I just felt sort of weirded out by the idea of "true love" or the idea of these two women being in love. I just didn't buy this relationship as fully as I wanted to buy it. As I puzzle this out, what I've come to believe is that the character of Carol is really much more like the main character in Purple Noon and The Talented Mr. Ripley than Todd Haynes (and Cate Blanchett) would like us to believe. If this is so, then Carol herself is not really to be trusted – her actions should be more mysterious. We should be spending much of our time puzzling her out from the perspective of the Therese character. Instead, the film doesn't see Carol as a problematic; Haynes presents her straightforwardly as a woman who knows herself well and is beaten down (but unbroken) by a constraining, difficult society. I wanted more complexity here.
Will Win: Costume Design
Could Win: N/A
My Rating: #31 out of 61

The Big Short
5 Nominations
  • Picture
  • Director: Adam McKay
  • Adapted Screenplay: Charles Randolph
  • Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (American Hustle, The Fighter)
  • Film Editing: Hank Corwin
Director: McKay
Cast: Bale, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Marisa Tomei, Adepero Oduye, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, John Magaro, Melissa Leo, Billy Magnussen, Max Greenfield

I started off thinking this movie was smug and more flash than substance. In a lot of ways the movie stayed smug, flashy, and insubstantial, but I came around to the way it was working as the movie progressed and really began to enjoy myself. The direction and screenplay are the most fascinating thing about this movie. They both really are excellent: the film takes a Brechtian tack toward its subject matter, addressing its audience directly, historicizing its narrative, teaching us about its difficult subject matter, and then asking us to get emotional not about characters so much as information. It's an extraordinary choice, and McKay commits to this fully. His commitment pays off and The Big Short works marvelously. It's funny and hard hitting and analytical. As I said, it maintains its rather smug tone for most of its running time (Brad Pitt's character is the lone voice of earnestness), but this doesn't seem to have bothered most audiences, and The Big Short surprised everyone by winning the big prize at the Producers Guild Awards on January 23rd. I expect it to win Adapted Screenplay for sure, but support for this movie may swell even more by the time we get to late February, and it may take home Picture and Director, too.
Will Win: Adapted Screenplay
Could Win: Director
My Rating: #13 out of 61

Star Wars: Episode VII - the Force Awakens
5 Nominations
  • Film Editing: Maryann Brandon & Mary Jo Markey
  • Original Score: John Williams (The Book Thief, Lincoln, War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Catch Me If You Can, Artificial Intelligence: A.I., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Patriot, Angela's Ashes, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Sleepers, Nixon, Sabrina, Schindler's List, JFK, Home Alone, Born on the Fourth of July, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Accidental Tourist, Empire of the Sun, The Witches of Eastwick, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The River, Return of the Jedi, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, The Towering Inferno, Tom Sawyer, Cinderella Liberty, Images, The Poseidon Adventure, Fiddler on the Roof, The Reivers, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Valley of the Dolls)
  • Visual Effects
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong'o, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Andy Serkis, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels

This was cool, if completely predictable. But the thing is is that The Force Awakens is predictable in all the right ways, in ways that work to tell us that the world makes a kind of sense, that things are getting better, that our memories matter, that dad is looking out for us, that each of us has a heroine hiding inside us waiting to come out and kick the ass of the evil corporation/religion that doesn't care about people's lives and is seeking to destroy everyone in the world. So if The Force Awakens delivers exactly what it is meant to deliver and nothing more, it is hard to fault anyone for that. Anything more ambitious wouldn't have worked to please crowds as much as this film has. And for the record, five nominations is a ton for a Star Wars movie these days and even a Star Trek movie. The prequels to the original trilogy only ever got five nominations total, but then, they sucked, so that makes sense. John Williams has received his umpteenth Oscar nomination for this score, and I have to admit that the score is serviceable and interesting, though it doesn't really manage to transcend the original Star Wars material in too many ways – and not nearly as much as Ludwig Göransson's Creed score does with the original Rocky material.
Will Win: N/A
Could Win: Film Editing, Original Score, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
My Rating: #27 out of 61

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